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Domestic Abuse, News & Media

Cranstoun’s Response to Domestic Abuse Commissioner Report on Domestic Abuse Data Recording

Posted on: 29 April, 2024

The Domestic Abuse Commissioner has warned in a damning report that 17,600 domestic abuse crimes are missing from national statistics due to Government changes to how police record data. These changes include only counting one crime for each time a victim-survivor reports abuse, broadening the scope of which officers can remove crimes from the record, and allowing the police to stop counting threatening and abusive messages on the record.

The Principal Crime Rule, which came into national use in June 2023 despite serious concerns raised by the Commissioner and the domestic abuse sector, requires police to only record what they perceive to be the single most serious of the crimes reported. While this doesn’t mean only that crime will be investigated, it significantly impacts on the perceived scale of issues that commonly involve multiple crimes.

We believe this change has created a false narrative of falling numbers of domestic abuse cases nationwide, providing media-friendly statistics that fail victim-survivors and have a serious impact on the commissioning of support and prevention services.

Previously, a maximum of two crime incidents could be recorded regardless of the number of crimes that had taken place, meaning the data recorded already skewed the scale of what is widely understood to be an epidemic of violence against women. In cases of domestic abuse, victim-survivors will often report multiple crimes, each of which requires investigation and to be treated with the utmost seriousness.

The Commissioner warns that the Principal Crime Rule may result in the principal crime being prioritised by officers. She argues that failing to record all domestic abuse crimes hinders police work as it may give them a misinformed understanding of the risk and extent of harm. It also downplays the significance of a victim-survivor coming forward to report, an act which takes courage and trust that they will be believed and supported. Failing to accurately and adequately record each incidence of violence and harm in order to ease the administrative burden of officers disregards the seriousness of domestic abuse. It devalues the importance of trust building in a system that is facing a crisis of credibility from survivors.

Too many times perpetrators have murdered their partners following escalating crimes and coercive control being missed or disregarded by the agencies involved, including the police – it is astonishing to respond to this concern by reducing the information recorded and prioritised. Officers should be able to easily see the scale of reports from one individual and the journey they have taken through the justice system so far, in order to assess risk levels and utilise tools such as the recency, frequency, gravity matrix. Instead, this reporting requirement means more dangerous offenders are likely to slip through the cracks and the safety of victim-survivors will be compromised in the name of red-tape reduction.

Further, the active failure to record threatening and abusive messages, referred to as “malicious communication”, demonstrates a wilful ignorance to the severity and significance of this crime in domestic abuse and stalking cases, and actively undermines the advancements made in the new Online Safety Act to meaningfully address harassment and control via threats and abuse. Digital development has created new channels through which domestic abuse is perpetrated. It is therefore more important than ever to accurately understand such prevalence in order to respond effectively.

At Cranstoun we work in positive collaboration with Policing to develop and deliver domestic abuse intervention. These services challenge and change perpetrator behaviour, keeping people safer. Programmes like this (such as DRIVE and C-DAIR) are optimised when informed by and evolved in response to high quality data and reporting.

Cranstoun strongly urges the Government to critically investigate the implementation of the Principal Crime Rule , and joins the Commissioner and our wider sector in advocating for the transformation of the criminal justice system response to domestic abuse. Recording accurate data is essential to understand the scale of reported gender-based violence, which we know to be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to sexual violence and domestic abuse in the UK. Increased understanding of and legislation around coercive control and malicious communication are not sufficient to create meaningful change, we need a whole society response that takes these crimes seriously, which includes accurate record keeping across all agencies.

Domestic abuse is a devastating experience for victims and survivors. We owe it to them to take this crime seriously, not to gaslight society into thinking the number of cases is dropping.

Maria Cripps, Assistant Director for Domestic Abuse Services, said:

“Accurate reporting from the police is an essential part of understanding and addressing the true scale of domestic abuse.

“The deliberate decision to massage these numbers will not make the issue go away – instead, it will reduce already low trust in the criminal justice system, and make our work harder as charities seeking to offer meaningful help and support.

“Undermining the data around such serious harm threatens the funding of domestic abuse interventions and the prioritisation in Government of the epidemic levels of gender-based violence – and, essentially, it sends a strong message to victim/survivors that what happens to them isn’t worthy of reporting. This is unacceptable, and must be addressed immediately.”

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