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DV prosecutions soar as prosecutors given new guidelines

New guidelines came into force on 30th December

New guidance on handling cases of domestic abuse is expected to help the Crown Prosecution Service to deal effectively with up to 20,000 more cases this year than two years ago.

As referrals and prosecutions soar, this updated guidance sets out handling on all aspects of domestic abuse offending including the many ways in which abusers can control, coerce and psychologically abuse their victims and reminds prosecutors that domestic abuse occurs in all communities and to both sexes. It also recognises that there is no such thing as the 'perfect' victim.

In the year 2012/13, there were just over 70,700 prosecutions for domestic abuse. Current projections expect that figure to increase to nearly 90,000 by the end of this financial year. As the number of prosecutions grows, conviction rates have been maintained.

Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Alison Saunders, said:

"The latest guidelines will stand us in good stead as we move into the new year and beyond, with a considerably increased caseload looming. Magistrates and prosecutors across the country are telling me that the biggest change they are seeing in the Magistrates' court room is the increase in domestic abuse cases. This shifting caseload is a real challenge for the CPS but it is a challenge that we are preparing to meet."

The guidance was subject to a three month public consultation which saw more than 70 responses. The consultation found that the guidance was very much in the right place, but has assisted with further details being reflected across a number of key issues in the document.

The DPP's guidelines remind prosecutors about the vast array of ways in which abusers can control and coerce their victims, through committing clear offences without necessarily carrying out a physical assault. These include controlling a victim's phone; controlling their medication (where appropriate such as with elderly victims); claiming that victims are suffering from mental health problems; making threats about the way a victim dresses or behaves; forcing the victim to make decisions around pregnancy against their will; and using children, in order to exert control such as by threatening to have children taken into care. There is also an expansion of the issues relating to specific groups of people including, for the first time, enhanced guidance on issues relating to children of adult victims, teenagers in abusive relationships and teenagers in gangs.

Prosecutors are also being urged to consider situations when victims can be put at risk of further abuse, including starting a new relationship; disclosure of an individual's sexual orientation; moving to a new home or job; pregnancy or loss of pregnancy; and loss of employment.

Further additions to the guidance include:

The guidance is here.