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Crown Prosecution Services

There is no typical victim of domestic abuse

CPS launches a 12-week public consultation on changes to the domestic abuse legal guidance and domestic abuse policy statement. The consultation period will run from today, 4th April 2022 until 26th June 2022.

Overview:

We have revised our legal guidance on prosecuting domestic abuse to tackle misleading myths and stereotypes head-on. 

The guidance lists – though not exhaustively – several ways they can manifest in a domestic abuse setting to help prosecutors challenge misconceptions and build the strongest case possible, such as:

  • Domestic abuse is a crime of passion: this romanticises domestic abuse and assumes the abuse is impulsive – wrongly taking responsibility away from the perpetrator.
  • If the situation is so bad, why don’t they just leave: this stigmatises the victim and their circumstances rather than focusing on the actions of the perpetrators. It also disregards the elements of power, violence, control and humiliation in domestic abuse.
  • Previous withdrawals of complaints or a reluctance to co-operate means victims lack credibility: this undermines the victims seeking support when in reality, they face a very difficult decision when deciding to report. However, the CPS can prosecute using evidence-led prosecutions rather than relying on victim testimony.

Prosecutors and investigators are also encouraged to focus on the behaviour of the defendant by taking what has been described as an ‘offender-centric’ approach. This involves police studying the actions of the suspect before, during and after the alleged offence, with prosecutors advising on additional reasonable lines of enquiry, such as digital evidence, CCTV footage and witness statements. 

We are also seeking the public’s feedback on our domestic abuse public-facing policy statement, which sets out the CPS’s ambition to secure justice in every possible domestic abuse case and the steps being taken to increase the volume of prosecutions and improve outcomes for victims.

Key Messages:

  • There is no typical victim of domestic abuse.
  • The idea that there is a typical victim of domestic abuse is wrong and damaging.
  • Domestic abuse affects women, men, and children from all walks of life.
  • We are determined to secure justice in every possible domestic abuse case.
  • We want to make sure victims, irrespective of background or circumstance, see justice done.

Damaging misconceptions can have a real impact on a case with some victims withdrawing from the process altogether. It is vital our prosecutors have all the tools to ensure every single stereotype is rightly and fairly challenged.

Kate brown: CPS lead for domestic abuse prosecutions