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Home violence conviction rate rises

A record three in four prosecutions for domestic violence resulted in a conviction last year, new figures reveal.

The UK’s most senior prosecutor will today disclose that defendants admitted offences or were found guilty in 74.6% of cases brought for attacks and abuse in the home in 2013/14.

The figure, which will be announced by Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders, is the highest conviction rate for domestic violence in England and Wales recorded by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

A total of 58,276 defendants were convicted – a rise of almost 6,000 or 10% compared to the volume of convictions secured the year before.
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Crown Prosecution Service figures show that in the nine years from 2005, domestic violence conviction rates have risen by nearly 15 percentage points from 59.7% to 74.6%, with a 0.3ppt rise last year compared to 2012/13.

The conviction rate from cases brought for violence against women and girls also reached the highest level on record at 74.4%.

Domestic violence – which covers psychological, physical, sexual, financial and emotional abuse between partners, spouses and family members – now makes up more than a tenth of the Crown Prosecution Service’s (CPS) total casework.

P olice are referring more cases to prosecutors than ever, with 103,569 possible incidents of violence in the home passed to the CPS for a decision on whether charges should be brought in 2013/14 – an increase of more than 15,000 on the previous year.

CPS figures published today also reveal small increases in the referrals and charges of forced marriage and “honour” based violence.

The findings of the 2013/14 CPS Violence against Women and Girls Crime Report were released ahead of a speech by Ms Saunders today at the Women’s Aid national conference in Birmingham.

She said: “Three quarters of people who are prosecuted for domestic violence offences are now convicted. What’s more, nine in ten of the domestic violence convictions arise from guilty pleas meaning that the vast majority of victims are spared having to give evidence in court.

“I hope victims of these terrible offences will take some confidence from this, and that perpetrators will take note.

“I am incredibly proud of what the CPS has achieved in recent years in tackling violence against women and girls. Taken as a whole, referrals from police are up, prosecutions are up, and convictions are up.”

The report also reveals:

::The volume of convictions for sexual offences excluding rape reached the highest ever volume at 6,756, a rise of 13% from the year before.

::The volume of child abuse prosecutions reached 7,998 – a rise of 440 (5.8%) since 2012-13. The volume of convictions in the overall child abuse cases from 5,755 in 2012-13 to 6,096 in 2013-14 (from 76.1% convicted in 2012-13 to 76.2% in 2013-14).

::The volume of forced marriage referrals from the police rose to 67 in 2013-14 – from 59 in 2012-13. A total of 42 (62.7%) of these were charged, the highest number on record.

:: The volume of referrals from the police of honour based violence and related offences rose to 240 in 2013-14 – from 230 in 2012-13. One hundred and fifty eight (65.8%) of these referrals were charged, the highest volume and proportion recorded.

::In 2013-14 there was a rise in the prosecution of child abuse images from 18,937 to 20,373.

::The volume of human trafficking referrals from the police rose to 171 in 2013-14 – a rise of 30.5% from 131 referrals in 2012-13.

Oliver Heald QC, the Solicitor General, said: “Violence against women and girls is not acceptable, and those that commit violence need to know that they are not going to get away with it.

“I’m pleased to see the vast improvement the CPS has made in handling their prosecutions for these sorts of crimes, and that we have the highest ever conviction rate in domestic violence cases.

“There is still more to do, but this is good news and shows what can be done when the whole criminal justice system works together to make improvements.”

Chief Executive of Women’s Aid Polly Neate w elcomed the statistics.

“This increase in the conviction rate sends a strong message that the CPS is committed to ensuring victims get justice,” she said. “It also signals to perpetrators that their behaviour is unacceptable and they will be held accountable.”

Last month the DPP and national policing lead for adult sex offences announced new action to tackle rape after figures showed a fall in the conviction rate compared to the previous year.

Sandra Horley, chief executive of domestic violence charity Refuge, said the CPS has made “much-needed progress” in the area under Ms Saunders’s leadership and welcomed the figures.

“But there is no room for complacency,” she added. “The conviction rate has risen by just 0.3% since 2012/13. It is a step in the right direction – but much more needs to be done.

“The numbers of perpetrators prosecuted and subsequently convicted represents just the tip of an iceberg. 58,276 convictions sounds like a big number, but when we consider that over a million women experience domestic violence each year, it is barely scratching the surface.”

She said a “huge number” of domestic violence cases never reach the police and many women are too frightened to come forward.

Refuge is calling for a public inquiry into the response of the police and all state agencies to victims of domestic violence.

Crime prevention minister Norman Baker said: “I hope that the increase in the conviction rate for domestic violence will give victims of these terrible crimes greater confidence to come forward.”

He pointed out that the Violence Against Women and Girls Action Plan, published this year, includes plans to increase police referrals to the CPS saying “it is clear that progress is being made”.

There is also the national roll-out of the domestic violence disclosure scheme, known as Clare’s Law, to try and protect victims along with the ring-fencing of nearly £40 million for specialist local support services and national helplines.

He noted there is also an oversight group to implement Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary’s (HMIC) recommendations on improving the police response to domestic abuse.

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