MAX HILL: Many trapped indoors with violent partners this Christmas

Hell of a home that’s stopped being a safe haven: Many people will be trapped indoors with violent and controlling partners this Christmas, writes Director of Public Prosecutions MAX HILL

In a year where so many have struggled with the consequences of a global pandemic, domestic abuse victims’ plight has rightly come to the forefront of public consciousness.

The idea of home as a safe haven could not be further from reality for those people – mainly, though not exclusively, women – trapped with violent and controlling partners.

Lockdown has taken its toll on us all, but it assumes an even darker dimension for those deprived of the temporary respite of going out to work or visiting friends and family.

In a year where so many have struggled with the consequences of a global pandemic, domestic abuse victims’ plight has rightly come to the forefront of public consciousness, writes Max Hill QC

This tragedy was brought into sharp focus when Office for National Statistics data revealed last month that one in five crimes reported during the spring lockdown was related to domestic abuse. These offences also made up 52 per cent of the CPS’s out-of-hours workload from April to June.

Sadly, Christmas will bring only further jeopardy to those suffering abuse, especially with Tier Four restrictions now in place for many of us.

However, as head of the CPS, let me be absolutely clear – no one will be prosecuted for leaving an abusive setting. If you are at risk, you do not need to stay at home.

CPS prosecutors will be working throughout the festive period to handle the appalling spike in incidents that take place every year, with police making 70 referrals to us an hour at peak times.

Such shameful statistics are why the CPS has treated this offence as high priority from the outset of the coronavirus crisis, at a time when fewer cases could be brought to court.

But regardless of heightened attention during the pandemic, this hidden harm has always been with us and is taking place behind closed doors across the country.

The idea of home as a safe haven could not be further from reality for those people – mainly, though not exclusively, women – trapped with violent and controlling partners (stock photo)

There has thankfully been a shift in the understanding of domestic abuse in recent years. Questions such as ‘why doesn’t she just leave?’ have rightly been consigned to history within the CPS.

Our prosecutors appreciate human relationships are complex and that often a victim will feel they have nowhere else to go. They may have been isolated from family and friends or have concerns about dependent children.

We are also only too aware that abuse within a relationship isn’t always physical and can take many forms – including humiliation, stalking, coercive and/or financial control.

These are not ‘crimes of passion’ but all too often part of a consistent pattern of degradation and domination. It is therefore welcome that so many – including friends, neighbours and families – have had the confidence to report abuse in recent months. The CPS is determined to play its part in protecting these victims.

We have worked hard over many years to improve the criminal justice experience for survivors by implementing measures that result in earlier guilty pleas and provide victims with better support in court.

Where possible, we are also able to bring abusers to justice without directly involving the victim, through what’s called ‘evidence-led prosecutions’.

But we recognise there is much more to be done. That is why the CPS will be working tirelessly over the next 12 months to ensure domestic abuse victims remain among our top priorities – with the aim of narrowing the gap between reported offences and perpetrators being brought to court.

So as we enter the Christmas period and emerge from the pandemic next year, my pledge to all those living under this dark shadow is that you will not be forgotten, and you are not alone.

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