Domestic Abuse: Responding to the Shadow Pandemic

Lead Research Organisation: University of Liverpool
Department Name: Sch of Law and Social Justice

Abstract

The eradication of violence against women is a global aim (UN SDG 16). Globally, pandemics notwithstanding, domestic abuse costs around$4.4 trillion a year or just over 5% of the annual global GDP (Hoeffler and Fearon 2014). In the UK domestic abuse-related crime routinely constitutes about a tenth of all the crimes recorded by the police and a third of all crimes recorded where there is an assault with injury (HMIC 2015). More than half of the calls to police are repeat complaints of violence against women (ONS 2018). Efforts to address domestic abuse notwithstanding it is evident that government restrictions on mobility and the necessity for social isolation during the COVID 19 pandemic have exacerbated violence against women in ways which are not yet fully understood.

Under lockdown considerable media coverage has intimated the likely impact of the 'stay at home' directive on the nature and extent of domestic abuse. Evidence suggests that this has already taken its toll on the rates of intimate partner homicide (Ingala Smith 2020). Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women, has stated that confinement is fostering tension and strain created by security, health and money worries; and is increasing isolation for women with violent partners. She described the situation as "a perfect storm for controlling, violent behaviour behind closed doors." UN Women (2020) naming the gendered consequences of COVID 19 isolation restrictions as 'The Shadow Pandemic'.

Media coverage of interventions from NGOs suggest increased demands on services. There was an increase of 49% in domestic abuse reports to police forces immediately preceding the social isolation period (17th April 2020, Guardian); and the Home Affairs Committee Preparedness for Covid-19 reported on 24th April 2020 that responding to the rise in violence is being further complicated by the fact the institutions are already under a huge strain from the demands of dealing with the pandemic itself. Many forces report difficulty in maintaining sufficient numbers of personnel to carry out policing functions. Similarly, the criminal courts have struggled to maintain services. Most courts have been closed during the continuing social isolation period, and those that are open have prioritised bail and remand decisions (including many who are alleged to have committed acts of domestic violence); and continue to try cases and sentence serious acts of violence. The number of trials which have not taken place pose considerable questions about speedy access to justice and, as a result the experiences of domestic violence victims in the system. To date, media coverage aside, there is little systematic documentation and/or evidence addressing how the criminal justice system (particularly the police and courts) are managing and responding to the nature and extent of domestic abuse during the social isolation period. This project is therefore concerned with the challenges posed for criminal justice practitioners by lockdown, the policy innovations put in place in response to these circumstances, the potential learning opportunities for practice that might ensue, and how victims of domestic violence secured or did not secure access to justice. The rapid response methods employed will ensure that recommendations are given to CJS agencies within a very short period of time, and these will enable better justice for victims of domestic abuse.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description This project's findings and recommendations can be summarized under three headings; digital technology, connecting with victims, the impact of covid-19 on the courts. More specifically in relation to digital technology we found that the landing pages of each police force's website did not always contain easily accessible information about domestic abuse in clear and simple language easily understood by diverse communities, the use of MS Teams for multi-agency meetings resulted in benefits for some victims and engagement from a wider range of relevant stakeholders, and that the wide range of digitally driven innovations being deployed by police forces needed closer evaluation to evidence their effectiveness with an associated need for improved sharing of best practice to facilitate more equitable service delivery across England and Wales. In relation to the courts we found that the preparation of evidence led prosecutions for all victims of domestic abuse would be of benefit and that such files need to be better shared between all participants in the proceedings in order to address the significant backlog in the courts. Finally substantial investment must be made to reverse reductions in court capacity which began in 2008. The recommendation made in the Auld Review (2001) to try and sentence 'either way' cases in hybrid courts, comprising one district judge and two magistrates, should be implemented as soon as possible.



7.
Exploitation Route Not necessarily directly related to the outcome of this funding but the recent ESRC call https://www.ukri.org/opportunity/partner-with-the-police-to-tackle-violence-against-women-and-girls/ clearly affords the opportunity to take the need for evaluations of specific policing innovative practices forwards. It is also evident that the ongoing challenges faced by the courts and their partner agencies (particularly the capacity of the probation service to deliver reports and so on in relation to perpetrators and their disposal) is ripe for further work. Methodologically our use of MSTeams for interviewing professionals is a key positive practice outcome that we would recommend to others, See our publication on this here; https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/20597991211008581
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Government, Democracy and Justice

URL https://www.liverpool.ac.uk/law-and-social-justice/research/coronavirus-research/the-shadow-pandemic/working-papers/
 
Description We would suggest that given this research adopted a rapid response approach which engaged in interviewing key stakeholders (policing domestic abuse leads) on a number of occasions over 12 month period the impact of this cannot be evidenced in terms of outcomes per se but more in relation to process. In other words the project team became a conduit for information sharing concerning how other forces were responding to the challenges posed by responding to DA and the different practices being introduced in response to this. This process of knowledge sharing and dissemination cannot be tracked formal but fits within the rubric of knowledge co-production as well as rapid response methods documented in the wider literature.
First Year Of Impact 2021
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Policy & public services

 
Description Citation in HMICFRS Report 2021
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Citation in other policy documents
 
Description Submission to the UK Parliament Home Affairs Committee Inquiry into Home Office preparedness for Covid-19, January 2021.
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a national consultation
 
Description Submission to the UK Parliament Joint Committee on Human Rights in respect of the Government's response to COVID-19: Human Rights implications.
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a national consultation
 
Description United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner Submission: COVID-19 and the increase of domestic violence against women
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a national consultation
 
Description Evaluating Visionable 
Organisation Sussex Police
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution To evaluate the effectiveness of video-conference vis a vis face to face meeting in response to domestic abuse. This has involved interviewing and report writing. This work is ongoing,
Collaborator Contribution Access to data and respondents.
Impact None to report to date; project still active.
Start Year 2021
 
Description Dissemination to stakeholders 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Responding to the Shadow Pandemic: Final Policy Recommendations for Policing to the Policing Regional Leads and Stakeholders Group (8th Sept 2021)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description ESRC Festival of Science Event 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Presentation of project finding paying particular attention to doing rapid research and associated methods during a pandemic
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description End of project webinar 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact December 2021: End of Project Webinar 16th December 2021 (hosted by University of Liverpool); dissemination of findings to practitioners; reflections on future practice.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Engagement and Dissemination Website 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact This is a freely accessible and publicly available repository of our research findings, working papers and other open access and relevant literatures
https://www.liverpool.ac.uk/law-and-social-justice/research/coronavirus-research/the-shadow-pandemic/working-papers/
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020,2021
URL https://www.liverpool.ac.uk/law-and-social-justice/research/coronavirus-research/the-shadow-pandemic...
 
Description N8 Conference: Policing Vulnerability 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Dissemination of research findings relevant to policing participants (and others) across the N8 constituency
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Podcast 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact 30th November 2021- interviewed by FacultiNet on responses to the shadow pandemic. Available on their YouTube site.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Findings presented to Australia and New Zealand Annual Criminology Conference, December 7th, (online event hosted by Griffiths University).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact 3Research findings presentation to the European Conference on Domestic Violence (online) 13- 15 September 2021
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact 27th October 2021 - presentation at the ESRC actionable insights seminar (Vulnerable Communities and Digital Justice); key findings and policy implications.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Findings presented to webinar for Social Sciences Week, Monash University, Australia, September 8th. Online event organised by the Faculty of Arts and Social Science, Monash University.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact 3rd November 2021 - presentation at ESRC Festival of Science (Hosted by Durham University; online); discussion and debate of findings and their implications
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presentation to CEPOL (European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Training) Conference on Pandemic Effects on Law Enforcement Training & Practice: Taking early stock from a research perspective.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Research dissemination to participants 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact DA and Covid Research Summary; Innovating During A Pandemic. Document shared with all research participants.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Researching Criminal Justice Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact September 30th 2021 Online workshop: organised and presented on How to research Criminal Justice Agencies: Pre- and post-pandemic experiences and strategies. Hosted by the University of Liverpool.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Stakeholder Presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presentation to Police Regional Leads and Stakeholders for Domestic Abuse, 2nd December 2020.Project Update Focusing on MARACs
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Stakeholder Presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presentation to Police Regional Leads and Stakeholders for Domestic Abuse, 8th September 2020. Dissemination of key research findings June to September 2020
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020