Children growing up in households with domestic abuse to be recognised as victims

Posted: 5th December 2022

New guidance released as World Cup and festive season drive increase in domestic violence.

Children who grow up amid domestic abuse will be treated as victims and given specialist support even if they were not present during violent attacks.

Changes to Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) guidance mean they will get automatic access to mental health treatment, other support services and protective measures in court.

Prosecutors will be asked to consider the impact of abuse on young people when making a charging decision, and to seek information from schools, councils and charities.

Kate Brown, the CPS lead for domestic abuse, said: “Growing up in a violent and toxic home has a hugely damaging and long-lasting impact on children.

“Today’s guidance, which recognises them as victims, not only offers them automatic support but means the effect on them is considered as part of the justice process.

“There’s no doubt that having a clear understanding of the family dynamic and how a young victim may respond to the criminal justice process, will help us bring more abusers to court.”

The changes were triggered by the Domestic Abuse Act, which came into force in January and states that children who see, hear, or experience the effects of domestic abuse, and are related to victims or suspects, must be regarded as victims.

The new guidance states that abuse can inflict lasting trauma on victims and their extended families, “especially child victims and young people who may not see the abuse, but may be aware of it, or hear it occurring”.

It was released amid concern over an expected rise in domestic abuse during the football World Cup.

Figures collected by the National Centre for Domestic Violence found that at previous international tournaments, reports of offences rose by 26 per cent if the England men’s side played, and by 38 per cent if they lose.

Max Hill KC, the director of public prosecutions, called the figures “unacceptable” and said offending also routinely increased during the festive period.

“Domestic abuse thrives in any situation where an abuser is able to gain control over their victim,” he told The Independent.

“That was undoubtedly happening in Covid lockdowns, and we see it happen every year at Christmas, where people in relationships tend to be together for a concentrated period of time.

“What we’re adding today is that we mustn’t forget the damage to other members of the family, particularly children, who have to observe it.”

The new guidance, published on Monday, also includes passages on challenging myths and stereotypes, reminding prosecutors that an abuser’s use of drugs and alcohol is a statutory “aggravating factor”, rather than a defence, and that women cannot consent to “rough sex” that results in their serious injury or death.

The CPS said it was taking a “suspect-centric approach” that looked to establish proof of abuse and patterns, rather than focusing on a victim’s credibility or willingness to give evidence in court.

Ms Brown said: “We want to see justice in every domestic abuse case, irrespective of the victim’s gender, sexuality, or background.

“Domestic abuse represents a third of all crime referred to the CPS and working with police and partners, we are dedicated to improving every aspect of how these cases are handled so victims can come forward with confidence.”

Source: Children growing up in households with domestic abuse to be recognised as victims | The Independent

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