Domestic abuse case failures investigated
LEGAL chiefs in Cornwall are taking a closer look at the reasons why some domestic violence cases fail to result in convictions. More than 90 per cent of incidents attended by police do not result in charges.
Nearly a quarter of cases of domestic violence in Devon and Cornwall where charges are brought do not result in convictions – more than 5 per cent higher than the average for other cases.
Tracy Easton, deputy chief prosecutor for the Crown Prosecution Service in the South West, has now ordered her staff to examine every case taken forward by her team which does not lead to a conviction and find out what has happened.
She said: "I need to know why it is that we are expending public money and time and effort on cases that do not result in successful prosecutions.
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"At the end of each of these cases there is at least one victim. I want to know why it is that we could not get a conviction for that victim."
The number of domestic abuse cases that made it to court over a three-year period was only 6.6 per cent of the total number of such cases dealt with by police.
A freedom of information request to Devon and Cornwall Police revealed that, in Cornwall, there were 22,139 domestic abuse incidents from February 1, 2010, to the end of January this year.
However, for the same period there were only 1,470 domestic abuse cases which resulted in a charge actually being brought.
Mrs Easton said that 24.8 per cent of domestic violence cases in Devon and Cornwall in 2012-13 where charges were brought did not result in successful prosecution.
She said: "It's not just about assaults between husbands and wives – it can be criminal damage, harassment or offences under telecommunications and social media."
Mrs Easton said there were a range of reasons for cases not being successful.
"A significant proportion in Cornwall is because of people not wanting to come to court. But, if you are a victim of domestic violence, you are given a support person from within the police.
"What is it that we can learn from people that still don't want to come to court despite the very good service offered by the police?"
In domestic violence cases, victims can give evidence from behind a screen or from a video link.
"Despite that, people can still find it an unpleasant thing to do," said Mrs Easton.
"We are here to ensure the right people are prosecuted at the right time with the right offences, and that victims and witnesses are given the best service possible."