New guidance issued by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has stated children affected by domestic abuse are to be automatically treated as victims of domestic abuse, regardless of whether they were present during violent incidents.
Updated legal guidance released by the Crown Prosecution Service specifically asks prosecutors to consider the impact domestic abuse has on young people when making a charging decision.
This includes speaking to schools or Child Services to support evidence of long-standing abuse. Young people are also to be given automatic access to support like mental health and safeguarding services, and prosecutors will be asked to consider the powers available to them regarding Special Measures.
Given the complexities of these offences, the guidance highlights the importance of challenging assumptions and recognising the vulnerability of a victim who may not realise they are in a relationship with a suspect of abuse or who may disengage with the criminal justice process.
Prosecutors are asked to work with Independent Domestic Violence Advisors and other support groups to best support victims, and to consider further evidence such as CCTV, witness statements or medical records – in an evidence-led prosecution – to help build a robust case.
“Growing up in a violent and toxic home has a hugely damaging and long-lasting impact on children,” said Kate Brown, CPS Domestic Abuse lead, continuing:
“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.”
- A new section on assumptions and misconceptions: The guidance sought to knock down damaging misconceptions about the characteristics of a “typical” domestic abuse victim. Fresh insights following responses from experts and support groups have been reflected in this section of the legal guidance.
- Taking a suspect-centric approach: Prosecutors and police are advised when building the strongest possible case to consider the context of the incidents by looking at the behaviour of the suspect before, during and after. The CPS say this scrutiny will help to establish the emergence of potential patterns of abuse and ensure all lines of enquiry are explored.
The CPS has also amended its policy statement which sets out the work being done on domestic abuse and is revising training for prosecutors on the effects of trauma and needs of victims from different groups. Brown added:
“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.”