Publishing its response to a public consultation on reviews conducted after fatal domestic abuse cases, the government is strengthening the law to highlight that these reviews can take place when a death has occurred as a result of domestic abuse, including in suicide cases, in line with the legal definition of domestic abuse as introduced in the Domestic Abuse Act 2021.
This means that a Domestic Homicide Review can be commissioned whenever there is a death that has, or appears to have, resulted from domestic abuse. As well as physical abuse, this includes controlling or coercive behaviour and emotional and economic abuse. It will help to ensure that lessons are learned from fatal domestic abuse cases.
The government has also announced that the name of these reviews will be changed from ‘Domestic Homicide Review’ to ‘Domestic Abuse Related Death Review’, to better reflect all deaths which fall within their scope.
Laura Farris, Minister for Victims and Safeguarding, said:
“This government has made significant progress addressing fatal domestic abuse, including through our landmark Domestic Abuse Act.
However, there is more to do, and we also need to focus on hidden victims who die from domestic abuse related suicide.
These changes to will enable agencies to contextualise these horrific offences even if the domestic abuse was not physical in nature, better identify the warnings signs and ultimately, save lives.”
A Domestic Homicide Review is a multi-agency review which seeks to identify and implement lessons learnt from deaths which have, or appear to have, resulted from domestic abuse.
Their aim is to better protect victims in future and prevent further tragedies – by highlighting to the police and other agencies what can be done in future to strengthen the response.
Last year, the Home Office published a library on GOV.UK making previous reviews available online. This will make it easier to analyse the reports and understand key trends, factors and risks relating to domestic homicides.
The new changes are being made after concerns were raised by charities and bereaved families that the previous definition did not fully reflect the range of domestic abuse related deaths.
Through an 8-week public consultation, charities, professional bodies, front-line agencies, and individuals bereaved by domestic homicide or by suicide linked to domestic abuse were invited to consider the changes.
The changes will be brought into law via an amendment to the Victims and Prisoners Bill.