Domestic abuse programme aimed at dangerous offenders piloted in Sussex

Domestic abuse Picture by Peter Cripps
Domestic abuse Picture by Peter Cripps

Offenders who pose a high risk of domestic violence in Sussex are to be given support to change their behaviour.

A new programme, known as Drive, will be aimed at the most dangerous offenders – those who are at risk of committing murder or causing serious harm to victims.

Charities and organisations Respect, SafeLives and Social Finance are working with Police and Crime Commissioners and the Lloyds Bank Foundation to launch the Drive project.

It is being piloted in Sussex, Essex and South Wales.

The project aims to hold perpetrators of domestic abuse to account in order to keep victims and children safe. Often the perpetrator is left to continue their life as normal and repeats the same behaviour with new partners, while the victim is expected to leave the relationship.

Figures released by SafeLifes show two women die a week as a result of domestic homicide, 100,000 people are at high risk of being murdered or seriously harmed every year and fewer than 1 per cent of perpetrators receive a specialist intervention to change.

Rachel Williams, a domestic abuse victim, said: “The perpetrator is the problem.

“Why is it that the victim is the one who has to move and seek refuge, when the perpetrator carries on as normal? If we don’t deal with them - then they just move onto the next victim. We have to at least try and change their mind-sets.”

The pilot project – set to start in April 2016 – will challenge the behaviour of the perpetrator and will work with Drive case managers on a one-to-one basis in a bid to reduce their abusive behaviour.

Diana Barran, chief executive of SafeLives, said: “SafeLives is committed to reducing the number of victims of domestic abuse - this is not possible without reducing the number of perpetrators.

“The victims we work with have asked us why they are always the ones expected to change – and why too often the perpetrator is left free to continue their abuse of them and others.

“We want to help victims today and reduce the number of victims of tomorrow. We are evidence-led and will therefore be testing this intervention in three areas, with the aiming of proving it could work and be rolled out nationally”.

Katy Bourne, Police and Crime Commissioner for Sussex, said the programme will target the ‘root cause’ of domestic abuse and improve outcomes for victims and children.

She added: “It is vital that we improve the response to perpetrators to reduce the number of victims currently experiencing domestic abuse, limit the harm to children and prevent further victimisation.”

Domestic abuse is any type of controlling, bullying, threatening or violent behaviour between people in a relationship. But it isn’t just physical violence – domestic abuse includes any emotional, physical, sexual, financial or psychological abuse.

Domestic abuse withholding money or preventing someone from earning money, not letting someone leave the house, reading emails, text messages or letters or threatening to kill or harm them, another family member or pet.

The NSPCC has spoken out in support of the programme.

A spokesman for the charity said: “Men who are violent toward their partners can also pose a serious risk to children in the same household so it’s vital their behaviour is tackled as soon as possible.

“Our research shows that one in five children have been exposed to domestic violence and it’s a factor in sixty per cent of cases where a child has been killed or seriously harmed.

“The Drive programme is a welcome initiative and we hope it helps prevent the most dangerous offenders from committing further violence. However, this needs to go hand in hand with close monitoring and tough criminal sanctions to ensure offenders do not pose any further risk.”

National Domestic Violence Helpline 0808 2000 247

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