John Halewood-Dodd column

John Halewood Dodd.
John Halewood Dodd.

Following growing concerns into how the police deal with cases of domestic violence (DV) Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) were instructed to prepare a report, with the findings announced last week.

The author of the report, a senior serving police officer, condemned the police for treating DV as “a poor relation” when compared to other police activity.

Somewhat surprising as there were almost 270,000 DV crimes in England and Wales last year including 77 deaths at the hands of partners or ex-partners.

Of the 43 police forces in England and Wales only eight were seen to respond well to DV, with Lancashire Constabulary having the best response of all to these crimes.

The fact that our police here in Lancashire have been assessed as the best in the country is commendable although the Inspectorate suggested that the police, as a whole, deal with DV as a priority on paper only and not in practice.

This is an extremely difficult subject for me to write on as defence solicitors play an integral role in what happens to DV crimes once suspects have been arrested.

Experience confirms that in a great many cases the parties reconcile following incidents of violence. There are a myriad of reasons as to why this might be but many defendants may then decide not to admit what they have done on the basis that their partner will not attend court to give evidence against them. Quite often this proves to be correct as they do reconcile and the case is not successfully prosecuted.

We do not tell clients what to do, they make their own decisions. However, I must concede that it doesn’t always sit comfortably when representing someone who may have subjected their partner to horrific abuse and they ‘get off’ without facing the consequence of their actions because they know the victim won’t attend court.

Attitudes to this type of offence need to change if the alarming numbers of serious assaults and deaths are to diminish. This includes the police, courts, lawyers, and perhaps more importantly society at large.

This may appear hypocritical, but for my part I will continue to represent those facing allegations of DV until the system is changed.