Prosecutors get new abuse guide
The Crown Prosecution Service has issued new guidelines for prosecutors tackling domestic abuse, as authorities brace for a thousands-strong surge in such cases.
In 2012/13 there were nearly 71,000 domestic abuse prosecutions across the UK, the CPS says, and this financial year that figure is expected to swell to almost 90,000.
Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders said she was hopeful the upswing was a sign that more victims were coming forward.
"Magistrates and prosecutors across the country are telling me that the biggest change they are seeing in the Magistrates' court room is the increase in domestic abuse cases," she said.
"The predicted increase in caseload should be welcomed as a sign that what used to be a 'hidden shame' is now something that victims choose not suffer in silence, but there are still thousands of silent victims who should not be afraid to speak up about their abuse.
"These new guidelines will help ensure that our specialist prosecutors will handle these cases with the sensitivity, professionalism and expertise they deserve."
The new guidelines, which come into force today, brief prosecutors on the ways perpetrators can control, coerce and psychologically abuse victims within families or intimate relationships, and warn that domestic abuse occurs in all communities.
The guidelines have been broadened to touch on technology-aided abuse like "revenge porn".
"Some examples of such abuse may include controlling the use of a complainant's phone; harassment through text, mobile, email, social networking sites etc; posting of inappropriate material such as sexually explicit or nude images or defamatory or insulting comments; or, stalking a victim through the use of GPS technology on a victim's mobile device," the guidelines state.
They also include advice on how domestic abuse can occur within gangs, and a section on immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers.
"These guidelines put the victims of domestic abuse, whoever they may be, at the centre of our work. They make it clear that there is no such thing as a 'perfect victim' and there are many pre-conceptions that need to be challenged," Ms Saunders said.
"We know, for example, that domestic abuse occurs in all walks of life and is often under-reported, sometimes due to issues around fear, intimidation, and shame, but I would urge victims to come forward as they will be treated with the respect and dignity they deserve.
"I am also clear that we need to consider the implications of our decisions to prosecute, such as working with the police to ensure that victims have the support to leave home on a temporary or permanent basis or that the offender leaves the home, and that they are not prevented from doing so because their abuser controls everything, including finances."