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Guidance over domestic abuse cases

Elderly victims of domestic violence may experience more frequent or increased intensity of abuse, according to overhauled guidance for criminal prosecutors.

New draft guidance from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), which has opened for public consultation but has not yet come into force, explains the potential impact of domestic abuse on different groups, including older victims and teenagers.

As well as mental or physical frailty, other factors such as stress brought on by caring for ill partners or events later in life such as retirement can lead to increased domestic abuse against elderly victims, the CPS says.

In addition, the guidance says older age can lead to exclusion or isolation, which may make a victim more vulnerable to abuse.

Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders said: "We know from research conducted by others that there is very little evidence that partner violence decreases with age, and it is important we also recognise the factors that may contribute to and impact upon domestic abuse between older people."

Domestic violence among the elderly was brought into focus by the death of 81-year-old Mary Russell, who was abused by her husband and died of a bleed to the brain following a 'domestic-related' incident in 2010

Mrs Russell, of Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, made eight 999 calls in the seven months before she died. She first reported violence to police in 2003, when she was found standing on her doorstep with blood pouring from her nose by a neighbour.

Her husband, Albert Russell, was arrested after his wife's death but it was decided that there was not enough evidence to prosecute the 88-year-old, who has since died.

A serious case review found police were failing to deal with the hidden problem of domestic violence among elderly couples.

Other cases include that of 61-year-old Andrew Castle who tried to kill his wife Margaret in a makeshift electric chair in his garage in 2011 after she asked for a divorce.

And Ronald Edwards, 65, stabbed to death his 66-year-old wife Sylvia Rowley-Bailey at their home in Essex in 2010.

Elsewhere, the guidance includes measures prosecutors would need to consider when handling teenage domestic abuse cases.

Prosecutors should make inquiries with police about a victim's family life to assess whether telling their parents about any potential prosecution might have an impact on their safety, the guidance says.

In addition, consideration should be given to bail restrictions and restraining orders, taking into account areas victims frequently visit, such as school or social clubs, and methods of contact, such as social media.

Gang culture is also tackled in the guidance, including use of slang and sexual activity as part of gang initiation.

Ms Saunders added: " Some teenagers may not consider themselves victims of domestic violence, especially if they are not being physically abused but are being targeted on social media for example.

"Similarly, abuse in gang environments, for example young girls being forced into sexual activity as part of gang initiation or used as 'honey traps' to set up rival gang members is often not reported.

"Understandably, a lot of my prosecutors will not be familiar with the workings of gang culture or gang slang so I have included it in the proposed guidance so that they know what to look for when considering such cases."

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