Transforming the response to domestic abuse

Closes 31 May 2018

Preventing reoffending

Tackling domestic abuse does not end with a successful prosecution. To end the cycle of abuse we must consider the role of the criminal justice system in tackling the root causes of domestic abuse and prevent re-offending.

Conditional Cautions

Out of court disposals are measures which allow police to deal with low level offending in a proportionate manner without a prosecution. 

One type of out of court disposal is a conditional caution which requires an adult offender to comply with conditions that are rehabilitative, reparative or punitive in nature. If the offender fails to comply, then they may face prosecution for the offence.[1]

Currently the Director of Public Prosecution’s guidance restricts the use of conditional cautions for domestic abuse, saying they will rarely be appropriate (only in exceptional circumstances due to the nature of the crime or circumstances of the offender, and only with Crown Prosecution Service approval).

Results of the Project CARA [2] trial, where permission was given for wider use of conditional cautions for lower-level, normally first-time domestic abuse incidents, suggests that an effective rehabilitation programme delivered at an early stage to low-risk offenders can reduce crime harm and the prevalence and frequency of reoffending.

The evaluation of CARA recommends that there should be more widespread testing of an effective rehabilitative approach for domestic abuse to increase the evidence base.

In addition, three police forces piloted a simplified out of court disposal framework [3] and were granted some additional freedom in use of conditional cautions, which may provide some preliminary research findings in relation to domestic abuse.

It should be noted that police are currently able to issue a simple caution (a caution which does not require the offender to comply with any conditions, essentially a formal warning) in limited domestic abuse cases without the approval of the Crown Prosecution Service.[4]

We are interested in building further evidence on the effectiveness of early rehabilitative intervention to tackle domestic abuse offenders, and rapid resolution of cases for victims.

Further controlled and monitored studies by police forces would support this. We are aware that the first time a domestic abuse incident is reported to the police is not likely to be the first actual incident, and if there are further trials, they should consider how to take account of this in determining eligibility for conditional cautions.

53. Do you agree we should explore (with the Crown Prosecution Service) further controlled and monitored use of conditional cautions with rehabilitation programmes than is currently permitted for lower-level, normally first time domestic abuse incidents?

54. Do you have any additional evidence on current conditional caution practice which we should consider in relation to this issue?