Category Archives: Domestic violence
Abusive offenders’ violent behaviour is escalating in the wake of budget cuts and a shortage of courses, probation staff have warned.
The probation union Napo said the availability of domestic violence courses was under threat from 20% budget cuts, leading to them only being available for the most high-risk offenders.
A third of probation teams polled said there was evidence of an “escalation of violent behaviour” when offenders were denied a scheme after being assessed as medium or low risk.
Shorter unaccredited courses were also being used instead, Napo said.
The union’s survey of staff in 82 probation teams across England and Wales in 2011/12 showed delays of between two and 12 months in more than 70% of the teams before offenders could start programmes.
Almost a third of the teams were also rationing schemes to only those offenders who pose a very high risk, the figures showed.
And more than half reported using shorter, alternative courses, most of which were unaccredited.
Harry Fletcher, Napo’s assistant general secretary, warned domestic violence was “set to reach even higher unacceptable levels” if current trends continue.
“It is of extreme concern that because of costs and cuts, delays of six months and more are being experienced before men can commence participation and motivation is lost,” he said.
The courses, which cost less than £6,300 compared with a £45,000 prison place, can help reduce reoffending by up to a third, Napo said.
Mr Fletcher went on: “It is worrying that some probation areas are introducing shorter, cheaper, alternatives, with no evidence that they work.
“The policy of restricting access to courses to men who are deemed high risk is also problematic as there is ample evidence that failure to intervene early leads to escalation and further violence.”
He said that while the Government was committed to tackling violence against women, “the reality on the ground is that the political commitment does not translate into fact”.
But a Ministry of Justice (MoJ) spokeswoman said: “Offenders who present the greatest risk of harm will always be prioritised.
“We do not expect that offenders sentenced to attend domestic violence programmes will start them immediately because there is preparatory work that needs to be done by the offender with the offender manager.
“Public safety is a key priority for Noms (the National Offender Management Service).”
She went on: “Probation areas and prisons are delivering a significant number of domestic violence programmes.
“In addition, Noms is currently piloting a new domestic abuse programme, rolling out nationally this year.”
The spokeswoman added: “Not all domestic abuse offenders will be suitable for, or benefit from, the accredited domestic abuse programmes.
“Domestic abuse offenders have diverse needs, some of which can be met by other interventions.”
The MoJ added that probation trusts were “responsible for handling their own budget, distributing resources effectively and fulfilling a range of responsibilities in their area”.
The father of a murder victim has handed in a petition at Number 10 demanding a change in the law to help protect women from domestic abuse – but Converse, the national prisoners newspaper commented that it was too one-sided.
Michael Brown, from Batley, West Yorkshire travelled to Downing Street as part of a campaign to introduce “Clare’s Law” so women can find out if boyfriends or husbands have a history of domestic violence.
Mr Brown’s daughter, Clare Wood, was strangled and set on fire by her ex-boyfriend, George Appleton, at her home in Salford in February 2009.
Appleton, dubbed the “Facebook Fugitive” then went on the run before hanging himself.
Miss Wood, 36, a mother-of-one, had met Appleton on Facebook, unaware of his horrific history of violence against women, including repeated harassment, threats and the kidnapping at knifepoint of one of his ex-girlfriends.
At the inquest into Miss Wood’s death last year, Coroner Jennifer Leeming said women in abusive relationships should have the right to know about the violent past of the men they were with.
Mark Leech editor of Converse said: “Its all very well protecting women, and I accept fully they need it, but this law would prevent males from knowing anything about females previously guilty of violence – and like it or not, it does happen.
“Only last June Sally Challen murdered her husband with a hammer and was jailed for 22 years – are we suggesting a future boyfriend of hers should not be told about this incident?
“The suggested law needs to be amended so that either partner can find out about a violence past of the other person in the relationship.”
The so-called “Clare’s Law” frollows in the footsteps of “Sarah’s Law”, named after Sarah Payne who was murdered by paedophile Roy Whiting in 2000, now gives parents the right to know of any child sex convictions of men with access to their children.
Mr Brown, backed by MP for Salford Hazel Blears and Manchester radio station Key 103, is asking the Government to introduce Clare’s Law to help women.
Mr Brown, a former prison officer originally from Aberdeen, handed over the petition today carrying around 1,000 signatures calling for a change in the law.
He said: “I have been campaigning for the last six months and have been pleasantly surprised at the public reaction to the proposed change in the law.
“The interest world-wide is also unbelievable, from America to Australia, to an article in a newspaper in Pravda.
“The world is watching for a lead from the UK’s Government, the cradle of democracy, and I pray that they make the right decision.”
Home Secretary Theresa May last year agreed to open a ‘Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme’ to public consultation and is now considering the response.
A verdict of unlawful killing by strangulation was recorded as the cause of Ms Wood’s death and Ms Leeming said she would report back to the Government recommending that people at risk of harm should be given information about their partners’ past so they can make an “informed choice”.
Ms Wood had complained to police of a catalogue of harassment from Wood before her murder.
Police watchdogs at the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) later ruled Ms Wood had been badly let down by Greater Manchester Police who have now instigated a raft of changes to policy and procedures in the handling of domestic abuse cases.