All domestic murders to be reviewed
Every domestic murder in England and Wales will be automatically reviewed from today to ensure lessons are learned.
The domestic homicide reviews come into effect as Britain's leading prosecutor warned that teenage girls have become the most likely victims of domestic abuse as they are preyed on by a new generation of wife beaters.
Mandatory case reviews of every domestic murder by a current or former partner will be carried out by all the agencies involved, including police, health and probation services.
About two people are killed every week by their current or former partner in England and Wales, according to Home Office figures.
The Co-ordinated Action Against Domestic Abuse (Caada) charity, which backs the moves, said the reviews will help ensure that "lessons are learned and areas for urgent development are identified".
"As the reviews will be published and publicly available, they will provide an open and transparent means of reviewing practice, thereby increasing the safety of other local victims in the future," a spokeswoman said.
"The reviews will also enable all agencies to consolidate and build on the important work that has occurred to date around risk identification in relation to domestic abuse victims, particularly in high-risk cases."
In a speech at the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) headquarters in central London yesterday, Keir Starmer, the director of public prosecutions, said violence at home against teenagers was far more common than previously thought, with females aged 16 to 19 most at risk.
Housewives in England and Wales are still more at risk of crime in their own homes than anywhere else, he said.
Domestic violence is a "serious and pernicious" form of crime which police and prosecutors must do more to tackle, he added.
Recent statistics show that nearly one million women are abused every year, two are killed every week by partners or ex-partners and more than half of all victims of serious sexual assaults have been attacked by partners or ex-partners.
Figures show that 12.7% of women between 16 and 19 had been victims of domestic abuse in the last year.
"What that tends to show is that there may be a next generation of domestic violence waiting in the wings," Mr Starmer said.
"Domestic violence is serious and pernicious. It ruins lives, breaks up families and has a lasting impact. It is criminal. And it has been with us for a very long time, yet it is only in the last 10 years that it has been taken seriously as a criminal justice issue.
"Some good progress has now undoubtedly been made since those administering criminal justice woke up to domestic violence. But even if domestic violence remains a priority for the CPS, there remains the wider issue of complacency. Most people are still unaware of the extent of domestic violence and its impact.
"And, although greatly reduced, the refrain 'It's just a domestic' is still heard far too frequently.
"The steps that we and our criminal justice partners are taking to tackle domestic violence risk limited success unless this complacency is tackled head-on. A change in attitude is clearly needed."
The DPP said statistics around the issue were "shocking" and "demonstrate that women are still more at risk of crime at home than anywhere else".
In 2009/10, 94 woman and 21 men were killed by a current or former partner.
Home Secretary Theresa May said: "From now on, where someone has been killed by their current or former partner, a review takes place so that lessons can be learned to prevent future tragedies.
"Domestic violence is a dreadful form of abuse, with some victims suffering for years at the hands of an abusive partner.
"This is one of the many actions we are taking forwards to help end violence against women."
Chief Constable Carmel Napier, the lead on domestic abuse for the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), said: "Improving knowledge of serial perpetrators and strengthening our strategies and tactics against them will mean the police can be more effective in keeping victims safe.
"Our first duty is, and remains, the protection of victims."
Sandra Horley, chief executive of national domestic violence charity Refuge, said the reviews would "only truly be effective if the lessons learned result in real change in practice on the ground level".
"This will not happen without sufficient funding. But with every homicide costing the state £1 million, reducing the domestic homicide rate not only makes moral sense, but clear financial sense too."
Frank Mullane, co-ordinator of Action After Fatal Domestic Abuse (AAFDA), added that the reviews will be meaningful "if professionals embrace them fearlessly and creatively".
"It is by seeing these tragedies through the eyes of victims that we will begin to understand their lives and the choices and decisions they made often under great duress," he said.
"Only then will we be likely to design the services that enable individuals, mostly women, to find ways out of abuse to long-term safety."
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