Sarah Cassidy: Tackle the cause, not the symptoms

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The Independent Online

The Government is proud of its record on domestic violence.

Incidents have fallen by nearly two-thirds since 1997 when there were 814,000 attacks in the home. According to the British Crime Survey – which measures what people say happened to them rather than recording crimes reported to the police – the figure fell to 293,000 by 2008/09.

However, these statistics should be treated with some caution: they are extrapolated from a small number of interviews with victims – in 2008/09, just 200 were conducted.

But conviction rates have definitely improved. In 2003, only 46 per cent of domestic violence cases brought to court resulted in a conviction. The figure now stands at 72 per cent compared to 86 per cent of all cases. There has also been an increase in the volume of prosecutions, from 49,782 in 2005/06 to 67,094 in 2008/09.

When Labour came to power, more than 120 women and 20 men died every year due to domestic violence. This had fallen to 106 homicides (72 women and 33 men) by 2007/08, the lowest level since 1998/99. But charities have argued that the Government's approach remains disproportionately focused on criminal justice at the expense of prevention and early intervention.

A spokeswoman for Refuge, England's largest provider of domestic violence services, said: "Work to address domestic violence has undoubtedly ascended the political agenda over the past 10 years and Refuge recognises the various initiatives undertaken by the Government to address this issue.

"But we have reiterated concerns about the Government's predominantly criminal justice response to tackling domestic violence and highlighted its tendency to marginalise the needs of children."

Lucy Thorpe, the NSPCC's acting head of public policy, said: "More needs to be done by the Government and agencies to ensure that services are available to support and safeguard children."

The Government has recently started doing more preventative work, with a new advertising campaign urging teenage boys not to violently abuse their girlfriends.

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