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5.1.9 Domestic Violence and Abuse


  1. Scope
  2. Definition
  3. Indicators of Possible and Actual Domestic Violence and Abuse
  4. Initial Response to Domestic Violence and Abuse (Police)
  5. Police Notification Procedure and Response from Children Services and Health to the Police Notifications
  6. Domestic Violence Protection Orders (DPVO)
  7. Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (‘Clare’s Law’)
  8. All Agencies Response to the Recognition / Notification of Domestic Violence and Abuse
  9. Referral Pathways to HCC Children’s Services and Partner Agency Services
  10. Practice Issues
  11. Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conferences (MARAC’s)
  12. Domestic Homicide Reviews
  13. Useful Contacts and Links
  14. Flowchart: Domestic Violence and Abuse

    Appendix 1: Risk Identification Matrix

    Appendix 2: Key Facts about Domestic Violence

    Appendix 3: Communicating with a Child

    Appendix 4: Clarification Questions for a Mother

    Appendix 5: Multi-agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC) Referral Form

    Appendix 6: Legal and Housing Options

    Appendix 7: Safety Planning with Women

    Appendix 8: Safety Planning with Children and Young People

    Appendix 9: Working with Abusive Partners

1. Scope

All children who are exposed or subjected to an environment of domestic violence and abuse, are likely to be affected and some children may have suffered, or are likely to suffer significant harm as a result of the domestic violence and abuse.

This procedure applies to all practitioners in HSCP agencies. Other organisations e.g. refuges are encouraged to adopt them. Some children and their families will benefit from Early Help services and some will require Safeguarding Services to safeguard and promote the child/ren’s welfare.

2. Definition

The cross governmental definition of domestic violence and abuse is:

Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour,  violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality. This can encompass, but is not limited to, the following types of abuse:

  • Psychological;
  • Physical;
  • Sexual;
  • Financial;
  • Emotional.

Controlling behaviour is: a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour.

Coercive behaviour is: an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim.

This definition includes 'honour’ based violence, female genital mutilation (FGM) and forced marriage, and is clear that victims are not confined to one gender or ethnic group.

While the cross-government definition above applies to those aged 16 or above, ‘Adolescent to parent violence and abuse‘ (APVA) can involve children under 16 as well as over 16. See: Information guide: adolescent to parent violence and abuse (APVA) Home Office.

Where there is domestic violence and abuse, the wellbeing of the children in the household must be promoted and all assessments must consider the need to safeguard the children, including unborn child/ren.

For more details of the national plans to tackle domestic violence and abuse see: Ending Violence against Women and Girls Strategy 2016 – 2020, March 2016. This is intended to set out a life course approach to ensure that all victims – and their families - have access to the right support at the right time to help them live free from violence and abuse.

See Home Office page Domestic Violence and Abuse website.

3. Indicators of Possible and Actual Domestic Violence and Abuse

Some victims may be 16 – 18 years old.

Possible indicators of domestic violence and abuse  in the victim include:

When a victim is not being seen alone, assess the following combination of signals:

Some victims may face additional difficulty in disclosing violence and abuse for instance:

Police domestic abuse call outs;

The victim waits for her/his partner to speak first;

Older or disabled victims may be dependent on the abuser for care;

Evidence of single or repeated injuries with unlikely explanations;

The victim glances at her/his partner each time (s)he speaks, checking her/his reaction;

Victims from black or ethnic minority groups, where the violence is perpetrated by extended family members or relate to forced marriage issues, may be more isolated due to religious and/or cultural pressures, language barriers, having no recourse to public funds or fear of bringing shame to their 'family honour'; See Forced Marriage and Female Genital Mutilation.

Criminal convictions and/or cautions;

The victim smoothes over any conflict;

Male victims who feel ashamed due to perceived stigma attached to being a man who lets a woman be violent towards him;

Frequent use of prescribed tranquillisers or pain medication;

The partner speaks for most of the time;

Victims with other problems e.g. mental health or substance misuse may fear that they will not be believed; See Children of Parents with a Mental Health Problem Procedure and Children of Parents who misuse drugs and alcohol Procedure.

Injuries to breast, chest and abdomen especially during pregnancy;

The partner sends clear signals to the victim, by eye / body movement, facial expression or verbally, to warn them;

Victims from same sex relationships who fear stigma and prejudice; support can be found at Broken Rainbow website.

Evidence of sexual or frequent gynaecological problems;

The partner has a range of complaints about the victim, which (s)he does not defend.

Some victims may be 16 – 18 years old

Frequent visits to GP with vague complaints or symptoms;



Stress or anxiety disorders; isolation from friends, family or colleagues; depression, panic attacks or other symptoms; alcohol and/or drug abuse; suicide attempts or child acting out at school;



Appearing frightened, ashamed or evasive; a partner who is extremely jealous or possessive; minimisation of violence accepting blame for 'deserving' the abuse.



Consideration must also be given to young people, who may themselves be in violent relationships.

See also Appendix 2: Key facts about Domestic Violence.

Additional considerations where a parent is fleeing from domestic abuse

Victims are at most risk at the point of leaving, or having recently left the violent partner and may need support.

A parent and child(ren) fleeing from domestic abuse may require a significant level of support as they may be:

  • Experiencing problems with housing, finance and employment;
  • Isolated from usual family support / community networks - especially if moved / placed outside their home area;
  • Struggling to provide / maintain stability.

Women with children fleeing domestic abuse may receive support from the housing department. Children's Services should be included in planning the course of action if relocation is necessary. See Section 6, Domestic Violence Protection Orders.

In instances where a child with an open referral moves to live on a temporary or permanent basis in another local authority area that authority should be notified and the provision of relevant information, including any assessment (e.g. C&F, Early Help, Family First), whether partially or fully completed (and including any information about domestic abuse) to that authority. The notification should indicate whether parental consent has been obtained to share the information in question. Such consent is not required if the referral or any assessment includes child protection concerns. See also Children Moving Across Local Authority Boundaries Procedure.

4. Initial Response to Domestic Violence and Abuse (Police)

Police are often the first point of contact and they (or any other agency that becomes aware of domestic violence) will undertake a risk assessment using the DASH (Domestic Abuse, Stalking, Harassment and Honour Based Violence) risk assessment tool. All front line Officers are trained in how to deal with situations of domestic abuse. Additionally a large proportion of front line Police Officers, DVERO'S (Domestic Violence Emergency Response Officers) are also given specialist training in responding to the needs of victims of domestic abuse. The DVERO's will be assigned, where available, initially to calls of domestic abuse to give specialist advice to the victim.

The Officers initial response is to ensure the safety of the victim and:

  • Ascertain whether there are any children living in the household or if the victim is pregnant;
  • Make a preliminary determination of the degree of exposure of the children to the incidents of violence and its consequent impact;
  • If there is an immediate direct risk to a child, ensure immediate protective action is taken (see Contacts and Referrals Procedure);
  • Provide the victim with information on local support services and refuge details, taking into account any ethnic or cultural issues (i.e. National Helpline, local specialist agencies / help-lines, Woman's Aid, Victim Support - details available from local domestic violence forums). Advice is available via the Sunflower Centre in Hertfordshire or National Domestic Violence Help Line – 0808 2000 247 or Hertfordshire Domestic Violence/Abuse Line – 08 088 088 088

5. Police Notification Procedure and Response from Children Services and Health to the Police Notifications

Where there are children under the age of eighteen years in the household, including an unborn baby, the Police officer must, having completed the appropriate risk assessment process required for all domestic abuse incidents complete the following tasks before the end of her/his tour of duty:

  • Inform the parent / carer that details of the incident will be shared with partner agencies in accordance with these procedures;
  • Complete a risk identification process providing full details of child(ren) including full name and date of birth, indicating in the record if and of what a parent / carer refuses to provide details;
  • Submit the booklet to supervisory officer for authorisation and signature, which must then be forwarded to the relevant Police Harm Reduction Unit (HRU);
  • Confirm that they have provided relevant information leaflets on local support services and refuge details (or provide an explanation if this has not been accomplished).

Police will share this information, including the outcome of the risk assessment, with other agencies as described below.

The Police Harm Reduction Unit (HRU) will evaluate the level of risk relating to the victim's perceived risk of serious harm or death, based on available information.

The Police will notify Hertfordshire County Council - Customer Service Centre within 24 hours for High Risk cases and 72 hours for all other cases of domestic abuse incidents when there is known to be:

  • A child resident, or regularly staying, in the household;
  • A pregnant victim of domestic violence;
  • The victim is a child her/him self.

The Police must notify the NHS Trusts within 24 hours for High Risk cases and within 72 hours for all other domestic violence incidents where there is known to be:

  • A child under the age of five years resident, or regularly staying, in the household;
  • A pregnant victim of domestic violence.

The notification provided by the Police will be an e-mail of the ‘34b referral’ form and the level of risk to the victim (not the child(ren)) identified by the Police. These must be sent to the nominated agency representative at a secure e-mail address.

The Targeted Advice Service (TAS) will identify and forward the form to the relevant service see Section 9, Referral Pathways to HCC Children’s Services and Partner Agency Services.

The designated nurse has the responsibility for identifying and forwarding the form to the relevant health visitor and/or midwife and GP, who must provide feedback to the 'Domestic Violence Liaison Officer' within five working days.

Victim Support should be notified if the aggrieved person requests it.

6. Domestic Violence Protection Orders (DPVO)

These are a new power, which was implemented in March 2014, and it fills a previous gap by providing protection to victims as it enables the Police and magistrates to put in place protection in the immediate aftermath of a domestic violence incident.

With DVPOs, a perpetrator can be banned with immediate effect from returning to a residence and from having contact with the victim for up to 28 days, allowing the victim time to consider their options and get the support they need.

7. Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (‘Clare’s Law’)

The Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (DVDS) (also known as ‘Clare’s Law’) commenced in England and Wales on 8 March 2014. The DVDS gives members of the public a formal mechanism to make enquires about an individual who they are in a relationship with, or who is in a relationship with someone they know, where there is a concern that the individual may be violent towards their partner. This scheme adds a further dimension to the information sharing about children where there are concerns that domestic violence and abuse is impacting on the care and welfare of the children in the family.

Members of the public can make an application for a disclosure, known as the ‘right to ask’. Anybody can make an enquiry, but information will only be given to someone at risk or a person in a position to safeguard the victim. The scheme is for anyone in an intimate relationship regardless of gender.

Partner agencies can also request disclosure is made of an offender’s past history where it is believed someone is at risk of harm. This is known as ‘right to know’.

If a potentially violent individual is identified as having convictions for violent offences, or information is held about their behaviour which reasonably leads the Police and other agencies to believe they pose a risk of harm to their partner, the Police will consider disclosing the information. A disclosure can be made if it is legal, proportionate and necessary to do so.

8. All Agencies Response to the Recognition / Notification of Domestic Violence and Abuse

This procedure applies to all practitioners in HSCP agencies. Other organisations e.g. refuges are encouraged to adopt them.

8.1 Agency History

On notification / disclosure / suspicion of domestic abuse in a family, all agencies must immediately consult existing records and consider what else is known of the family and any previous domestic incidents.

Those in receipt of Police notifications may contact the Police domestic violence officer if more information is required.

8.2 Information Sharing

Multi-agency work and information sharing (see Information Sharing and Confidentiality Procedure) is crucial in safeguarding children in situations of domestic violence.

Police share information of domestic abuse incidents as described in Section 6, Police notification procedure

Professionals in all agencies are likely to become aware of domestic violence through:

  • Disclosure prompted by the professional's routine questioning or identification of signs that domestic violence could be taking place;
  • Unprompted disclosure from a child, mother or abuser; or
  • Third party information (e.g. neighbours or family members).

Information from the public, family or community members must be taken seriously by professionals in statutory and voluntary agencies.

Information could also come in the form of information shared by another agency or group, which a professional decides to respond proactively to because s/he becomes concerned that the agency or group which shared the information is not responding appropriately to support the child/ren and/or their mother.

In making the decision about seeking information prior to / after direct contact with the family, consideration should be given to the:

  • Likely impact to the child and the adult victim, including the possibility of increasing the risk of domestic abuse;
  • Need for an approach that takes full account of information available on home circumstances.

Professionals receiving information about domestic violence should explain that priority will be given to ensuring that the child/ren and their mother's safety is not compromised through the sharing of information.

If there is concern about the increased likelihood of suffering significant harm to the child/ren, then every professional's overriding duty is to protect the child/ren.

Professionals also have a duty to protect the victim and should do so under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, which allows responsible authorities to share information where a crime has been committed or is going to be committed. 

Whether or not a child or victim discloses, when a professional becomes aware of domestic violence in a family, in order to assess and attend to immediate safety issues for the child/ren, mother and professional, the professional should establish:

  • The nature of the violence;
  • If there are other children in the household. If so, the number of children and whether any are under 7 years or have special needs (young children and those with special needs are especially vulnerable because they do not have the ability to implement safety strategies and are dependent on their mothers to protect them);
  • Whether the victim's partner is with her, and where the children are;
  • What a child or victim's immediate fears are;
  • Whether there is a need to seek immediate assistance; and

Whether the child/ren and the mother have somewhere safe to go.

The professional should:

  • Where there has been disclosure, support the child and/or mother by taking what s/he says seriously;
  • Make an immediate decision, where possible, about whether a child or mother requires treatment or protection from emergency services;
  • Where there has been disclosure, ask the child and/or mother what strategies s/he has for keeping him/herself safe (if any). See Appendix 8: Safety Planning with Children and Young People;
  • Record the information and the source of the information;
  • Discuss the information / concerns with the agency's designated safeguarding children professional and the professional's line manager.

9. Referral Pathways to HCC Children’s Services and Partner Agency Services

Some children will benefit, as will their caregivers and the perpetrators, from Early help services to reduce the likelihood of significant harm. Hertfordshire's partner agencies provide a range of advice and support services and professionals may contact Children Services’ Customer Services Centre, who will assess, applying the threshold criteria, and pass the information on to either the Targeted Advice Service (for a service or for advice) or the Safeguarding and Specialist Services. See Contacts and Referrals Procedure and also: PGN entitled CS0510 Domestic Abuse Notifications October 2019 – in relation to receiving and documenting notifications on LCS and EHM.

The Police will email the Targeted Advice Service directly in accordance with the Police Notification Procedure (see Section 5, Police Notification Procedure and Response from Children Services and Health to the Police Notifications).

The Targeted Advice Service will pass the information on to the Safeguarding and Specialist Services who provide services to children who are at an increased likelihood of suffering significant harm. See below

Children Services may need to obtain further information from other agencies to decide the appropriate threshold of response.

table title="Examples of routes of intervention" border="1" cellspacing="0" cellpadding="5"> Caption: Examples of routes of intervention     Caption: Examples of routes of intervention     Examples of routes of intervention Universal and Targeted Services, including Health, Education, Probation, Police and Voluntary Sector Referral to Safeguarding and Specialist Services, Children’s Services Children whose primary carer is requesting support to protect themselves and their children from a perpetrator Children who have been assaulted during a domestically violent incident (including 16 – 18 year olds from a boy/girl friend or spouse), or there is suspected sexual abuse of children linked to the domestic violence. Children living in households where their primary carer was subjected to 1-3 minor incidents of physical violence, which were short in duration and required no medical attention. Children who are exposed to repeated serious and/or persistent physical domestic violence against their primary carer with a history of previous assaults and or the victim requires medical treatment for injuries sustained. Children living in households where they are being exposed to intense verbal abuse from a perpetrator towards their primary carer, including consistently derogatory language. Children whose primary carers repeatedly separate and reconcile linked to ongoing conflict and significant incidents of physical violence. Children living in households where there is evidence of intimidation or bullying by the perpetrator to the victim but not to the children. Children who are living with a perpetrator of domestic violence who has a history of domestic violence in previous relationships or has a criminal history relating to violence/anti-social behaviour/military background or aggression to other family members, and there has been a recent incident with a new partner. Children living in households where the perpetrator is trying to control the victims’ activities, movements and contact with others. Children living in a household where a primary carer has been assaulted with a weapon, attempted strangulation or has been sexually abused by the domestically violent perpetrator. Children did not witness the minor incident. Children living in a household where a primary carer has required medical treatment for the injuries sustained in a domestically violent assault. Incident involves destruction of property rather than violence to a person. Children living in a household where a domestically violent perpetrator has threatened to kill or seriously injure their primary carer, and/or the children. Children whose primary carer retracts statements regarding minor incidents. There has been a significant incident or physical violence, and the victim is pregnant. Child is reported to be frightened. Victim with children contacts Police for assistance on a frequent basis. There is an incident of non-significant domestic violence, where the victim is pregnant. Children who are having contact with a perpetrator known to MAPPA. There is a serious physical assault to a victim, who takes immediate and appropriate action to protect themselves and the children (i.e. working with Police, no contact with the perpetrator). Children whose primary carer is identified by MARAC as high risk. The incident of concern was a verbal altercation, with no recent history (within the last year) of significant domestic violence Children exposed to any incident of domestic violence where there are other significant factors such as parental mental ill health; parental learning difficulties; or parental substance or alcohol misuse. Referral to crime reduction initiative or Community Mental Health Team, contributing factors include drugs and alcohol Children at risk of honour based violence, either to themselves or a close family member.   Children exposed to any concerns regarding domestic violence, and who are currently subject to a child in need plan, or child protection plan, or subject to an open referral   Children exposed to a significant incident of domestic violence, where they have previously been subject to a child protection plan.   Children who will be left unsupervised if the perpetrator is arrested   Intense stalking or harassment behaviour of the abuser, abuser violates protective or child contact orders, controlling behaviour includes financial control and, or excessive possessiveness or jealousy

See also Appendix 1: Risk Assessment Matrix.

10. Practice Issues

10.1 Direct Contacts by Professionals with alleged perpetrators and alleged victims

The Police should always provide the victim with information leaflets.

Careful consideration should be given to the purpose and method of contacting the family, particularly in relation to the wording of any letters sent out to the family. Although the letter may be addressed to one person it should be remembered that it might be opened by someone else.

Where the threshold criteria for a Children's Services Assessment / Section 47 Enquiry are not met, consideration should be given to the use of targeted and universal services e.g. undertaking a Family First Assessment, if this is thought to be less likely to exacerbate the situation and to be in the best interest of the children.

10.2 HCC Children Service’s Assessment / Section 47 Enquiries

Section 47 enquiries should be initiated where it is evidenced that the child has suffered, or is likely to suffer significant harm. These would include (but not exclusively) the following circumstances:

  • The child has been injured during a domestically violent incident;
  • The mother is pregnant (and the circumstances meet the criteria for a children’s safeguarding services response as set out in section9);
  • Domestic violence is occurring within a family within a context of associated mental health, alcohol and substance misuse;
  • Assessment has indicated that the child/ren are likely to be exposed to continued and repeated domestic violence.

Opportunities should be provided for both partners to be interviewed separately, and in a safe setting.

Many victims of domestic abuse feel unable to disclose its existence or severity. The following issues should be considered as part of any assessment:

  • Nature of the abuse;
  • Risks to the child posed by the abuser;
  • Risks of serious injury or death;
  • Abuser's pattern of assault and coercive behaviours;
  • Impact of the abuse on the mother;
  • Impact of the abuse on the child;
  • Impact of the abuse on parenting roles;
  • Protective factors; and
  • Outcome of the mother's past help-seeking.

The alleged victim of violence should be advised of the availability of legal advice and the options available through the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 and the Family Law Act 1996 Part IV and Domestic Violence Protection Orders.

The interview with the alleged perpetrator of the violence should be planned carefully between the worker and their line manager. Care must be taken not to disclose addresses or make unsafe contact arrangements.

If there is an acknowledgement of violence, the interview should clarify the points above. Where there is no acknowledgement of violence and it is not possible to share the victim's account, there should be general discussions about the children's welfare.

The children should be interviewed (if of sufficient age and understanding), alone with appropriate parental consents, and their experiences explored. It is important to consider the possibility that a child may have experienced direct abuse her/himself and /or may be inhibited from disclosing concerns due to fear of (further) domestic violence or (further) abuse.

See also Appendix 3: Communicating with a Child, Clarification Questions for a Child and Appendix 4: Clarification Questions for a Mother.

10.3 Possible Intervention by Multi-Agency Partners and Children Services

If a Child Protection Conference is held, consideration should be given to any need to exclude the violent partner for part or all of the meeting (See Child Protection Conferences, Exclusion of Family Members from a Conference).

The local authority may pursue legal options of:

  • Relocation of alleged perpetrators of abuse;
  • Exclusion conditions attached to an Emergency Protection and interim Care Order;
  • An injunction under the Housing Act 1996 (chapter III of Part V) to restrain anti-social behaviour with power of arrest attached, where violence has occurred or is threatened;
  • Consideration should also be given to referring the victim to a MARAC (Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference).

Victims with children fleeing domestic violence may receive support from the housing department. Children's Services should be included in planning the course of action if relocation is necessary.

All agencies will refer all High and Very High risk cases to the Independent Domestic Violence Advisor (IDVA) at the earliest opportunity and ensure that all appropriate and relevant information is communicated.

10.4 Working with Men who Abuse their Partners

The primary aim of work with men who abuse their partners is to increase the safety of children and their mothers. A secondary aim is to hold the abusive partner accountable for his violence and provide him with opportunities to change.

Men who abuse their partners will seek to control any contact a professional makes with them or work undertaken with them. Most abusive partners will do everything they can to avoid taking responsibility for their abusive behaviour towards their partner and their child/ren.

Where an abusive partner is willing to acknowledge his violent behaviour and seeks help to change, this should be encouraged and affirmed. Such men should be referred to appropriate programmes which work to address the cognitive structures that underpin controlling behaviours. Professionals should avoid referring for anger management, as this approach does not challenge the factors that underpin the abusive partner's use of power and control.

When a mother leaves a violent situation, the abusive partner must never be given the address or phone number of where she is staying

Professionals should never agree to accept a letter or pass on a message from an abusive partner unless the mother has requested this.

Joint work between an abusive partner and a mother should only be considered where the abusive partner has completed an assessment with an appropriate specialist agency.

Men who abuse their partners should be invited to joint meetings with the mother only where it is assessed that it is safe for this to occur.

See also Appendix 9: Working with Abusive Partners

10.5 Children who Abuse Family Members

Children and young people of both genders can direct violence or abuse towards their parents or siblings. The hostile behaviour of children who abuse in this way may have its roots in early emotional harm, for which the child will need support and treatment.

Professionals should refer a child who abuses others to Children’s Services in line with the Referral Procedure.

10.6 Safety planning

Safety planning for victims and children is key to all interventions to safeguard children in domestic violence situations. All immediate and subsequent assessments of risk to child/ren and their parent/caregiver should include a judgement on the family's existing safety planning. Emergency safety plans should be in place whilst assessments, referrals and interventions are being progressed.

In some cases which identify severe risk of harm to the child/ren, the emergency safety plan / strategy should be for the child/ren and, if possible, the mother, not to have contact with the abuser.

Professionals in agencies other than Police, Children’s Services, health and education / schools professionals should only attempt to agree detailed safety planning with a child or mother if they have been trained to do so and are supported by their agency's policies, procedures and safeguarding children supervisory arrangements.

Where the concerns indicate that Early help would be of benefit to the children (see Section 9, Referral Pathways to HCC Children’s Services and Partner Agency Services) then the following applies:

Key agencies which may be involved in the Family First Assessment and the safety planning are the school, health, LA housing, an advocacy service, the Police community safety unit, Women's Aid or Refuge - as appropriate. A professional should be nominated to proactively engage with the mother and maintain contact, particularly immediately after separation.

Professionals should keep the safety of the children constantly under review, re-assessing the risk of harm using the risk identification matrix in the light of any new information. If the risk of harm to the child/ren rises to risk of the child/ren suffering significant harm, lead professionals must review whether a referral to Children’s Services is required.

Mothers need to know from the outset that this process may need to be enacted.

Where the risk is assessed as possible or risk of significant harm Children’s Services should advise on or lead the safety planning.

10.7 Safety Planning with Children and Young People

As soon as a professional becomes aware of domestic violence within a family, s/he should use the pro forma in Appendix 9: Safety Planning with Children and Young People to work with the mother and each child, according to their age and understanding to develop a safety plan. If a safety plan already exists, it should be reviewed.

The plan should emphasise that the best thing a child can do for themselves and their mother is not to try to intervene but to keep safe and, where appropriate, to get away and seek help.

The child/ren should be given several telephone numbers, including local Police community safety units, local domestic violence advocacy services (please refer to locally produced information), Children’s Services, the Childline number (0800 1111), and the NSPCC Child Protection Helpline (0808 800 5000).

When the mother's safety plan involves separation from the abusive partner, the disruption and difficulties for the child/ren need to be considered and addressed.

Maintaining and strengthening the mother / child relationship is in most cases key to helping the child to survive and recover from the impact of the violence and abuse.

The child/ren will need a long term support plan, with the support ranging from mentoring and support to integrate into a new locality and school / nursery school or attend clubs and other leisure / play activities through to therapeutic services and group work to enable the child to share their experiences.

Professionals should ensure that in planning for the longer term support needs of the child/ren at all levels, input is received from the full range of key agencies (e.g. the school, health, LA housing, an advocacy service, the Police community safety unit, Women's Aid or Refuge, relevant local activity groups and/or therapeutic services).

See also Appendix 7: Safety Planning with Women and Appendix 8: Safety Planning with Children and Young People.

10.8 Contact between children/young people and alleged perpetrator (Children's Social Care, specialist agencies and CAFCASS) 

Many women, despite a decision to separate, believe that it is in the child/ren's interest to see their father. Others are compelled by the courts to allow contact.

Mothers can be most vulnerable to serious violent assault in the period after separation. Contact can be a mechanism for the abusive partner to locate the mother and children.

Children can also be vulnerable to violent assault as a means of hurting their mother. Men who abuse their partners may use contact with the child/ren to hurt the mother by, for example, verbally abusing the mother to the children or blaming her for the separation. Thus, through contact the child/ren can be exposed to further physical and/or emotional and psychological harm.

Professionals supporting separation plans should consider at an early point the mother's views regarding post-separation contact. The professional should clearly outline for the mother the factors which need to be considered to judge that contact is in the child's best interests.

Professionals should also speak with and listen to each child regarding post-separation contact.

Professionals should complete an assessment of the risks from contact to the mother and child/ren.

Where the assessment concludes that there is an increased likelihood of suffering significant harm, the professional must recommend that no unsupervised contact should occur until a fuller risk assessment has been undertaken by an agency with expertise in working with men who abuse their partners.

Professionals should advise mothers of their legal rights if an abusive partner makes a private law application for contact. This should include the option of asking for a referral to the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) Safe Contact Project (see CAFCASS website).

If there is an assessment that unsupervised contact or contact of any kind should not occur, professionals should ensure that this opinion is brought to the attention of any court hearing applications for contact.

Professionals should ensure that any supervised contact is safe for the mother and the child/ren, and reviewed regularly. The child/ren's views should be sought as part of this review process.

11. Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conferences (MARAC’s)

A MARAC is a Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference, whose main aim is to reduce the risk of serious harm to a victim and his/her children.

The purpose of a MARAC is:

  • To share information in order to increase the safety, health and well-being of victims – adults and children;
  • To determine whether the alleged perpetrator poses a significant risk to any individual or to the general community;
  • To construct jointly and implement a risk management plan providing professional support to all those at risk and to reduce the risk of harm;
  • To reduce repeat victimisation;
  • To improve agency accountability;
  • To improve support for staff involved in high risk domestic abuse cases;
  • To increase the safety, health, and wellbeing of victims and their children.

MARACs are held once a month in different areas of the county. The meetings are chaired by senior Police officers and are attended by all the key agencies within the area. 

How can I refer a case to MARAC?

For detailed information regarding the MARAC process for Children’s Services, please see the Hertfordshire Social Work Procedures Manual, Children in Need and Safeguarding.

All statutory and non-statutory agencies can refer victims to MARAC, provided a full risk assessment (DASH – Domestic Abuse, Stalking, Harassment and Honour Based Violence) has been completed along with the MARAC referral form. If you need advice about completing the risk assessment please contact an IDVA (Independent Domestic Violence Advisor) or a DVO (Domestic Violence Officer). The completed form should be emailed to the MARAC Co-ordinator (details below).

It is vital that agencies who have a relationship and knowledge of the victim make the referral and participate in the MARAC process, in order for it to be effective in making the victim safe and addressing his/her needs.

MARAC dates and further information

In instances where a child with an open referral moves to live on a temporary or permanent basis in another local authority area that authority should be notified and the provision of relevant information, including any assessment (e.g. C&F, Early Help, Family First), whether partially or fully completed (and including any information about domestic abuse) should be forwarded to that authority. The notification should indicate whether parental consent has been obtained to share the information in question (see Information sharing without consent form). Such consent is not required if the referral or any assessment includes child protection concerns.

For more information please contact the MARAC Co-ordinator for Hertfordshire:

12. Domestic Homicide Reviews

The basis for the domestic homicide review process is to ensure agencies are responding appropriately to victims of domestic violence by offering and putting in place suitable support mechanisms, procedures, resources and interventions with an aim to avoid future incidents of domestic homicide and violence.

The review will also assess whether agencies have sufficient procedures and protocols in place, which were understood and followed by their staff and where there may be a need to improve these procedures.

A domestic homicide review should be carried out to:

  • Establish what lessons are to be learned from the domestic homicide regarding the way in which local professionals and organisations work individually and together to safeguard victims;
  • Identify clearly what those lessons are both within and between agencies, how and within what timescales they will be acted on, and what is expected to change as a result;
  • Apply these lessons to service responses including changes to policies and procedures as appropriate;
  • Prevent domestic violence homicide and improve service responses for all domestic violence victims and their children through improved intra and inter-agency working.

Domestic homicide reviews are not inquiries into how the victim died or into who is to blame - that is a matter for coroners and criminal courts to determine. Domestic homicide reviews are also not a part of any disciplinary enquiry or process. Where information emerges in the course of a review suggesting that disciplinary action should be taken, the agency concerned will follow its own internal disciplinary procedures separately to the domestic homicide review process.

13. Useful Contacts and Links

Hertfordshire Sunflower Centre

Useful resources and links including the leaflet the Home Office developed with Southall Black Sisters at women in black and minority ethnic communities: Three steps to escaping domestic violence.

Recognising domestic violence

Professionals – you can learn more about domestic violence, and find out whether you are experiencing abuse.

Frequently asked questions

A series of frequently asked questions about domestic violence.

Myths about domestic violence

Read about the many myths surrounding domestic violence.

The Survivor’s Handbook

The Survivor’s Handbook is a comprehensive resource for women experiencing domestic violence. The handbook comprises short sections covering every aspect of seeking help and support, and includes information on how to help a friend who is experiencing domestic violence and safety planning.

What about my children?

Learn how domestic abuse can affect children and what can be done to help them.

If you would like to encourage someone you know to self-refer to a local refuge, please visit the A-Z of local refuges to access public contact details.

Useful statistics

Some useful statistics on domestic violence.

True stories

Hearing from women who have survived violence and abuse is an inspiration. Read their stories to find out more.

The Hideout

The Hideout supports children and young people living with domestic violence, or to those who may want to help a friend. The site gives information on domestic violence and helps children identify whether it is happening in their home.

Further information, including links to more domestic violence organisations, can be accessed via the Women’s Aid and Refuge websites – and

Broken Rainbow (for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people)
0300 999 5428

14. Flowchart: Domestic Violence and Abuse

Click here to see the Domestic Violence and Abuse Flowchart.

Appendix 1: Risk Identification Matrix

Please click here to view Appendix 1: Risk Identification Matrix.

Appendix 2: Key Facts About Domestic Violence

  • The majority of domestic violence involves heterosexual males abusing their female partners or ex-partners (British Crime Surveys 2003/04, 2004/05, 2005/06);
  • 16% of violent crimes reported to the British Crime Survey (2005/06) were classified as domestic violence, with similar figures for the previous years;
  • Of all the violent crimes investigated by the British Crime Survey (which excludes some categories such as child sexual assault and trafficking) domestic violence is consistently the violent crime least likely to be reported to the Police;
  • On average over the years between 1995 and 2006, two women per week in England and Wales were killed by a partner or ex-partner;
  • Women are at greatest risk of being killed at the point of separation or after leaving a violent partner, and 76% of domestic homicides occur after separation;
  • Non fatal domestic violence and stalking also continue or increase after separation for many women. According to the British Crime Survey, about 20% of domestic violence incidents are experienced after the relationship has ended;
  • 30% domestic violence begins or escalates during pregnancy;
  • 16 - 24 year olds are at greatest risk of suffering domestic violence;
  • A significant proportion of perpetrators are also misusing drugs and/or alcohol, although research suggests that most perpetrators are not drug addicts or alcoholics. Of those who are, there is evidence that they use abusive behaviour as much when sober if not more than when under the influence of drugs or alcohol;
  • In 2002, nearly three quarters of children on the subject of a Child Protection Plan lived in households where domestic violence occurs;
  • In relationships where there is domestic violence, children witness about three-quarters of incidents. About half the children in such families have themselves been badly hit or beaten. Sexual and Emotional Abuse are also more likely to happen in these families;
  • Where there is abuse of a woman by a male partner there is sometimes also child physical and sexual abuse involving the same abusive partner. Estimates of the overlap vary but range from 40-60%;
  • An audit in Greenwich found that 60% of mental health service users had experienced domestic violence, and a separate survey of women using mental health services in Leeds found that half of them had experienced domestic violence;
  • A 2003 survey from the BBC found that 29% of men and 22% of women felt that domestic violence was acceptable in some circumstances;
  • One third of all female suicide attempts can be attributed to current or past experience of domestic violence), and 50% of women of Asian origin who have attempted suicide or self-harm are domestic violence survivors.


  • British Crime Surveys (2003/04, 2004/05, 2005/06), Home Office website;
  • Homicide statistics for England and Wales, from K. Coleman, K. Jansson, P. Kaiza, E. Reed, Homicides, Firearm Offences and Intimate Violence 2005/2006 (2007) - Supplementary Volume 1 to Crime in England and Wales 2005/2006;
  • Metropolitan Police, Findings from the Multi-agency Domestic Violence Murder Reviews in London (2003);
  • Gynneth Lewis and James Drife, Why Mothers Die 2000-2002 - Report on confidential enquiries into maternal deaths in the United Kingdom (CEMACH, 2005);
  • C. Humphreys, L. Regan, and R.K. Thiara, Domestic Violence and Substance Use: Overlapping Issues / Separate (Home Office and Greater London Authority, London, 2005);
  • Department of Health and Social Care, 2002;
  • Royal College of Psychiatrists, 2004;
  • xii. S. Walby and A. Myhil, 'Assessing and managing risk', in J. Taylor-Browne, What Works in Reducing Domestic Violence? A Comprehensive Guide for Professionals (London: Whiting Birch, 2001);
  • J. L. Edleson, The overlap between child maltreatment and woman battering. Violence Against Women, 5(2), pp. 134 to 154 (1999);
  • C. Humphreys and R. Thiara, Routes to Safety: Protection issues facing abused women and children and the role of outreach services (Women's Aid Federation of England: Bristol, 2002);
  • Homelessness Statistics: September 2002 and domestic violence (Department for Communities and Local Government, 2002);
  • Janet Bowstead, Mental health and domestic violence: Audit 1999 (Greenwich Multi-agency Domestic Violence Forum Mental Health Working Group, 2000);
  • ReSisters, Women speak out (Leeds: ReSisters, 2002);
  • Hitting home: domestic violence survey (BBC, 2003),
  • Stark and Flitcraft Women at risk: Domestic Violence and Women's Health (London: Sage, 1996); Audrey Mullender, Rethinking domestic violence: The Social Work and Probation Response (London: Routledge, 1996);
  • Department of Health and Social Care (2011) 'Commissioning services for women and children who are victims of violence – a guide for health commissioners', gateway 15911
  • K. Chantler et al., Attempted suicide and self-harm: South Asian women (Manchester: Women's Studies Research Centre, Manchester Metropolitan University, 2001); Newham Asian Women's Project, Young Asian Women and Self-harm: A mental health needs assessment of young Asian women in East London (London: Newham Inner City Multifund and NAWP, 1998).

Appendix 3: Communicating with a Child

When talking with and listening to a child about domestic violence professionals should:

  • Never promise complete confidentiality - explain your responsibilities;
  • Do promise to keep the child informed of what is happening;
  • Give the child time to talk and yourself time to understand the situation from the child's perspective;
  • Create opportunities for the child to disclose whether in addition to the domestic violence they are also being, or at risk of being, directly physically or sexually abused by the abusive partner;
  • Be straightforward and clear, use age appropriate language;
  • Encourage the child to talk to their mother about his/her experience - as appropriate;
  • Emphasise that the violence is not the child's fault;
  • Let the child know that s/he is not the only children experiencing this;
  • Make sure that the child understands it is not his/her responsibility to protect his/her mother, whilst validating the child's concern and any action s/he may have taken to protect their mother;
  • Do not assume that the child will hate the abuser, it is likely that s/he may simply hate the behaviour;
  • Allow the child to express their feelings about what s/he has experienced;
  • Check with the child whether they know what to do to keep themselves safe and have a network of adults who they trust. If not, work on this with them or ensure that any work done with the child by other practitioners includes safety planning. See Safety Planning;
  • Recognise that children will have developed their own coping strategies to deal with the impact of violence and abuse. Some of these may be negative in the longer term for the child, but where they are positive they should be drawn on to develop safety strategies for the future;
  • Do not assume that the child will consider themselves as being abused;
  • Do not minimise the violence;
  • Offer the child support with any difficulties in school or ensure that any work done with the child by other practitioners includes support in school;
  • Give the child information about sources of advice and support s/he may want to use; and
  • Give the message that the child can come back to you again.

Clarification question for a child

In order to obtain accurate and reliable information from a child regarding a domestic violence situation, it is critical that the language and questions are appropriate for the child's age and developmental stage.

1. Types and frequency of exposure to domestic violence

  • What kinds of things do mum and dad (or their girlfriend or boyfriend) fight about?
  • What happens when they argue?
  • Do they shout at each other or call each other bad names?
  • Does anyone break or smash things when they get angry? Who?
  • Do they hit one another? What do they hit with?
  • How does the hitting usually start?
  • How often do your mum and dad argue or hit?
  • Have the Police ever come to your home? Why?
  • Have you ever seen your mum or dad get hurt? What happened?

2. Risks posed by the domestic violence

  • Have you ever been hit or hurt when mum and dad (or their girlfriend or boyfriend) are fighting?
  • Has your brother or sister ever been hit or hurt during a fight?
  • What do you do when they start arguing or when someone starts hitting?
  • Has either your mum or dad hurt your pet?

3. Impact of exposure to domestic violence

  • Do you think about mum and dad (or their girlfriend or boyfriend) fighting a lot?
  • Do you think about it when you are at school, while you're playing, when you're by yourself?
  • How does the fighting make you feel?
  • Do you ever have trouble sleeping at night? Why? Do you have nightmares? If so, what are they about?
  • Why do you think they fight?
  • What would you like them to do to make it better?
  • Are you afraid to be at home? To leave home?
  • What or who makes you afraid?
  • Do you think it's okay to hit when you're angry? When is it okay to hit someone?
  • How would you describe your mum? How would you describe your dad? (or their girlfriend or boyfriend)

4. Protective factors

  • What do you do when mum and dad (or their girlfriend or boyfriend) are fighting?
  • If the child has difficulty responding to an open-ended question, the worker can ask if the child has:
    • Stayed in the room;
    • Left or hidden his/herself;
    • Gone for help;
    • Gone to an older sibling;
    • Asked their parents / the girlfriend or boyfriend to stop;
    • Tried to stop the fighting.
  • Have you ever called the Police when your parents (or their girlfriend or boyfriend) are fighting?
  • Have you ever talked to anyone about your parents (or their girlfriend or boyfriend) fighting?
  • Is there an adult you can talk to about what's happening at home?
  • What makes you feel better when you think about your parents (or their girlfriend or boyfriend) fighting?
  • Does anybody else know about the fighting?
  • Do you have a mobile telephone that you could use in an emergency?

Appendix 4: Clarification Questions for a Mother

Mothers are usually too afraid or uncomfortable to raise the issue of violence themselves. So be prepared to ask sensitively, but directly:

  • Can you tell me what's been happening?
  • You seem upset, is everything all right at home?
  • Are you frightened of someone / something?
  • Did someone hurt you?
  • Did you get those injuries by being hit?
  • Are you in a relationship in which you have been physically hurt or threatened by your partner?
  • Have you ever been in such a relationship?
  • Do you ever feel frightened by your partner or other people at home?
  • Are you (or have you ever been) in a relationship in which you felt you were badly treated? In what ways?
  • Has your partner destroyed things that you care about?
  • Has your partner ever threatened to harm your family? Do you believe that he would?
  • What happens when you and your partner disagree?
  • Has your partner ever prevented you from leaving the house, seeing friends, getting a job or continuing in education?
  • Does your partner restrict your access to money or access your Child Benefit or allowances?
  • Has your partner ever hit, punched, pushed, shoved or slapped you?
  • Has your partner ever threatened you with a weapon?
  • Does your partner use drugs or alcohol excessively? If so, how does he behave at this time?
  • Do you ever feel you have to walk on eggshells around your partner?
  • Have the Police ever been involved?
  • Have you ever been physically hurt in any way when you were pregnant?
  • Has your partner ever threatened to harm the children? Or to take them away from you?

Appendix 5: Multi-agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC) Referral Form

See Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC) Referral Form.

Appendix 6: Legal and Housing Options

Practitioners should inform mothers of these options, but should also always refer mothers to specialist advice services, such as CAB, a Law Centre, Women's Aid or Independent Domestic Violence Advisors. 

Please note that this list is not an exhaustive one and professionals should contact their borough domestic violence co-ordinators for a local list of specialist agencies.

Domestic violence is a crime under both civil and criminal law. The legislation is summarised below.


Civil action


Family Law Act 1996 Part IV

1.1.1 The Act provides for a single set of remedies to deal with domestic violence and to regulate occupation of the family home, through two specific types of order, the non-molestation order and the occupation order.


Non-molestation orders / injunctions

1.2.1 It is possible to take out an injunction against anyone: e.g. father, husband, son, gay partner, other family member or other household member. An order can prohibit a perpetrator from molesting any named person including any children. The molestation can take the form of physical violence but can also include other forms of violence and harassment. It can include specific injunctions such as instructing a perpetrator to stay away from the home.


Occupation orders

1.3.1 This may take a number of forms (e.g. enforcing the women's right to remain in the home or restricting the perpetrator's right to occupy it, even if he is a tenant or owner occupier). The court has power to order someone to live only in a certain part of the house or to allow someone back into the house, etc. The court has wide powers to order someone not to surrender a tenancy or remove or destroy the contents of the home.
1.3.2 In most cases such orders are made for short periods of time and do not affect long term rights in the property. In the longer term an application can be made to the court for a tenancy to be transferred. An order may be for a specified period, usually six months, or for open-ended period or until a different order is made if further provisions are needed.

Anyone who is a person who is associated with the respondent may apply for an order and an application may be made on behalf of a relevant child. Associated persons are people who:

  • Are or have been married;
  • Are or have been civil partners;
  • Are or have been co-habitees;
  • Have lived in the same household (other than one of them being the other's tenant, lodger, boarder or employee);
  • Have agreed to marry;
  • In relation to a child, they are both parents or have Parental Responsibility.

This list is not exhaustive.


Power of arrest

1.4.1 In order to provide better protection, the powers of arrest in relation to the above orders have been strengthened. Where the court makes an occupation or non-molestation order and it appears to the court that the abuser has used or threatened to use violence against the applicant or a relevant child, the court must attach a power of arrest unless it is satisfied that the applicant or child will be adequately protected without such a power. If a power of arrest is attached a person in breach of the order may be arrested without a warrant.


Court procedure and privacy

1.5.1 The woman can be reassured that the court process takes place in a private room at the court, which is not open to members of the public. The woman's solicitor will prepare a written statement for her to sign in support of her application for an injunction and/or occupation order. The woman will need to attend court when her application is heard. The woman's solicitor or barrister will put her case to the judge. Getting an injunction will involve at least one court hearing. Unlike a criminal case, there is no obligation on the opponent to attend - if he does not turn up, an order will be made in his absence.
1.5.2 In a dire emergency and/or if it is not safe to give the man prior warning of the application to the court, a court hearing will go ahead without notice to the opponent. Usually an order is granted to the woman. Sometimes the order will provide temporary protection until a further hearing of which the opponent has notice. Otherwise applications are made and the opponent is given prior notice of the court hearing.


Standard of proof

1.6.1 The standard of proof is lower than in a criminal case. The court has to decide whether the allegations of violence are true on the balance of probabilities (in a criminal case, it must be beyond reasonable doubt). In some cases, perpetrators do not even go to court or contest cases, so evidence such as reports to the Police may not be required. However, if the perpetrator does fight the case, it helps if there is medical evidence and incidents have been reported to the Police or witnessed by others.


Housing Acts 1985 and 1996


Under Ground 1 Schedule 2 of the Housing Act 1985, a possession order can be granted where an obligation of the tenancy has been broken or not performed. Tenancy agreements should have a clause such as the following, which can be used in relation to domestic violence:

'you or any member of your family must not use or threaten to use violence by using physical, mental, emotional or sexual abuse against anyone legally entitled to live either in your home or in another of our properties' (Note: City West Homes Tenancy Agreement)

1.7.2 The Housing Act 1996 added Ground 2A of Schedule 2 to the Housing Act 1985. Under the Act, possession action can be taken against a remaining tenant where their partner has left the family home because of violence or threats of violence and does not intend to return. This ground can be considered when the partner (whether or not they are a tenant) has been rehoused because of violence and the perpetrator is left in occupation (particularly as they may be under-occupying a family sized unit).
1.7.3 In such cases, sufficient evidence of violence having occurred is required, which can include evidence provided by any professional the survivor is working with. In addition, housing authorities can take injunctive action against a tenant if he is in breach of the terms of his tenancy agreement.
1.7.4 Other anti-social behaviour legislation also allows housing powers to act against perpetrators in respect of their tenancies. Practitioners should always seek advice from housing services when considering what options are available to the woman in securing protection for herself and the children. It is good practice to invite housing to meetings arranged to draw up safety plans around women.


Criminal action

2.1 Hertfordshire Constabulary Police officers are under a duty to take positive action when investigating domestic violence offences. There is an expectation that a domestic violence perpetrator will be arrested in all criminal investigations where there are reasonable grounds to suspect a crime has taken place. Where a criminal offence has not been disclosed it should be noted that an arrest generally cannot be made.
2.2 The power to arrest comes from Section 110 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005, which amended the powers of arrest available to a constable under section 24 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. This has made all offences potentially arrestable in certain circumstances.
2.3 The exercise of arrest powers will be subject to a test of necessity based around the nature and circumstances of the offence and the interests of the criminal justice system.

An arrest will only be justified if the constable believes it is necessary for any of the reasons set out below:

  1. To enable the name of the person in question to be ascertained (in the case where the constable does not know, and cannot readily ascertain, the person's name, or has reasonable grounds for doubting whether a name given by the person as his name is his real name);
  2. Correspondingly as regards the person's address (in the case where the constable does not know, and cannot readily ascertain, the person's address, or has reasonable grounds for doubting whether a address given by the person as his name is his real name);
  3. To prevent the person in question:
    1. Causing physical injury to himself or any other person;
    2. Suffering physical injury;
    3. Causing loss of or damage to property;
    4. Committing an offence against public decency; or
    5. Causing an unlawful obstruction of the highway;
  4. To protect a child or other vulnerable person from the person in question;
  5. To allow the prompt and effective investigation of the offence or of the conduct of the person in question;
  6. To prevent any prosecution for the offence from being hindered by the disappearance of the person in question.

When considering the need to arrest, the officer should take the following into account:

  • The situation of the victim;
  • The nature of the offence;
  • The circumstances of the offender; and
  • The needs of the investigation.
2.6 The CSUs in the majority of cases will be the primary unit to investigate domestic violence offences. The decision to caution for a domestic violence offence lies with either the Police or the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). If a Police officer decides to caution a domestic violence perpetrator, they must be at least a substantive Inspector. The Hertfordshire Constabulary guidance is that the officer making the cautioning decision should not be involved in the investigation for both subjectivity and integrity reasons.
2.7 It is the role of the CPS to decide on whether a perpetrator should be charged with a criminal offence and what criminal offence(s) should be charged. If there is a disagreement between Police and CPS, there is a dispute resolution process to review charging decisions - although ultimately it is the CPS who have the final decision.

The typical offences (though this is not exhaustive) likely to be charged in domestic violence cases are:

Caption: table of Offences

Offences Against the Person
Act, 1861
Section 47
Section 20
Section 18

Actual bodily harm (may be physical or psychological injuries).
Unintentional GBH or wounding
GBH with intent

Protection from Harassment Act
Section 2 / 4

Harassment, fear of violence.

Public Order Act, 1986
Section 3


Offences Against the Person
Act, 1861
Section 21
Section 23

Attempted choking, strangulation, and suffocation with intent to commit an indictable offence.
Administer poisonous / noxious substances with intent to endanger life.

Common Law Offences

Kidnap, unlawful imprisonment
Breach of the peace.

Criminal Law Act, 1977
Section 6

Use / threaten violence to secure entry to premises.

Criminal Justice and Public
Order Act, 1994
Section 51

Intimidating / harm / threat to harm witness.

Civil Law Court Order
Section 7 Bail Act, 1976

Breach of injunction. Breach of bail.

Offences Against the Person
Section 16

Threats to kill.

Sexual Offences Act 2003

Including rape and other sexual offences.

Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 This Act updates Orders relating to anti-social behaviour and sexual offences.

Once charged and at court there are numerous orders that can be applied for post sentence (NB. some can be applied for as stand alone orders, though the process is more difficult) to manage the future behaviour of an offender. These include:

  • Anti-Social Behaviour Injunctions can be granted against a person aged 10 or over, to prevent them engaging in anti-social behaviour. The injunction may include provisions requiring the young person to do specified things, and/or prohibiting them from doing specified things.

    For under-18s, the injunction must be for a specified period of time, which must be no more than 12 months.

    These injunctions replace the previous Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) under section 1 Crime and Disorder Act 1998;
  • Restraining Orders can be applied for on successful conviction of Protection of Harassment Act offences;
  • Sexual Harm Prevention Orders and Sexual Risk Orders

    These orders were introduced by the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014. They replace the previous Sexual Offences Prevention Order, Risk of Sexual Harm Orders and Foreign Travel Orders which were introduced by the Sexual Offences Act 2003.

    The court needs to be satisfied that the order is necessary for protecting the public, or any particular members of the public, from sexual harm from the defendant; or protecting children or vulnerable adults generally, or any particular children or vulnerable adults, from sexual harm from the defendant outside the United Kingdom.

    The Orders prohibit the defendant from doing anything described in the order, and can include a prohibition on foreign travel (replacing Foreign Travel Orders which were introduced by the Sexual Offences Act 2003).

    Failure to comply with a requirement imposed under an Order is an offence punishable by a fine and/or imprisonment;
  • Sexual Harm Prevention Orders

    Sexual Harm Prevention Orders can be applied to anyone convicted or cautioned of a sexual or violent offence, including where offences are committed overseas. They replace the previous Sexual Offences Prevention Orders.

    A prohibition contained in a Sexual Harm Prevention Order has effect for a fixed period, specified in the order, of at least 5 years, or until further order. The Order may specify different periods for different prohibitions;
  • Sexual Risk Orders

    Sexual Risk Orders can be made where a person has done an act of a sexual nature as a result of which there is reasonable cause to believe that it is necessary for such an order to be made, even if they have never been convicted. They replace the previous Risk of Sexual Harm Orders.

    A prohibition contained in a Sexual Risk Order has effect for a fixed period, specified in the order, of not less than 2 years, or until further order. The Order may specify different periods for different prohibitions;
  • Disqualification Orders (Always Life) (Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000). Can be imposed on conviction at Crown Court for offences against children and prohibit any kind of work with children.
2.10 It should also be noted that if offenders are classed as: violent offenders; or potentially dangerous; or convicted of sexual offences and have to register as registered sex offenders (RSO) on the Sexual Offences Register; they will be managed by the MAPPA (Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements). Further information can be obtained from the Hertfordshire Constabulary' Operation Jigsaw teams located on every borough.



Housing options

  Victims of domestic violence need to consider their housing options for both the short and longer term. If a woman feels she is unable to remain at the family home at least temporarily, the following options could be considered. Note the options of removing the perpetrator as outlined above should always be made known to the woman. Independent Domestic Violence Advisors are a good source of advice and support regarding housing options.


The Sanctuary Project

3.1.1 The Sanctuary Project supports victims of domestic violence who are at risk of becoming homeless due to domestic violence from a current or former spouse, partner or close family member.
3.1.2 The Sanctuary Project offers victims of domestic violence the option to remain safely and securely in their homes, through the installation of free, tailored home security. Every Sanctuary is tailored to the needs and circumstances of the individual and property involved. Police Crime Prevention Officers visit the home and will recommend appropriate security measures, which is then completed by a private contractor. Within Hertfordshire the Sanctuary Scheme service/provision will differ between district/borough areas. There is a countywide Hertfordshire Home Security Service (operated by Medequip).  This allows access to basic home security checks/work (i.e. advice and fitting of additional locks on doors, windows, gates and garages), fire safety checks/advice (including installation of smoke alarms) and falls prevention advice to those classed as vulnerable. The service is free and includes in its vulnerable groups, victims of domestic violence and abuse, and these referrals currently take priority.



3.2.1 Refuges provide safe, emergency temporary accommodation for women and children who need protection from abuse. The workers in the refuges can provide information, advice and support. They can give practical assistance with benefit claims, court appearance etc. However, facilities such as kitchens, bathrooms, and sitting rooms are shared and many refuges will not accept women with boys aged 12 or over.
3.2.2 The 24 hour national domestic violence helpline (0808 2000 247) is run in partnership by Refuge and Women's Aid. As well as providing general advice and support, these agencies refer women to refuges in London or around the country, or advise on other possibilities if refuges are full.


Staying with family and friends

3.3.1 Depending on the circumstances, this may be an appropriate short term option. The victim may get more support and it is quick and cheap. However, it may also mean that she is easy for the abuser to find.


Making a homelessness application

3.4.1 The housing options service will decide whether it is reasonable to expect a victim of domestic violence to continue to occupy their present accommodation, whether the victim is in priority need and whether the local authority has a duty to provide temporary accommodation. Each case will be assessed on an individual basis.
3.4.2 The local authority may offer temporary accommodation while the case is being investigated. If the local authority then decides that the victim is homeless, has a priority need and there is a duty, self-contained stage 2 accommodation may be offered. However, in many cases this may be out of the borough.
3.4.3 Waiting times in temporary accommodation are lengthy. It may be over two years before an offer of permanent family sized accommodation can be made. It is therefore important to try and get as much information as possible about the situation.
3.4.4 To prevent victims of domestic violence being asked to visit housing options immediately, a senior case worker can be contacted and details of the case given. A homeless application can be completed and faxed to the caseworker. However, if there is an immediate threat of violence, an appointment must be made with the assessment team that day.


Management transfers

3.5.1 A management transfer may be an option if the woman is a sole tenant and the perpetrator lives elsewhere. Each case will need to be considered on an individual basis. Advice about legal remedies and specialist support agencies, as outlined above, should be given to enable the woman to take any necessary steps to protect herself and her family while she is waiting for a transfer (it must be noted that the target for rehousing management transfer cases is 12 weeks).


Immigration issues

  Professionals need to ensure that they have a firm understanding of issues around families with no recourse to public funds and how they can work with these victims, especially in relation to access to Legal Aid and Housing.


Domestic violence and the two year rule

4.1.1 People from abroad who enter or stay in the UK on the basis of marriage or relationship to a spouse/partner who is settled in the UK or is a British citizen are initially given limited leave to remain. They are subjected to a probationary period, at the end of which, with the support of their spouse or partner who is settled in UK, they can apply for indefinite leave to remain. This probationary period was extended to two years in 2003.
4.1.2 During the two year period, the partner from abroad is restricted from recourse to public funds. If the relationship breaks down, the partner from abroad becomes liable to be removed from the UK unless they can show the required evidence of domestic violence under the domestic violence concession to the rule. Fear that they will be deported is a factor that may inhibit women in such situations disclosing. Perpetrators often use this fear as a tool of control.
4.1.3 In such situations, practitioners should seek advice from support agencies as to any women's eligibility to apply under the domestic violence concessions to the rule.

Appendix 7: Safety Planning with Women

(Note: Adapted from the Stella Project's Domestic Violence, Drugs and Alcohol Toolkit)

By raising the issue of domestic violence, we create opportunities to explore ways in which women and children can be safe. A safety plan is a semi-structured way to think about steps that can be taken to reduce risk, before, during and after any violent or abusive incidents. It is important to stress that although a safety plan can reduce the risks of violence they cannot completely guarantee women and children's safety.

Women should not keep the safety plan where it may be discovered by the abusive partner.

Developing a safety plan

Women experiencing violence will already have survival strategies they find effective. It is essential to acknowledge these and use them as guidance for your work. A safety plan is about allowing women to identify the options available to them within the context of their current circumstances. Some questions to ask in drawing up a safety plan:

  • Who can you tell about the violence who will not tell your partner/ex-partner?
  • Do you have important phone numbers available e.g. Family, friends, refuges, Police? Do your children know how to contact these people?
  • If you left, where could you go?
  • Do you ever suspect when your partner is going to be violent? e.g. After drinking, when he gets paid, after relatives visit
  • When you suspect he is going to be violent can you go elsewhere?
  • Can you keep a bag of spare clothes at a friend's or family member's house?
  • Are you able to keep copies of any important papers with anyone else? e.g. passport, birth certificates, benefits book.
  • Which part of the house do you feel safest in?
  • Is there somewhere for your children to go when he is being violent and abusive (don't run to where your children are as your partner may harm them as well)?
  • What is the most dangerous part of your house to be in when he is violent?
  • Have you discussed with your children a safety plan for what they need to do during an incident (do not intervene, get away and get help)?

Personal safety plan for women courtesy London Child Protection procedures

See: London Child Protection Procedures, Parents who have additional needs, Safeguarding Children Affected by Domestic Abuse - Appendix 8: Personal Safety Plan for Women.

Appendix 8: Safety Planning with Children and Young People

For a definition of 'Fraser competency’.

For additional guidance in dealing with situations where forced marriage may be an issue, see Forced Marriage Procedure.

  • This safety plan should not be kept by the child;
  • Professionals should give the child no written material except telephone numbers, children can use mobile phone and text messaging to seek help;
  • The child needs to rehearse this safety plan with you as part of safety planning intervention.

Child's safety plan courtesy London Child Protection procedures

Click here to view Child's Safety Plan

Young person's plan courtesy London Child Protection procedures

Click here to view Young Person's Plan.

Appendix 9: Working with Abusive Partners


Asking questions

1.1 Practitioner's responses to any disclosure, however indirect, could be significant for encouraging responsibility and motivating a man towards change.

If the man presents with a problem such as drinking, stress or depression, for example, but does not refer to his abusive behaviour, these are useful questions to ask:

  • How is this drinking / stress at work / depression affecting how you are with your family?
  • When you feel like that what do you do?
  • When you feel like that, how do you behave?
  • Do you find yourself shouting / smashing things?
  • Do you ever feel violent towards a particular person?
  • It sounds like you want to make some changes for your benefit and for your partner / children. What choices do you have? What can you do about it? What help would you like to assist you to make these changes?

If a man responds openly to these prompting questions, more direct questions relating to heightened risk factors may be appropriate:

  • It sounds like your behaviour can be frightening. What happens when you get angry with your partner or your family? Do you ever shout at her? Have you ever frightened your partner and your children?
  • Have you ever hit her or pushed her around? What (specific) violence have you used? When did you first lay a hand on her in anger? What's the worst thing you've done in anger? Have you ever assaulted or threatened your partner with a knife or other weapon? What has been the most recent violence?
  • How are the children affected? Have you abused / assaulted your partner in front of the children?
  • Have the Police ever been called to the house because of your behaviour?
  • Do you feel unhappy about your partner seeing friends or family - do you ever try to stop her? Did / has your behaviour changed towards your partner during pregnancy?
  • What worries you most about your behaviour? Are you aware of any patterns - is the abuse getting worse or more frequent? How do you think alcohol or drugs affect your behaviour?

The information you gather will be the basis for your decision about how best to engage and what kind of specialist help is required - either for the man or to manage risk.


Responding to disclosures from abusive partners


Practitioners can make a difference and influence a family's situation and a child's well being, by following good practice response guidance, such as: 

  • Be clear that abuse is always unacceptable;
  • Be clear that abusive behaviour is a choice;
  • Affirm any accountability shown by the man;
  • Be respectful and empathic but do not collude;
  • Be positive, men can change;
  • Do not allow your feelings about the man's behaviour to interfere with your provision of a supportive service;
  • Be straightforward; avoid jargon;
  • Be clear about the judgement of risk to the children and the consequences of this, including what actions he is expected to take;
  • Whatever he says, be aware that on some level he is unhappy about his behaviour;
  • Be aware, and tell the man, that children are always affected by living with domestic abuse, whether or not they witness it directly;
  • Be aware, and convey to the man, that domestic violence is about a range of behaviours, not just physical violence (see Section 2, Definition);
  • Do not back him into a corner or expect an early full and honest disclosure about the extent of the abuse;
  • Be aware of the barriers to him acknowledging his abuse and seeking help (i.e. shame, fear of child protection process, self-justifying anger);
  • Be aware of the likely costs to the man himself of continued abuse and assist him to see these.


Risk Management with Abusive Partners

3.1 Where the mother is indicating she wishes the abusive partner to be involved in her and the child's life, he should be referred to an appropriate perpetrator programme.
3.2 When the abusive partner indicates that he is worried about his behaviour, and is ready to take responsibility for his need to change, it may be appropriate to start to discuss plans for keeping his partner safe from his abusive behaviour, prior to work on the programme beginning. This might occur in situations where there is likely to be a delay in starting such work; it should only be undertaken after consultation with the agency offering the perpetrator programme.
3.3 Additionally, before undertaking any safety planning / risk management work with an abusive partner, professionals should ensure that the mother is aware of what is being proposed, and that there is confidence that such work will not compromise her safety.

Abusers should be referred to programmes accredited by Respect (see the Respect website). Abuser programmes should always be integrated with associated women's services and with specialist child protection services. Abusive partners may also be referred to specialist child protection services (e.g. working with children subject of child protection plans and their families.

Adapted from the Westminster Domestic Violence forum guidelines for working with perpetrators of domestic violence. The full version of this guidance is available on the WIRE.