Domestic violence and abuse

Part of: Police engagement with women and girls Police ethics and accountability Protecting people from violence and abuse

Protecting vulnerable people is at the core of police and fire and rescue services’ duty. We inspect police forces’ response to domestic abuse to promote improvements, bring perpetrators to justice and protect victims from harm.

We are focused on working with our partners to improve the support available to domestic abuse victims through the criminal justice system.

At the time of writing, there has been a 180 percent increase in the recording of domestic abuse since the first annual report was published in 2014. This is partly due to improved understanding and identification of domestic abuse. But all forces have also made domestic abuse a priority, and have given officers specialist training. There has been a consistent increase in the number of perpetrators arrested and in the use of protective powers such as prevention orders and disclosures.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, police forces were proactive and innovative in their response to domestic abuse.

There are still areas for improvement, and we will continue to scrutinise these.

Our reports

Police perpetrated domestic abuse: Report on the Centre for Women’s Justice super complaint – 30 June 2022

With the College of Policing and the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), we investigated a super-complaint submitted by the the Centre for Women’s Justice (CWJ).

We found that forces aren’t fully recognising and responding to the risks and responsibilities associated with domestic abuse allegations involving police suspects. It is vitally important that forces both respond robustly to such cases and are seen to do so.

The report includes a series of recommendations aimed at better investigations and better protection of victims in these cases.

Review of policing domestic abuse during the pandemic – 23 June 2021

We examined how the police responded to the unique challenges the COVID-19 pandemic placed on preventing and responding to domestic abuse.

This review expanded on the findings in our policing COVID-19 report, highlighting good practice and innovation. We also made three recommendations aimed at ensuring forces continued to respond to the challenges of policing this crime during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

Evidence led domestic abuse prosecutions – 23 January 2020

If the victim of domestic abuse decides not to support a prosecution, police and prosecutors should consider whether it is possible to bring a prosecution without that support. This is called an evidence led prosecution.

Together with Her Majesty’s Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate (HMCPSI) we conducted an inspection to find out whether:

  • the guidance and policy on evidence led prosecutions is widely understood by both police officers and prosecutors; and
  • they seek to build viable evidence led prosecutions where appropriate.

The police response to domestic abuse: An update report – 26 February 2019

Since March 2014, when we published ‘Everyone’s business’, the service the police give to victims of domestic abuse improved markedly. Victims were now better supported and better protected.

In this update report we didn’t make national recommendations to forces. But we did comment on progress made since our previous reports.

A progress report on the police response to domestic abuse – 14 November 2017

As part of our 2016 PEEL effectiveness inspection, we assessed all 43 Home Office-funded forces in England and Wales on the improvements made in their approach to domestic abuse.

We reviewed the findings of our 2014 and 2015 inspections, and assessed the progress that forces had made on implementing their action plans. Our inspection teams were supplemented by experts in the field of domestic abuse. These included public protection specialists from police forces and domestic abuse practitioners from voluntary and community sector organisations.

Increasingly everyone’s business: A progress report on the police response to domestic abuse – 15 December 2015

Between June and August 2015, we visited every police force in England and Wales to assess the progress they had made since we published ‘Everyone’s business’.

We found that the police service acted on the messages of ‘Everyone’s business’, and made tackling domestic abuse an important priority. This resulted in better support for and protection of victims. However, we found there were still areas for improvement in the way the police responded to, supported and protected domestic abuse victims. We made a series of recommendations.

Everyone’s business: Improving the police response to domestic abuse – 27 March 2014

In September 2013, the Home Secretary commissioned us to conduct an inspection on the police response to domestic abuse. We were asked to report on:

  • the effectiveness of the police approach to domestic violence and abuse, focusing on the outcomes for victims and whether risks to victims of domestic violence and abuse are well managed;
  • lessons learnt from how the police approach domestic violence and abuse; and
  • recommendations about these findings, when considered alongside current practice.

We found that, overall, the police response to victims of domestic abuse was not good enough and forces needed to take decisive action to rectify this.

Getting help

If you are, or someone you know is, a victim of domestic abuse or violence, find out how to report domestic abuse and where to get help.

You may also be interested in

Child abuse and child protection
Harassment and stalking
Violence against women and girls