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Examination of Witness

Part of Domestic Abuse Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:30 pm on 29th October 2019.

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Zoe Billingham:

I wish there was a simple answer; if there was, it would have happened and the changes would have been made. There is a whole range of issues, starting from the moment when the police are informed about an incident, that are leading to an attrition.

One concern, which we want to look at in the work we are doing this year and into next year, is how potential offenders are being dealt with and brought to justice, the interface between the Crown Prosecution Service and the police, and in particular the number of referrals being made to the CPS by the police and the advice on charging that the CPS is providing to the police.

We have not done the detailed work on that yet, but the issue is about the interface between the police and the CPS, the decision on whether a charge should be brought on a domestic abuse-related case and whether—as I often hear from the police when I go into forces—the CPS has set the bar to secure a charge impossibly high. Obviously, if we do not secure the charge then we will never secure the conviction. We hear a lot of anecdotal evidence in that regard, but I cannot give you specific, hard and fast evidence.

One thing that we are doing next year, which may help to shed a little bit of light on some of the areas where we lose victims, is whether the issue of bail and release under investigation is leading to a diminution in attendance of those needed in court and an eventual loss of victims who basically give up, because the timeframe is spread out so long across a whole domestic abuse case. We are doing a specific piece of work looking at the effect of release under investigation postal requisitions, so that we can see the real reasons behind the elongation of the time factors and the changes around safeguarding that may flow as a result.