The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has proposed new guidelines to help spot signs of domestic violence against teenagers and the elderly.
Social media, gang culture and peer pressure are some of the things the new guidelines advise prosecutors to consider when dealing with cases involving teenagers.
Alison Saunders, the Director of Public Prosecutions, said that in a lot of cases, teenagers may not consider themselves to be victims of domestic violence if they are being targeted on social media.
“Abuse often takes place online in cases involving teenagers and young people. It is vital that this type of evidence is considered as part of any case and that both prosecutors and investigators adopt the full definition of domestic violence that includes non-physical abuse such as this.”
Saunders said a lot of domestic violence goes unreported by teenagers.
“Young people can also be reluctant to report abuse for fear of getting into trouble with their parents, being bullied at school or because they are scared of their abuser.”
The measures proposed in the new guidelines for dealing with cases involving teenagers include prosecutors working with police to determine whether informing the parents of any potential prosecution may put them in danger.
Saunders also emphasised the importance of adequate protections against domestic violence for elderly people, noting that “there is very little evidence that partner violence decreases with age”.
According to the new guidelines, on which public comment is being sought up to July 2014, common factors in domestic violence cases involving the elderly include changing in circumstances, such as retirement or ill-health.
The guidelines warn that elderly victims may have similar reluctance to coming forward about abuse as teenagers do, although the reasons are different.
Lack of financial independence, health worries, or simply not wanting outside parties involved in their private affairs were all reasons listed for such reluctance.
Diana Barran, Chief Executive of domestic violence support charity Co-ordinated Action Against Domestic Abuse (CAADA), welcomed the proposed new guidelines.
“[The guidelines seek] to refine the response to address the needs of different groups of victims and recognises that a ‘one size fits all’ approach does not work. Prosecutors must balance criminal justice with protecting the victim, and this guidance will help them achieve this.”
The proposed guidelines can be read here.