Should we have a domestic violence perpetrators register?

Family|Relationships|Wellness & Self Help|October 25th 2018

As regular readers will know, the Government is putting together a draft Domestic Abuse Bill, which is due for publication this autumn. The Bill was the subject of a consultation earlier this year, for details of which see this post I wrote back in March.

The House of Commons Home Affairs Committee has recently published a report in which it urges the Government to widen the scope of the Bill. Amongst other recommendations, the Committee recommends that the Bill include a statutory obligation upon local authorities in England and Wales to provide emergency refuge places, the establishment of a national register of serial stalkers and serial domestic violence perpetrators, and an end to single Universal Credit payments, which can make abuse victims more likely to stay with an abuser.

In this post I am concentrating upon the second of those recommendations: that a national register of serial stalkers and serial domestic violence perpetrators be established. What are the ideas behind this, what exactly does it entail, and is it a good idea?

The idea is not entirely new. For example, the National Stalking Advocacy Service Paladin has been campaigning for some time for the introduction of a register of serial stalkers and domestic violence perpetrators, which they say would enable police to pro-actively identify, track, monitor and manage stalkers (and abusers). Paladin says:

“Currently there is no existing framework which can track or monitor serial stalkers and domestic violence perpetrators. Instead police rely on a series of victims to report multiple crimes and often it is the victims who are forced to modify and change their behaviour, flee their homes and disappear themselves in order to stay safe … We track victims when they move but not the problem – the perpetrator. This needs to change. It is the perpetrator’s behaviour that is the problem. There needs to be a positive obligation on them to change their behaviour and take responsibility. They are the ones who need to be tracked, supervised and managed and not the victim.”

Specifically, Laura Richards, the Founder of Paladin, proposes that stalkers who have offended on two occasions would be included on the register (and presumably there be a similar provision for serial domestic violence/abuse ‘offenders’, more of which in a moment), and the Committee appears to agree with this, recommending that such a register be introduced as a matter of urgency.

What happens to those on the register? Well, the Committee say that they should, like registered sex offenders, “be managed through multi-agency public protection arrangements”. This could, for example, involve “the close involvement of mental health services in programmes to tackle the behaviour of perpetrators and reduce re-offending.” The Committee says:

“We believe that a more integrated VAWG [Violence Against Women and Girls] and domestic abuse strategy would support a better statutory response to stalking, and a more joined-up approach to supporting victims and managing the behaviour of perpetrators.”

It all sounds like an excellent idea, which could deter abusers, protect victims from further ‘offences’, and help to rehabilitate ‘offenders’.

The only note of caution I would add is this. Having your name appear on such a register is an extremely serious matter. However, domestic violence and abuse is not always ‘black and white’, both in terms of who is responsible, and how serious it is. I am most certainly not suggesting that domestic abuse is not a serious matter, but my quarter-century of ‘witnessing’ it as a family lawyer taught me that abuse is often at a low-level, and incidents are often ‘six of one and half a dozen of the other’. In other words, both parties can be to blame, to one extent or another. In such situations, punishing one party (or even both parties) by placing their name on a national register would be out of all proportion. It must therefore be clear that only those guilty of serious abuse be included on the register.

But that is only a relatively small point, in that it should be easily dealt with. Overall, I think the idea of a register may be a good one. Certainly, it deserves further consideration (it is just a pity it was not included in the consultation, so that everyone could give their views).

You can read the Home Affairs Committee’s report here. The register recommendation is to be found at paragraph 29.

If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic abuse the Refuge Freephone 24-hour domestic violence helpline is 0808 2000 0247 or visit https://www.refuge.org.uk/ or the ManKind Initiative who run a confidential help line on 01823 334244 or visit: https://www.mankind.org.uk/

Author: John Bolch

John Bolch often wonders how he ever became a family lawyer. He no longer practises, but has instead earned a reputation as one of the UK's best-known family law bloggers.

Comments(3)

  1. spinner says:

    currently to gain “victim” benefits all someone needs to do is tell their doctor they are a victim, no evidence of any kind is required. If this register was for those convicted by a jury and the evidence against them was also available then it would be of benefit. The only issue being that by doing this they are effectively being given a life sentence but I think potential victims should have access to the information then they can make their own informed choices.

    • karen says:

      Apologiess Spinner but you are incorrect, discussing a partners behaviour with your gp alows them to contact your local social services. Who in turn pass you onto a Support Group for DA, these are now for men and women.
      Then after disclosing information and or evidence you could be heard at a MARAC and they decide if there is DA, financial and emotional can be included.
      But then itdepends on region a to whether the support groups confer and support the victim. In allhonesty you are then passed from pillar to post and fall into a black hole. It is not as easy to claim domestic abuse as youmay think.
      Ad then the perpetrator can deny everything and accuse the vicitm of domestic abuse. The court and social services are very slow to pick up on coercive control.
      And the perpetrator is allowed to continue with the control and stalking and abuse and can in turn make the victim feel isolated from the limited resources that are available. The police are very limited in this abuse and are failing to assist victims. This ongoing abuse can limit the victim from moving on with there life and make them more afraid that when they lived with the perpetrator.

  2. Andrew says:

    If this is to happen:

    (1) It should only apply if there has been a custodial sentence or convictions concerning different victims.

    (2) Findings in the civil court should be ignored unless and until the alleged abuser is again entitled to legal aid (subject of course to means) on the same basis as the complainant.

    (3) Allegations which are withdrawn, or in which the complainant does not show up at the trial, or of course which lead to an acquittal, should also be ignored, whatever the circumstances.

    (4) Names shuld be removed after a certain period – I suggest five years at the outside – with no further convictions.

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