Criminology and community policing project




Tackling domestic violence: Why the UK needs to make domestic violence a specific Criminal Offence

1.0  Introduction

1.1 Background

On August 2014, the Home Secretary launched an 8 week consultation on strengthening current laws on domestic violence. The central question in the consultation was whether UK should have a specific offence that criminalises coercive and controlling behaviour in intimate relationships at a time when the government has failed to offer a statutory definition of domestic abuse (Home Office, 2014). Part of the argument on this debate has been that the UK needs to make domestic violence a specific criminal offence to eradicate the crime and also ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice. At the moment, there is no specific offence of domestic violence in the UK. Perpetrators of domestic violence can only be prosecuted under general crimes such as assault, criminal damage, false imprisonment, rape, attempted murder, and harassment. This does not clearly differentiate a crime committed by a family member or a partner and crime committed by a stranger (WHO, 1997; Saunders and Barron, 2003). Additionally, in absence of a specific criminal offence, the police may not see domestic violence, especially in its non-violet form, as a serious crime (Watson, 2010; Gay, 2014). What such conception fails to realise is that violence is not the only form of domestic abuse. Such acts as domineering, unacceptable controlling and demeaning behaviours can equally be devastating. The government has enacted the Stalking and Harassment law to address some of the domestic related violence, but in the absence of a specific criminal offence, perpetrators can only be prosecuted for crimes such as sexual harassment and assault (CPS, 2014). The paper will look at the necessity of making domestic violence a specific offence.

1.2 Problem statement

The re-focus on domestic violence laws is informed by the saddening statistics that shows domestic violence is still a major problem in the UK. According to the Crime Survey for England and Wales, 30 percent of women and 16.3 per cent of men in England and Wales will experience domestic violence in their life time. In year 2012/2013, there were 1.2 million female and 700, 000 male victims of domestic abuse in England and Wales (Dar, 2013; Gay, 2014). These statistics shows that there is need for a robust legal framework to deal with the problem.

How the police handle domestic violence reports have been wanting. According to a recent report by HMIC, how the police officers handle domestic violence is “alarming and unacceptable” (HMIC, 2014, p.7). The failure by the police officers is occasioned by the conception that domestic violence is an internal affair to be addressed by the conflicting parties – police have no role to play unless there is serious crime committed.  According to the report, the police service often treats domestic abuse as “a poor relation” and not necessarily as a crime (HMIC, 2014, p.4).  

1.3 Purpose of Study

The purpose of this study is to look at why UK needs to make domestic violence a specific criminal offence. The study will look at how making domestic violence a specific crime can reduce cases of domestic abuse and improve how the police handle the crime. It will also look at the possibility of making domestic violence a crime without criminalising normal disagreements in a relationship. The paper recognises that domestic violence is already a crime in UK, but it has to be prosecuted under other crimes such as rape, harassment, assault or attempted murder.

1.4 Aims and objectives

  1. Understand why domestic violence has not been specified as crime in UK.
  2. Explore how making domestic violence a specific violence can affect family or partners relations.
  3. Explore the challenges of prosecuting domestic violence as other offences
  4. Analyse the strides that the UK can make by making domestic violence a specific criminal offence.

1.5 Research Questions

  1. Why has UK not specified domestic violence as a crime?
  2. Is there need of making domestic violence a specific criminal offence?
  3. Can making domestic violence a specific crime aid in bringing more perpetrators to justice?
  4.  Can making domestic violence a specific criminal offence reduce the rate of the offence?
  5. Can making domestic violence a specific crime affect family or partners relations?


2.0  Methodology

This study will employ a secondary research. There is a lot of literature on how to combat domestic violence. Making domestic violence a specific crime is part of the literature (Walby, 2004; Watson, 2010; Challender and Lunn, 2014). The paper will examine both the argument for and argument against making domestic violence a specific criminal offence before drawing a conclusion.

List of References

Challender, C & Lunn, J (2014) Combating violence against women and girls around the world. London: Stationery office

Dar, A (2013) Domestic Violence statistics. London: Stationery office

Gay, O. (2014) Domestic Violence. London: Stationery Office.

HMIC (2014) Everyone’s business: Improving the police response to domestic abuse. London: HMIC

Home Office (2014) Strengthening the law on domestic abuse: a consultation. London: Stationery Office

Saunders, H. & Barron, J. (2003) Failure to protect? Domestic violence and the experience of abused women and children in the family courts. Bristol: Women’s Aid

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) (2014) Violence against Women and Girls Crime Report 2013-2014. London: CPS

Walby, S (2004) The cost of domestic violence. London: Women and Equality Unit

Watson, J (2010) Crown Prosecution Service: Steps to improve violence against women prosecutions. London: CPS

World health Organisation (WHO) (1997) Violence against women: A priority health issue. Geneva: WHO


£ 10 .00