What Do The Police Class as Domestic Violence and What Can You Expect if You Are Accused?

There is no statutory definition of “domestic violence” however Government policy has defined it as “any form of controlling and coercive behaviour, used by one person to maintain control over another with whom they are having or have had an intimate or family relationship”. This is fact an offence in it’s own right and came into force when the Serious Crime Act 2015 was implemented.

It must be remembered that not only women and children but also men can be the subject of domestic violence.

Whilst the label of “violence” is used by the police, the Crown and the related agencies, it is not only physical violence which comes under the banner; it also includes psychological, sexual, financial and emotional abuse.

So what can you expect if you are accused of an allegation of “domestic violence”? In the first instance it is likely (though not exclusively the case) that you will have been involved in some form of altercation within the home and the police will have been called. In most cases due to the police policy the individual identified as the abuser will be arrested. In days gone by the individual may have been invited to leave the property over night and go to stay with a friend whilst the parties “cooled down”. The protocol now in place is at direct odds to this. Now an arrest is the most likely next step with the person spending some hours in the police station.

An interview under caution will take place; as in all cases we would advise you that you seek the services of a solicitor. Whether that is Burton Copeland or the Duty solicitor (of which we have 16) this is possibly the most important decision you will make in the course of these proceedings.

Do I Need a Solicitor During a Police Interview?

Yes, absolutely.

Why do I need a solicitor, I’ve done nothing wrong?

Firstly it is the one area of legal aid that remains untouched by government cuts and is completely free for everyone. This might give some indication as to how, even in times of austerity, the government still recognise the importance of receiving independent legal advice whilst at the police station.

Secondly, the police are required to provide the solicitor with disclosure of the evidence regarding the offences with which you are accused. This will enable you to make an informed decision based on evidence as to how or if you wish to answer questions in the interview itself. In the absence of a solicitor the police are not obliged to inform the detainee any of the details of the allegation that has been made against him or her.

After the interview, a decision will be sought from the Crown Prosecution Service, and using their guidance, will make a decision as to whether or the individual is to be charged. Again that decision will be made promptly with no bail back or release under investigation. It should also be noted that the policy of the Crown Prosecution service is that a formal police caution is not appropriate for offences of domestic violence.

This means that whilst you may receive a caution for a more serious offence against a stranger you are unlikely to receive a caution for a domestic violence related offence. Once again this is a point at which a solicitor may be able to assist as we are able to liaise with the Crown and where appropriate highlight how your particular circumstances may be considered an exception.

Will I Get Bail For Domestic Violence?

Given that most offences of domestic violence are alleged to take place in the family home, it is often the case that bail is refused on the grounds that there is a risk that the individual accused would return to the address and commit further offences and / or interfere with witnesses. It is therefore often the case that individuals who have never been arrested before are accused of minor offences, but because they are deemed as “domestic violence” they spend many hours in a police cell before being put before the next available court. If the arrest takes place on a Saturday, you are likely to remain in custody until the next available court on the following Monday.

If the matter does proceed to charge and court the hearing is now held in a specialist “domestic violence court”. This is staffed by personnel who have been specifically trained.

The consequences of a conviction can be far reaching. The court has the power to make a restraining order which if breached is punishable with imprisonment in its own right. Outside of the criminal courts you may find that social services become involved with the family and possibly proceedings commenced within the Family Courts.

Even if Not Prosecuted The Police Can Make an Application For a Domestic Violence Prevention Order”

The policy is one of “prosecution first”! Often the complainant will have second thoughts for one of many reasons but they should be aware that the Crown may and do seek both witness summonses and in some circumstances witness warrants to ensure the witness attends court. In the absence of a witness it is also open to the Crown to make formal applications to have evidence admitted under various legal routes. The fact that the complainant has not turned up will not of itself bring an end to the proceedings.

In light of the current policy we would urge that you seek legal advice. Legal advice if free if you are under arrest at the police station (or present as a volunteer) and by having legal advice may well alter the turn of events.

We have experienced solicitors and accredited representatives on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (yes including all bank holidays and religious festivals) advising suspects arrested at police stations throughout the North West of England and beyond. Please call us on 0161 827 9500 if you require further advice or assistance on this subject.

Louise Straw, Burton Copeland

Louise is the Managing Partner at Burton Copeland. She is a Duty Solicitor and regularly attends police stations in order to advise suspects who are to be interviewed in relation to all manner of offences including alleged domestic violence. Contact Louise here or if you want to read more about her and the work that she does see our about us page.