Domestic abuse orders: risk, vulnerability and training

Date01 May 2020
Published date01 May 2020
AuthorRob Ewin,Elizabeth A. Bates,Julie C. Taylor
Subject MatterHealth & social care,Criminology & forensic psychology
Domestic abuse orders: risk, vulnerability
and training
Rob Ewin, Elizabeth A. Bates and Julie C. Taylor
Purpose The use of emergency barring orders (EBO) in the form of domestic violence protection
notices and orders (DVPN-O)in reported domestic abuse (DA) cases is a relativelynew development in
the UK; the effectiveness of these ordershas been challenged. The purpose of this paper is to examine
the factorsinfluencing their issue.
Design/methodology/approach Freedomof information (FOI) requests were usedalongside a survey
tool. Practitioners(n= 76; mainly police practitioners) were askedabout approaches to EBO application,
risk and trainingaround DA.
Findings The findings indicate that applications are impacted largely by domestic abuse stalking
harassment risk grading, typically resulting in high-risk cases receiving the most attention. Criticisms
suggesting that DVPN-Osare of limited use receive some support from thisstudy; however, as their use
is restricted to these higher-risk cases, the full effect of the orders may be limited. The most important
factors in decision-making are the level of physical violence, repeated victimization and the victims
support fora DVPN-O. Police intelligence and thepresence of children also have an effecton risk ratings.
Less importance was given to lower riskgraded cases, wider intelligence from family members and
information from social networks. Findings also indicate that policetraining is largely limited to ‘‘on-the-
job’’ experience,e-learning and e-mail bulletins.
Practical implications Respondentsproposed that training could be enhanced throughvictim stories,
cross-discipline approaches and wider knowledge beyond isolated specialisms. A number of
recommendations are made in line with: structuring professional judgment, using victim accounts in
police trainingand movement toward an evidence-led approach.
Originality/value This research demonstratesa clear link to the way in which risk and the useof EBO
are used by policeofficers. This research also highlightsthe desire to see and hear from victims in police
training.The value of this research is shown in boththe combined approach of FOI requestsand a survey
and assessinga currently under-researchedarea of DA response.
Keywords Policing, Courts, Domestic abuse, Civil orders, DVPN, DVPO, Emergency barring order
Paper type Research paper
Situating the response to domestic abuse
Internationally, there are varied responses to DA, but within UK law, protecting victims
where a prosecution is not being pursued has attracted considerable attention (Bessant,
2015). Domestic violence protection notices (DVPNs) and domestic violence protection
orders (DVPOs) were introduced to all police forces across England and Wales in 2014 to
respond to calls to better protect victims (Kelly et al.,2013). However, since their introduction,
little research has been undertaken to examine their effectiveness (Smith, 2016). In Osman v
UK (1990) 1 FLR 193, and Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, there is an
obligation upon the state to protect individuals from threats to their lives posed by third parties,
where “the authorities knew or ought to have known of a real and immediate risk to the life” of
that identified individual; this is often cited in matters of threat prevention and intelligence but is
relevant to DA along with Opuz v Turkey (2010) 50 EHRR 28 (7282) (Bessant, 2015). Opuz
demonstrates that poor attitudes to protecting victims can lead to international sanction s on
Rob Ewin is based at
University of Cumbria,
Carlisle, UK.
Elizabeth A. Bates and
Julie C. Taylor both are
based at Department of
Psychology at University of
Cumbria, Carlisle, UK.
Received 17 January 2020
Revised 9 March 2020
Accepted 9 March 2020
DOI 10.1108/JCRPP-01-2020-0007VOL. 6 NO. 2 2020, pp. 151-167, ©Emerald Publishing Limited, ISSN 2056-3841 jJOURNAL OF CRIMINOLOGICAL RESEARCH, POLICY AND PRACTICE jPAGE 151
state policing administration. The UK DA Bill proposed that such orders and notices will form
an important part of future interventions alongside stricter sanctions for breaching orders, and
wider opportunities for agencies other than the police to make emergency barring orde rs’
(EBO) applications are planned (HM Government, 2019). Understanding factors influencing
applications for such orders is a key to maximizing their utility and may prove valuable both
within the UK and beyond, especially within internationally developing legal systems where
interim protective orders could become a legal option.
DVPOs form a part of measures under the Crime and Security Act (CSA, 2010). They are
designed to secure an emergency but temporary period of protection for victims in the
immediate aftermath of a DA incident and for up to 28 days. The policy gives little guidance as
to when an order should be issued; the threshold is relatively low reasonable belief in a threat
of violence will suffice, neither actual violence nor a history of violence is req uired (Burton,
2015). The Home Office insists that DVPOs form important interim protection for victims;
however, an initial pilot concluded little impact or deterrence (Kelly et al.,2013). There is
currently insufficient data to draw any meaningful conclusions despite the orders havi ng been
available for several years. Benitez et al. (2010) highlight: “available res earch supports the
conclusion that there is a substantial chance that a protection order will be violated and the
risk is greatest soon after its initiation” (p384).
Prior to the introduction of DVPOs, prosecution intervention choices were limited and without
legally constructed frameworks (Burton, 2015). The CSA relies upon the scope of the
Magistrates’ Courts Act, 1980 to deal with non-compliance with the sanctions limited to small
fines or short prison sentences. These penalties are anecdotally reported to be ineffective. In
the future, the plan is to respond to breaches with criminal sanctions, a development that is
intended to address concerns over their effectiveness (HM Government, 2019). The notices
and orders set prohibitions that, in effect, bar a suspected perpetrator from contacting the
victim or returning to a victim’s home (even when that home is shared with the perpetrator: Kelly
et al.,2013
). Kropp and Heart (2015) suggest that destabilization of living circumstances alone
may have an adverse impact for perpetrators. They argued that orders are best used when
combined with other mechanisms which may include, but is not restricted to, the following:
referrals to DA mediation services;
conflict resolution through victim support; and
close policevictim management.
Future options may include perpetrator programs with a focus on building healthier
relationships (HM Government, 2019). The legislative intention is to find ways to improve the
efficacy of these orders, in response to DA, and create a comprehensive option to traditional
Controversy persists, with some authors asserting that the perceived gap within th e protection
of DA victims is not a legitimate one, proposing that victims remain best served by traditional
methods of justice such as arrest and criminal charges (Crompton, 2014). However, there is a
distinct need to protect victims in the face of obvious threats where an arrest cannot be made,
a claim supported by both Osman and Opuz. Prosecutions often focus on isolated matters
with little reference to antecedents, or context, and are based on ill-informed risk assessments
(Bishop and Bettinson, 2017). Approaches to risk assessment around violence usually take
one of the following three forms:
unstructured professional judgment characterized by intuitive or experiential decision
actuarial decision-making usually involving psychometric testing or testing with
instruments; and
structured professional judgment characterized by well-developed guidelines (Kropp
and Hart, 2015).

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