Last week the Police Foundation held its annual conference on Innovations inpolicingdomestic abuse. A range of innovations in this challenging area were presented alongside some excellent keynote speeches. One of these was the College of Policing funded randomised controlled trial of body worn videoundertaken in Essex, the findings of which were published the following day. The aim of the trial was to establish its effectiveness in terms of detections leading to criminal charges relating to domestic abuse. The findings make interesting reading.
Essentially, the trial showed that wearing a camera made no difference to the rate of sanction detections, although it did result in slightly more incidents leading to a criminal charge (as opposed to a fixed penalty, community resolution or caution). Where officers wore cameras, suspects were more likely to be charged, especially in lower risk cases, but in most cases, officers didn’t wear them, even though force policy required them to do so for alldomestic violenceincidents. Officers who were interviewed as part of the trial (15 in all) offered a range of reasons for not wearing cameras, including difficulties switching it on and off, poor quality images and cameras being too bulky. Paradoxically, they also stated that the cameras helped them to feel more confident in getting a conviction as they provided better evidence, so why most failed to wear them remains a bit of a mystery.
While the technical and practical glitches will, with time, no doubt be ironed out, the fundamental conclusion from this gold standard research is that body worn cameras are unlikely to be the panacea to improving the police response to domestic abuse that some had hoped for. Furthermore, a couple of officers raised the important point that victims often don’t want the perpetrator to be prosecuted and that if they took the matter out of the hands of the victim (i.e. pursued a victimless prosecution) victims would be loath to call the police again if future incidents occurred (which they often do). But there were other innovations in policing presented at the conference, not least the CARA project.
Contrary to the prevailing policy of positive prosecution, the CARA project in Hampshire deliberately seeks to divert (low risk) perpetrators from prosecution by offering them a conditional caution. Also a gold standard evaluation, the findings from the CARA project are much more encouraging.Having secured the permission of the Director of Public Prosecutions to conduct the experiment, Hampshire devised a programme aimed at changing the behaviour of offenders accused of committing domestic violence without injury and with little offending history and to point them in the direction of additional services alcohol, mental health etc. – where relevant. The initial findings show that those who attended behavioural change workshops were 46 per cent less likely to re-offend that those who didn’t.
The CARA project addresses the causes of an offender’s violent behaviour, helping them to change their attitude to their partners and address issues within their relationships. It protects victims and deters future offending behaviour while respecting the wishes of victims who would prefer to avoid the prosecutorial route. Instead of first time arrests leading to No Further Action which so many often do in Hampshire they have developed an effective form of early intervention that really should be rolled out across the country. The only problem is that in matters of law and order politicians like to sound tough and with an election just around the corner I’m not holding my breath.