Domestic Abuse Bill

Written evidence submitted by the London Assembly (DAB45)

Domestic Abuse Bill 2019 – 2021

1. The London Assembly holds the Mayor of London to account and investigates issues that matter to Londoners.

2. The Mayor controls a range of organisations that provide some of London’s key services – Transport for London, the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime, the Metropolitan Police Service, and the London Fire Commissioner – all of which the London Assembly scrutinises to make sure they are run efficiently.


3. The London Assembly has campaigned for the introduction of a Register for serial stalkers and domestic abuse offenders since 2017 [1] . In 2019, a report published by the London Assembly’s Police and Crime Committee reiterated the urgent need for the introduction of a Domestic Abusers Register. [2] Our campaign is supported by the Mayor of London, and the Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime.

4. This submission proposes an amendment to the Domestic Abuse Bill to enable the creation of a Register for serial stalkers and domestic abusers.

5. We also set out the London Assembly’s views on existing provisions in the Bill, including how they can be strengthened.

A Register for serial stalkers and abusers

6. The Domestic Abuse Bill is a vital step forward for victims and survivors. However, we are alarmed that the Bill does not focus on serial stalkers and domestic abusers, when evidence shows that many repeat offenders go on to commit murder.

7. The Metropolitan Police does not publicly share information regarding repeat victims and perpetrators of domestic abuse on its dashboards. However, as part of the London Assembly’s Police and Crime Committee investigation into domestic abuse in 2019, the Metropolitan Police told us that from January to September 2019, there were 13,600 repeat victims of domestic abuse in London. [3]

8. The number of victims of domestic violence in London has risen significantly in recent years. In 2019, there were around 89,000 domestic abuse offences recorded by the Metropolitan Police, compared to just over 46,000 in 2011. Each London borough deals, on average, with over 2,000 domestic abuse offences and 4,000 domestic abuse incidents on an annual basis. [4] These statistics are a snapshot of a much higher figure nationally and provide a compelling case for more robust action against perpetrators than is currently evident in the Domestic Abuse Bill. We therefore support the aims of New Clause 27, which calls for a comprehensive perpetrator strategy for domestic abuse to increase the number of rehabilitation programmes, and increase specialist work to tackle abusive attitudes and behaviour.

9. The protection orders addressed in the Bill - the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme and Domestic Abuse Protections Notices and Orders - place the onus on the victim to report and deal with the crime they were subjected to. This means police services are reliant on victims to report multiple crimes, with victims being forced to modify and change their behaviour as a result. A cultural shift is urgently needed, where police forces focus on the perpetrator of the crime, collect and share intelligence about their offending behaviour and assess and manage their risk.

10. The Bill must be amended to enable the creation of a Register for serial stalkers and domestic abusers. This would create a national standard of risk management by placing the onus on domestic abuse offenders to register details with the police so that their offending history is known by local officers. We therefore urge members of the Public Bill Committee to support New Clause 12 which would require that any person convicted of any offence that amounts to domestic abuse as defined in clause 1 must have their details recorded on a domestic abuse register.

11. We recognise the need to minimise the bureaucratic burden on police forces. The current Violent and Sexual Offender Register (ViSOR) should therefore be expanded to include notification requirements for serial stalkers and domestic abuse perpetrators. These offenders should be managed through existing Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements – a system which has been in operation for registered sex offenders for several years - and allows police forces to categorise the threat posed by offenders.

12. The Government is currently investing in modernising the ViSOR system. This is a clear window of opportunity to enable the system to include notification requirements that apply to sex offenders to serial stalkers and perpetrators of Domestic Abuse.

The Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (DVDS)

13. We do not agree with the Government’s argument that placing the guidance underpinning the DVDS on a statutory footing will increase its use by police forces.

14. Despite the fact that there were almost 150,000 reported incidents of domestic abuse in London during 2017, the Disclosure Scheme was only used in a limited number of cases. Disclosures were made under the ‘Right to Know’ element of the scheme on just 352 occasions, and under the ‘Right to Ask’ element on 127 occasions. [5] In 2018, these figures showed little sign of improvement - disclosures were made under the ‘Right to Know’ element of the scheme on just 368 occasions, and under the ‘Right to Ask’ element on 122 occasions. [6]

15. Even if statutory guidance does improve use of the DVDS, the protection order does not offer the same level of protection as a Register. As was noted by the Home Affairs Committee in its 2018 report on domestic abuse, the DVDS is dependent on an individual asking about an offender’s history, meaning many abusers slip through the gaps. There is often a time delay when sharing information that puts the victim further at risk and there is no duty on police services to identify, track and manage serial domestic abusers or stalkers, many of whom are not convicted. The Committee recommended, the introduction of a national register of serial stalkers and domestic violence perpetrators would create a more "joined-up approach to supporting victims and managing the behaviour of perpetrators." [7]

16. Even in the limited instances when abusers are reported, the DVDS is reliant on police forces, who are often overstretched and under-resourced, inputting information into a centralised database. If this data is not managed correctly, serial perpetrators slip through the cracks. This is often the case if the abuser has moved between different areas and across different police forces.

17. A Register which contains the names and addresses of perpetrators - alongside a requirement to inform the police of the commencement of a new relationship and to notify the police of a change in address - would mean that police officers are given information on both the relationship status of a potential perpetrator in their area and their previous offending history. This information has the potential to make a greater number of proactive disclosures under the ‘Right to Know’ element of the DVDS.

Domestic Abuse Protection Orders & Notices

18. The creation of the new DAPO is an interim step forward. Yet, statistics demonstrate, that there is a real risk that this will become another well-intentioned policy tool which is not used in practice by police forces and magistrates. In London the Domestic Violence Protection Order was only used 467 times in the period from 1st January – 30th November 2019 [8] , despite there being around 89,000 domestic abuse offences recorded by the Metropolitan Police over the course of the same year.

19. The DAPO will be made by the court following a freestanding application, most likely from either the police, the court or the victim and family of the victim. This is unnecessarily cumbersome, and a waste of limited police resources. We are also concerned that the DAPO will be interpreted differently by different police forces and different courts, and therefore applied inconsistently to the detriment of victims and survivors. Key to its success will therefore be significant investment in police training which is currently not provided in the Bill.

20. In comparison, a Register would encourage proactive risk management. It would place the onus on the most dangerous domestic abuse offenders to register with the police and keep up to date details such as address and relationship status. This would allow police forces to assess the threat posed by offenders in their communities and put in place the required level of proactive policing or a lower level of monitoring through existing partnership arrangements. These thresholds would be uniform across England and Wales, and so would provide a consistent level of protection and risk management.

 Polygraph testing for repeat offenders

21. There is little evidence that polygraph testing provides reliable evidence - the Government’s own data shows that more than 10% of the tests do not work. Crucially, the sanctions that can be imposed are vague and lacklustre, such as more frequent testing and formal warnings. These measures simply do not offer the same level of protection as a Register and should not be relied upon as a means to prevent serial offenders.

Non-Statutory Commitments

22. We welcome the Government’s commitment to w ork with the National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead on domestic abuse and the College of Policing to develop national guidance for police forces on serial and repeat perpetrators , [9] provided that relevant domestic abuse charities and other partners are also consulted in this process.

23. This guidance is a clear opportunity to establish a common definition of a ‘serial perpetrator’, which could subsequently be used as the basis for perpetrators included on an expanded ViSOR system.

24. This guidance must also establish categories of risk for serial stalkers and perpetrators to facilitate the improved operational use of an expanded ViSOR database. As with the current operation of the ViSOR database, sex offenders are categorised into different ‘levels’ dependent on the risk they pose, allowing police forces to adjust the level of police resource dependent on the individual.

June 2020


Prepared 11th June 2020