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Domestic Abuse

All children who are exposed to or experience domestic abuse, are likely to be affected and some children may have suffered, or are likely to suffer, significant harm as a result of the domestic abuse. Indeed, any child/ren or young person(s) who see, hear or otherwise experience the effects of domestic abuse are recognised as victims of domestic abuse within UK legislation.

This procedure applies to all practitioners in HSCP agencies. Other organisations e.g. refuges are encouraged to adopt them. Some children and their families will benefit from Early Help services and some will require Safeguarding Services to safeguard and promote the child/ren’s welfare.

Working Together to Safeguard Children defines Domestic Abuse as:

Domestic abuse can encompass a wide range of behaviours and may be a single incident or a pattern of incidents. Domestic abuse is not limited to physical acts of violence or threatening behaviour, and can include emotional, psychological, controlling or coercive behaviour, sexual and/or economic abuse.

Types of domestic abuse include intimate partner violence (including ex-partners, as defined in the Domestic Abuse Act), abuse by family members, teenage relationship abuse and adolescent to parent violence. Anyone can be a victim of domestic abuse, regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, socio-economic status, sexuality or background and domestic abuse can take place inside or outside of the home.

Domestic abuse continues to be a prevalent risk factor identified through children social care assessments for children in need. Domestic abuse has a significant impact on children and young people.

Children may experience domestic abuse directly, as victims in their own right, or indirectly due to the impact the abuse has on others such as the non-abusive parent.

Under the Domestic Abuse Act 2021, children are recognised as victims of domestic abuse in their own right, if they see, hear, or experience the effects of the abuse, and are related to the perpetrator of the abuse or the victim of the abuse. Abuse directed towards a child under 16yrs of age is defined as child abuse.

Where there is domestic abuse, the wellbeing of the children in the household must be promoted and all assessments must consider the need to safeguard the children, including unborn children.

The Domestic Abuse Act 2021 says that behaviour is ‘abusive’ if it consists of any of the following:

  1. Physical or sexual abuse;
  2. Violent or threatening behaviour;
  3. Controlling or coercive behaviour;
  4. Economic abuse;
  5. Psychological, emotional or other abuse.

and it does not matter whether the behaviour consists of a single incident or a course of conduct. The perpetrator of the abuse and the victim of the abuse have to be aged 16 or over and are ‘personally connected’ as intimate partners, ex-partners, family members or individuals who share parental responsibility for a child. There is no requirement for the victim and perpetrator to live in the same household.

Domestic abuse in teenage relationships is just as severe and has the potential to be as life threatening as abuse in adult relationships. Victims under 16 should be treated as victims of child abuse and age appropriate consequences should be considered for perpetrators under 16. Abuse involving perpetrators and victims aged between 16 and 18 could be both child and domestic abuse.

The Domestic Abuse Act 2021 uses the term ‘victim’ but not everyone who has experienced, or is experiencing, domestic abuse chooses to describe themselves as a ‘victim’ and they may prefer another term, for example, ‘survivor’.

The statutory guidance Controlling or Coercive Behaviour in an Intimate or Family Relationship defines controlling or coercive behaviour as:

  • Controlling behaviour is: a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour;
  • Coercive behaviour is: an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim.

Note: The Government is updating the statutory guidance relating to the controlling or coercive behaviour offence as section 76 of the Serious Crime Act 2015 will be amended by the Domestic Abuse Act 2021.

Other forms of abuse may be present for example:

Abuse by family members which can involve abuse by any relative or multiple relatives. Abuse within a family set-up can encompass a number of different behaviours, including but not limited to violence, coercive or controlling behaviours, and economic abuse. Abuse by family members also encompasses forced marriage, so called ‘honour’-based abuse and female genital mutilation.

Child-to-Parent Abuse which can include physical violence from a child towards a parent or other family members such as siblings and a number of different types of abusive behaviours, including damage to property, emotional abuse, and economic/financial abuse. Violence and abuse can occur together or separately. Abusive behaviours can encompass, but are not limited to, humiliating language and threats, belittling, damage to property and stealing and heightened sexualised behaviours.

Technological abuse using technology and social media as a means of controlling, coercing, harassing or stalking victims. This happens frequently both during and after relationships with abusers and is particularly common amongst younger people.

Spiritual abuse using religion and faith systems to control and subjugate a victim often characterised by a systemic pattern of coercive or controlling behaviour within a religious context. A form of spiritual abuse may include the withholding of a religious divorce, as a threat to control and intimidate victims.

For details of the new strategy covering the government’s plan to tackle domestic abuse see: Tackling violence against women and girls strategy - GOV.UK. This strategy covers how the government will prioritise prevention, support survivors, pursue perpetrators and create a stronger system to ensure that all victims – and their families - have access to the right support at the right time to help them live free from violence and abuse.

See Domestic abuse: how to get help - GOV.UK to find out how to get help if you or someone you know is a victim of domestic abuse.

Caption: victims
Possible indicators of domestic abuse  in the victim include: When a victim is not being seen alone, assess the following combination of signals: Some victims may face additional difficulty in disclosing violence and abuse for instance:
Police domestic abuse call outs. The victim waits for her/his partner to speak first. Older or disabled victims may be dependent on the abuser for care; more likely to be abused by an adult family member or current intimate parent, more likely to be living with their perpetrator and less likely to attempt to leave.
Evidence of single or repeated injuries with unlikely explanations. The victim glances at her/his partner each time (s)he speaks, checking her/his reaction. Victims of so-called honour-based abuse (HBA) may be more isolated due to perceived cultural and religious beliefs, language barriers, having no recourse to public funds or fear of bringing shame to their 'family honour'; Victims at risk of HBA are 7 times more likely to have multiple perpetrators and at higher risk of serious harm or homicide.

See Forced Marriage Procedure and Female Genital Mutilation Procedure.
  The victim smooths over, minimises or denies the abuse is happening and takes responsibility/makes excuses. Male victims may not recognise abuse, or be aware of support available to them. They may fear not being believed or being seen as the perpetrator and the loss of child contact or parental relationships. Many report feeling shame or embarrassment and stigma of being perceived as ‘less of a man’.
Frequent use of prescribed tranquillisers or pain medication. The partner speaks for the victim most of the time. Victims with additional and/or complex needs e.g. mental health or substance misuse may fear that they will not be believed. See Children of Parents with a Mental Health Problem Procedure and Children of Parents who Misuse Drugs and Alcohol Procedure.
Injuries to breast, chest and abdomen especially during pregnancy. The partner sends clear signals to the victim, by eye / body movement, facial expression or verbally, to warn them. Those who identify as LGBT+ face additional barriers to accessing support that are unique to their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. For more information about domestic abuse in LGBTQ+ communities visit Galop:

Domestic abuse - Galop the LGBT+ anti-abuse charity - Galop
Evidence of sexual or frequent gynaecological problems. The partner has a range of complaints about the victim, which (s)he does not defend. Young people experience the highest rates of domestic abuse of any age group and are more likely to experience domestic abuse from an intimate partner. The lack of specialist services and perceptions of ‘healthy relationships’ amongst young people and mistrust in professionals increases the likelihood of them not disclosing or being visible.
Frequent visits to GP with vague complaints or symptoms.    
Stress or anxiety disorders; isolation from friends, family or colleagues; depression, panic attacks or other symptoms; alcohol and/or drug abuse; suicide attempts or child acting out at school.    
Appearing frightened, ashamed or evasive; a partner who is extremely jealous or possessive; minimisation of violence accepting blame for 'deserving' the abuse.    

Victims are at most risk at the point of leaving, or having recently left the violent partner and may need support.

A parent and child(ren) fleeing from domestic abuse may require a significant level of support as they may be:

  • Experiencing problems with housing, finance and employment;
  • Isolated from usual family support / community networks - especially if moved / placed outside their home area;
  • Struggling to provide / maintain stability.

Women with children fleeing domestic abuse may receive support from the housing department. Children's Services should be included in planning the course of action if relocation is necessary. See Section 6, Domestic Violence Protection Orders.

In instances where a child with an open referral moves to live on a temporary or permanent basis in another local authority area that authority should be notified and the provision of relevant information, including any assessment (e.g. C&F, Early Help, Family First), whether partially or fully completed (and including any information about domestic abuse) to that authority. The notification should indicate whether parental consent has been obtained to share the information in question. Such consent is not required if the referral or any assessment includes child protection concerns. See also Children Moving Across Local Authority Boundaries Procedure.

Police are often the first point of contact and they (or any domestic abuse specialist or other trained agency that becomes aware of domestic abuse) will undertake a risk assessment using the DASH RIC (Domestic Abuse, Stalking, and Honour Based Violence Risk Indicator Checklist) to help identify and assess the immediate risks. All frontline Police Officers are trained in how to deal with situations of domestic abuse. Additionally, a large proportion of frontline Police Officers are also given specialist training in responding to the needs of victims of domestic abuse.

The Officers initial response is to ensure the safety of the victim and:

  • Ascertain whether there are any children living in the household or if the victim is pregnant;
  • Make a preliminary determination of the degree of exposure of the children to the incidents of abuse and its consequent impact and effects;
  • If there is an immediate direct risk to a child, ensure immediate protective action is taken (see Contacts and Referrals Procedure);
  • Provide the victim with information on local support services and refuge details, taking into account any ethnic or cultural issues (i.e. National Helpline, local specialist agencies / help-lines, Woman's Aid, Hertfordshire Beacon). Advice is available via the Herts Sunflower or Hertfordshire Domestic Abuse Line – 08 088 088 088. Alternatively, the National Domestic Abuse Helpline – 0808 2000 247 managed by Refuge.

Where there are children under the age of eighteen years in the household, including an unborn baby, the Police officer must, having completed the appropriate risk assessment process required for all domestic abuse incidents complete the following tasks before the end of her/his tour of duty:

  • Inform the parent / carer that details of the incident will be shared with partner agencies in accordance with these procedures;
  • Complete a DASH, providing full details of child/ren including full name and date of birth, indicating in the record if and of what a parent / carer refuses to provide details;
  • Submit the booklet to a Supervisory Officer for authorisation and signature, which must then be forwarded to the DAISU (Domestic Abuse Investigation and Safeguarding Unit);
  • Confirm that they have provided relevant information leaflets on local support services and refuge details (or provide an explanation if this has not been accomplished).

Police will share this information, including the outcome of the risk assessment, with other agencies as described below.

The DAISU team will evaluate the level of risk relating to the victim's perceived risk of serious harm or death, based on available information.

The Police will notify Hertfordshire County Council in line with their threshold criteria (Customer Service Centre) within 24 hours for High Risk cases and 72 hours for all other cases of domestic abuse incidents when there is known to be:

  • A child resident, or regularly staying, in the household;
  • A pregnant victim of domestic abuse;
  • The victim is a child her/himself.

The Police must notify the NHS Trusts within 24 hours for High Risk cases and within 72 hours for all other domestic abuse incidents where there is known to be:

  • A child under the age of five years resident, or regularly staying, in the household;
  • A pregnant victim of domestic abuse.

The notification provided by the Police will be an e-mail of the Athena Safeguarding Referral form and the level of risk to the victim (not the child(ren)) identified by the Police. These must be sent to the nominated agency representative at a secure e-mail address.

The Police will also notify schools of all domestic abuse incidents where there are school age children in line with Operation Encompass.

Children’s Services will identify and forward the domestic abuse notification form, received from the Police, to the relevant team, see Section 9, Referral Pathways to HCC Children’s Services and Partner Agency Services.

Hertfordshire Beacon should be notified by the lead professional if the victim requests it.

DVPO’s were implemented in March 2014, to address a previous gap by providing protection to victims by enabling the Police and magistrates to put in place protection in the immediate aftermath of a domestic abuse incident, for up to 28 days.

DVPOs, were replaced by DAPOs in the Domestic Abuse Act 2021. DAPOs provide flexible, longer term protection to victims by placing conditions on a perpetrator with immediate effect, such as not returning to a residence and from having contact with the victim for as long as deemed necessary. This allows victims time to consider their options and get the support they need. In addition to the police process for applications The Act now allows victims and specified third parties to make direct applications to family courts, and gives the courts expressed power to use electronic monitoring (‘tagging’) to monitor a perpetrator. Victims applying for a DAPO can also access legal aid for representing in criminal courts, and in family law disputes – where eligible.

Click here for a summary of the provisions in the Act and their implementation dates.

The Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (DVDS) (also known as ‘Clare’s Law’) commenced in England and Wales on 8 March 2014. The DVDS gives members of the public a formal mechanism to make enquires about an individual who they are, or have been, in a relationship with, or who is in a relationship with someone they know, where there is a concern that the current or ex-partner may have a history of violence or abuse. This scheme adds a further dimension to the information sharing about children where there are concerns that domestic abuse is impacting on the care and welfare of the children in the family.

Members of the public can make an application for a disclosure, known as the ‘right to ask’. Anybody can make an enquiry, but information will only be given to someone at risk or a person in a position to safeguard the victim. The scheme is for anyone in an intimate relationship regardless of gender.

Partner agencies can also request disclosure is made about an abusers’ past history where it is believed someone is at risk of harm. This is known as ‘right to know’.

If a potentially violent or abusive individual is identified as having convictions for violent offences, or information is held about their behaviour which reasonably leads the Police and other agencies to believe they pose a risk of harm to their partner or ex-partner, the Police will consider disclosing the information. A disclosure can be made if it is legal, proportionate and necessary to do so.

See also Supporting Government Guidance Documents to the Domestic Abuse Act 2021.

This procedure applies to all practitioners in HSCP agencies. Other organisations e.g. refuges are encouraged to adopt them.

On notification / disclosure / suspicion of domestic abuse in a family, all agencies must immediately consult existing records and consider what else is known of the family and any previous domestic incidents.

Those in receipt of Police notifications may contact the Police domestic abuse officer if more information is required.

Multi-agency work and information sharing (see Information Sharing and Confidentiality Procedure) is crucial in safeguarding children in situations of domestic abuse.

Police share information of domestic abuse incidents as described in Section 6, Police notification procedure

Professionals in all agencies are likely to become aware of domestic abuse through:

  • Disclosure prompted by the professional's routine questioning or identification of signs that domestic abuse could be taking place;
  • Unprompted disclosure from a child, mother or abuser; or
  • Third party information (e.g. neighbours or family members).

Information from the public, family or community members must be taken seriously by professionals in statutory and voluntary agencies.

Information could also come in the form of information shared by another agency or group, which a professional decides to respond proactively to because s/he becomes concerned that the agency or group which shared the information is not responding appropriately to support the child/ren and/or their mother.

In making the decision about seeking information prior to / after direct contact with the family, consideration should be given to the:

  • Likely impact to the child and the adult victim, including the possibility of increasing the risk of domestic abuse;
  • Need for an approach that takes full account of information available on home circumstances.

Professionals receiving information about domestic abuse should explain that priority will be given to ensuring that the child/ren and their mother's safety is not compromised through the sharing of information.

If there is concern about the increased likelihood of suffering significant harm to the child/ren, then every professional's overriding duty is to protect the child/ren.

Professionals also have a duty to protect the victim and should do so under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, which allows responsible authorities to share information where a crime has been committed or is going to be committed. 

Whether or not a child or victim discloses, when a professional becomes aware of domestic abuse in a family, in order to assess and attend to immediate safety issues for the child/ren, mother and professional, the professional should establish:

  • The nature of the abuse;
  • If there are other children in the household. If so, the number of children and whether any are under 7 years or have special needs (young children and those with special needs are especially vulnerable because they do not have the ability to implement safety strategies and are dependent on their mothers to protect them);
  • Whether the victim's partner is with her, and where the children are;
  • What a child or victim's immediate fears are;
  • Whether there is a need to seek immediate assistance; and
  • Whether the child/ren and the mother have somewhere safe to go.

Where there has been disclosure, the professional should:

  • Support the child/ren and/or adult victim by taking what they say seriously;
  • Make an immediate decision, where possible, about whether a child or mother requires treatment or protection from emergency services;
  • Ask the child/ren and/or adult victim what strategies they have in place for keeping safe (if any);
  • Record the information and the source of the information;
  • Discuss the information / concerns with the agency's designated safeguarding children professional and the professional's line manager.

Some children will benefit, as will their caregivers and the perpetrators, from Early help services to reduce the likelihood of significant harm. Hertfordshire's partner agencies provide a range of advice and support services and professionals may contact Children Services’ Customer Services Centre, who will assess, applying the threshold criteria, and pass the information on to either the Targeted Advice Service (for a service or for advice) or the Safeguarding and Specialist Services. See Contacts and Referrals Procedure and also: PGN entitled CS0510 Domestic Abuse Notifications October 2019– in relation to receiving and documenting notifications on LCS and EHM (For CS only).

The Police should always provide the victim with national and local advocacy, advice and support service information, and relating resources if safe to do so.

Careful consideration should be given to the purpose and method of contacting the family, particularly in relation to the sending and wording of any letters to the family. Although the letter may be addressed to one person it should be remembered that it might be opened by someone else and careful consideration given to risk and safety management.

Where the threshold criteria for a Children's Services Assessment / Section 47 Enquiry are not met, consideration should be given to the use of targeted and universal services e.g. undertaking a Family First Assessment, if this is thought to be less likely to exacerbate the situation and to be in the best interest of the child/ren.

Section 47 enquiries should be initiated where it is evidenced that the child has suffered, or is likely to suffer significant harm. These would include (but not exclusively) the following circumstances:

  • The child has been injured during a domestic abuse incident;
  • The mother is pregnant (and the circumstances meet the criteria for a children's safeguarding services response as set out in Section 9, Referral Pathways to HCC Children's Services and Partner Agency Services);
  • There is evidence or signs of parental mental ill health and/or substance misuse in addition to any domestic abuse present within a family;
  • Assessment has indicated that the child/ren are impacted and directly affected as a result of seeing or hearing, or otherwise experiencing the effects of the abuse.

Enquiries may also be made under Section 17.

Opportunities should be provided for both partners to be interviewed separately, and in a safe setting.

Many victims of domestic abuse feel unable to disclose its existence or severity. The following issues should be considered as part of any assessment:

  • Nature of the abuse;
  • Risks to the child posed by the abuser;
  • Risks of serious injury or death;
  • Abuser's pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse;
  • Impact of the abuse on the adult victim;
  • Impact of the abuse on the child/ren;
  • Impact of the abuse on parenting roles;
  • Protective factors; and
  • Nature and outcome of any past help-seeking.

The adult victim of violence should be advised of the availability of legal advice and the options available through the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 and the Family Law Act 1996 Part IV and Domestic Violence Protection Orders.

The interview with the alleged perpetrator of the abuse should be planned carefully between the worker and their line manager. Care must be taken not to disclose addresses or make unsafe contact arrangements.

If there is an acknowledgement of the abuse, the interview should clarify the points above. Where there is no acknowledgement of violence and it is not possible to share the victim's account, there should be general discussions about the children's welfare.

Direct work should be undertaken with the child/ren (if of sufficient age and understanding), in order to gain their views. It is important to remember that a child is considered to be a victim of domestic abuse by having seen or heard, or experienced the effects of, domestic abuse directly her/himself and/or may be inhibited from disclosing concerns due to fear of consequence and increased risk.

If a Child Protection Conference is held, consideration should be given to any need to exclude the violent partner for part or all of the meeting (See Child Protection Conferences, Exclusion of Family Members from a Conference).

Victims with children fleeing domestic abuse may receive support from the housing department. Children's Services should be included in planning the course of action if relocation is necessary.

All agencies will refer all ‘visible high risk’ cases (DASH score of 10 or above and/or professional judgement) to the Independent Domestic Violence Advisor (IDVA) service at the earliest opportunity and ensure that all appropriate and relevant information is communicated. In cases whereby there is imminent risk of significant harm or homicide (DASH score of 14 or above and/or professional judgement) a referral to MARAC should be made immediately.

The primary aim of work with those who abuse their (ex)partners is to increase the safety of children and the adult victim. A secondary aim is to hold the abusive partner accountable for their abuse and provide him/her with opportunities to change.

Those who abuse their (ex)partners will seek to control any contact a professional has with them or work undertaken with them. Most abusive (ex)partners will do everything they can to avoid taking responsibility for their abusive behaviour towards their (ex)partner and their child/ren.

Where an abusive (ex)partner is willing to acknowledge his/her abusive behaviour and seeks help to change, this should be encouraged and affirmed. The (ex)partner should be referred to appropriate programmes which work to address the cognitive structures that underpin controlling and coercive behaviours. Professionals should not refer a perpetrator of domestic abuse for anger management, as this approach does not challenge or address the factors that underpin the abusive (ex)partner's use of power and control.

When a victim leaves an abusive situation, the abusive (ex)partner must never be given the address or phone number of where s/he is staying

Professionals should never agree to accept a letter or pass on a message from an abusive (ex)partner unless the victim has requested this.

See also Appendix 4: Working with Abusive Partners

Children and young people of both genders can direct abuse towards their adult family members or siblings. The behaviour of children who abuse in this way may experienced trauma and harm previously, for which the child/ren may need specialist support or therapeutic interventions.

Professionals should refer a child who abuses others to Children’s Services in line with the Referral Procedure.

Safety planning for adult victims and children is vital and plays a key part in all interventions to safeguard children experiencing or impacted by domestic abuse. All immediate and subsequent assessments of risk to child/ren and their non-abusive parent/carer should include a judgement on the family's existing safety planning (please note, there can be both informal and formal safety plans e.g. a formal IDVA Safety Plan). Emergency/informal safety plans should be family lead, multi-agency and in place whilst assessments, referrals and interventions are being progressed.

In cases where imminent or significant risk of harm to the child/ren is identified, the emergency safety plan / strategy should be for the child/ren and, if possible, the non-abusive parent/carer, not to have contact with the abuser.

Professionals should keep the safety of the child/ren constantly under review, re-assessing the risk of harm using the risk identification matrix in the light of any new information or knowledge of further domestic abuse. If the risk of harm to the child/ren rises to risk of the child/ren suffering significant harm, lead professionals must review whether a referral to Children’s Services is required.

Adult victims need to know from the outset that this process may need to be enacted.

Where the risk is assessed as being of imminent or significant harm Children’s Services should advise on or lead the safety planning.

As soon as a professional becomes aware of domestic abuse within a family, s/he should work with the adult victim and each child, according to their age and understanding to develop a safety plan. If a safety plan already exists, it should be reviewed.

The plan should emphasise that the best thing a child can do for themselves and their non-abusive parent/carer is not to try to intervene but to keep safe and, where appropriate, to get away and seek help.

The child/ren should be given several telephone numbers, including local Police Safer Neighbourhood Teas and Domestic Abuse Investigation and Safeguarding Unit (DAISU), local domestic abuse helpline and advocacy services, Children’s Services, the Childline number (0800 1111), and the NSPCC Child Protection Helpline (0808 800 5000). Please see below 13 Useful Contacts and Links

When the adult victim’s safety plan involves separation from the abusive partner, the disruption and difficulties for the child/ren need to be considered and addressed alongside assessment and management of the heightened risk of significant harm or homicide separation presents – specifically in the immediate and short-medium term.

The child/ren will need a long term support plan, with the support ranging from mentoring and support to integrate into a new locality and school / nursery school or attend clubs and other leisure / play activities through to therapeutic services and group work to enable the child to share their experiences.

Professionals should ensure that in planning for the longer term support needs of the child/ren at all levels, input is received from the full range of key agencies (e.g. the school, health, LA housing, an advocacy service, the Police, Women's Aid or Refuge, relevant local activity groups and/or therapeutic services).

See also Appendix 3: Safety Planning.

Children may continue to see both parents following incidents of domestic abuse when parents are separated. This may be via an informal agreement or a court order.

Victims are most at risk of serious harm or homicide at the point of and during the 12month period after separation. Contact can be a mechanism for the abusive partner to continue the abuse or compromise the safety of the adult victim and child/ren by using tactics to locate the victim and child/ren’s whereabouts.

Children can also be abused as a means of hurting their non-abusive parent/carer. those who abuse their (ex)partners may use contact with the child/ren to further abuse by, for example, using emotional and psychological abuse tactics to put down, humiliate or discredit the non-abusive parent/carer or blaming the non-abusive parent/carer for their abusive behaviour and subsequent separation. Thus, continuing the abuse and trying to manipulate the child/ren to take sides or blame the non-abusive parent/carer themselves.

Professionals should advise victims of their legal rights if an abusive (ex)partner makes a private law application for contact. This should include the option of asking for a referral to the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) Safe Contact Project (see CAFCASS website).

A MARAC is a Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference, is a regular local meeting to discuss how to help victims at high risk of imminent serious harm or homicide. They are confidential, risk-based meetings that bring together a range of agencies to improve the safety of the victim and their children by the sharing of relevant and proportionate information in order to agree a joint action plan to reduce the risk. The aims of a MARAC are:

  • To safeguard victims; increasing the safety, health and well-being of victims – adults and children - and reduce repeat victimisation.
  • Make links with other public protection arrangements in relation to children, perpetrators, and vulnerable adults; determining if the perpetrator poses a significant risk to any individual or to the general community.
  • Safeguard and support agency staff involved in high risk cases of domestic abuse;
  • Address the behaviour of the perpetrator.

Hertfordshire has 5 double-district MARACs that are held twice a month across the county. The meetings are chaired by the MARAC Manager and coordinated by a dedicated team situated within the Constabulary’s Domestic Abuse Investigation and Safeguarding Unit (DAISU) and are attended by all the key agencies within the area.

How can I refer a case to MARAC?

For detailed information regarding the MARAC process for Children’s Services, please see the Hertfordshire Social Work Procedures Manual, Children in Need and Safeguarding.

All statutory and non-statutory agencies can refer victims to MARAC, provided a full risk assessment (DASH – Domestic Abuse, Stalking, Harassment and Honour Based Violence) has been completed along with the MARAC referral form. If you need advice about completing the risk assessment please contact an IDVA (Independent Domestic Violence Advisor) or a DVO (Domestic Violence Officer). The completed form should be emailed to the MARAC Co-ordinator (details below).

It is vital that agencies who have a relationship and knowledge of the victim make the referral and participate in the MARAC process, in order for it to be effective in making the victim safe and addressing his/her needs.

Whilst it is always preferable to gain victim consent for a MARAC referral, if the victim is uncontactable or it is unsafe to attempt contact and gain consent, it is not necessary. There is opportunity to identify whether consent has been sought and given, or not, on the MARAC referral form.

MARAC dates and further information

There are 5 MARAC meetings that take place twice a month across Hertfordshire, each based on a double district. For more information about dates and for further information about how MARACs operate in Hertfordshire, please contact the MARAC team at

See Social Work Procedures - MARAC.

Domestic Homicide Reviews (DHR) are multi-agency reviews into the circumstances in which the death of a person aged 16yrs or over occurred as a result of abuse, violence, or neglect in the context of domestic abuse and to identify the lessons to be learnt from the death.

Their purpose is to establish, identify and apply the lessons to the way local professionals and organisations work individually and together to safeguard victims to improve service responses, policies and procedures. The rationale for conducting a DHR is set in the aim of ensuring agencies are responding appropriately to victims of domestic abuse by having effective and robust support mechanisms, procedures, resources and interventions in place to prevent future incidents of domestic abuse and homicide.

The review will also assess whether agencies have sufficient procedures and protocols in place, which were understood and followed by their staff and where there may be a need to improve these procedures.

A DHR should be carried out to:

  • Establish what lessons are to be learned from the domestic homicide regarding the way in which local professionals and organisations work individually and together to safeguard victims;
  • Identify clearly what those lessons are both within and between agencies, how and within what timescales they will be acted on, and what is expected to change as a result;
  • Apply these lessons to service responses including changes to policies and procedures as appropriate;
  • Prevent domestic violence homicide and improve service responses for all domestic abuse victims and their children through improved intra and inter-agency working.

Domestic homicide reviews are not inquiries into how the victim died or into who is to blame - that is a matter for coroners and criminal courts to determine. Domestic homicide reviews are also not a part of any disciplinary enquiry or process. Where information emerges in the course of a review suggesting that disciplinary action should be taken, the agency concerned will follow its own internal disciplinary procedures separately to the domestic homicide review process.

The Hertfordshire Sunflower partnership provides access to a range of information, advice, and support services for everyone experiencing, affected or concerned by domestic abuse in Hertfordshire that in turn provides options about choices and next steps. It provides support and signposting for victims, survivors, friends and families of victims, professionals, and perpetrators of domestic abuse

For more information, and access to local and national service information and resources, go to the Hertfordshire Sunflower website. Alternatively, contact the Hertfordshire Domestic Abuse Helpline on 08 088 088 088 (9am-9pm Mon-Fri, 9am-4pm Sat/Sun) or email the helpline at for free, confidential listening and signposting.

If you are unsure of someone’s risk level, and seeking support to risk assess and/or determine the right service at the right time, contact the Independent Domestic Violence Advocacy (IDVA) Service at or call 0300 790 6772 (Mon-Fri 9am to 5pm).

Where the need relates to emergency safe / refuge accommodation, contact Safer Places on 03301 025811 (24-hours), email or refer online.

Advice and support, including links and access to further national services and those out of area, can also be found through the links below:

Home | Refuge National Domestic Abuse Helpline (

Bright Sky app | Hestia - app and website that provides practical support and information on how to respond to domestic abuse

Royal College of Nursing

Galop – the LGBT+ anti-abuse charity

Karma Nirvana - Working to end Honour Based Abuse in the UK

Respect – for safe and effective work with perpetrators, male victims and young people using violence and abuse

Additional useful resources and links for women from in black and minority ethnic communities, or those needing support with the law or insecure immigration status can be found at:

Southall Black Sisters

Rights of Women

Myths about domestic abuse

Myths - Womens Aid - Read about the many myths surrounding domestic abuse.

The Survivor’s Handbook - Women's Aid

The Survivor’s Handbook is a comprehensive resource for women experiencing domestic abuse. The handbook comprises short sections covering every aspect of seeking help and support, and includes information on how to help a friend who is experiencing domestic abuse and safety planning.

What about my children?

Domestic abuse - the impact on children and adolescents | Royal College of Psychiatrists (

Learn how domestic abuse can affect children and what can be done to help them.

The Hideout

The Hideout supports children and young people living with domestic abuse, or to those who may want to help a friend. The site gives information on domestic abuse and helps children identify whether it is happening in their home.

Practitioners should inform victims of the options available, but should also always refer to specialist advice services, such as CAB, a Law Centre, Women's Aid or Independent Domestic Violence Advisors.

Domestic Abuse is a crime under both civil and criminal law.

Domestic Abuse Act 2021

Under the Domestic Abuse Act 2021, a duty is placed on all local authorities in England to

  • Provide accommodation-based support to victims of domestic abuse and their children in refuges and other safe accommodation;
  • Provide that all eligible homeless victims of domestic abuse automatically have ‘priority need’ for homelessness assistance;
  • Place the guidance supporting the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (Clare’s Law) on a statutory footing;
  • Ensure that when local authorities rehouse victims of domestic abuse, they do not lose a secure lifetime or assured tenancy.

Please also see the Hertfordshire Joint Housing Protocol.

Criminal Action

Hertfordshire Constabulary Police officers are under a duty to take positive action when investigating domestic abuse offences.

Positive Action must be taken in all cases but should be appropriate to the circumstances of each case. It is likely to but does not always mean arrest. The safety of the victim and other family members are paramount. Arrest of the suspect must always be considered in the context of providing this safety and officers should have regard to code G of PACE (Necessity Criteria) when making an arrest.

The power to arrest comes from Section 110 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005, which amended the powers of arrest available to a constable under section 24 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. This has made all offences potentially arrestable in certain circumstances.

The exercise of arrest powers will be subject to a test of necessity based around the nature and circumstances of the offence and the interests of the criminal justice system.

An arrest will only be justified if the constable believes it is necessary for any of the reasons set out below:

  1. To enable the name of the person in question to be ascertained (in the case where the constable does not know, and cannot readily ascertain, the person's name, or has reasonable grounds for doubting whether a name given by the person as his name is his real name);
  2. Correspondingly as regards the person's address (in the case where the constable does not know, and cannot readily ascertain, the person's address, or has reasonable grounds for doubting whether an address given by the person as his name is his real name);
  3. To prevent the person in question:
    1. Causing physical injury to himself or any other person;
    2. Suffering physical injury;
    3. Causing loss of or damage to property;
    4. Committing an offence against public decency; or
    5. Causing an unlawful obstruction of the highway;
  4. To protect a child or other vulnerable person from the person in question;
  5. To allow the prompt and effective investigation of the offence or of the conduct of the person in question;
  6. To prevent any prosecution for the offence from being hindered by the disappearance of the person in question.

When considering the need to arrest, the officer should take the following into account:

  • The situation of the victim;
  • The nature of the offence;
  • The circumstances of the offender; and
  • The needs of the investigation.

DAISU in the majority of cases will be the primary unit to investigate intimate domestic abuse offences. The DAISU leads on all intimate domestic abuse reports, Honour Based Abuse or Forced Marriage. This group is often at the highest risk of harm and represents around 70-75% of all domestic abuse reports in Hertfordshire. The exception to this will be those offences of rape or penetrative sexual offences whereby SOIT (Sexual Offences Investigation Team) will lead the investigation. The decision to caution for a domestic abuse offence lies with either the Police or the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). If a Police officer decides to caution a domestic abuse perpetrator it must be authorised by an Inspector or above. The Hertfordshire Constabulary guidance is that the officer making the cautioning decision should not be involved in the investigation for both subjectivity and integrity reasons.

It is the role of the CPS to decide on whether a perpetrator should be charged with a criminal offence and what criminal offence(s) should be charged. If there is a disagreement between Police and CPS, there is a dispute resolution process to review charging decisions - although ultimately it is the CPS who have the final decision.

Caption: offences
Offences Against the Person

Act, 1861
Section 47
Section 20
Section 18
Actual bodily harm (may be physical or psychological injuries).
Unintentional GBH or wounding
GBH with intent
Protection from Harassment Act

Section 2 / 4<
Harassment, fear of violence.
Public Order Act, 1986

Section 3
Offences Against the Person

Act, 1861
Section 21
Section 23
Attempted choking, strangulation, and suffocation with intent to commit an indictable offence.

Administer poisonous / noxious substances with intent to endanger life.
Common Law Offences Kidnap, unlawful imprisonment

Breach of the peace.
Criminal Law Act, 1977

Section 6
Use / threaten violence to secure entry to premises.
Criminal Justice and Public

Order Act, 1994
Section 51
Intimidating / harm / threat to harm witness.
Civil Law Court Order

Section 7 Bail Act, 1976
Breach of injunction. Breach of bail.
Offences Against the Person

Section 16
Threats to kill.
Sexual Offences Act 2003 Including rape and other sexual offences.
Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 This Act updates Orders relating to anti-social behaviour and sexual offences.

Once charged and at court there are numerous orders that can be applied for post sentence (N.B.some can be applied for as standalone orders, though the process is more difficult) to manage the future behaviour of an offender. These include:

  • Anti-Social Behaviour Injunctions can be granted against a person aged 10yrs or over, to prevent them engaging in anti-social behaviour. The injunction may include provisions requiring the young person to do specified things, and/or prohibiting them from doing specified things.

    For under-18yrs, the injunction must be for a specified period of time, which must be no more than 12 months.

    These injunctions replace the previous Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) under section 1 Crime and Disorder Act 1998;
  • Restraining Orders can be applied for on successful conviction of Protection of Harassment Act offences;
  • Sexual Harm Prevention Orders and Sexual Risk Orders

    These orders were introduced by the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014. They replace the previous Sexual Offences Prevention Order, Risk of Sexual Harm Orders and Foreign Travel Orders which were introduced by the Sexual Offences Act 2003.

    The court needs to be satisfied that the order is necessary for protecting the public, or any particular members of the public, from sexual harm from the defendant; or protecting children or vulnerable adults generally, or any particular children or vulnerable adults, from sexual harm from the defendant outside the United Kingdom.

    The Orders prohibit the defendant from doing anything described in the order, and can include a prohibition on foreign travel (replacing Foreign Travel Orders which were introduced by the Sexual Offences Act 2003).

    Failure to comply with a requirement imposed under an Order is an offence punishable by a fine and/or imprisonment;
  • Sexual Harm Prevention Orders

    Sexual Harm Prevention Orders can be applied to anyone convicted or cautioned of a sexual or violent offence, including where offences are committed overseas. They replace the previous Sexual Offences Prevention Orders.

    A prohibition contained in a Sexual Harm Prevention Order has effect for a fixed period, specified in the order, of at least 5 years, or until further order. The Order may specify different periods for different prohibitions;
  • Sexual Risk Orders

    Sexual Risk Orders can be made where a person has done an act of a sexual nature as a result of which there is reasonable cause to believe that it is necessary for such an order to be made, even if they have never been convicted. They replace the previous Risk of Sexual Harm Orders.

    A prohibition contained in a Sexual Risk Order has effect for a fixed period, specified in the order, of not less than 2 years, or until further order. The Order may specify different periods for different prohibitions;
  • Disqualification Orders (Always Life) (Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000). Can be imposed on conviction at Crown Court for offences against children and prohibit any kind of work with children;
  • Stalking Protection Orders (Stalking Protection Act 2019).

A Stalking Protection Order (SPO) is made on application to the magistrate’s court by the police. It is a civil order. Applications for Interim or full orders can be made:

  • Where the threshold to commence criminal proceedings for the commission of an offence has not yet or will not be met. This allows for early police intervention in stalking cases; or
  • Where of suspect has been charged. A SPO is not an alternative to prosecution for stalking offences under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. In such circumstances a SPO can be used to complement the prosecution of a stalking offence.

Within an application for a SPO or an interim order, police can request both prohibitions and/or requirements to protect the victim from the risk of stalking.

There is no specific legal definition of stalking. However, the police and CPS have adopted the following description: ‘a pattern of unwanted, fixated and obsessive behaviour which is intrusive. It can include harassment that amounts to stalking or stalking that causes fear of violence or serious alarm or distress in the victim’.

The criteria for applying for an order are set out in section 1(1) of the Act. The police are advised to consider applying for an order where it appears to them that:

  • The respondent has carried out acts associated with stalking;
  • The respondent poses a risk of stalking to a person; and
  • There is reasonable cause to believe the proposed order is necessary to protect the other person from that risk. (The person to be protected does not have to have been the victim of the acts mentioned above.)

Applications for SPOs can be made in both a domestic abuse context (such as stalking by a former intimate partner) and in a case of so called ‘stranger stalking’. This also allows for protection to be in place even if the case results in an acquittal.

It should also be noted that if offenders are classed as: violent offenders; or potentially dangerous; or convicted of sexual offences and have to register as registered sex offenders (RSO) on the Sexual Offences Register; they will be managed by the MAPPA (Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements). Further information can be obtained from the Hertfordshire Constabulary Public Protection Unit (PPU).

The Survivor’s Handbook - Women's Aid

By raising the issue of domestic abuse, we create opportunities to explore ways in which victims and children can be safe. A safety plan is a semi-structured way to think about steps that can be taken to reduce risk, before, during and after any violent or abusive incidents. It is important to stress that although a safety plan can reduce the risks of violence, they cannot completely guarantee the victim and children's safety.

Victims should not keep the safety plan where it may be discovered by the abusive partner.

Agencies need to work with abusive (ex)partners/carers in order that:

  • The safeguarding of victims is safe and structured;
  • The risk is fully assessed and reduced;
  • Challenge and accountability for the abusive behaviours and intervention(s) is placed with the abuser;
  • The use of and impact of the abusive behaviour is explored with the abuser;
  • Steps towards positive and long-lasting change are explored.

Always think safety first – recognise the need for behaviour change but make reducing harm the primary focus. Approach every situation in a ‘do no harm’ manner – take every step possible to ensure your actions do not compromise safety or increase the risk to adult victims and their child/ren.

Asking Questions

  1. Direct contact with the abusive partner/carer may be necessary in conducting assessments around risk and contact. This will help ensure shared parental responsibility is considered to reduce ‘victim-blaming’ and disguised compliance and promote the engagement of the family to improve outcomes whilst holding the abusive partner/carer accountable for their behaviour.

    Before undertaking direct contact with the abusive partner/carer, the suitability of this should be assessed to ensure it is safe to do so; the DASH will help with this as well as wider checks and information sharing amongst colleagues and partner agencies;
  2. Practitioner's responses to any disclosure, however indirect, could be significant for encouraging responsibility and motivating an abusive (ex)partner/carer towards change.

    Do not:
    • Make direct reference to a concern raised by the non-abusive (ex)partner/carer – this may increase their risk;
    • Discuss domestic abuse openly with both parties present – this will present platform for the abusive (ex)partner/carer to further control their victim and further reduce the victim’s capacity and space to disclose the full extent of their experience, fear, and distress.

    Be open and direct – asking how things are going at home may prompt disclosure.

    Some helpful questions to follow up with include:
    • Do you argue a lot with your partner?
    • Have you ever pushed/slapped/hit your partner or used other force?
    • Do you smash things/shout a lot/put your partner down?
    • What are you like when you argue?
    • How would your partner describe how you are in an argument?
    • What are you most ashamed about doing to your partner

      Affirm any accountability shown by them - the behaviour is a choice.
      Be respectful and empathic but do not collude – there is no excuse for domestic abuse.

      The following is taken from the Respect factsheet Guidelines for working with perpetrators of domestic abuse and practitioners should give thought to how they might adopt and use them in practice
  3. If the abusive (ex)partner/carer presents additional contributory factors such as substance misuse or mental ill-health for example, but does not refer to their abusive behaviour directly, it may be that talking around the subject using other factors to detract or deflect or justify the abuse, or because it is easier than talking about the abuse directly:
    • How is this drinking / stress at work / depression affecting how you are with your family?
    • When you feel like that what do you do?
    • When you feel like that, how do you behave?
    • Do you find yourself shouting / smashing things?
    • Do you ever feel violent towards a particular person?
    • It sounds like you want to make some changes for your benefit and for your partner / children. What choices do you have? What can you do about it? What help would you like to assist you to make these changes?
    Don’t assume that accessing help to address any contributory factors will stop the abusive behaviours on their own.

    Don’t think that anger management, individual or couples counselling will help – such interventions are not domestic abuse interventions; they do not address the root causes or belief systems that challenge domestic abuse and initiate behaviour change, instead they can increase risk.
  4. If an abusive (ex)partner/carer responds openly to the use of prompting questions, more direct questions relating to heightened risk factors may be appropriate:
    • Do you feel unhappy about your partner seeing friends or family – do you ever try to stop them?
    • Have you assaulted or abused your partner in any way in front of the children?
    • Have you ever assaulted or threatened your partner with a knife or other weapon?
    • Have you and your partner tried to separate recently/separated recently?
    • Did/has your behaviour changed towards your partner during (your) pregnancy?
    The information you gather will be the basis for your decision about how best to engage and what kind of specialist help is required - either for the abusive (ex)partner/carer or to manage risk.

Responding to disclosures from abusive partners

Practitioners can make a difference and influence a family's situation and a child's wellbeing, by following good practice response guidance, such as:

  • Be clear that abuse is always unacceptable;
  • Be clear that abusive behaviour is a choice;
  • Affirm any accountability shown by the abusive (ex)partner/carer;
  • Be respectful and empathic but do not collude;
  • Be positive, people can change;
  • Do not allow your feelings about the abusive (ex)partner/carer’s behaviour to interfere with your provision of a supportive service;
  • Be straightforward; avoid jargon;
  • Be clear that you must follow safeguarding policy and procedures, and that there is no entitlement to confidentiality if children are at physical or emotional risk;
  • Be clear about the judgement of risk to the children and the consequences of this, including what actions the abusive (ex)partner/carer is expected to take;
  • Whatever s/he says, be aware that on some level s/he is unhappy about their behaviour;
  • Be aware, and tell the abusive (ex)partner/carer that children are always affected by seeing, hearing or otherwise experiencing the effects of domestic abuse, whether or not they witness it directly;
  • Be aware, and convey to the abusive (ex)partner/carer that domestic abuse is about power and control and encompasses a range of behaviours, not just physical violence (see Section 2, Definition);
  • Do not back the abusive (ex)partner/carer into a corner or expect an early full and honest disclosure about the extent of the abuse;
  • Be aware of the barriers to the abusive (ex)partner/carer acknowledging their abuse and seeking help (i.e. shame, fear of child protection process, self-justifying anger);
  • Be aware of the likely implications to the abusive (ex)partner/carer of continued abuse and assist them to see these;
  • If you are in contact with both partners, always see them separately, if you are discussing abuse.

Risk Management with Abusive Partners

  1. Where the non-abusive partner is indicating they wish the abusive partner to be involved in their and their child/ren's life, the abusive partner should be referred to an appropriate behaviour change programme or intervention;
  2. When the abusive partner indicates that they are worried about their behaviour, and is ready to take responsibility for their need to change, it may be appropriate to start to discuss plans for keeping their partner safe from their abusive behaviour, prior to commencement of any intervention. This might occur in situations where there is likely to be a delay in starting such work; it should only be undertaken after consultation with the agency offering the perpetrator programme;
  3. Before undertaking any work with an abusive (ex)partner/carer, the non-abusive partner/carer should be made aware and offered a support services to ensure safety for them and their child/ren is not compromised.

Last Updated: March 11, 2024