Overcoming Attrition in Domestic Violence through Policing

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27 July 2012

Within the framework of the Cyprus Presidency of the Governing Board of CEPOL, a Presidency Conference on “Overcoming Attrition in Domestic Violence through Policing” took place in Limassol, Cyprus, on 10-12 July 2012. The Cyprus Police Academy undertook the organisation of this conference with the contribution of experts from Germany, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Cyprus, CEPOL and the Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA).

The conference was organised as part of a broader project initiated by Cyprus Police with the overall aim of adopting a European Union handbook of Good Police Practices in overcoming attrition in domestic violence, through the Law Enforcement Working Party (LEWP), which has included the issue on its agenda.

The objectives of the conference were:

  1. To disseminate, discuss and gain practical / professional as well as academic / research oriented knowledge on the subject of attrition in domestic violence.
  2. To present, discuss and share best or police related practices in overcoming attrition in domestic violence.
  3. To enrich CEPOL's e-Net on domestic violence through sharing police training material, tools and methodologies related to the subject matter.
  4. To supplement the CEPOL Common Curriculum on Domestic Violence.
  5. To present, discuss and edit an EU Police Manual of Good Practices in overcoming attrition in domestic violence with the aim of submitting it for approval and dissemination to the Council of the European Union through the LEWP.

The Chair of the CEPOL Governing Board, Chief Superintendent Zacharias Chrysostomou, addressed the conference giving a brief introduction to the importance of fighting domestic violence. Mr Chrysostomou in his speech, mentioned, amongst others the following:

“For the Cyprus Police, domestic violence is a type of crime to which we attribute special emphasis. During the past few years a number of steps have been taken in order to prevent and combat this phenomenon that affects the lives of numerous people. We should not forget that a large proportion of victims of domestic violence are children who are the most vulnerable and whose traumatic experiences remain with them throughout their lives with devastating effects on their well being and consequently on the society. Domestic violence needs to be holistically addressed if we are to effectively prevent and combat it. The issue of attrition, for which we are here to discuss and try to find ways to overcome it, is of vital importance in the area of combating domestic violence.”

The Chief of Cyprus Police, Mr. Michail Papageorgiou in his welcoming speech mentioned:

“There is great interest and willingness to address the issue of attrition, finding practices or solutions that will decrease this phenomenon. Dealing with victims of crime is not an easy task, and when you will be discussing issues of attrition you should all have in mind the vulnerabilities and difficulties victims undergo when dealing with the criminal justice system.”

The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Justice and Public Order Dr Stelios Himonas, on behalf of the Minister of Justice and Public Order, whilst addressing the conference stressed that:

“The global phenomenon of domestic violence is disturbing and disgraceful enough. However, attrition in domestic violence cases is perhaps even more upsetting. The Cyprus Presidency of the Council of the EU and the Ministry of Justice and Public Order, have set the tackling of the latter as one of our top priorities. Our goal is to produce an EU Police Manual of Good Practices in Overcoming Attrition in Domestic Violence, which will be a helpful tool in the minimisation of attrition in domestic and sexual violence cases. By domestic violence we primarily refer to violence committed between family members, but especially abuse between current or previous intimate partners. Attrition, as you are all very well aware, is the “weakening” that occurs to a case between the moment it is reported to the police and the final court outcome.”

During his speech at the opening ceremony of the conference Dr Detlef Shroeder, Deputy Director of CEPOL, welcomed the efforts made for preparing the Handbook and stressed the importance of fighting domestic violence. Furthermore, he confirmed that CEPOL supports the efforts being made in this direction.

Thirty-seven representatives from nineteen EU Member States attended the conference. Most of the participants are considered experts in the field of Domestic Violence as they deal with such issues on a daily basis.

The conference was beneficial to both the experts and the participants, since all were given the opportunity to discuss issues during the presentations, attend workshops and exchange ideas on best practices that can be adopted when dealing with cases containing attrition. Each participant’s expertise and competence contributed positively to the fulfillment of the above mentioned objectives and helped to identify possible common methods and practices that could be adopted by all Member States in response to this common challenge they face.

Mr Costas Veis, Head of the Cyprus Police Domestic Violence and Child Abuse Office, gave a review of the report, which was prepared for Cyprus Police, on overcoming attrition in domestic violence cases and mentioned the aims of this study and research. He also analysed the need to put forward a project in line with the Cyprus Presidency of the Council of the EU and its priority areas that would lead to a manual on Overcoming Attrition in Domestic Violence through Policing which could be used by all Law Enforcement Agencies in the EU.

Dr Marianne Hester from Bristol University, United Kingdom (UK), in her presentation regarding her research in domestic violence, stressed that women experienced police practice as positive and supportive, especially with minor violence offences. Furthermore, she concluded that there is a need for pro-active and multi-agency support with chronic male offenders and the criminal justice system needs to pursue the case where man is very dangerous.

Dr Amanda Robinson from Cardiff University, UK, analysed the subject of overcoming attrition in domestic violence as an objective requiring a victim-centred multi agency approach. Mrs Robinson also gave an overview of the UK approach to domestic violence and more specifically to the use and effectiveness of MARAC’s (Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conferences).

Mr Jurgen Schmitt shared valuable information regarding the new method that was introduced by Rhineland-Palatinate Police, Germany, in order to develop a new police philosophy to handle cases of domestic violence. He also mentioned the objectives of this strategy which are the immediate cessation of violence, effective assistance to victims and the termination of injustices.

Mr John McCann referred to the strategies used in Ireland to overcome attrition and mentioned, amongst others, that the Police organisations are the key players to reduce attrition and to support the victims. He stressed that, firm actions must be taken against perpetrators and such cases must be fully investigated.

Mr Sami Nevala, representative of the Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA), analysed a large study conducted by the Agency in relation to Domestic Violence and stated inter alia that the results of this study will be announced next year.

The experts from the UK, Mr Steve Mogg, Mrs Manjula Nayee, Mrs Ynonne Scott and Mrs Denise Blackburn analysed the UK Criminal Justice System’s Responses to Attrition.

The outcome of proceedings of the conference and specifically the conclusions of the workshops on the Handbook will be taken into consideration by Cyprus Police in revising the first draft of the Handbook. The draft of the Handbook, which was discussed during the conference, was added to CEPOL’s e-Net on July 11th and interested parties are invited to contribute additional comments until August 14th. The results of the Conference and the Handbook will be presented during the LEWP meeting on the 5th of September 2012, as well as to the 28th Governing Board meeting of CEPOL, which will take place in Cyprus on 13-14 November 2012.

The conference was concluded with the closing ceremony and the awarding of the appreciation letters to the experts and certificates to the participants.

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