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Norfolk to join roll out of domestic abuse caution scheme

Norfolk will join five other forces in introducing project CARA, an intervention and education scheme for first time domestic abuse offenders.

Norfolk will be the sixth police force to introduce a scheme that places low level first-time perpetrators on a two-day workshop with a police caution to address their behavioural issues.

The two-year initiative is funded by the Norfolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Lorne Green. It builds on the success of similar Conditional Cautioning and Relationship Abuse Projects (CARA) across other forces.

Norfolk has been granted special permission by the Director of Public Prosecutions to give offenders conditional cautions prior to their compulsory attendance in the intervention course.

If an offender does not engage or complete the course they will be referred back to the police for further action which will be decided on a case-by-case basis.

This is part of an attempt to provide an improved criminal justice response to domestic abuse by increasing risk management and holding perpetrators to account.

PCC Green said: “Domestic abuse transcends socio-economic situation, religion and age and new approaches are vital in breaking the ‘revolving door’ of this deplorable crime.

“Evidence shows perpetrators of domestic abuse often continue to re-offend. It is crucial therefore, to offer an improved criminal justice response to domestic abuse to educate lower level perpetrators about the impact of their actions and how they can change.”

She went on to say: “Education through workshops in this instance gives offenders an opportunity to rethink their behaviour and reasons for arrest, therefore decreasing the risk to victims whose safety is of paramount importance to us all.”

The scheme was first piloted by Hampshire Police in Southampton in 2011 and was then rolled out across the whole of Hampshire by 2015. They were followed by West Midlands in 2017, Leicester and Avon and Somerset in 2018 and Dorset in 2019. Next year it is expected that  CARA will be rolled out to Cambridgeshire.

The project will run in partnership with the Hampton Trust, a charity that works to address the root cause of domestic violence. The trust has been awarded £60,500 by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner to run the scheme. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is also a partner.

Chantal Hughes, Chief Executive of The Hampton Trust, said: “We are delighted to receive funding from Norfolk Police and Crime Commissioner to deliver our award-winning CARA intervention.

“CARA is designed to be an ‘up-stream’ intervention, getting to the root of the problem and resolving it before it can escalate. It is designed to intervene far earlier than has ever been done in criminal justice before, with the aim to make our communities safer and ease pressures on front line services.”

A CPS spokesperson said: “Initial data indicates that appropriate use of conditional cautions in cases of  first instance domestic abuse may have a positive impact on reoffending rates."

They went on to say: "There has been consultation with stakeholders on their use for domestic abuse in low to medium risk cases. We have given permission for Norfolk to test how well they work in appropriate cases where there is no evidence of coercive and controlling behaviour. We will evaluate the results from this latest set of trials carefully.”

Police Oracle understands the project will start at the beginning of next year.

Norfolk’s announcement of the development comes after former police Chief Superintendent John Sutherland said domestic violence was “the single greatest cause of harm in society” on BBC Newsnight last night.

Sutherland also said: “I was a police officer for more than 25 years and I regard domestic violence as terrorism on an epic scale. It’s a disease on pandemic proportions.”

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