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Intervention for domestic abusers found to reduce crime

Analysis of a 12 month pilot of a domestic abuse intervention scheme has demonstrated a significant reduction in the number of crimes committed.

Project CARA (Cautioning and Relationship Abuse) is described as an early “awareness raising” intervention. It is a conditional caution for first-time alleged offenders.

It comprises engagement with two workshops and is designed to help offenders understand what domestic abuse is and its impact. The victim will inform the initial risk assessment conducted by the police – they will also provide feedback on the offender’s progress between workshops.

A research team within the University of Birmingham funded by the Home Office has now published a report on a 12 month pilot of the scheme which demonstrates that it has resulted in a reduction in the number of crimes committed.

Researchers evaluated 12 months of the programme with Hampshire and West Midlands forces from December 2019-November 2019. Offenders were tracked over 365 days following their referral to the CARA programme.

The project is now operational across nine forces who have received special dispensation to use conditional cautions for domestic abuse as opposed to ‘simple cautions’. (Hampshire, West Midlands, Avon and Somerset, Dorset, Thames Valley, Leicestershire, West Yorkshire, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire).

In the West Midlands, the team retrospectively assessed data for 539 offenders, 191 of whom took part in the programme and selected 348 others to form a matched control group. In Hampshire, 510 offenders were retrospectively assessed, of whom 218 had taken part in the programme and 292 were chosen to form a matched-control group.

The research found that In the first six months, offences in the West Midlands fell by 81 per cent, with an overall reduction of 56 per cent in the first 12 months. It also found that in Hampshire, offences reduced by 39 per cent in the first six months, and by 41 per cent overall in the first 12 months. No differences in offence severity were observed in either sample according to the study. 

The net economic benefits from reductions in offending were calculated in the West Midlands and Hampshire were estimated at £156.5K and £781K respectively.

Metropolitan Police Commander, Dr Alison Heydari, said: “The University of Birmingham research adds further evidence to the growing evidence base that supports the assertion that the implementation of Project CARA is having a positive impact including increased victim satisfaction, reduced domestic reoffending and sustained behavioural change of offenders.  As well as the financial benefits that this piece of work has identified.

“I do believe that Project CARA could have even wider effect if it were rolled out to all forces.  We must be brave and innovative and seek to exploit the potential of Project CARA.  A rollout would provide an opportunity not only to widen the evidence base with the support of further research but also to make a difference by broadening out the benefits to more individuals, families and communities. The Director of the DPP is currently considering a number of factors around this including the evidence base and we await his decision on this.”

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