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New scheme to break cycle of domestic abuse to be introduced in Norfolk

An innovative pilot-project aimed at breaking the cycle of domestic abuse by educating offenders about the effect and consequences of their actions is to be piloted in Norfolk.

The two-year initiative – funded by the county’s Police and Crime Commissioner Lorne Green - will see low level first-time perpetrators placed on an intervention course to address their behavioural issues.

Norfolk Constabulary has been granted special permission by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to implement Project CARA (Conditional Cautioning and Relationship Abuse) which will see some DA perpetrators given Conditional Cautions prior to compulsory attendance on a two-day workshop.

Norfolk is building on the success of similar Project CARA pilots elsewhere in the country to introduce such a scheme in a bid to offer an improved criminal justice response to DA victims by enhanced risk management and holding offenders to account for their actions.

Rigorous criteria will be in place before a perpetrator will be assessed for a CARA course including, the express wishes of the victim are considered and there is no evidence of coercion or control.

If an offender does not engage or complete in the workshop they will be referred back to the police for further action.

Launching CARA in Norfolk, PCC Lorne 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 DA 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.

“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.

“As Victims’ Champion and as reflected in my Police and Crime Plan, I am committed to supporting victims of crime in Norfolk.

“I am proud of the ‘victim focused’ work my office continues to do with amazing charities including Leeway, the Pandora Project, and the Daisy Programme, however this is a new look at tackling the menace of DA with an educational and preventative focus.”

Although funded by the OPCCN, the project is a partnership approach designed with the input of partners from across the county including Norfolk Constabulary and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

Detective Chief Inspector Stacey Murray, of Norfolk Constabulary, said: “Our priority will always be supporting the victim and trying our very best to keep them safe. We know that domestic abuse is rarely a one-off incident but a continued systematic pattern of co-coercive and controlling behaviour.

“With the full agreement of the victim in place, this pilot project will assess whether giving offenders access to education and support to address their abusive behaviour at the earliest opportunity can produce lifelong positive changes for them and ultimately, the victim.”

The introduction of Project CARA has been welcomed by Norfolk domestic abuse charity Leeway.

Mandy Proctor, Chief Executive of Leeway, said: “We welcome the pilot project and hope that it succeeds in addressing the behaviour of perpetrators, holding them to account for their actions.

Leeway’s focus is on ensuring the safety of those who have experienced domestic abuse, but it is important that the behaviour of perpetrators is challenged.

We hope that the pilot is successful in getting them to acknowledge that their behaviour is unacceptable and will ensure they make positive changes.”

The introduction of CARA in Norfolk is in-line with the national picture and willingness to change the way DA is approached as cited in the Home Office’s ‘Transforming the Response to Domestic Abuse’.

Very strict conditions underpin the use of Conditional Cautions in domestic abuse cases – as directed by the DPP. In Norfolk cautions will only be considered for standard’ or ‘medium risk’ offences.

The Hampton Trust has been awarded £60,500 by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Norfolk (OPCCN) to run the scheme for 2 years in partnership with Norfolk Constabulary.

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

“We greatly value the huge commitment and contributions from a range of local statutory and voluntary organisations during the last twelve months, without which this would not have been possible.  We are now looking forward to working with Norfolk Police to launch CARA.

“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.”

Project CARA, originally developed by Hampshire Constabulary and the Hampton Trust, has previously won the national Howard League for Penal Reform Award for innovation and a College of Policing award for innovation.

Project CARA Criteria includes:

  • Express wishes of the victim are met and the victim has been given a full explanation of all options regarding the caution.
  • Offender has made a full admission and accepts full responsibility.
  • Offender has no previous convictions or cautions for DA in the previous two years.
  • Offender has not committed a serious offence.
  • No evidence of coercion or controlling behaviour.
  • A risk assessment shows the offence as not higher than ‘standard’ or ‘medium’
  • Applies to male offenders aged 18 and over.
  • Applies to domestic abuse within a relationship.
  • Offender must comply with all conditions of the caution, including attendance of the workshops, or they will be referred back to the police for further action