Page last updated at 13:11 GMT, Monday, 16 November 2009

Call for domestic abuse register

By Dominic Casciani
BBC News

Domestic violence victim
Prevention orders could bar offenders from their home for 14 days

Police chiefs in England and Wales have called for a domestic violence register of 25,000 serial offenders.

The Association of Chief Police Officers said the government should also consider letting women know about old allegations against new boyfriends.

The register and "right-to-know" are part of proposals to target some of the most difficult cases of domestic abuse.

But charities say police should focus on protecting women by convicting perpetrators for their first offence.

Acpo's proposals come as part of a Home Office review of how to best deal with abuse and violence against women and girls. The full strategy is expected to be published in the coming weeks.

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Police chiefs estimate there are some 25,000 offenders responsible for two or more acts of domestic violence across England and Wales.

The review concluded that these attackers were not being adequately tracked and should be placed on a register.

In turn, agencies including the police would have a duty to consider alerting a woman to a man's history, if the register shows he has started a new life with another woman.

Police chiefs ruled out a national register of all domestic violence offenders.

The review also recommends two new injunctions, including domestic violence protection orders which would bar an abuser from a home for 14 days.

This order would aim to give a victim sufficient time to take action against her attacker without having to first flee. The Home Office has already said the measure will go before MPs.

Acpo has also asked the government to look at a controversial legal change which would allow a suspect to be convicted for their "course of conduct" against different women.

In practice, this would mean a man could be prosecuted for a pattern of suspected violence, despite the evidence being too weak to secure a guilty verdict in each individual case.

Police chiefs acknowledge that the idea is highly contentious - but say the offence could be created by Parliament.

'Missing the point'

Wiltshire Chief Constable Brian Moore, the Acpo lead on domestic abuse, said: "At the heart of this review is ensuring that we are doing all we can to protect victims and the public from dangerous people who have repeatedly shown a propensity towards violence.

The money and resources ... would have been better spent on basic training for police, expanding services for abused women and children and preventing abuse from happening in the first place
Sandra Horley, Refuge

"Improving knowledge of these dangerous people and strengthening our strategies and tactics against them will mean the police can be more effective in keeping victims safe. Our first duty is, and remains, the protection of victims."

Sandra Horley, chief executive of domesic violence charity Refuge, said Acpo seemed to be missing the point by failing to ensure women were protected as soon as abuse became apparent.

"If the police were trained to respond appropriately the very first time a man beats a woman, it would stop him from becoming a serial offender and women would feel more confident about going to the police for help.

"As it stands, almost three-quarters of abused women do not report the abuse they suffer to the police at all - and many feel they have been badly let down by the system."

Mr Moore rejected the idea that police forces were unwilling to do the hard work of getting early convictions - but acknowledged that only a tiny proportion of all abusers ended up in court.

"There is now unprecedented support for victims," he said. "Some victims simply don't want to see their former loved on go to jail, but the state has an obligation to manage that offender, and government needs to consider whether our proposals should be taken on."

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