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Domestic violence pilot 'to put onus on perpetrator'

Essex, Sussex and South Wales trialling new approach

A new domestic violence scheme which aims to prioritise changing the behaviour of perpetrators has been launched.

Three charities are working with forces in Essex, Sussex and South Wales, on a pilot programme which says it will challenge abusers' behaviour as a priority.

They will be given counselling on a one-to-one basis in an attempt to change their offending, or potential offending.

The perpetrators will also have their identities made known to different agencies – who will coordinate their “bespoke” treatment.

While details released have been vague, reports suggest that those identified could be referred to substance misuse programmes, given advice on housing or parenting, and that those who refuse to cooperate could receive civil or criminal sanctions.

The scheme will be called “Drive” and is being delivered with charities Respect, SafeLives and Social Finance.

Diana Barran, Chief Executive of SafeLives, said: "SafeLives is committed to reducing the number of victims of domestic abuse - this is not possible without reducing the number of perpetrators.

“The victims we work with have asked us why they are always the ones expected to change – and why too often the perpetrator is left free to continue their abuse of them and others. We want to help victims today and reduce the number of victims of tomorrow.

“We are evidence-led and will therefore be testing this intervention in three areas, with the aiming of proving it could work and be rolled out nationally.”

Home Office Minister Karen Bradley added: "Domestic violence is a devastating crime that shatters the lives of victims and families and the government is determined to put an end to it. Protecting victims will always be at the heart of our approach, and this includes future partners and children who may also be at risk.”

But Sandra Horley chief executive of Refuge has expressed doubts about the priorities of the idea.

She said cuts are drastically reducing her charity's effectiveness, adding: “There is no evidence that perpetrator programmes are effective in stopping men being violent towards their partners in the long run.

"Some men may refrain from physical violence in the short term, and meanwhile learn to substitute it with other more subtle forms of abuse to induce fear and maintain control over their partners. Domestic violence is not about the actions of individual men, it is a social problem.

"Helping a handful of perpetrators – it is expected that 900 offenders will be asked to take part in the Drive programme over the next three years – will do nothing to address the root causes of domestic violence.

"Domestic violence is all about power and control. It is not about managing the perpetrator’s anger or his drinking problems – it is about addressing his need to control ‘his woman’."