Only 6.4% of domestic violence cases end in conviction – Lib Dem research

// 14 September 2009

The number of domestic violence convictions have risen dramatically, but 14 out of 15 cases reported to the police do not result in a conviction, the Daily Mail reports. (Yes, apparently the newspaper once again believes domestic violence is bad again this week).

First of all, convictions are up:

The number of women convicted of domestic violence is up 268 per cent in five years, from 806 in 2004-5 to 2,968 in 2008-9.

Convictions of men were up 144 per cent, from 18,659 to 45,484.

Note that the numbers for women convicted are put first, even though they are dwarfed by the 45 thousand convictions of men.

The research, compiled by the Liberal Democrats, shows the number of recorded incidents of domestic violence rose 30 per cent in four years, from 529,295 in 2004-5 to 686,272 in 2007-8.

But only 6.4 per cent – 43,970 – of the 686,272 reported cases resulted in a conviction in court.

So, what this shows is that it’s not just in the case of sexual violence that the criminal justice system is letting off free the overwhelming number of overwhemingly male perpetrators of violent assault.

Comments From You

nick // Posted 14 September 2009 at 2:51 pm

this is a bit more on the subject from the Telegraph website…quoting Chris Huhne …

Chris Huhne , the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, said: “It is nothing short of disgraceful that fewer than one in 15 reported incidents of domestic violence results in a conviction in court.

“Police forces have to be ready to bring charges even without a formal complaint from the victim, who is often the only witness. Medical evidence can be enough. The state has a duty to step in to help the victims of domestic violence who are too scared to be able to help themselves.

“The figures also show the growing incidents of domestic violence against men, which is indicative of how widespread the problem is.”

Jess – I’m guessing, and please correct me if I’m wrong , that feminists think male victims of domestic violence are not worth wasting time , money and support on.

If a male friend or relative said to you

that he is a victim of DV , what you say ?

Jess McCabe // Posted 14 September 2009 at 2:56 pm

@nick Absolutely not, obviously. Domestic violence as a whole is always wrong and always worth spending time, energy and resources on combatting – that said, there’s a clear trend to shift the focus to cases where a woman is the perpetrator and the victim is a man – while obviously important to pay attention to this, the fact of the matter is – as the figures demonstrate – that the biggest problem by scale is still male violence.

Daniela Vincenti // Posted 14 September 2009 at 3:21 pm

Dear Nick,

I can assure you that no femminist worth her salt will ever condone domestic violence against a man.

However, keep in mind that it is women that often bear the brunt of physical violence in dysfunctional relationships. There are many reasons for this, the most obvious ones being that men are usually stronger and women are generally less likely to react to provocation with physical violence.

Under-reporting of domestic violence (whether the victim is female or male) is an issue worth emphasizing. I feel as a society we must also lower our threshold for what is considered to be domestic violence.

Well done for highlighting the issue Jess.

Jennifer Drew // Posted 14 September 2009 at 3:29 pm

Once again diversionary tactics are being used wherein women who commit violence against their partners are placed as more important than male perpetrators.

Reality is males disproportionately commit violence against intimate partners than the reverse. The figures quoted demonstrate male violence against women is far higher than the reverse and yet time and again we hear the old, old refrain. Namely female perpetrators are supposedly committing violence in equal or higher numbers than men.

For those who are concerned about violence in any shape or form their first priorioty must be to hold the perpetrators responsible rather than engaging in diversionary tactics.

Women as a group are never invisibilised (witness the Lib Dem’s over emphasis on placing female perpetrators before male perpetrators) whereas male violence against women is commonly invisibilised or else we read ‘woman was raped’ or ‘woman was beaten by partner.’ We never read or hear ‘man raped woman’ or ‘male partner physically assaulted female partner.’

JenniferRuth // Posted 14 September 2009 at 5:29 pm

Wow – one comment is all it took to get to “what about the men?!” – and it was a particularly ridiculous question too (and evidently did not even manage to read your blog post!).

Jess, I thought you made a great point when you said:

Note that the numbers for women convicted are put first, even though they are dwarfed by the 45 thousand convictions of men.

The violence and misogyny that women face is often unreported or diminished in the media. By doing this it makes it easier to disbelieve the very real violence and threat of violence that women face (I count street harrassment as a threat of violence).

Good on the Lib Dems for highlighting this issue.

sianmarie // Posted 14 September 2009 at 6:03 pm

ok – first up i am having a crappy day so am feeling oversensitive but nick your comment has really upset me.

of course feminists care about men who are victims of DV. to accuse women of not caring is just a crass point scoring silly game and just a bit pointless.

it has, in the main, been the work of feminists and women to raise the profile of DV. feminists and women have raised the profle of DV against men, just as they have tried to raise the the profile of DV against women. the stats are clear, DV is more often than not a crime of men against women. yet whenever a disucssion about DV enuses the automatic response is to ask about male victims of DV, rather than all victims, or even female victims.

the stats in the papers also tend to have a very heteronormative view in that when they report the stats on male victims of DV they don’t break these stats down into men who are victims of violent female or male partners. this heteronormative view gives a very warped idea on who is committing the violence.

i don’t understand and i never will understand the massive defensiveness that appears when there is a discussion about DV. yes we know men are victims of DV. but so are women. so why can’t it just be accpeted that we should fight against the culture of DV, the culture that keeps it quiet, the culture that means cases – whether the victim is male or female – aren’t taken seriously? by fighting DV against women we are fighting DV against men simultaneously. there shouldn’t be this us and them culture. we shouldn’t have to go on a feminist forum and be accused of not taking male DV seriously, when i can assure you every woman i know worht her salt takes violence seriously.

why be so defensive? why immediately accuse women of not taking DV against men seriously? why not read the post and take in the information rather than make sweeping assumptions about what people think? it’s silly and time wasting and does absolutely NOTHING to help end the fight against DV that women and men need to work together to win.

Esme // Posted 14 September 2009 at 6:05 pm

Unfortunately, one of the major barriers to domestic violence cases is the tendency for the complainant (and often sole witness) deciding after the arrest that she does not wish to testify, often because of guilt that her significant other will go to jail based on her action (her testimony), or because she fears retribution should the prosecutor fail to secure a conviction.

It seems to me that we need to take a different approach than we have in the past to ensure that abusers are put away, to help victims understand that their partners will be going to jail as a result of the perpetrator’s own violent behavior, not because of the female partner’s choice to testify, as well as more actual enforcement of restraining orders to protect victims who live in fear.

Katy // Posted 14 September 2009 at 10:55 pm

What about the men?!

Seriously now, remember the article in August? I posted a relatively neutral comment that they actually *kept* back then asking could they be a bit nicer? Now it’s magically disappeared, I guess they really struggle with any sane comments to their articles, lol? Even months down the line!

Jehenna // Posted 15 September 2009 at 3:38 am


Actually I said ‘wow, me too, what happened with you, do you want to talk about it?’

What’s interesting here is that we do not see the proportion of the victims by gender. Our assumption seems to be that these convictions arise in a heterosexual relationship, and that this is a male vs female statistic that can easily be extrapolated to tell us that women are victimised more than men.

Nick, you should be just as worried about these statistics with regard for men as we are. Because they show an overwhelming (94%) ratio of violence perpetrated by men. Is it more likely that a gay man will suffer violence at the hands of his male partner, than a lesbian will at the hands of her female partner? These statistics certainly suggest it.

So what we have is an overwhelming pattern of violence by men, against other people, both male and female.

In my opinion, you would be far better served to seriously sit down and think about what it is in our society that gives men the idea that their needs and wants must be met at any cost, even the cost of violence to their loved ones, rather than worrying about this terrible rise in violence by women. Which may or may not be against men.

Our concern as feminists is the way in which the incredible ratio of male violence (94%) is made secondary to the much smaller, but faster growing ratio of female violence. It is, as Jennifer Drew says, a diversionary tactic which goes a long way to helping us normalise and ignore male violence. Something which is done all the time in the media and in our society in general.

This is not about the victims, this is about the perpetrators.

nick // Posted 15 September 2009 at 8:03 am

that got things going. I was in no way shape or form saying Men were not the main perpertrators of DV and Women were the majority of the victims.

I asked this so I could get some understanding from a feminist view point regarding male victims , thats all.

whats the solution to stopping

DV ? There’s bound to be more than one, but I like to hear ideas about this too.

Jess McCabe // Posted 15 September 2009 at 1:39 pm

@nick Please check out Feminism 101 on What’s wrong with saying that things happen to men, too? before commenting further on this post. But remember to read this first.

Amy Clare // Posted 15 September 2009 at 3:55 pm

This conviction rate does not surprise me. Having spent time in a women’s refuge doing research for articles, I picked up a couple of things, one in particular is that the police are a BIG part of the problem.

One woman I spoke to had been horrifically beaten and her neighbour had called the police. Even though they are able to arrest without the victim’s involvement, all they did was tell her partner to leave the house. He did, and then he went straight to the nearest phone box and phoned her up, leaving messages on the house answerphone *which the police could hear as they were still there* saying he was going to come back and kill her. Still, they didn’t arrest him, even though they had heard him threaten her life – they weren’t even going to take her somewhere safe until her neighbour begged them to do so.

It’s not exactly a rare story either. This is not to say that there aren’t some good officers out there working hard to combat DV, but there is still a culture of ‘it’s just a domestic’. DV victims are not stupid, they know this attitude exists; it adds to a feeling of shame and it puts them off even phoning the police never mind pressing charges (as this is likely to antagonise their partner into the bargain).

Another woman’s partner, when the police were called, tried to reason with them and said ‘Well you would do the same if you thought your wife was cheating, wouldn’t you officer?’ etc. He didn’t get arrested either. I wonder how many of the officers secretly agreed with him.

Is it any wonder we have such crap conviction rates?

Nic // Posted 15 September 2009 at 11:29 pm

I’m assuming that the Daily Mail put forth the figures on female increases first as it represented the bigger increase *i.e. 100% increase in bad things happening negating the fact that the base sample was a single case*.

I agree completely that there are huge failings in the justice system that mean people are unsupported when complaining of domestic violence. Obstacles occur at every hurdle: reporting, the police response and the decision to prosecute etc.

Sorry to approach this from an academic angle (my only experience, apologies) but some women and men may not wish for a partner to be jailed. Where other opportunities exist, i.e. rehab programmes to avoid trial this may be preferable to the victim as it helps maintain family cohesion, or because they really love their partners and want them to change. Or the idea that sometimes police presence diffuses a one off situation also. Again my experience is only academic, so to any DV victims on this thread, please tell me I’m wrong as your opinion matters more than mine.

I’m not meaning to belittle domestic violence. What I’m saying is that when presenting victims with the ability to make an informed and independant decision (if at all possible) then not all will decide to go ahead with prosecution. Glasgow had a trial run of a specific DV court with great social work, police and charity support that tried to enable victims to make their own decisions about their future if anyone is interested.

The statistics are shocking, but in taking action I don’t want to strip autonomy from entire families and tell them what’s best for them, because as outsiders we can never fully appreciate their circumstances.

This example however is a small number of the total DV cases, the more pressing concern is failings in dealing with victims of DV.

Jackie Bather // Posted 16 September 2009 at 9:47 am

I don’t think that we should permit men to distract us from the main points of this discussion, namely, violence against women.If women do behave violently towards men, research has shown that it is usually in self-defence and that the vast majority of women use much less force than a man might , in a similar situation.Feminists need to keep this hidden horror in the public eye.

Jess McCabe // Posted 16 September 2009 at 10:16 am

@Nic The Daily Mail put the figures for violence committed by women first, because male violence is less interesting to them than female violence, because it’s less shocking, and, effectively, not news. It’s not got anything to do with the statistics, really, but because the notion of female violence is (from their perspective) transgressive, while the notion of male violence is the status quo.

Anyway, I’d only add that the speculation about why some victims don’t want their violent partners to be jailed are all very well, but unless I’m missing something, the Lib Dems’ figures do not demonstrate or suggest that the reason why so few cases end up in conviction is primarily or largely because of victims not wanting to appear as witnesses.

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