Domestic Homicide Project
Domestic Homicides and Suspected Victim Suicides 2021-2022, is the second annual report from the national Domestic Homicide Project which works across England and Wales. The Domestic Homicide Project is a Home Office funded research project led by the National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) and delivered by the Vulnerability Knowledge and Practice Programme (VKPP) in collaboration with the College of Policing. Academics, including staff from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) seconded to the VKPP, have led the research in partnership with police.
The report focusses on how policing can improve its response to domestic abuse and domestic homicide, and presents groundbreaking new work on victim suicide after domestic abuse.
It presents 40 findings from new analysis of both victims and perpetrators alongside 25 recommendations which aim to help the criminal justice sector improve prevention and investigation of domestic homicides and work more closely with bereaved families.
*Across the two-year period 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2022 there were 470 deaths in total which took place in a domestic setting or following domestic abuse, including 43% intimate partner homicide, 24% suspected victim suicide, 22% adult family homicide, 8% child death, and 3% ‘other’.
*Overall, in year two the annual number of domestic homicides (including partner or family homicide, excluding child deaths) increased by 23, with 170 deaths recorded between April 2021 and March 2022. This rise was explained by an increase in adult family homicides.
*Police are identifying more suspected victim suicides with a history of domestic abuse – up 28% to 64 cases in year two.
*Between year one and year two there was a drop in the proportion of older victims (aged 65 years and older) in intimate partner homicide, to 11%, while in the adult family homicide cases older people remained a high proportion of victims at 42%.
*Whilst female victims remained by far the most common, especially in domestic homicides, proportionately in year two there were more male victims (32%) across all deaths; male victims were more associated with child deaths.
*There was a slight rise in LGBTQ+ victims identified, albeit small numbers.
*Victims and suspects of minority ethnic heritage were over-represented compared to the general population.
*The proportion of all suspects previously known to police for domestic abuse rose to 66%, from 55% in year one. However, fewer suspects in adult family homicide cases were previously known to police for domestic abuse.
*Across the two-year findings, only 10% of suspects were recorded as previously having been managed by police or probation.
*Adult family homicide suspects commonly had mental ill health, caring responsibilities for the victim, and a lack of previous police and agency contact.
*Policing cannot prevent domestic abuse or homicide alone. Multi-agency partnerships are vital to identify those at risk and put in place appropriate interventions.
The Domestic Homicide Project was established by National Police Chiefs’ Council and the College of Policing working with and hosted by the VKPP. The project was created in May 2020 through additional Home Office funding to collect, review, and share quick-time learning from all police-recorded domestic homicides and suspected suicides of individuals with a known history of domestic abuse victimisation during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The research carried out by the Project is the first police-led work of its kind in England and Wales and aimed to establish the impact of the Covid-19 and related restrictions on domestic homicides and suspected suicides with a known history of domestic abuse victimisation and learn lessons from every tragic death to help to prevent future deaths.
The project adopts a wide definition of domestic abuse-related deaths, and also includes child deaths in a domestic setting, unexplained or suspicious deaths and suspected suicides of individuals with a known history of domestic abuse victimisation. This expanded definition has enabled relevant deaths to be identified and the data of key sub-groups of cases to be analysed.
Evidence from the project showed that domestic homicides didn’t appear to increase dramatically during the pandemic, with 163 recorded in the 12 months to 31 March 2021. The Project also found 38 suspected victim suicides with a known history of domestic abuse, although this figure couldn’t be compared with previous years as this was the first time that the data had been captured in this way.
The Project found that Covid-19 acted as an ‘escalator and intensifier of existing abuse’ in some instances, with victims less able to seek help due to Covid restrictions. It also concluded that Covid had not ‘caused’ domestic homicide but had been ‘weaponised’ by some abusers as both a new tool of control over victims, and – in some cases – as an excuse or defence for abuse or homicide of the victim.
This presentation was given at the ExChange Wales Summer Conference Series in June 2022.
This Domestic Homicide Project is separate to the existing statutory process for Domestic Homicide Reviews, which examine every domestic homicide in-depth to draw out learning from all agencies.
As part of its ongoing work, the Project aims to:
- Produce a series of Spotlight Briefings on some important themes arising from its findings to date
- Continue its learning and dissemination efforts to reach a wide range of audience
- Carry out focused work on suspected victim suicides following domestic abuse
- Produce a year two report and further analysis beyond.