Domestic homicides stable during lockdown but still a concern says police report
Domestic homicides remain an ‘entrenched and enduring problem’ despite figures remaining relatively stable during lockdown, according to a new report.
‘Domestic Homicides and Suspected Victim Suicides During the Covid-19 Pandemic 2020-2021’ is the first report of the Domestic Homicide Project, established by the National Police Chiefs’ Council and the College of Policing working with National Policing Vulnerability Knowledge and Practice Programme (VKPP). The project was created in May 2020 through Home Office funding.
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 pandemic on domestic homicides and suspected victim suicides with a known history of domestic abuse, to learn lessons from every tragic incident and seek to prevent future deaths.
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. This was very similar to the previous year’s figure of 152 and is in line with the 15-year average.
Although there has not been a significant change in the numbers during the pandemic, all organisations in this sector agree that more needs to be done to reduce further incidents; a continuing situation where between two and three women are murdered every week by their partners or ex-partners is unacceptable.
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.
While domestic homicides haven’t appeared to increase dramatically, these numbers do confirm that it remains an enduring issue. 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 it 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.
Evidence from the report also supports existing research that coercive and controlling behaviour is associated with higher risk of homicide.
Bernie O’Reilly, interim CEO of the College of Policing, said: ‘This ground breaking research greatly adds to our knowledge and understanding of domestic homicides and will prove vital in helping improve our responses to risk to keep victims, particularly women, safer.’