Professionals will have to learn the lessons from domestic violence killings under requirements to hold serious case review-style probes that come into force today.
Multi-agency domestic homicide reviews (DHR) will take place into the deaths of people aged over 16 that result from violence, abuse or neglect by a current or former partner, a relative or a member of the same household.
The move, under section 9 of the Domestic Violence and Victims of Crime Act 2004, has been welcomed by domestic violence campaigners.
“Domestic violence homicide reviews will provide an effective means of reviewing multi-agency practice following a murder, ensuring that lessons are learned and areas for urgent development are identified,” said a spokesperson for charity Co-ordinated Action Against Domestic Abuse. “As the reviews will be published and publicly available, they will provide an open and transparent means of reviewing practice, thereby increasing the safety of other local victims in the future.”
The spokesperson added that it would also help consolidate existing work on identifying domestic abuse victims.
DHRs will be similar to serious case reviews into the deaths of children or vulnerable adults following abuse, according to guidance issued last month by the Home Office, which said their purpose would be to learn lessons, apply these to practice and prevent future deaths.
Key issues that reviews will be expected to look at include whether there was evidence of a risk of serious harm to the victim that was not recognised by agencies concerned; whether professionals’ did not have their concerns taken sufficiently seriously, or whether the death exposed failings in the operation of safeguarding or domestic violence procedures.
Responsibility for the reviews will rest with local community safety partnerships, which include police, council, probation, fire and health representatives, with partnership chairs deciding whether a DHR should take place.
As with SCRs, individual agencies will carry out their own management reviews that will feed into an overview report, which will be anonymised and published in full unless there are compelling reasons not to do so concerning the welfare of people involved.
The remit of DHRs is broad and there is likely to be significant overlap with SCRs for children or vulnerable adults, or mental health homicide investigations, said Gillian Downham, a former social worker and barrister who provides training for SCR chairs.
She said decisions would need to be made on a case by case basis about which investigations were appropriate in particular circumstances.
Downham added that “one very positive feature” of domestic homicide reviews that marked them out from SCRs was the potential involvement of families and friends of the victim.
The Home Office guidance says that the review panel should consider the potential benefits of including informal support networks in the review to gain a more complete picture of the victim’s life.
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