West Sussex pilot project challenges perpetrators of domestic abuse


A national programme to challenge the behaviour of perpetrators of domestic abuse in order to reduce the number of victims is being piloted in West Sussex over the next three years.

‘The Drive’ project aims to reduce the number of child and adult victims of domestic abuse by developing a ‘whole system response’ that influences perpetrators to change their behaviour. Nationally two women a week die as a result of domestic homicide and 100,000 people a year are at high risk of being murdered or seriously harmed every year.

Research carried out by SafeLives, a national charity dedicated to ending domestic abuse and one of three organisations behind the scheme, found 38% of perpetrators in West Sussex had alcohol or substance misuse issues and 15% had mental health issues. The pilot scheme is a robust response designed to address these factors and others in order to prevent victims from further harm.

The programme will operate across Adur, Worthing and Crawley, from the areas’ two Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conferences (MARACs). This is where local agencies meet to discuss the highest risk victims of domestic abuse in their area: those most at risk of serious harm and those who have little engagement with available services.

The team will target around 100 perpetrators per year for three years, working for up to 10 months with each perpetrator referred to the service.

Case Workers will act as a single point of contact for perpetrators and will be responsible for driving positive behaviour change. They will also work closely with Independent Domestic Violence Advisers to ensure the safety of victims who, as part of the project, will receive extended support.

Domestic abuse survivor, Rachel Williams said: “The perpetrator is the problem. Why is it that the victim is the one who has to move and seek refuge, when the perpetrator carries on as normal? If we don’t deal with them – then they just move onto the next victim. We have to at least try and change mind-sets.”

Minister for Preventing Abuse, Exploitation and Crime Karen Bradley said: “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.

“Our new Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy, which we will publish shortly, will look at ways to better understand and address the causes of offending behaviour to stop these terrible crimes from happening in the first place.

“This innovative pilot will give us greater insights into the causes of offending behaviour and the role of rehabilitation.”

Katy Bourne, Sussex Police & Crime Commissioner, said: “By addressing perpetrators’ behaviour this programme will target the root cause of domestic abuse and, crucially, improve outcomes for victims and children. There is currently no specialist intervention for those who continually abuse. Therefore, it is vital that we improve the response to perpetrators to reduce the number of victims currently experiencing domestic abuse, limit the harm to children and prevent further victimisation.

“I am concerned that 28% of MARAC cases are repeat victims, as few perpetrators receive an intervention that might prevent future abusive behaviour. The current cost of each MARAC case in West Sussex is more than £7,000 and this is mainly for reactive interventions.

“This pilot project has been meticulously planned with the local context in mind, in order to make the most effective use of local services. Building co-operation for the programme and gaining the support of all agencies in Sussex will be key to its success.”

Christine Field, Cabinet Member for Community Wellbeing, West Sussex County Council, said: “Our strategy on domestic and sexual violence recognises the importance of this issue and the harmful impact it has, particularly on the lives of women and children. We strongly believe in developing a ‘whole-family response’ and taking a more holistic approach to prevent abuse from occurring. This pilot project holds these principles at its centre and will bring together existing services with a new coordinating lead for domestic abuse perpetrators to ensure they are as effective as possible.”

Detective Chief Inspector for West Sussex Jo Banks, said: “Sussex Police are very much engaged in this programme and welcome any opportunity to work with our partners to reduce and prevent cases of domestic abuse. This is not however a soft touch for perpetrators. For those perpetrators who fail to engage with the programme, the police will employ a range of tactics, for example the use of prevention orders and arrests for non-domestic related crime where that is warranted to challenge and disrupt their criminal behaviour.”

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