Negotiating Domestic Violence: Police, Criminal Justice, and Victims

By Carolyn Hoyle | Go to book overview
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7
In the Victim's Interest?

As the previous chapter showed, police and prosecutors do not think that it is in the victim's interest to prosecute offences arising from domestic violence when the victim is opposed to this solution. Some feminist writers have disagreed with the practice of allowing a victim of domestic violence to withdraw a statement once it has been made and, thus, advocate that reluctant witnesses should be compelled to testify ( Edwards 1989). The Victim Support Inter- Agency Working Party on Domestic Violence ( 1992) similarly argued that the decision to proceed with a prosecution should not be the responsibility of women who report the crime as they may sometimes be pressurized by violence to withdraw. If necessary, the report recommended, victims should be compelled to give evidence, provided that protection and support can be offered.

Arguments in favour of arrest, prosecution, and compelling witnesses have surfaced within a social and political climate which has rarely questioned the appropriateness of the criminal justice system as a way of dealing with domestic violence. Indeed, in describing and criticizing the response of the police and the wider criminal justice system, writers have tended to assume that to take punitive legal action against perpetrators is both an effective and desirable way of dealing with domestic violence (see, for example, Horley 1988). This chapter will question such preconceptions from the viewpoint of the victim. It will draw on interviews conducted with a sample of women who had recently had a visit from the police in response to an incident of domestic violence;1 on interviews with women in the Women's Aid refuges; as well as data gathered from patrol officers and prosecutors.

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1
As detailed in chap. 2, the sample of 'victims' was chosen from the sample of incidents about which officers were interviewed. There were forty-nine such incidents and the researcher gained access to thirty-nine victims. Interviews were also conducted with the perpetrators in five cases.

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