Legal Rules, Policies, and Police Practices
Prior to the early 1970s, violence against women in the home was generally thought of as a private matter. Couples were left alone to solve their conflicts except in cases of very serious injury. The law was considered to be the last resort in the management of domestic violence, and arrest was only used occasionally as a temporary means of maintaining order. Today it is recognized that the divide between public and private violence is less distinct, and violence between intimates has become a more salient public policy issue than ever before. Increased public intervention within the private sphere has been legitimated by new legislation, new police powers, and changing attitudes towards state intervention. Domestic violence is now, in theory, recognized as 'real' crime, and the fact that it typically occurs in the home does not deflect from its status as a criminal offence.
This book will examine the way in which incidents of domestic violence are responded to in the 1990s by the criminal justice system. It is based on research which aimed to understand the factors which shaped the decisions made by the police and the Crown Prosecution Service in the light of policies which recommended increased intervention in such cases. It examines the extent to which the choices made by police and prosecutors can be understood in terms of evidential criteria and offence seriousness, and the extent to which they are shaped by the informal 'rules' of the organizational culture. The roles of police officers, prosecutors, victims, and suspects in respect of these considerations are explored.
This chapter will provide the context within which this research was carried out. That context comprises changing government policies on domestic violence; a large body of prior research on the policing of domestic violence; and the political and