Incidents of domestic abuse and domestic assault have seen a sharp increase during the COVID ‘lockdown’. A recent news report revealed that in London alone there have been over 4000 arrests for domestic abuse by the Metropolitan Police over the last four weeks. This equates to nearly 100 arrests a day. Moreover, this has resulted in a 9% increase in year-on-year recorded domestic abuse incidents with 17,275 recorded between 9th March and 19 April. These are quite extraordinary numbers. They are, no doubt, a reflection of how tense the situation has become at home for those individuals dealing with this very difficult lockdown and self-isolation period. The figures will be higher across the country.
Domestic incidents can affect any relationship. Even the strongest of relationships will have its moments of tension during these difficult times. This is especially so when there is little interaction with anyone other than respective partners and other family members within the confined environment of a household.
Situations become even more difficult when individuals are trying to work from home and children create a distraction. The lockdown can have an adverse impact upon mental health and mental anxiety. this in itself can contribute to domestic incidents.
The police response
Of those arrested for an offence in a domestic context, thousands will have been released under investigation whilst police enquiries continue. Not all of these cases will be considered a priority and so it may take a while for some cases to conclude. In the interim period, there can be ongoing friction between family members which can cause all sorts of additional domestic difficulty. Some arrests for alleged domestic abuse will lead to additional investigations for more serious offences.
The police have a zero-tolerance policy for domestic abuse, which is not always ideal and can be counter-productive. This is especially so when, after a day or so, both parties very much wish to reconcile and move on. This is a common scenario in domestic cases. All too often, the police are overly willing to believe what has been alleged by the partner who calls the police. That can influence the way in which the police investigate cases.
Defending domestic abuse cases – the need for expert advice
The term domestic abuse includes a variety of alleged conduct, ranging from physical assault (domestic violence), emotional and physical abuse, coercive and controlling behaviour and in rare cases, incidents which result in death and a murder enquiry. A report released recently stated that there had, since the lockdown, been as many as 27 domestic killings. Without doubt, these cases are very complex and require assistance from a very skilled criminal defence lawyer with experience in defending cases involving death such as murder and manslaughter. For further information, see other articles I have written on these subjects: Defending Murder Cases and Defending loss of life cases.
An individual under suspicion for a domestic allegation must always treat the complaint seriously. There is a great deal that can be done to help with such cases, and a great deal that can be done to successfully defend them. Firstly, instruct an experienced defence lawyer who will know how to approach the many scenarios created by alleged domestic abuse cases.
Legal representation for police interview under caution is free
First and foremost, an individual under investigation should always ensure that they have representation. I am frequently contacted by individuals who have been invited to attend the police station for a voluntary interview under caution (Caution Plus 3 interview). Or, perhaps, who have already been interviewed and are subsequently released under investigation and need advice. The investigation stage of any case is arguably the most important in any case. So, it is important that the right approach is made. During this critical stage, it is important that legal advice is taken. If a police interview is yet to take place, always contact a solicitor. Representation at the police station for an interview under caution is free.
Many suspects involved in domestic abuse or domestic violence cases types of cases gain the impression that the police are not interested in what they have said about what happened. They feel that the police simply focus on what the complainant has said as if it is all true. That leaves a suspect in a very difficult position, and there is often a feeling that the police are very one sided in their approach to an investigation.
The reality is that of the 4000 individuals who have recently been arrested in London for domestic abuse, many are likely to be innocent. Complainants in the heat of the moment can exaggerate what happened; they can lie about what happened. In many cases, they will not want to stand by the complaint after their partner has been arrested.
Why is legal representation a must?
The simple answer is that there is much that can be done by your legal expert. In cases where bail conditions have been imposed and which are causing serious problems, an application can be made to the court for those bail conditions to be relaxed or indeed removed.
It may be that the complainant, despite being told by the police not to contact the suspect, is repeatedly contacting the suspect saying that he or she wishes to withdraw the complaint, or wishes to discuss other things such as getting money or arranging contact with children.
Where there are bail conditions not to contact the complainant, this can cause problems for a suspect. Any contact can result in proceedings for breach of bail. Again, trying to convince an investigating officer that it was the complainant who contacted the suspect, not the other way round, can be very difficult. In circumstances such as this, any contact by a complainant in a case where there are bail conditions of no contact should be reported to a lawyer, so that a note can be made. That will help rebut any suggestion that it was the suspect who contacted the complainant, rather than the opposite.
Instructing a lawyer can also mean that representations are made to the police, or indeed the Crown Prosecution Service, that the case is evidentially weak or not in the public interest to proceed with.
Occasionally, individuals under investigation can be asked to attend the police station again for a further interview once further enquiries by the police are completed. No suspects should ever attend for a formal interview under caution by the police, or indeed any other authority, unless they have legal representation. It is worth reminding that representation at the police station for an interview under caution is free.
What happens if you don’t have legal representation?
Of the 4000 suspects arrested in the last four weeks for domestic abuse cases, a significant number would not have had representation. That can be for a variety of reasons but is often because the police suggest that it will delay the detention period if a lawyer is requested. That is always incorrect advice, but sadly happens quite frequently. Some suspects say that the reason they didn’t ask for a lawyer is because they are innocent. Arguably, when a suspect is innocent, it is even important to have a lawyer to help protect from a potential wrongful charge and wrongful conviction.
Many of the 4000 or so suspects interviewed by the police over the last 4-6 weeks for alleged domestic abuse would have answered questions in interview and may well have been given false or misleading information by the police. They may also have been given an interpretation of the law by the police which is completely wrong or misleading.
Incorrect advice from a police officer to an unrepresented suspect in interview can lead to answers which are unreliable, inadmissible and which result in decisions to prosecute which should not occur, wrongful convictions and miscarriages of justice at court. It can also lead to the impositions of police cautions (which require an admission to be made by a suspect in interview) in circumstances where in reality no admissions have been made to an offence at all.
This is why instructing a lawyer is so important. Instructing a lawyer at Wells Burcombe will mean that the entire investigation will be reviewed and correct advice given. That could have huge implications for the outcome of the case.
Contact us today
If you are currently under investigation for a domestic abuse or domestic assault case, or indeed any other case, please call David Wells, senior partner, criminal law specialist, on (07939) 026751, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.