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Armed Forces: Domestic Abuse

Question for Ministry of Defence

UIN HL6694, tabled on 9 July 2020

To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have to analyse 'Whole Force' data (1) to identify the prevalence of domestic abuse and potential risk factors, and (2) to evaluate the effectiveness of prevention measures and interventions, in order to refine and improve the policy and practice of the British Armed Forces.

Answered on

16 July 2020

There is no statutory offence of ‘domestic abuse’ and actions amounting to it could be recorded under a number of offences such as Grievous Bodily Harm (GBH), Actual Bodily Harm (ABH), Common Assault or sexual offences. Furthermore, within military police crime-recording systems, the categorisation of whether an incident involves ‘domestic violence’ or not, is not a mandatory field, meaning that the figures provided are indicative only.

The first document provided gives figures for the number of reported offences for each Service for the years 2015-2020 to date where the incident has been categorised as involving domestic violence. The second document provided gives figures for each Service for the years 2015-2020 to date, for the number of GBH, ABH, and Common Assault offences. The noble Lord should note that in both of the documents, the figures given are for reported offences – that is, to say an allegation has been made. These figures do not relate to charges brought or court convictions.

An average time cannot be given regarding the Chain of Command (CoC) reporting such incidents to the Service Police. Every case would require examination to determine when it was reported to the Service Police and not every investigation file may contain the date when an incident was originally reported to the CoC. Therefore, we would not be able to provide a complete answer and what we could provide could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

However where reported to the CoC, any incident of domestic abuse must be reported to the Service Police no later than 24 hours after the incident has occurred. Further to this, a referral to the Welfare Service must be made in any situation involving domestic abuse or similar allegations.

Whilst there are no houses on the defence estate dedicated specifically for survivors of domestic abuse, support is provided through a suite of policies which seek to provide housing options for families in times of estrangement.

Short term accommodation for welfare or compassionate reasons is administered by Service welfare associations. Tri-Service accommodation policy requires the provision of welfare houses at each designated establishment, scaled to reflect density of Service population. Unit welfare staff, in conjunction with civilian police and local authorities assess whether utilisation of such are in the best interests of safeguarding abuse survivors, and may provide alternative accommodation (through local authority or charitable provision) if distance between perpetrator and survivor is required.

The MOD is currently reviewing the tri-service policy on domestic abuse with the help of leading charity Hestia, who sit alongside MOD on the Employer’s Initiative on Domestic Abuse. It is intended that this policy apply to the whole force – civilians, contractors and the single Services. The review will also focus on the availability of accommodation for survivors, taking advice from the domestic abuse charity Standing Together. MOD intends to refresh and re-launch the policy towards the end of 2020.

The MOD continually monitors whole force data on domestic abuse for prevalence and risk factors – this has been of particular focus during the Covid-19 pandemic. This data is disseminated and discussed within the MOD Domestic Abuse Stakeholder Forum the Domestic Abuse Working Group (DAWG), which meets quarterly. The DAWG seeks advice and guidance from national domestic abuse charities like Hestia, Aurora New Dawn and the Employer’s Initiative on Domestic Abuse, resulting in continual policy improvement.