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Programme to change domestic abusers’ behaviour to pilot in north Essex

PUBLISHED: 15:16 17 February 2016 | UPDATED: 15:16 17 February 2016

Programme will focus on challenging domestic abuse offenders' behaviour instead of forcing victims to change. Library image.

Programme will focus on challenging domestic abuse offenders' behaviour instead of forcing victims to change. Library image.

Archant

A new project aimed at changing the behaviour of the most dangerous offenders of domestic violence is to be piloted in north Essex.

Nick Alston, Essex Police & Crime Commissioner. Nick Alston, Essex Police & Crime Commissioner.

The programme, known as Drive, will offer one-on-one support to violent perpetrator, for the first time in England and Wales, in an attempt to reduce abusive behaviour.

Backed by SafeLives, Social Finance and Respect, the project aims to develop and evaluate a new approach to hold offenders to account and is also being trialed in Sussex and South Wales.

Within Essex it will be piloted in Colchester and Tendring.

Rachel Williams, a domestic abuse victim, said: “The perpetrator is the problem. Why is it 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 their mind-sets.”

Unlike most existing domestic abuse schemes, which involve family therapy or group work, the Drive programme will target the most dangerous offenders through bespoke one-to-one counselling sessions.

Support and advice on alcohol, drug and mental health problems as well as employment, housing and parenting will be available.

Those who refuse to co-operate will be monitored closely by police, and civil court orders and criminal sanctions will be considered to disrupt their offending behaviour.

The project is funded by the Lloyds Bank Foundation for England and Wales, Tudor Trust and the police and crime commissioners in all three areas.

Nick Alston, Essex police and crime commissioner, said: “All too often, when an individual has been subject to domestic abuse, the question is asked ‘why didn’t they try to leave their situation’.

“However it is the behaviour of the perpetrators of domestic abuse that must be questioned and challenged as they are at the root of this crime. We must take steps to address the behaviour of dangerous and serial domestic abusers if we are to seek a long-term and meaningful solution to this problem.

“There has been much scepticism in the past about perpetrator programmes and whether you can moderate the behaviour of offenders, and it may prove it can’t be done, but I want to test it.

“I welcome the Drive initiative which is bold but necessary if we are to stop abusers in their tracks and create a safer future for victims of domestic abuse and their families.”

Diana Barran, chief executive of SafeLives, said: “SafeLives is committed to reducing the number of victims of domestic abuse – this is not possible without reducing the number of perpetrators.

“The victims we work with have asked us why they are always the ones expected to change, and why too often the perpetrator is left free to continue their abuse of them and others.

“We want to help victims today and reduce the number of victims of tomorrow. We are evidence-led and will therefore be testing this intervention in three areas, with the aiming of proving it could work and be rolled out nationally.”

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