New scheme launched in Cheshire’s custody suites to prevent domestic abuse re-offending
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A new perpetrator programme has been launched in Cheshire’s custody suites to support those committing domestic abuse-related offences to change their behaviour and prevent reoffending.
Following funding secured by Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire, John Dwyer, Cheshire Police is one of the first forces in the country to offer the perpetrator custody programme in each of its three custody suites, based in Chester, Middlewich and Runcorn.
The project launches in early November 2022 following a successful pilot in Middlewich custody suite and is being delivered in partnership with My CWA (formerly known as Cheshire Without Abuse) - the Cheshire-based charity supporting families affected by domestic abuse.
My CWA has recruited a team of experts who are now based in the custody suites and are on hand to support those perpetrators taken into custody, offering them access to support services and a behavioural change programme on their release.
Perpetrators can choose whether to access the services, but all individuals are spoken to and the benefits explained. The key message given is that there is support available to them to change their behaviour as soon as possible.
The immediate help offered to perpetrators enables them to reflect on their actions and be equipped with a series of strategies that they can use instantly to help deal with anger.
Once the perpetrator leaves custody, they are referred to a community-based programme which runs for 32 weeks. The programme involves a series of online, one-to-one and group sessions.
The programme looks to break the cycle of offending and abuse by working with the whole family that is affected. Working with the whole family brings better understanding of the reasons for the perpetrator’s behaviour and enables a commitment to improve the situation for everyone.
Superintendent Claire Jesson said: “Domestic abuse can affect anyone and it remains a force priority. Our focus is on problem solving and preventing reoccurrence, so we’re working with perpetrators to address their offending and the reasons behind their behaviour.
“At the same time as supporting offenders, we have specialist domestic abuse officers who support the victims which allows for a joined-up approach for the family.
“Cheshire Police has a really close working relationship with My CWA who provide a fantastic service. This is reinforced with the wonderful support that we receive from the IDVAs [Independent Domestic Violence Advisers] in the county’s domestic abuse hubs.
“As a force, we have a zero-tolerance approach to domestic violence and this programme supports that, it’s not a replacement for punishment.”
Police and Crime Commissioner John Dwyer said: “Domestic abuse has a devastating impact on the whole family and it’s important we look to stop this cycle of abuse.
“I worked with the Home Office to secure investment for this valuable programme and, following the success of the pilot, we are already seeing the positive impact it has had on perpetrators and the reassurance given to victims as a result.
“Working with My CWA enables us to bring in the very best support when offenders leave custody and gives us confidence that they have access to all the tools possible to stop this harmful behaviour.
“Protecting vulnerable and at-risk people is a key priority in my Police and Crime Plan, as is delivering justice for victims. This programme allows us to do both by giving us the opportunity to change behaviour for the better and break the cycle of domestic abuse.”
Beverley Wrighton, Deputy Chief Executive at My CWA added: “My CWA has been supporting families affected by domestic abuse across Cheshire for over 45 years and our relationship with Cheshire Police has always been a valued and effective partnership. Together, we share insights and innovate to create new initiatives such as the recent custody suite programme.
“We believe that only by working hand-in-hand with police and wider Cheshire public services can our approach to tackling the issue of domestic abuse across Cheshire be consistent and impactful, and can we realise our vision of a community free from the fear of domestic abuse.”
The community-based support programme does not replace the criminal process and outcomes, but it does provide those who have offended with the opportunity to change and avoid future harmful actions, resulting in a break in the cycle of abuse.
Abuse can happen to anyone, regardless of gender or age and tailored support services are available to both male and female offenders and young people who offend.