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Increase in reported cases of domestic violence during COVID-19 pandemic
Police have recorded a growing number of domestic abuse-related offences during the COVID-19 pandemic. This has fuelled speculation that factors such as being confined in close quarters and the additional stress from the impact of the pandemic are driving an increase in incidents of domestic violence.
However, there are questions over whether there has really been an increase in the actual number of domestic abuse offences being committed or whether there was merely been an increase in reports.
For those accused of domestic abuse, there is also the question of whether there has been an increase in false reports of domestic violence or of one-sided reporting of situations where both parties were at fault.
Has domestic abuse really increased due to COVID-19?
While the latest stats reported by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show an increase in reported domestic abuse offences since the pandemic began, this continues a trend that has been going on for several years.
The ONS states that this trend has been driven by improvements in police recording of these offences and that: “therefore it cannot be determined whether this increase can be directly attributed to the coronavirus pandemic”.
However, other evidence does suggest a genuine rise in cases of domestic abuse. In the early days of the pandemic, The World Health Organisation Europe reported a 60% increase in calls to emergency services about intimate partner violence from women living in member states.
Why might COVID-19 be causing more reports of domestic violence?
There are many factors that can increase the likelihood of domestic abuse, including abuse of drugs and alcohol, stress and mental health issues. All of these issues are potentially being exacerbated by the pandemic
Evidence shows that reports of stress, anxiety and depression have all increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is hardly surprising given the risk to people’s health and economic stability, loss of jobs, dealing with the deaths of loved ones, loss of access to recreational leisure activities, reduced social interaction and all of the other ways COVID-19 has impacted our lives.
Many people’s drug and alcohol use has also changed due to the pandemic, with evidence showing that, while some people are using fewer drugs and drinking less, others have significantly increased their consumption of drugs and alcohol. Reports suggest that alcohol abuse in particular has increased during coronavirus.
An increase in stress, other mental health issues and/or drug and alcohol abuse could therefore bear significant responsibility for any increase in domestic violence.
Is coronavirus causing more false reports of domestic violence?
Being accused of domestic abuse can be devastating, especially if you believe you are innocent or that your accuser is misrepresenting the situation. While there is a lack of clear data on the prevalence of false domestic abuse reports and the impact of COVID-19 on this, it is certainly something that does happen.
False reports of domestic violence can occur for a number of reasons, for example, where you are separating and have children with your partner who they want to stop you from seeing. It is also not uncommon for both parties to have been abusive to each other, but only one part makes a report, giving the impression that they are an innocent victim.
While this should in no way detract from the seriousness of genuine domestic abuse cases, it is worth bearing in mind that, where there is an increase in domestic abuse reports, it is not unreasonable to assume there may have been an increase in false or misleading reports.
What can you do if you have been falsely accused of domestic abuse?
If you believe you have been falsely accused of domestic abuse, it is essential to take action right away. Getting help for a criminal defence lawyer who specialises in domestic abuse offences is the first step. They will be able to advise you on your defence options and give you the strongest chance of achieving the best available outcome for your circumstances.
The main defence options are:
- That no domestic abuse occurred
- That your accuser is misrepresenting the situation e.g. you were defending yourself against their abuse
- That you did commit an offence but that there are mitigating circumstances than lessen your responsibility and the potential penalties
Potential mitigating circumstances for a domestic abuse offence are:
- Good character e.g. that this was an isolated incident and you have generally behaved well at other times and in other areas of your life
- Genuine recognition of the need for change e.g. seeking help or treatment to deal with issues such as poor anger management
If you have committed a domestic abuse offence during the COVID-19 pandemic and have never done so previously, this could potentially help with the ‘good character’ argument, so if you believe the impact of the pandemic has been a factor, this is worth discussing with your defence lawyer.
Looking for robust, expert legal defence for a domestic abuse allegation?
Renshaw Derrick is a specialist criminal defence firm with particular expertise in domestic abuse defence. We understand how traumatic facing this kind of serious charge can be and have the skills and experience to give you the strongest possible defence.
Based in Bournemouth, we are one of the leading firms of criminal defence solicitors in Dorset and the surrounding areas. We can provide representation for every stage of proceedings, from police interview through any subsequent investigation and prosecution.
We take on both privately funded and legal aid funded cases, ensuring that our domestic abuse criminal defence expertise is available to everyone no matter their circumstances.
Our team are here to help you fight these accusations, clear your name and help you get your life back on track.