Research Article – Policing domestic abuse: the onus on first responders

Published online: 12 Mar 2024

Written by: Pamela Davies (Department of Social Sciences, Northumbria University) and Charlotte Frederica Barlow (School of Law and Policy, Connect Centre for International Research on Interpersonal Violence and Harm, University of Central Lancashire)

Read the full article here.


The police first responder has a central role in the multi-agency response to domestic abuse in most jurisdictions and is uniquely placed to solicit information from the victim-survivor about the experiences and behaviours they have witnessed first-hand.

The College of Policing advises that first response officers have a dual role when attending domestic callouts: to recognise signs of abuse and prevent offences from occurring, and identify criminal offences so that offenders can be brought to justice.

The frontline encounter by police is a pivotal moment for myriad reasons. Sharing results and reflections from our experiences of evaluating a number of innovative approaches to the policing of domestic abuse in the UK context, we illustrate the onus placed on the police first responder.

In the effort to improve the overall criminal justice response to domestic abuse, we argue that a greater appreciation of this onus is needed amongst all criminal justice and multi-agency practitioners. Furthermore, we argue that greater support for police first responders is needed to improve outcomes for all following this encounter.

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