Distorted police statistics downplay domestic abuse reports, says Commissioner

Ten per cent fewer domestic abuse crimes have been recorded in new statistics published today, after police were instructed to deliberately count fewer crimes.

In new rules introduced in June 2023, the Home Office has told the police to only count one crime for each time a victim comes forward and allowed police count fewer crimes of threatening or abusive messages. The Commissioner fears these changes downplay the number of domestic abuse reports. She says domestic abuse is very rarely a one-off offence.

The statistics published today are the first to capture a full three months of data collected since these rules came into force. New analysis from the Domestic Abuse Commissioner shows that there were 23,000 fewer recorded crimes of domestic abuse when compared to the same quarter in the preceding year.

There has also been a considerable decrease of 42 percent in the number of malicious communication offences recorded by the police, when comparing July – September 2023 to the same quarter in 2022. These crimes include threatening or abusive messages, which are commonly reported by domestic abuse victims.

Public order offences with a domestic abuse flag are also down by twenty four percent, a reduction of almost 3,000 when comparing July – September 2023 to the same quarter in 2022.

Police are no longer required to count malicious communications and public order offences in certain circumstances, according to the new counting rules.  

Reports of domestic abuse remain high at 862,765 in the year ending September 2023. Domestic abuse made up almost one in six crimes reported to the police, and a third of violence against the person crimes.

The conviction rate has increased slightly to approximately five per cent and the charge rate to six per cent, but remains unacceptably low, says the Domestic Abuse Commissioner.

The Commissioner says these counting rule changes fly in the face of the Home Office’s own commitment to “increase reporting to the police of domestic abuse-related incidents and recorded crimes,” stated in the Tackling Domestic Abuse Plan 2022.

Nicole Jacobs, the Domestic Abuse Commissioner for England and Wales, says, “I fear that this reduction in police-recorded domestic abuse is down to a change in counting, not a change in the true number of victims reporting to the police.

“With victim trust in the criminal justice system at an all-time low, it is a serious mistake to prioritise administrative ease over accurate reporting.  This downplays the reality for victims and the work of police officers who are trying to protect them.

“I fear that with fewer crimes counted, domestic abuse will become a lower priority and it will be impossible to understand police activity on domestic abuse, which is critical in improving the police response. These new counting rules must be ceased pending a robust evaluation of their impact.

“Domestic abuse is a devastating and widespread crime, making up one in six reports to the police. It’s time for our justice system to get to grips with this very serious problem.  

“All eyes are watching the upcoming domestic abuse Joint Justice Plan from policing leaders, which I hope will turn things around across all forty-three forces. The safety of victims and survivors across the country depends on it.”

The Commissioner has written to the Policing Minister Chris Philp to express her concerns and ask for a meeting.


Information for editors

About the Domestic Abuse Commissioner: The Domestic Abuse Commissioner is the pre-eminent independent voice for victims and survivors of domestic abuse. The Commissioner uses statutory powers, which are set out in the Domestic Abuse Act 2021, to raise public awareness and hold both agencies and government to account in tackling domestic abuse.

  • The Home Office Counting rules changes apply only to the counting of crimes, rather than their investigation. The rules include changes to:
    • Re-introduce the ‘Principal crime rule’,whereby one crime – the most serious offence – is counted for every report, even if multiple crimes took place. Previously, up to two crimes would have been counted, with any additional crimes included within those crime records.
    • Allow more officers than before to remove a crime from the record if evidence suggests no crime took place.
    • Increase the threshold for recording reports of report malicious communications and public order offences to the Home Office.