EFFORTS to tackle domestic abuse have reached a milestone after the first offender was placed on a new register designed to reduce violence in the home.
The scheme – which works in a similar way to the Sex Offenders Register – requires the perpetrator to notify the police of their address and their personal circumstances and allows the authorities to monitor their activities.
It is hoped that the use of the register, which was introduced under the Domestic Abuse (Jersey) Law 2022, will help protect the offender’s partner or any future partners.
Detective Superintendent Alison Fossey, who leads the States police’s Criminal Investigations Department, said: “[The law] made provision for notification requirements for anyone who was convicted of certain domestic abuse offences, and also made provision for them to be placed on orders that would dictate, for example, where they should live, who they should contact or not contact and what prevention courses they should undertake.
“The intention, I think, was always that the scheme would operate very much like the Sex Offenders Register, so anyone who was subjected to notification requirements on sentencing would then have to register with the police, and then be managed through the offender management team and through the Jersey Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements process.
“And that’s obviously a big step forward in terms of protecting not only current victims but also future victims of domestic abuse.”
Det Supt Fossey praised the law’s provision of a register, which she said put the Island ahead of the majority of other jurisdictions.
The UK is in the process of bringing in an updated domestic law, which Det Supt Fossey said went further in some regards, but would not include a similar register.
“We’ve been quite creative and forward-thinking here,” she added. “Obviously, I think the States should be commended on that. And we now need to make best use of that to protect the public and do all we can to protect victims, future victims and their families.”
As the States police prepares for more cases to be brought forward, the Offender Management Unit has added two officers to its team.
Detective Sergeant Karen Houston, who leads the unit, said that the main difference between a restraining order and being placed on the register was that, with the former, “you’re waiting for them to reoffend to deal with the offence” while with the register: “You’ve got that wandering control. There is ongoing engagement with the offender management unit and also multi-agency through the JMAPPA process.”
The process is overseen by a board which consists of chief officers from the police, prison and probation services, Customs and Immigration, Social Security, Housing and Education, along with Community and Social Services.
“The ultimate goal is to [stop people from reoffending],” said DS Houston.
Her team’s work, she explained, consisted of home visits and risk assessments as well as supporting offenders’ welfare, helping with accommodation and mental-health services, to lower their risk of reoffending. The team also works with other agencies and prepares offenders for their release from prison.
Offenders on the register must keep the police up-to-date with their address and circumstances.
DS Houston said: “The ultimate goal is really to monitor and control what’s happening in their life, safeguard not just the current partner, but any future partners as well, just to try and give them some stability and help them to find work and accommodation.
“If they’ve got those stability factors in place, they are less likely to reoffend.”
Det Supt Fossey added: “Without the infrastructure behind that, the notification [register] would be meaningless.
“I think that’s the unseen part, and it perhaps isn’t really understood by the public.
“It isn’t just a question of putting someone’s name and address on a register, it’s about actually risk assessing, managing, managing them with partners and supporting victims.”
Jersey’s domestic abuse law (including register)
The new law, which came into force in June 2023, makes domestic abuse a specific offence. It also allows the court to treat other offences (such as harassment or common assault) as domestic abuse if they fit a number of criteria including:
– They are personally connected – for example in a relationship, relatives or one is the other’s carer.
– The behaviour is deemed abusive.
– There is more than one act or failure to act.
– It causes, or is likely to cause, harm.
It also for the first time includes behaviour that is “coercive or controlling”.
Under the law, offenders can be placed under a domestic abuse protection order – effectively a restraining order – and/or on the Domestic Abuse Register, which in the law is called notification requirements.