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THE DIRECTOR’S SEMINAR SERIES: Learning Legacies: Understanding the Dynamics of Domestic Abuse Suicidality Through Domestic Homicide Reviews.

Recorded on 19 April 2023

Distinct from a criminal justice investigation, which focusses on the responsibility and punishment of perpetrators, Domestic Homicide Reviews (implemented in England and Wales in 2011), involve a contextual exploration of the circumstances surrounding a death, with a view to learning lessons that can improve future safeguarding and service provision. Growing concerns about the links between domestic abuse and suicidality led the Home Office to extend statutory guidance and create a duty for all Community Safety Partnerships to commission DHRs into any death that “has or appears to have” resulted from domestic abuse. While previous research indicates that the links between domestic abuse and suicidality are significant (Munro & Aitken, 2018), there remains a lack of evidence regarding the mediators and moderators that impact upon risk, and the most effective mechanisms for intervention and support. In this context, the expansion of the remit of DHRs to include cases of suicide has been welcomed. In this paper, Vanessa will present findings from the first systematic analysis undertaken in England and Wales of completed suicide DHRs (conducted with Sarah Dangar and Lotte Young Andrade). Funded by the Home Office, the research combined detailed coding of DHRs with a series of semi-structured interviews with key stakeholders to learn lessons both from the content of reviews [e.g. patterns in relation to demographics, types of abuse, vulnerabilities / needs, disclosures to and engagement with services, etc] as well as their process [e.g. best practice in relation to identification and commissioning, operation of panels, involvement of family members, integration of expert knowledge, etc.]. In this paper, Vanessa will explore how the findings of this study should inform efforts currently underway to improve the DHR process in England and Wales, and the upcoming design and implementation of a parallel process for domestic homicides in Scotland.

Vanessa Munro is a Professor at Warwick Law School, UK. She has researched and published extensively on the topics of feminist legal theory and law/policy responses to gender-based violence. Recent or current projects include research in collaboration with REFUGE and AAFDA (Advocacy After Fatal Domestic Abuse) into domestic abuse related suicidality; working with the CPS to evaluate initiatives under Operation Soteria designed to improve investigation and prosecution of rape and serious sexual offences in England and Wales; and working with colleagues on Scottish Government funded projects exploring jury decision-making, including in regard to the not proven verdict, and the use of private data and sexual history evidence in rape trials. 

Speaker: Professor Vanessa Munroe(Opens in new window), University of Warwick 

Chair: Professor Carl Stychin, IALS Director