“DASH” – Domestic Abuse, Stalking and Harassment

By William Staunton

Many cases dealt with before the Criminal Courts involve an element of domestic violence and domestic abuse.

Domestic abuse is any type of controlling, bullying, threatening or violent behaviour between people in a relationship. It includes emotional, sexual, financial or psychological abuse. To see just how wide the definition has become in the most recent law reform in this area, you can review the government’s new policy document here.

In dealing with such cases an important source of material has become the DASH checklist which must be completed for all cases of domestic abuse by front line staff. It was developed by Laura Richardson behalf of ACPO and CAAD after research found, according to the author of the scheme:

Conclusions from many domestic homicides and serious case reviews showed:

  • lack of understanding and training regarding risk identification, assessment and management
  • insufficient risk identification, assessment and management
  • insufficient information sharing
  • failure to manage the intelligence
  • failure to make the links across public protection and serial offending.

The DASH (2009) Practice Guidance on Risk Identification and Checklist makes the obtaining of the necessary facts a straightforward exercise. The checklist poses fundamental questions such as, “Were you frightened?” and, “When did this last happen?” but it also seeks to gather far more statistically important data with the goal of saving lives through early risk identification, intervention and prevention.

Tragic examples where such assessments were not carried out, such as the murder of Jane Wiggett, underline the importance for the purposes of public protection of the gathering of such information.

An additional aim of the system is to harmonise and standardise the metrics used to make assessments of risk across the various professionals who need to make such assessments.

From an advocate’s standpoint, tribunals of fact always seem impressed if police officers are questioned about DASH and its application to a given case. Police witnesses should be in a position to answer whether it was felt appropriate to obtain such information as part of an investigation and if not why not.

It is probably a good idea for advocates to be familiar with DASH. It can be found here in a downloadable format.

The Probation Service provides excellent Building Better Relationships programmes for those who have developed controlling behaviour. Courts will tend to look to such programs as methods of disposal where the Defendant appears willing to change. Although it is difficult to keep up with the constantly changing palette of probation programmes and courses, those advocates mitigating in domestic abuse cases would do well to read the information published about BBR programmes in their area. The information is usually available with a quick web search.

Being knowledgeable about these ongoing systems and initiatives is part of being an informed advocate and the above only scratches the surface. To find out more, feel free to contact Chambers to discuss any questions you may have.