Andy edited GC

Police better equipped to spot controlling behaviour

Police will be more able to spot the signs of coercive control and better protect victims of domestic abuse as the College of Policing launches a new risk assessment tool.

The Domestic Abuse Risk Assessment (DARA) replaces the domestic abuse, stalking and honour based violence questionnaire (DASH) which most officers do at every domestic abuse call. DARA has an increased focus on coercive and controlling behaviour.

During a pilot there was a 38% increase in the proportion of officers coming to the same decision on risk as an expert in domestic abuse. It meant officers were in a much stronger position to take steps to reduce or remove the risk to the victim and protect them from further harm.

College of Policing Chief Constable Andy Marsh said:

“Violence against women and girls is a pervasive crime but it is not inevitable and policing must do everything we can to prevent it or stop it escalating. Officers must be totally equipped to spot all the signs, including some that are less obvious, so we can better protect victims and put more criminals behind bars.

“The College of Policing’s new risk assessment tool has been very successful in force pilots and will mean more officers making the right decisions at the right time to keep women and girls safe. Assessing the risk better allows us to put the right protections in place to stop abuse escalating or happening again.

“This is the latest in a suite of new resources, guidance and training the College of Policing is providing to support officers and staff in getting the basics right, so policing can rebuild the trust and confidence of communities.”

Coercive control was made a criminal offence in 2015 and can take many forms including emotional abuse, a partner limiting the other’s freedom, monitoring their movements, controlling their finances and isolating them from friends and family.

Minister for Safeguarding Sarah Dines said:

"It is paramount that the police are well equipped to recognise abuse and protect victims. The new Domestic Abuse Risk Assessment will help to provide officers with the tools they need to keep vulnerable people safe.

“Through the Domestic Abuse Act we extended the controlling or coercive behaviour offence. We will soon be publishing updated guidance to support implementation of this new offence, so that police can be even more confident in investigating this pervasive criminal behaviour.”

The College of Policing already provides training on spotting the signs of coercive control through its DA Matters programme. The new DARA will complement this and was created using international research, interviews with survivors of abuse and the insights of frontline officers.

National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for Domestic Abuse, Assistant Commissioner Louisa Rolfe, said:

“I’m really pleased to see the College of Policing introduce the new domestic abuse risk assessment. It’s been created by policing and academics working together so we can make sure officers have the best resources available when responding to domestic abuse.

“The new tool is more user-friendly and will allow police responders to identify and deal with risks of harm thereby helping to keep victims and survivors safer.

“We know there is more to do to reduce the number of domestic abuse cases but this is the latest step in making sure we protect victims as best as possible.”

Contact Information

College Press Office

College of Policing

020 3837 0435

Notes to editors

  • The DARA is a set of 18 questions for officers to ask a victim. At the end of the questions the officer has to use their professional judgement to assess the risk as standard, medium or high and then take action to manage that risk. The DARA cannot be scored and will always require an officer to consider carefully the answer to each question. The DARA questionnaire is attached for your information only and not to be published.
  • A review undertaken in partnership between Cardiff University, the College of Policing and University College London showed that the previous Domestic Abuse, Stalking, Harassment and Honour-Based Violence Assessment (DASH) was being implemented inconsistently. In particular, the review suggested that the DASH risk tool was not optimally suited to the initial assessment completed by the first officers on scene .
  • In West Midlands Police, there was a 38% increase in the proportion of officers assessing risk at the same level as specialists when using the DARA. In Sussex, there was a 25% increase in the proportion of officers assessing risk at the same level as specialists when using the DARA.
  • The DASH risk assessment will continue to be used further along in investigations and by some partner agencies like social services.
  • Training on how to use the new tool is being made available to officers.