Recent research in Wales suggests that the group of domestic abuse perpetrators causing the most harm is likely to include some combination of serial, high-risk and repeat perpetrators (Robinson et al., 2014), evidence which led to the development of the Priority Perpetrator Identification Tool (PPIT) (Robinson & Clancy, 2015). The PPIT has been designed to help frontline practitioners identify a subset of perpetrators considered the most dangerous and thus priorities for multi-agency monitoring and management. For this research, police, probation officers, and Independent Domestic Violence Advisors (IDVAs) in Wales completed a PPIT form for each individual in a sample of perpetrators known to their agency (total n=406) and then provided further information about this process via a practitioner survey (n=42). Analysis of these data sources reveals: (1) the offending and demographic profiles for this sample of domestic abuse perpetrators, and how this varies across agencies, (2) the size and profile of the subset of perpetrators deemed to be ‘priority perpetrators’ by frontline practitioners, (3) the evidence and information used by practitioners when making these assessments, (4) differences in the interpretation and scoring of the tool across agencies, and (5) practitioners’ perspectives on the utility and functionality of the tool. Findings Analysis revealed that certain PPIT items are recognised by practitioners as more prevalent within this multi-agency sample of 406 perpetrators, in addition to being more often perceived to be at ‘critical’ levels. Specifically, the most prevalent characteristics are recent offending (29.1% critical), escalating offending (28.1% critical), repeated offending against the same victim (31.6% critical) and offending that is highly harmful, by virtue of the psychological and/or physical harm it has caused to a victim (34.1% critical). Notably, the demographic characteristics of perpetrators (gender, age, race/ethnicity) were generally unrelated to the scores given by practitioners on the PPIT items. However, agency of origin was clearly related to the patterns of scores produced on the PPITs, with some agencies less likely to produce higher scores (e.g., CRC and police non-MARAC cases) compared to others (e.g., NPS, police MARAC and IDVA cases). Such variation is interpreted as a logical extension of the different groups of people coming into contact with these agencies, and the nature of their work. A sizeable proportion (38%) of the perpetrators included in this multi-agency sample were judged to be priority perpetrators. As expected, priority perpetrators are much more likely to be scored ‘critical’ for all ten PPIT items. Furthermore, the differences between the two groups were statistically significant as well as substantial, with a large proportion (if not a clear majority) of priority perpetrators assessed as ‘critical’ compared to only a small percentage of the other group. Binary logistic regression analysis of the PPIT items identified those that are particularly influential in practitioners’ judgements of who is/not a priority perpetrator: #1 recent, #2 escalating, #5 related and #7 high harm. The quantitative findings in combination with qualitative comments from practitioners as to the ‘main reason’ behind their judgements show the core determinants behind practitioners’ decision-making to be: recent, repetitive, escalating, and severely harmful offending. Practitioners also seem to take particular note of ‘related’ offending and other forms of violence, in addition to the domestic abuse. In addition, comments by practitioners demonstrated the important role played by their perceptions of coercive control, which was considered to be present much more often in the offending behaviour of priority perpetrators (34.9% compared to 61.7%). This study also provided an opportunity for practitioners to feedback their thoughts on the PPIT using an anonymous online feedback survey. Overall, although practitioners appeared positive that the PPIT could act as another tool to assist in the identification and management of risk associated with priority perpetrators, there appeared to be some confusion regarding the purpose of the PPIT and how it will align with existing processes. Additionally, whilst there was consensus that the ten PPIT items were necessary and appropriate, most practitioners also indicated that they would benefit from greater clarification of the criteria for evidencing some of the risk factors and scores attributed to each item. Implications The overarching implication of this study is that there is a big appetite for new approaches to responding to perpetrators of domestic abuse. The main benefit of the PPIT appears to be that it takes a step towards ‘speaking a common language’ across agencies about perpetrators and their abusive behaviour. However, a tool such as the PPIT is only a starting point. The extent and nature of the actions to follow the use of the PPIT still need to be developed. Some initiatives are already underway, which incorporate the PPIT, and the future evaluation of these different pilot projects will further enhance understanding of how to best address the behaviour of what is a very diverse group of perpetrators, committing a high volume of harmful offences, in any single community.
|Place of Publication
|Published - May 2016