Too many at risk of domestic abuse by people on probation, HM Inspectorate of Probation finds

HM Inspectorate of Probation has published a report inspecting the work undertaken and progress made, by the Probation Service, to reduce domestic abuse and protect victims. The Inspectorate last looked at this area of probation practice in 2018.

Chief Inspector of Probation Justin Russell said: “Very concerningly, despite some positive developments in policy, little appears to have improved in practice, and in some respects, things have deteriorated. This is unacceptable and is leaving far too many potential victims at risk of domestic abuse.”

The inspection found:

  • 30 per cent of people on probation are current or previous perpetrators of domestic abuse
  • only 28 per cent of the of people on probation had been sufficiently assessed for any risks of further domestic abuse
  • 45 per cent of our case sample should have had access to an intervention but had not.

Only 17 out of the 60 cases we looked at for this report had a sufficiently clear and thorough analysis of the risk of domestic abuse the person on probation might pose. We identified failures to analyse previous domestically abusive behaviours or patterns of behaviour. In some cases, there was a failure to recognise the offending as domestic abuse, mainly where the victim was a family member rather than an intimate partner.

Mr Russell continued: “Almost 75,000 people supervised by the Probation Service in or out of custody, have been identified as a current or former domestic abuse perpetrator, so it is essential that their risk is properly assessed and managed. Over the years, including in a number of very high-profile cases, we have flagged our concerns about the urgent need for the Probation Service to complete domestic abuse enquiries with the police before sentencing, or when undertaking initial risk assessments”.

“Sadly, we are still finding this is not happening in too many cases and even enquiries with local councils to ensure child safeguarding are not being completed. I have made many previous recommendations on how probation services should develop this practice, so it’s very disappointing not to see more improvement.”

A key finding of this report was that we found too many cases (45 per cent) where people on probation were assessed as needing an intervention related to domestic abuse – such as programmes to tackle abusive behaviour or attitudes and to encourage healthy relationships – but these weren’t being delivered. An additional issue is that there is insufficient national information and data about how many of these referrals are being made or completed, so the performance of these programmes cannot be evaluated.

Other factors included probation staff workloads. We found probation practitioners to be highly committed to improving this area of their service, but they have too many cases to manage to complete meaningful work. On too many occasions, we found contact with a person on probation at risk of further domestic violence was minimal and done via phone calls rather than by face-to-face meetings. However, where probation practitioners work with smaller caseloads, the quality of domestic abuse work is dramatically improved.

We also found that recent changes in legislation, such as the recognition of children affected by domestic abuse as victims in their own right, have not been incorporated into probation practice. And the sharing of information between services – probation, police and social services – was inconsistent at best.

Mr Russell concluded: “I had hoped that more progress would have been made to address the very serious need to improve probation practice around the risks of domestic abuse. Unfortunately, there has only been minimal positive change. I recognise that many in the Probation Service are doing all they can, with limited resource, to manage cases adequately, but there is a long way still to go. I call on HMPPS to take heed of our recommendations and address the vital improvements that are needed to assist services in their aims, to reduce the risk of further domestic abuse by people on probation for the protection of victims and potential victims.”


Notes to editor

  1. Probation Delivery Units (PDUs) replaced Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) and the National Probation Service (NPS), which merged into a unified Probation Service in June 2021.
  2. This report is available at on 04 July 2023 00.01.
  3. HM Inspectorate of Probation is the independent inspector of youth offending and probation services across England and Wales.
  4. For media enquiries, please contact (E-mail address)