This page is from APP, the official source of professional practice for policing.
Code of Ethics
Every victim must be safer after police contact and every effort made to secure justice for them.
- Listen to the victim and make them feel believed.
- Reassure the victim that the role of the police is to protect them, not judge them.
- Ask yourself why a victim is being hostile or uncooperative and do not take it personally.
- Understand the dynamics of domestic abuse, especially controlling or coercive behaviour.
- Take each incident seriously no matter how many times you are called to the same address.
- Explain what you are doing and why.
Keep the victim informed
Gather information and intelligence
Get a full picture of the incident and context from the call handler.
Additional information and intelligence gathering to build on the call handler information could include:
- foreign intelligence checks
- bad character evidence
- medical records
- financial information
- prison intelligence
- covert tactics and sources
Assess threat and risk and develop a working strategy
- Consider the risk to officer and others at the scene (dynamic risk assessment – ongoing).
- If equipped with body-worn video, consider switching it on.
- Ensure the safety of officers, victim, children and others at the scene.
- Separate the parties.
- Assess the need for first aid or other medical assistance.
Consider powers and policy
- If entry to property is refused, consider police powers of entry.
- Never ask the victim if they want the suspect arrested. That is your decision.
- Consider arrest – is it lawful, proportionate and necessary (Code G)? If so, you should arrest and will have to justify your decision if you do not.
Identify options and contingencies
Arrest must be proportionate, lawful and necessary and can give the victim breathing space, allow time to pursue lines of enquiry and show the victim you are taking them seriously.
Avoid dual arrests at the scene if possible, especially if there are children present. Dual arrests complicate the prosecution process and may leave children without either parent for a period of time. Investigation to identify the primary perpetrator at the scene is preferable unless dual arrests are considered necessary and proportionate in the circumstances. This does not prevent investigation and later arrest of the second party if both appear to have committed offences.
See arresting the right person, dual arrests and determining the primary perpetrator and dealing with counter-allegations.
If there are insufficient grounds for arrest or it would be disproportionate, focus on victim safety and prevention of further incidents.
Consider other positive action:
- domestic violence protection notices and orders
- civil orders – non-molestation, occupation or prohibited steps orders
Build an evidence-led case that does not rely solely on the victim’s support.
- Record demeanour of all parties and photograph/video scene and injuries.
- Protect the scene, including the victim, suspect and other witnesses.
- Obtain first accounts from victims and witnesses.
- Remember you are a witness and your statement should include everything you see and hear in connection with the incident.
At the scene, consider calling a crime scene examiner and think about:
- physical evidence – clothing and bedding, weapons, signs of disturbance
forensics – blood pattern distribution, other biological evidence, footwear, DNA
- photographic evidence
- house-to-house enquiries
- technology and social media ‒ mobile phones, social media, email
Check the welfare and safety of any children – see and speak to the child if possible. Consider referring to local authority children’s social care or exercising police protection powers.
Initiate safety planning and set out options.
Put in place any urgent safeguarding actions – a matter of hours may make all the difference.
Refer to specialists for more detailed safety planning and referrals, eg, to a domestic abuse specialist officer, IDVA, or MARAC, in accordance with force policy.
If the case is not referred, safety planning remains your responsibility.
Possible options include:
- service of a DVPN
referral to voluntary sector support agencies, eg, Victim Support, Women’s Aid, Refuge
- improve home security and target-hardening measures, eg, change of locks, alarms, lighting
- improve personal security, eg, issue personal safety device
- crime prevention strategies, eg, cocoon watch, NPT involvement, sanctuary schemes
- methods to manage the perpetrator’s behaviour
Take action and review what happened
You are responsible for risk identification and assessment unless and until the case is handed over to a specialist or other investigating officer.
- Investigate the circumstances of the incident comprehensively to identify all issues relevant to your decision about level of risk.
- Make an honest risk assessment based on your findings, including any details indicative of controlling or coercive behaviour.
- Your risk assessment may be the only one done in response to the incident, depending on how you grade the risk – it needs to be as accurate as possible.
Ensure the handover pack contains all information relevant to the victim and children’s safety.
This should include:
- any risk assessment and grading of risk
- information relevant to ongoing risk assessment, including any details indicative of controlling or coercive behaviour
- information relevant to the custody sergeant’s decision to bail the suspect, with or without conditions, or remand in custody
- information relevant to an application before a court for a remand in custody, eg, colour photos of injuries
- details of any safety planning measures taken
- details of any additional safety planning required
Give the victim a point of contact and remind them to call the emergency services if there are any further incidents or bail breaches.