Writing up or writing off crimes of domestic violence? A transitivity analysis of police reports

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Between March 2019 and March 2020 in England and Wales (excluding Greater Manchester), there were 1,288,018 recorded incidents of domestic violence (DV, otherwise known as ‘domestic abuse’ or ‘DA’), an increase of 4.2% (51,404 incidents ) on the previous year (Office for National Statistics (ONS)). Only 56% of these were classified by police as ‘crimes’ (ONS). Additionally, despite the annual rise of DV the charging rate of suspects fell in 2019–2020 by 20.5% (Crown Prosecution Service data (CPS)). This raises two primary questions: 1) why are almost half of reported DV incidents not considered ‘crimes’? and 2) in spite of rising numbers of incidents, why do prosecutions continue to fall? These questions are central to this paper. A possible factor influencing attrition rates concerns the language used by police officers to record DV incidents. This paper then, explores whether the linguistic choices made by police officers on judicial reports of DV reflect implicit attitudinal biases, that in turn, can potentially pre-empt out-of-court case disposals. If so, this may also go some way to explaining the gap between cases reported as DV crimes and cases recorded as such.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)48-69
Number of pages22
JournalLanguage and Law = Linguagem e Direito
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jan 2022
Externally publishedYes


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