Assessing the risk in domestic abuse: towards the development of an operationally useful domestic abuse risk assessment tool

Research Institution / Organisation

University of Central Lancashire

In Collaboration With

Lancashire Constabulary

Principal Researcher

Paul Hargreaves

Level of Research


Project Start Date

October 2015

Research Context

Aiming for a more efficient management approach to domestic abuse, there has been movement in recent times towards collaborative empowerment of criminal justice agencies and social services.
Robinson and Howarth (2012) highlight a recent concerted effort in the UK to integrate the identification, assessment and management of risk in response to domestic abuse.
The amalgamation of these two strands, multi-agency collaboration and integration of management methods, lay the foundation for a standardised risk assessment model in the UK.

In 2009 the Domestic Abuse, Stalking and Honour Based Violence (DASH) was introduced. Despite their ever increasing popularity, much debate presides over the predictive validity of risk assessment models for domestic abuse (Singh & Fazel, 2010).
A common performance indicator is the ability to accurately identify those most likely to commit further abuse, particular violent abuse (Singh, Desmarais and van Dorn, 2013).
Structured professional judgement (SPJ) instruments like the DASH are proposed as guides to risk formulation, and therefore not a prediction tool per se.
Falzer (2013) explains in using this approach, risk rating is not the summation or weighting of individual risk factors. Rather, it is informed by what he describes as a reliable instrument composed of theoretically grounded or empirically based factors associated with the risk of violence (or abuse).

The key aim of the research is to empirically validate the policing response to domestic abuse and develop a framework that is operationally useful to those front line officers dealing with domestic abuse.

Research Methodology

​There are various methods employed within the research. The first stage is exploring the validity of the current domestic abuse risk assessment tool using 1155 completed DASH’s from Lancashire Constabulary.

Statistical analyses will explore the individual validity of each risk factor and the final levels of risk. In addition, focus groups with officers who use the DASH daily will be investigated (currently 31 police officers across 4 focus groups in different BCU’s).

Finally the project will take a bottom up approach to explore factors within domestic abuse cases to investigate whether certain risk factors exist that are available to front line police officers, to more effectively inform decision making.

Date due for completion

September 2020
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