PROBATION GUIDE FOR BENCHReal “Domestic Violence” is nasty, brutish and generally cowardly. It is usually inflicted by men on women. Before my time on the bench the mythology is that such events were not taken as seriously by police as they should have been and as a result serious injury or worse took place when earlier intervention might have prevented it. In many respects as is often the norm the term “violence” has been extended to include “abuse”. Pedantic or otherwise this is the position.

I underwent “training” in D.V. about four years ago prior to the establishment of our D.V. courts. There were about forty of us with the female/male ratio about 7:1. Training consisted mainly of the presentation of myriad statistics by a well known legal advisor who was known to be vehemently “feminist” in her outlook. All the “facts”, figures, graphs and histograms generated from American research purported to demonstrate the escalating nature of violence inflicted by certain groups of men on vulnerable intimate partners. It was put to us that we should consider these statistics when sitting on a D.V. case. When questioned by a male member of the group on whether that meant that that statistical information should be part of the judicial reasoning structure when considering whether the level of certainty of a defendant’s guilt had been reached she answered in the affirmative to the accompaniment of approving comments from the floor. She would not hear reasoned objections. For information copied below is a leaflet from a local probation service re IDAP.


Information for Sentencers

What is IDAP?

IDAP is a nationally-accredited community-based programme designed to reduce re-offending by adult male perpetrators of domestic abuse. It consists of
• A group-work component for the men to explore the changes they need to make
• The co-ordination of a multi-agency approach to monitoring their behaviour and increasing the safety of women and children.

It is based on the domestic abuse project developed in Duluth, Minnesota, which led to a comprehensive overhaul of the justice agencies’ response to these cases and the development of an integrated community approach.

IDAP requires co-operation between the agencies concerned with domestic abuse and prioritises women’s and children’s safety. It is delivered within the agreements for multi-agency working (MAPPA - Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements) (MARAP – Multi-Agency Risk Assesment Panel)

Who is it suitable for?

IDAP is suitable for male offenders who:

• Are/were in significant relationships with women
• Have been assessed as being at medium to high risk of relationship violence
• Have committed at least one act of violence against an intimate partner
• Have basic English literacy, language competency and comprehension skills
• Accept responsibility for their abusive behaviour and want to change it
• Are willing to sign a consent form which will include the sharing of information with the offender’s wife/partner

IDAP is not suitable for:

• Female offenders
• Offenders in same sex relationships
• Offenders with very high levels of denial about their abusive behaviour
• Offenders with serious mental health problems
• Offenders judged unlikely to achieve the learning outcomes because of, for example, severe substance dependency, unless sequenced with additional appropriate interventions.

Legal Requirement

IDAP can be an Programme Requirement of a Community Order or Suspended Sentence Order. It must be accompanied by a Supervision Requirement, This is a lengthy programme and a two-year order is strongly recommended.

What does the programme involve?

The core group-work programme consists of 27 group sessions. Group sessions are usually weekly. There are also 4 pre-group sessions and at least 4 relapse prevention sessions once the group-work has been completed.

The themes of the programme are:

• Non-violence
• Non-threatening behaviour
• Respect
• Support and trust
• Accountability and honesty
• Sexual respect
• Partnerships
• Negotiation and fairness

How is attendance enforced?

Offenders must attend all sessions. Unacceptable absences are dealt with according to National Standards and may result in the offender being returned to court or prison.

Programme availability

At times demand for IDAP is very high and overstretches availability. During such times the lack of places on the waiting list means that IDAP ceases to be a viable option for managing the risk of some new cases. Under such circumstance the Court will be advised of a realistic alternative.

Fast forward about two to three years when we had lately been leafleted about a probation programme known as IDAP; Integrated Domestic Abuse Programme and I was sitting in the DV court. We had found the defendant guilty and on the information we had on him we considered this new IDAP scheme should be a requirement. The probation person was in court and we made our intention known to him and the defendant as we filled in the request form for a pre sentence report. “No sir; we cannot take this defendant……there is such a backlog that we couldn`t give him a start date.” We adjusted the remarks accordingly.

Now fast forward to last week. A colleague who sits in London has sent me the latest information he received from London Probation Service. Apparently IDAP is being “accelerated”. One of the strengths of IDAP, I have been told more times than I can remember, is its very intensity. It is so onerous, says probation, that to complete 100% attendance can in itself be termed a punishment for defendants. That is they turn up on time which for so many with no organisation in their lives is itself an achievement and listen and listen and listen. In London beginning in April the new programme will be implemented. The letter is copied below.

Dear Sir/Madam

Re: Integrated Domestic Abuse Programme (IDAP)

London Probation Trust is committed to delivering court orders and reducing reoffending in the most effective and efficient way possible. As many of you will be aware from your own courts, there has recently been a significant rise in the number of offenders convicted of domestic abuse.

It is in this context that I am writing to you to outline our plans to ensure that these offenders receive appropriate and timely interventions to protect existing and potential victims. I have already consulted the London Probation and Courts Forum about these plans.

We have consistently exceeded the number of IDAP completions required of us, but this has led to delays in offenders starting the programme.

To address these delays, London Probation Trust has established a project to reduce the waiting time for domestic abuse programmes and clear the current backlog. We are also developing new initiatives so that in future supply will meet demand.

One of these initiatives is to roll out the Integrated Domestic Abuse Programme Accelerated (IDAPA) across London. This intervention, which is already available in some parts of London, offers an expedited approach to delivering IDAP. It covers the same material, but within a shorter timescale.

The introduction of IDAPA is a necessary response to the need to:

a) accelerate offenders’ induction on to a suitable intervention; we all accept that the current delays are not ideal.
b) meet demand for places on such interventions.
c) satisfy (a) and (b) above within the resources available.

IDAPA will be available from 1 April 2011 and will be the main intervention offered in London to offenders sentenced for a domestic abuse offence. IDAPA will replace IDAP and sentencers are encouraged to sentence offenders to IDAPA where appropriate from 1 April 2011.

Meanwhile, IDAP will continue to run until the end of May 2011. From 1 June 2011, all IDAP groups will start to be converted into IDAPA.

The project will also do the following:

1. Recruit 20 additional IDAP Facilitators.
2. Increase the use of the existing one-to-one Domestic Abuse Intervention, which will be developed as a Specified Activity Requirement (SAR).
3. Roll out the Integrated Domestic Abuse Programme Accelerated (IDAPA) as a Specified Activity Requirement (SAR). IDAPA will be delivered as a SAR, but will need to be accompanied by a supervision requirement to manage risk and to enable victim contact.
4. Place current offenders with an IDAP requirement on IDAPA.
5. Review eligibility criteria to ensure that the right people attend the right domestic abuse interventions. We will make these criteria available shortly.

We are recruiting 20 additional IDAP Facilitators on an 11 months fixed term contract. They will be trained and ready to start work by the end of April 2011. With these extra staff, LPT will be able to run additional IDAPA groups and more offenders will consequently benefit from the programme.

The one-to-one Domestic Abuse Intervention is also available in Bengali and Turkish. It is accompanied by a supervision requirement to manage risk and to enable victim contact.

I would be grateful if you would consider IDAPA and the one-to-one intervention when sentencing offenders for domestic violence offences. Court staff will be able to give guidance on eligibility and availability of these programmes at your court.

I will ensure that you are kept abreast of future developments and of the work undertaken by the project. If you have any questions concerning the above, please do not hesitate to contact the Senior Probation Officer at your Court.

Yours sincerely,

Heather Munro
Chief Executive

None of this was mentioned in any detail at the last meeting of the PROBATION AND COURTS FORUM of London Probation on 8th June 2010. Item 6 of the minutes records:-

MM introduced Lucy Satchell-Day (LS), who gave a presentation on IDAP. This included the following highlights:

 09/10: 333 Offenders successfully completed an IDAP Programme Requirement
 09/10: 49 IDAP Programmes delivered
 Development of IDAPA Pilot

Priority Issues 2010/11:
 Demand: 30% increase in referrals
 Sentence to Start times:
- Recognition that a Programme involved more than a Group
- Adequate preparation increased engagement
- Drop-out increased risk of re-offending
 Responding to Research:
- Effectiveness
- Better targetting

Options for the future:
 Making effective use of the whole requirement:
- Develop in-depth structured work to be undertaken by offender managers during the first 12 weeks of the Order
- Deliver additional short interventions either side of IDAP
 Continue to develop flexibility in delivery of IDAP:
- Continued development of IDAPA and investigation of effectiveness
- Tailor treatment provision to risk

It would appear this is a desperate last minute effort to cope. Indeed just three months ago recruitment began for IDAP Facilitators @ £27,638 to £35,727 at a time when the probation service is facing cuts of up to 10%.

One would hope that the results of the “integrated” IDAP or its new and improved offspring “integrated and accelerated” IDAPA will be effective doing the same work with reduced input. There does not appear to be any accredited reputable evidence that these programmes are worthwhile. Last year the Ministry of Justice published a study which is interesting but arguably unconvincing.

Unquestionably DV offenders must be prevented from further offending. The question of course is whether current non custodial disposals change behaviour and should not more skilful assessments be made before assigning those chosen to undergo such attempts at rehabilitation.