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Lockdown and increases in violent crime went hand in hand

Seema Dosaj
November 30, 2021

The correlation between the UK's lockdowns and increases in violent crime, especially towards women, is clear to see, writes Seema Dosaj.

Lockdown came into effect in March 2020 and imposed significant restrictions on the freedom of movement leading to many businesses closed as a result. Women's welfare groups warned that the lockdown would result in an increase in domestic abuse and violence. It took nineteen days for the government to finally announce that it would give an additional £2m to domestic abuse helplines. They did also launch a social media campaign to encourage people to report domestic abuse but the question here remains: was this all too late and what impact did this really have?

Life under lockdown affected lifestyles across the board. It changed the way people live, how they work, how crime takes place; and perhaps more significantly brought many social ills to the fore. Certain crimes have decreased during this period but there have been concerns that offences such as domestic violence and cybercrime have surged. These factors were observed globally as well as at home, here in the UK.

In the UK we have witnessed a greater impact of gender based domestic violence which went up during lockdown, as victims were trapped at home with their abusers. The Charity Refuge noted that:

"Women up and down the country are isolated with abusive partners – and children will be witnessing, and in some cases experiencing, domestic abuse."

The Police in fact reported that In April, May and June roughly one-fifth (21 per cent, 20 per cent and 19 per cent) of all offences recorded were flagged as being domestic abuse-related. This represents an increase of around five percentage points compared with the same period in previous years. As the lockdown measures eased, the proportion of all these types of offences decreased slightly. This is likely because of the overall reduction in police recorded crime during this period, particularly in April, followed by increases in police recorded crime as lockdown measures eased.

The police recorded 206,492 violence against the person offences flagged as domestic abuse-related between March and June 2020, a 9 per cent increase compared with the same period in 2019. The number of offences flagged as domestic abuse-related in this period increased for all offence groups including domestic criminal offences – murder, rape, controlling, and coercive behaviour compared with the previous year, except for sexual offences which decreased by 3 per cent and 6 per cent respectively.

This increase in cases has inevitably led to a simultaneous increase in the need for support services, which were difficult, and at times, neon impossible to address considering health care systems were overwhelmed due to the crisis. In tandem with many other European Countries, the UK also reported an increase in the demand for shelter places from support services. The charity 'SafeLives' conducted a study which showed that up to 76 per cent of first response support services for victims of domestic abuse had to limit their services during the pandemic. Even where support services were available, many victims found it more difficult to call for help due to being in close proximity to their abusers.

In addition to the increased risk of domestic violence, online violence against women has also seen a sharp increase during the pandemic. A 50 to 70 per cent increase in internet usage continues to be reported, and as our lives have moved online, women and girls have found themselves at greater risk than ever of being subjected to different types of abuse, predominantly online.

There were 64 domestic homicides recorded by the police in England and Wales between January and June 2020, of which 30 occurred in the three month period between April and June. This represents an increase in the number of domestic homicides recorded by the police compared with the same six-month period in the previous year (55), but a slight decrease compared with 2018 (67).

As the lockdown eased, the proportion of offences flagged as domestic abuse went down. But this was likely because the overall amount of criminal offences increased when lockdown was lifted.

Between March and June, police recorded 206,492 "violence against the person" offences that were flagged as domestic abuse – a 9 per cent rise on the same period in 2019.

The "violence against the person" category includes offences such as harassment, assault, and murder. Other offences outside this category can also be flagged as linked to domestic abuse, such as sexual offences.

The pandemic and subsequent measures bred an epidemic of intolerance in the home which resulted in an increase in violence. More restricted movement, fewer ways of communicating with friends and family, and the halting of formal support systems due to the pandemic were all crucial in this worrying increase. We must hope that as we try and move on from the pandemic, the shocking behaviour in the domestic environment does not continue, and should any further lockdown measures be introduced, the Government must learn its lesson and ensure that support services remain available. I cannot bear to think what might happen if they are not.

Seema dosaj

Seema Dosaj is a Managing Partner at London-based Berris Law.

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