[2000:] There is no cure for men who beat their wives or partners, according to new Home Office research. The shock findings have led to a complete rethink of the way domestic violence is dealt with by the criminal justice system. As a result, Home Secretary Jack Straw will remove funding from therapy sessions designed to treat men guilty of domestic violence and instead put money into refugees, stricter enforcement of injunctions against offenders and electronic tagging to keep violent men away from their former spouses and girlfriends.
Research into a series of pilot schemes set up to tackle repeat offenders found that only around 25 per cent of men completed the courses, which cost the taxpayer £6,000 a time. The news was given a ringing endorsement by women's groups last night, but challenged by professional counsellors who described the move as 'bleak'. [...] The Home Office is now developing a 'reverse tag' which would alert the police when an offender approached the home of women they had assaulted. Harry Fletcher of the National Association of Probation Officers described the findings as 'extremely worrying'. 'We had assumed all intensive offender programmes reduced crime significantly. If it's not the case with domestic violence, then there must be a re-evaluation of programmes and enhanced protection for women.'
The latest Home Office figures show that there are around 835,000 incidents of domestic violence each year. Two women are murdered each week in England and Wales by their current or former partner. Sandra Horley, chief executive of Refuge, the country's largest single provider of support to abused women and children, said: 'I am not a hardline feminist and I am not against men receiving help, but in many years of experience I have known only one man who has changed his behaviour. The problem with group therapy is that it may become a talking shop, and there is evidence to show that men actually become more cunning in the way they disguise their violence.'
But the British Association of Counselling, the country's largest professional body for therapists, disagreed that all violent men are beyond rehabilitation. 'It all depends on what kind of counselling they have been measuring the success of,' said BAC chairman Craig McDevitt, head of student counselling services at Edinburgh University. 'It contradicts evidence in my field of programmes which have been successful. Often people who commit domestic violence have a history of having experienced similar violence. The first stage of the counselling process is to help the person make sense of their behaviour as something they have learnt. Also, any programme that people have been forced to participate in will have a higher failure rate.' (Martin Bright / Sarah Ryle, Observer, 28 May)