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  • James Rowlands

The end of journey and the start of a conversation

Releasing my Churchill Fellowship report, and writing this blog as part of that process, seems a little strange. After all, a key part of a Churchill Fellowship is about travelling, in my case to the USA, later New Zealand and Australia, and finally Canada. Looking back, those trips feel like a very long time ago: the world has changed in so many ways due to Covid-19.

What hasn’t changed though is the reality of domestic violence and abuse. For many, the measures taken to manage Covid-19 may have made their circumstances worse. They may have served to both reduce the space for action for victims and survivors, while simultaneously being exploited by perpetrators. Looking to the future, while the lockdown is being eased across the UK, its effects will be long-lasting.

While there needs to be an immediate focus in the present to help keep victims and any children safe, this will not always successfully and sadly there will be cases of domestic homicides. For example, at least sixteen domestic abuse killings of women and children were reported between 23 March and 12 April 2020.

That serves as a reminder of the importance of the DHR process, to help ensure we can understand what happened when someone dies as a result of domestic violence and abuse, including what may have made a difference. So, I hope that my Fellowship report, which draws on my dual roles as a practitioner and a researcher, can help contribute to a conversation about how we approach DHRs, in both individual cases but also as a system.

My Fellowship report focuses on the principles which underpin the review of domestic homicides internationally, as well as considering issues like establishment, cases selection, membership, sense-making, and the production of learning and recommendations. It raises many questions about DHRs, both as a system and in terms of individual case review. But it also identifies many of the strengths of the current system, the hard work and commitment of many of those involved, and also its potential. I pose 12 questions and makes recommendations that ask everyone involved in DHRs to think about what we need to make sure that the DHR system is fit for purpose. That is, it can honour those who have died and challenge narratives that excuse or minimise the actions of those who caused their deaths. To make a difference, DHRs also need to increase our understanding of the circumstances of domestic homicide at a case and aggregate level to improve our individual and collective responses. I hope my Fellowship report helps start a conversation about how we can all work together to achieve these things.

You can access my Churchill Fellowship report, titled 'Reviewing domestic homicide - international practice and perspectives', if you click here.

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