I am excited to finally be able to tell people that I have been awarded a 2019 Churchill Fellowship, as one of 150 new Churchill Fellows annoucned by the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust (WCMT) today.
Churchill Fellowships support UK citizens to travel the world, researching a topic of their choice. My Fellowship in the ‘Emergency Services’ category with the title 'Reviewing Intimate Partner Homicides: International Practice and Perspectives'. That means I will be investigating approaches to domestic / family violence death reviews. These kinds of reviews happen when someone is killed by a former or current partner (or a family member). In England and Wales, Domestic Homicide Reviews only became a statutory requirement in 2011, but they are important for a number of reasons. Domestic Homicide Review set out to understand what happened prior to a homicide, including looking at agency practice and what did and didn’t work. They aim to reduce the likelihood of future homicides by making recommendations to improve or develop practice and policy (locally, regionally and nationally). Domestic Homicide Reviews are also a chance to change the narrative around domestic homicide. Too often the story of a homicide as told in the media or the criminal justice process is focused on the perpetrator (something Dr Jane Monckton Smith has written about). Domestic Homicide Reviews can help address that balance, by trying to see the world through the eyes of the victim and also working with families and friends to understand what they knew, or what they think could have been different.
Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States all conduct some form of domestic / family violence death reviews, and I will be exploring and comparing the different approaches in these four countries.
My particular focus is on how domestic / family violence death reviews are established and how they operate, including how they go about identifying learning and making recommendations to improve practice and policy. I’m particularly interested in the way that different countries approach the involvement of families and friends, as well as specialist domestic abuse services.
I will be travelling first to Australia and New Zealand in the Summer, before heading to Canada and the United States in the Autumn.
After my travels, I’ll write up my findings and make recommendations for improving Domestic Homicide Review here in the UK based on what I’ve learnt. In due course, I’ll publish that as a publicly available report through the WCMT.
But writing the report is only the start, as then I’ll begin the task of disseminating my findings and recommendations. I hope to do that by working with agencies that already lead the field in terms of Domestic Homicide Reviews (like AAFDA and Standing Together), as well as other charities in the domestic violence and abuse sector, and with government. I will also be speaking with people who, like me, chair Domestic Homicide Reviews here in England and Wales. I want to start a conversation about building a national network and thinking about how we can work together to share learning, best practice and work to the best possible standard. As there are conversations happening about Domestic Homicide Reviews in Scotland and Northern Ireland as well, perhaps I will be able to make links there too.
During the Fellowship, I'll provide regular updates on my travels through my blog, as well as twitter. As I go, I’d welcome your questions and ideas so use the comment functions or drop me a line.