Key takeaways from Advocacy After Fatal Domestic Abuse's Annual Conference
In March 2023, I attended the Annual Conference of Advocacy After Fatal Domestic Abuse (AAFDA), titled "Anyway, listening isn't enough". AAFDA was established by Frank Mullane in 2018, 5 years after the murder of his sister Julia and nephew William Pemberton. Frank and his family campaigned tirelessly for 5 years to uncover all the facts of the death. Since then, Frank has lobbied to ensure that Domestic Homicide Reviews became law, helped to develop the statutory guidance underpinning them, and to significantly enhance the rights of families in producing these reviews.
Today, AAFDA provides specialist and expert advocacy and peer support for families following fatal domestic abuse in England and Wales. It is the centre of excellence for reviews into domestic homicide. The 2023 conference aimed to help raise the status of victims of domestic abuse and bereaved families.
I heard from stories of bereaved families who have lost their loved ones to fatal domestic abuse and learnt about the work of practitioners in this area, including the Domestic Abuse Commissioner, APCC Joint Lead for Victims, Domestic Homicide Policy Lead at the Home Office, and the Shadow Minister for Domestic Violence and Safeguarding.
Some key takeaways include:
- A Domestic Homicide Review (DHR) is a multi-agency review into the circumstances around a death following domestic abuse, which aims to establish lessons learnt to improve the way in which local professionals and organisations work individually and together to safeguard victims. The key areas for improvement identified by the Home Office in 2022 include greater contact with victims, more thorough risk assessments, accessible and informative training, and information-sharing between agencies.
- Victims of domestic abuse and bereaved families need to play a key role in developing government policy in this area and lessons learnt should be effectively turned into action. Increased awareness and support are needed for bereaved families after suicide or an unexplained death following a history of domestic abuse. A trauma-informed response should be adopted for children impacted by fatal domestic abuse to support their healing.
- Local agencies need to engage with families, communicate across agencies, and be skilled in identifying risk factors for fatal domestic abuse in victims and perpetrators, including both intimate partner homicide and adult family homicide. Agencies involved in the investigation process should be sufficiently trained to identify signs of fatal domestic abuse, particularly in cases of suicide and unexplained deaths.
A team led by Aniko Adam, Olivia Johnson and Ellen Kerslake worked with AAFDA to review the State's obligation to protect the right to life under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights in the context of fatal domestic abuse. The team was supported by Natasha Godsiff, Alice See, Keanna Williams and Adele Mosdell.