High Harm High Frequency Domestic Abuse Offenders

Police strategies for managing serious domestic abuse perpetrators. 


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High Harm High Frequency Offenders (HHHF) who have offended more than once against two or more current or former intimate partners or family members cause considerable problems for their victims and take up a large amount of police time and resource. We matched offending histories against police offender management strategies to see which, if any, worked. Our findings are based on documentary analysis of force policies, interviews with 30 police officers from 6 forces (of mixed ranks up to Chief Constable), analysis of data on HHHF offenders provided by Cheshire Police, and a review of academic literature. Findings focus on patterns of offending, identifying, and channelling HHHF offenders, police and court outcomes, and strategies for managing HHHF offenders.

Key findings and recommendations

Strategy Management

Structures for assessing and dealing with HHHF vary across forces. For HHHF who engage, perpetrator programmes are available. For the vast majority of HHHF who do not engage, strategies include positive action, multi-agency management, disruption and incapacitation.

  1. Each HHHF should be placed on a defined plan with a robust individual strategy.
  2. When officers attend incidents, they should be immediately aware of the strategy in place for managing that individual offender, and act accordingly.
  3. Inspectors should have oversight of HHHF management strategies.
  4. Strategies should be clearly indicated in police data for evaluation purposes.

 94% of HHHF Offending is Non-DA

On average, each HHHF offender will be involved in 30-40 incidents per year, in many cases for decades. 94% of HHHF offending is non-DA, and the majority relates to public disorder, drug-abuse, and mental health issues.

  1. Earlier intervention by mental health services would potentially shorten HHHF criminal careers).
  2. Opportunities for disruption have been ignored when the report is not DA-related; these opportunities should be taken wherever possible no matter what offence is alleged.


Top 10 or top 20 DA perpetrator lists often contain hundreds of offenders. Reducing the offending of the top 50 HHHF in each force area would dramatically reduce all crime (including DA).

  1. Practices of archiving HHHF offenders should be standardised across all forces to leave a smaller group of active HHHF who are actively managed.
  2. Researchers and police should collaborate to update mechanisms for identifying, recording, and archiving HHHF, in order to increase efficiency.
  3. Greater collaboration between forces would improve data quality and help to track HHHF offenders, especially when they move between different areas.

Informing Magistrates

Magistrates appear not to give weight or not to receive information on HHHF in some cases, which results in HHHF being bailed rather than remanded, having suspended rather than immediate custodial sentences imposed, and not-activating suspended sentences when re-offending occurred.

  1. Magistrates should always receive sufficient information about HHHF defendants.


Report date: March 2023.

The research was conducted by Professor Barry Godfrey, Dr Jane Richardson, and Professor Sandra Walklate at the University of Liverpool. Research was undertaken in collaboration with Cheshire Police, supported by an Advisory Group with representation from South Yorkshire, Merseyside, Durham, and Cumbria Police, and the College of Policing.  For further information please contact Professor Barry Godfrey by email (barrygod@liverpool.ac.uk).