In this article, we’ll be looking at the ‘Whole System Approach’ to tackling domestic abuse. Detective Superintendent Deborah Alderson of Northumbria Police explained how the Multi-Agency Tasking and Coordination (MATAC) process works to target perpetrators and stop repeat offences.

Multi-Agency Tasking and Coordination

MATAC aims to effectively deal with the causes of domestic abuse by targeting the perpetrators, specifically those that have caused the most harm to the most victims.

The intended outcomes of the project are to:

  • Identify the most harmful perpetrators
  • Prevent domestic abuse related offending
  • Improve victim safety
  • Improve criminal justice outcomes
  • Improve partnership engagement
  • Improve offender behaviour [1]

Identifying serial domestic abusers is done via the ‘Recency, Frequency, Gravity’ analysis.

This will take data from police systems relating to domestic abuse perpetrators and configure a score based on the recency of the crime, how frequently the offender has committed an act, and the gravity of that/those offence(s). [1]

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Perpetrators with serial offences, especially against multiple victims are given a higher weighting. The scores are put in a ranked list to determine the most dangerous repeat offenders.

MATAC Process after Identifying Perpetrators

Once the recency, frequency, gravity analysis is completed and the ranked list has been compiled, that data is relayed to the relevant agencies to begin the intervention process.

The MATAC Coordinator will produce a subject profile, whilst a MATAC Analyst creates an intelligence profile for the perpetrator.

These profiles will be sent to the relevant partner agencies including;

  • Police
  • Adult Social Care
  • Children’s Social Care
  • Community Rehabilitation Company
  • Victim’s Services
  • Housing

The partner agencies will send their research to the MATAC Coordinator, to better inform the situation and to help brief the MATAC Manager or Chief Inspector for the MATAC meeting.

There are monthly MATAC meetings, which aim to summarise the domestic abuse history of the perpetrator, share the relevant research from the partner agencies, and agree on the appropriate actions using the domestic abuse toolkit.

The domestic abuse toolkit aims to educate both perpetrators and victims and strives for the prevention, diversion, and disruption of domestic abuse. It also has the power to enforce any court rulings.

The toolkit also assesses whether or not the perpetrator is engaging or not engaging.

If the perpetrator does engage with the process and responds well they will be referred to one or more of the following:

  • DA Perpetrator Programme
  • Substance Misuse Agency
  • Domestic Abuse Proximity System
  • Mental Health Agency
  • Housing Assistance

However, if the perpetrator does not engage with the process their treatment will fall into one of four categories.

Prevention

  • Restraining Order
  • Non-Molestation Order
  • Early Harassment Warning
  • Child Abduction Warning Notice

Diversion

  • Probation
  • Licence conditions

Disruption

  • Surveillance
  • Neighbourhood target
  • Enforcing bail conditions
  • Progressing outstanding offences

Enforcement

  • Arrest
  • Community Protection Notice
  • Closure Order
  • Enforcement of the aforementioned orders and conditions[1]

The Impact of MATAC

MATAC has been embedded in Northumbria since November 2014, and an independent evaluation by Northumbria University found the following results:

  • 65% reduction in re-offending in relation to domestic abuse related offences
  • 61% reduction in re-offending of all offence types
  • Social return on investment of £14.54 social value per £1 invested
  • MATAC model embedded across the North East and shared nationally through Home Office funded Transformation Project 2019/2020
  • MATAC approach also adopted by Swedish Police[1]

While an effective way of combatting domestic abuse, there has been a rise in offences during the pandemic. A report published by Scottish Director-General of Education, Communities and Justice Paul Johnston explained why.

“Some organisations have faced challenges relating to client need and resources during lockdown. Following the increased demand for emotional support and welfare calls, some services reported they did not have the capacity to provide clients the level of welfare support required.”

“Some services reported that, due to the high threshold for accessing mental health services, organisational funding was being dedicated to accessing private mental health services for some clients.”

There were also issues pertaining to staff sickness due to Covid, as well as the funding process being bureaucratic and overly complicated.

“Services continued to report challenges due to staff members’ caring responsibilities, with some staff unable to facilitate online sessions due to the presence of their children within the house.” [2]

The future of MATAC and the Whole System Approach

Independent research group Cordis Bright evaluated the Domestic Abuse: Whole System Approach (DAWSA) and concluded the scheme has “illustrated the value of a collaborative, regional approach to developing resources, in order to use time efficiently, and ensure consistency of materials.” 

The report also highlighted that “a number of models and resources, which could be beneficial for use in other force areas, have been developed for use by those who are interested in improving local responses to domestic abuse.”

MATAC processes were pointed out as one of the ‘most impactful workstreams within the project.’[3]

DAWSA has been in place for a number of years with results showing continued effectiveness. It will be interesting to see if the data-sharing and collaborative approach will be taken into other force areas as the evaluation suggests.

The evidence suggests increased collaboration will be the way forward in preventing serious crime.

The Crown Prosecution Service and Police released the Joint National Rape and Serious Sexual Offences Action Plan 2021 earlier this year, following the strategy of incorporating multiple agencies and strengthening trust in the system.[4]

[1] Alderson, Deborah, 2020. Targeting the most harmful and serial domestic abuse perpetrators

[2] Johnston, Paul. 2020.Coronavirus (COVID-19): domestic abuse and other forms of violence against women and girls – 30/3/20-22/05/20

[3] dawsa.org.uk. 2021. Domestic Abuse: A Whole System Approach Evaluation [4] cps.gov.uk. 2021. CPS and police collaboration to drive up performance on rape and serious sexual offences

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The Multi Agency Tasking and Coordination (MATAC) process works to target perpetrators and stop repeat offences. This case study explores how the process is implemented by Northumbria Police.

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