We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

Durham University

Policy, Professions and Communities Research Group


Publication details for Dr Kelly Johnson

Myhill. A. & Johnson, K (2016). Police use of discretion in response to domestic violence. Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice 16(1): 3-20.

Author(s) from Durham


This article addresses the issue of police officers’ use of discretion when responding to domestic violence. With reference to Ericson and Haggerty’s theory of risk-oriented policing, we collected data direct from information management systems in an English police force and conducted field observations with attending officers to explore the degree to which officers used discretion to interpret the national definition of domestic violence. We also considered how officers applied national standards for recording incidents and crimes. We found that considerable discretion was required to interpret the official definition of domestic violence, and that decision making in relation to recording or otherwise incidents and crimes of domestic violence was variable. Specifically, we found examples of domestic-related incidents not recorded as such, and examples of crimes either not or incorrectly recorded. The implications of these findings for policy and practice are discussed.