The Shadow Pandemic Working Papers


Working Paper No.1 - Domestic Abuse: Responding to the Shadow Pandemic Project

School of Law and Social Justice, University of Liverpool, in partnership with Research Councils UK 

Domestic Abuse-Family Violence, Disasters and Restrictions under Covid-19: An Overview.

The end of January 2020 marked the beginning of widespread social restrictions across the globe. These ranged from communities being placed under total lock-down to the introduction of somewhat less draconian ‘shelter at home’/’stay at home’ directives as coronavirus (Covid-19) travelled the world.

From January to June 2020 academic and media commentators became increasingly focused on the unintended consequences of these required changes in socialbehaviour. The potential for increases in violence(s) against women and children became an issue of focal concern.

Working Paper No.2 - Domestic Abusein England and Wales 1770-2020

School of Law and Social Justice, University of Liverpool, in partnership with Research Councils UK 

Historic portrayals of domestic abuse vary between comic depictions of angry husbands being driven to violence by ‘nagging’ spouses to Victorian melodramas about tyrannical husbands and timid wives. Moreover, whilst there is clear evidence that domestic abuse has been present since Roman times there is complex history to the violence that passed between intimate partners from the late eighteenth century to the present (Godfrey and Lawrence 2014).

Indeed, historically campaigns for equality in public life were frequently interconnected with concerns about private life as shall be seen [in this paper]. However historically speaking it was never the case that a man could beat his wife with total impunity. There were ‘acceptable’ limits.

Working Paper No3 - Rapid Remote and Responsive Research

Working Paper No.3 - Rapid, Remote and Responsive Research During COVID-19

School of Law and Social Justice, University of Liverpool, in partnership with Research Councils UK 

In March 2020 United Kingdom Research Innovation responded to the Covid-19 emergency by launching a rapid response fund which would support impactful research across the humanities, social and natural sciences. In this briefing paper we describe and reflect on how we have used rapid response research methods to ‘work nimbly’ (Ledger & Sherlaw-Johnson 2019), illustrated by examples from our project  which explores the criminal justice system’s response to domestic abuse during and immediately after the COVID 19 emergency period. 

Rapid Research Methods

‘Rapid’ methods have been predominantly used in drugs, health and clinical settings but are equally applicable across the social sciences (United Nations Office for Drug Control & Crime Prevention 1999; Coomber 2015).

Working Paper No.4 - Innovating during the Pandemic: policing domestic abuse and multi-agency risk assessment conferencing (MARACs)

Multi-agency partnerships as one way of developing policy initiatives in response to crime have been around for some time. In an early evaluation of such partnership working, Sampson et al (1988), recognising the contested purpose and impact of such partnerships, primarily in inner city areas in England and Wales during the 1980s, offered a nuanced understanding of their role, purpose, and operation. In so doing they suggested a: ‘more narrowly focused approach, with specific forms of inter-agency relationships, on specific themes and problems, provided that they seek to minimise the problematic consequences of the multi-agency approach’ (Sampson 1988: 491).

Publications of related interest

Report on the effectiveness of video conferences cover

Report on the effectiveness of video conferences in cases of domestic abuse, May 2021

Report for Sussex Police

Lucy Williams, Barry Godfrey, Sandra Walklate, Jane Richardson, University of Liverpool

This report was commissioned by Sussex Police and funded by University of Liverpool to examine the use of video conferencing in cases of domestic abuse between December 2020 and March 2021. Prior to the introduction of a video-conferencing platform, victims who reported non-urgent domestic abuse were invited to a face-to-face interview (F2F) by response officers at their nearest Police station. Officers would either take notes by hand during the interview, or, if this was felt to cause unease in the victim or a barrier to active listening, officers would make notes from memory after the interview.

Presentation to Police Regional Leads April 2021 working paper

Presentation to Police Regional Leads and Stakeholders for Domestic Abuse, 28 April 2021

Project Update

Domestic Abuse: Responding to the Shadow Pandemic (ESRC grant Ref: ES/V00476X/1) led by Professor Sandra Walklate, Professor Barry Godfrey, and Dr Jane Richardson, University of Liverpool

Focusing on the courts and managing the backlog

This phase of our research has focused on secondary analysis of available data from HMTS and in-depth work with 5 police case study areas where we have interviewed criminal justice leads, PCCs, witness support leads, senior police officers alongside DA leads.

Rapid, remote and responsive research during COVID-19

Rapid, remote and responsive research during COVID-19 Richardson Godfrey Walklate 2021

Jane Richardson, Barry Godfrey and Sandra Walklate

Abstract: In March 2020, the UK Research and Innovation announced an emergency call for research to inform policy and practice responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. This call implicitly and explicitly required researchers to work rapidly, remotely and responsively.

In this article, we briefly review how rapid response methods developed in health research can be used in other social science fields. After outlining the literature in this area, we use the early stages of our applied research into criminal justice responses to domestic abuse during COVID-19 as a case study to illustrate some of the practical challenges we faced in responding to this rapid funding call. We review our use of and experience with remote research methods and describe how we used and adapted these methods in our research, from data gathering through to transcription and analysis.

We reflect on our experiences to date of what it means to be responsive in fast-changing research situations. Finally, we make some practical recommendations for conducting applied research in a ‘nimble’ way to meet the demands of working rapidly, remotely, responsively and, most importantly, responsibly.


Criminological futures and gendered violence - Sandra Walklate working paper

Criminological futures and gendered violence(s): Lessons from the global pandemic for criminology

Sandra Walklate, University of Liverpool, UK and Monash Universty, Melbourne, Australia

Abstract: The purpose of this paper is to foreground the gendered crime consequences of the global pandemic and to raise questions emanating from them for the future(s) of criminology.

The paper reviews some of the criminological response to the pandemic offered during 2020. The global pandemic was constituted by some as providing the opportunity for a natural experiment in which criminological theories and concepts could be tested in real time and by others as an opportunity to further raise the profile of crimes more hidden from view, particularly domestic abuse. For the former, domestic abuse is constituted as an exception to what might be learned from this experimental moment. For the latter, gendered violence(s) are central to making sense of this moment as ongoing, mundane and ordinary features of (women’s) everyday lives. This paper makes the case that the evidence relating to the gendered consequences of Covid-19, renders it no longer possible for the discipline to regard feminist informed work (largely found within the latter view above) as the stranger, outside of, or an exception to, the discipline’s central concerns. It is suggested that the future(s) of criminology lie in rendering that stranger’s voice, focusing as it does on the continuities of men’s gendered violence(s) in all spheres of life, as the discipline’s central problematic.


Presentation to Police Regional Leads Dec 2020 working paper

Presentation to Police Regional Leads and Stakeholders for Domestic Abuse, 2 December 2020

Project Update

Domestic Abuse: Responding to the Shadow Pandemic (ESRC grant Ref: ES/V00476X/1) led by Professor Sandra Walklate, Professor Barry Godfrey, and Dr Jane Richardson, University of Liverpool

Focusing on MARACs

Analysis here based on 26 questionnaire responses from 25 different police forces supplemented by 21 interviews with DA leads from 21 different forces.

Policy Responses to Domestic Violence, the Criminalisation Thesis and 'Learning from History'

Article featured in the Howard Journal of Crime and Justice by Lucy Williams and Sandra Walklate.

Lucy Williams is a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Liverpool; Sandra Walklate is Eleanor Rathbone Chair of Sociology, University of Liverpool and conjoint Chair of Criminology, Monash University, Australia.

Abstract: The ‘criminalisation thesis’ has proved a contentious but defining feature of modern social and legal responses to domestic violence since the 1970s. However, criminalisation has not always been the focus of legal attempts to tackle violence or offer recourse to victims. This article uses historical examples to explore the potential of legislative intervention outside of criminal law in tackling violence against women. While the Victorians introduced the first criminal legislation specifically developed to tackle domestic violence, the intervention remained singular. Those addressing violence against women soon shifted their focus towards achieving broader social and cultural change via civil law. Legislators sought to reduce the vulnerability of women to exploitation and violence at the hands of their husbands through reforms to child custody, divorce, and property law. The authors find there are relevant lessons to be learned from addressing domestic violence in this way, which might usefully inform current policy direction.

The Howard Journal Vol 59 No 3. September 2020

DOI: 10.1111/hojo.12378 | ISSN 2059-1098, pp. 305–316


Presentation to Police Regional Leads and Stakeholders for Domestic Abuse

Project title - 'Domestic Abuse: Responding to the Shadow Pandemic' (ESRC funded)

Project team - Professor Sandra Walklate, Professor Barry Godfrey, and Dr Jane Richardson, University of Liverpool.

This project started in June 2020 and will run to December 2021.

The focus is to:

  1. Document policing and court response to DA under lockdown, transitioning out of lock-down, and during the legacy period in England and Wales.
  2. Focus attention on innovative practices and theirlongevity.
  3. Against the background of available statistics andexamples of good practice make recommendations onresponding to DA going forward.


Responding to Queensland's 'shadow pandemic' during the period of COVID-19 restrictions

Monash University in partnership with Queensland Domestic Violence Services Network, The Centre for Women & Co., and Monash Gender and Family Violence Prevention Centre.

Practitioner views on the nature of and responses to violence against women. 

The Queensland practitioner surveys reveal that the COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to:

  • an increase in client numbers
  • an increase in the complexity of client needs
  • an escalation in controlling behaviour and manipulation reported by women
  • an increase in reported perpetrator anger/violence allegedly due to reduced income or loss of job due to COVID-19
  • additional pressure and stress on practitioners as a result of the transition to remote work and increased service demand as indicated by increased reporting.


Victoria, Australia, Responding to the 'Shadow Pandemic' 

Monash University | Monash Gender and Family Violence Prevention Centre.

Practitioner views on the nature of and responses to vilence against women in Victoria, Australia during the COVID-19 restrictions.

Our analysis of practitioner responses to the survey found that the pandemic has led to:

  • An increase in the frequency and severity of violence against women (VAW),
  • 59% of respondents reported that COVID-19 has increased the frequency of VAW and 50% reported it has increased the severity of VAW).
  • An increase in the complexity of women’s needs noted by 86% of respondents.
  • An increase in first-time family violence reporting by women noted by 42% of respondents,
  • New forms of intimate partner women, including enhanced tactics to achieve social isolation and forms of violence specifically relating to the threat and risk of COVID-19 infection,
  • For many women experiencing violence during the lockdown period, there was less ability to seek help,
  • Service innovations have occurred across Victoria to enhance accessibility and effectiveness of service delivery during the COVID-19 easing of restrictions and recovery phase.
  • Numerous challenges to providing support, undertaking effective risk assessment and carrying out safety planning during the COVID-19 shutdown phase.



When home becomes the workplace:

Family violence, practitioner wellbeing and remote service delivery during COVID-19 restrictions

Monash University | Monash Gender and Family Violence Prevention Centre.

This study would not have been possible without the generosity of those responding to women and men experiencing and using family violence during the COVID-19 restrictions in Victoria. We are continually grateful for the willingness of practitioners to share their professional experiences and expertise with us via the online focus groups and survey, during particularly challenging and time pressured circumstances. We hope that this Report can begin to inform understandings of how women experiencing violence have been responded to and supported during this period, as well as of the wellbeing supports needed for those responding to family violence as we move forward in our response to the coronavirus and into the recovery phases.


How Women’s Police Stations Empower Women, Widen Access to Justice and Prevent Gender Violence

Kerry Carrington - Queensland University of Technology, Australia
Natacha Guala - Universidad Nacional del Litoral, Argentina
María Victoria Puyol - Queensland University of Technology, Australia
Máximo Sozzo - Universidad Nacional del Litoral, Argentina

Women’s police stations are a distinctive innovation that emerged in postcolonial nations of the global south in the second half of the twentieth century to address violence against women. This article presents the results of a world-first study of the unique way that these stations, called Comisaría de la Mujer, prevent gender-based violence in the Province of Buenos Aires, Argentina. One in five police stations in this Province was established with a mandate of preventing gender violence. Little is currently known about how this distinctive multidisciplinary model of policing (which includes social workers, lawyers, psychologists and police) widens access to justice to prevent gender violence.

Real Lives and Lost Lives: Making Sense of ‘Locked in’ Responses to Intimate Partner Homicide

Sandra Walklate, University of Liverpool, and Anna Hopkins, Edge Hill University

The problem of intimate partner homicide is featuring increasingly on national and international policy agendas. Over the last 40 years, responses to this issue have been characterised by preventive strategies (including ‘positive’ policing; the proliferation of risk assessment tools, and multi-agency working) and post-event analyses (including police inquiries and domestic homicide reviews). In different ways, each of these responses has become ‘locked in’ to policies. Drawing on an analysis of police inquiries into domestic homicides in England and Wales over a 10-year period, this paper will explore the nature of these ‘locked in’ responses and will suggest that complexity theory offers a useful lens through which to make sense of them and the ongoing consistent patterning of intimate partner homicide more generally. The paper will suggest this lens in embracing what is known and unknown affords a different way of thinking about and responding to this problem. 


Policy recommendations


Shadow Pandemic - Courts in Crisis working paper

COVID-19 and the Courts Crisis

School of Law and Social Justice, University of Liverpool in partnership with UKRI: Economic and Social Research Council. 

At the one-year anniversary of the first COVID Lockdown, the backlog in the magistrates' courts was 476,932 and 56,875 in the Crown Courts (HMCTS, 2021)

Many of the outstanding cases involve vulnerable victims of domestic abuse whose cases may not be resolved within two years.

Nightingale Courts and use of remote hearings now mean that courts are processing as many cases as they did pre-COVID. The backlog remains largely untouched.

Policing Domestic Abuse - Rapid Response Website Access Review

School of Law and Social Justice, University of Liverpool in partnership with UKRI: Economic and Social Research Council. 

We conducted a review of the websites of the 43 Territorial Police Forces in England and Wales during the week of 15th June 2020. We asked how would a person experiencing domestic abuse find information during the COVID-19 emergency?

A small number of websites highlighted the issue of domestic abuse during the lockdown and the likelihood of it increasing. The information on the landing page was clear and accessible to a range of diverse audiences. The message that "You are not alone" was clear. Especially when accompanied by images.

Shadow Pandemic working paper front cover

Innovating During the Pandemic: Policing Domestic Abuse and Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conferencing (MARACS)

Policy Recommendations

What we did:

In June 2020 we sent out a questionnaire to all eligible police forces in England and Wales asking them about the impact of lockdown on their response to domestic abuse. We received 26 responses from 25 different police forces. We then followed these up, interviewing 21 domestic abuse leads from 20 different police forces.

What we found:

All respondents made some reference to the impact of lock-down on the reported incidence of domestic abuse in their force area. The majority (19/26) said domestic abuse calls declined initially in March and then returned to normal by may.

Innovating During the Pandemic - DA and COVID-19 Research Summary of Police Innovations 2020

As part of a UKRI funded project, questionnaires were sent to all police forces in England and Wales, followed by interviews with DA Leads and other senior officers in Avon and Somerset, Cambridgeshire, Cheshire, Cumbria, Derbyshire, Dyfed-Powys, Essex, Hampshire, Hertfordshire, Kent, Lancashire, Leicestershire, Merseyside, Norfolk, North Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, South Yorkshire, Warwickshire, West Midlands and Wiltshire.

Below is a summary of Innovative Police Responses during the first COVID-19 lockdown:

  • Use of multiple media platforms to reinforce the message that the police were still available for victims of abuse
  • Use of community radio and poster campaigns stressing business as usual
  • Leaflets on DA Distributed at food banks
  • Use of Facebook Q & A sessions to provide advice to diverse and hard to reach audiences
  • Use of community leaders to encourage trust in police
  • Online reporting tools made available on police websites
  • Putting oficers in supermarkets at particular times to provide advice or provide route to report offences
  • Working with local shops and pharmacies to provide safe spaces for victims of domestic abuse. 


Submissions to Inquiries


COVID-19 and the increase of deomestic violence against women - Submission to the OHCHR, 30 June 2020 

Prepared by the Monash Gender and Family Violence Prevention Centre, Monash Gender, Peace and Security Centre and the University of Liverpool.

A submission to the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner to inform the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences upcoming report to the General Assembly.

The submission provides summary details of current research in Australia, the Indo-Pacific and the United Kingdom that members of the MGFVPC and Monash GPS are leading examining violence against women and the COVID-19 global health pandemic.

Submission to UK Human Rights Joint Parliamentary Committee July 2020

Written evidence submitted by Professor Sandra Walklate (Liverpool and Monash Universities) and Associate Professors Kate Fitz-Gibbon and Marie Segrave (Monash University) to the UK Parliament Joint Committee on Human Rights in respect of the Government’s response to COVID-19: Human Rights implications. 22 July 2020.

UK Home Affairs Response, February 2021

Written evidence submitted by Professor Sandra Walklate, Professor Barry Godfrey, and Dr. Jane Richardson (all at Liverpool University) to the UK Parliament Home Affairs Committee Inquiry into Home Office preparedness for Covid-19, January 2021.

  1. Who we are
  2. Why this submission
  3. Context
  4. Methods
  5. Findings
  6. Recommendations to the Committee