Being arrested following a domestic abuse incident almost always comes at a time of high emotions and stress. You may have no idea that the police have been called and suddenly you find yourself in the back of a police car with the neighbours peering out the window. Alternatively, you may have left the place where the alleged incident took place hours or days ago and receive a knock on your door from police officers wanting to discuss a reported domestic incident.

Regardless of the circumstances, being arrested and/or charged in relation to a domestic abuse incident is a serious matter. The police have a duty to take positive action when attending a domestic abuse call-out which can include making an arrest. If the grounds for arrest exist and such a response is necessary and proportionate, the attending police officers must justify their decision if an arrest is not made.

This article explains what happens if you are arrested and taken to the police station following a domestic abuse incident.

What is domestic abuse?

Before examining what powers the police have when attending a domestic abuse incident, let’s clarify what domestic abuse is. The Domestic Abuse Act 2021 defines domestic abuse as occurring if:

A and B are both aged 16 years or over, personally connected to each other, and the behaviour is abusive. Abusive behaviour is defined as:

Economic abuse is also defined as any behaviour that has a substantial adverse effect on B’s ability to—

  • acquire, use, or maintain money or other property, or
  • obtain goods or service

Finally, people ‘personally connect to each other’ is defined as:

  • they are, or have been, married to each other;
  • they are, or have been, civil partners of each other;
  • they have agreed to marry one another (whether or not the agreement has been terminated);
  • they have entered into a civil partnership agreement (whether or not the agreement has been terminated);
  • they are, or have been, in an intimate personal relationship with each other;
  • they each have, or there has been a time when they each have had, a parental relationship in relation to the same child (defined as being the child’s parent or having parental responsibility);
  • they are relatives.

How do police officers investigate incidents of domestic abuse?

Police officers are directed to take a proactive approach when investigating domestic abuse incidents and often build a case that does not place too much reliance on the complainant (in case they withdraw their complaint or refuse to give evidence). They will look into your actions before, during, and after the alleged offence and may analyse your phone and email records, any CCTV footage, and obtain witness statements.

The decision to bring formal charges following a domestic abuse incident is made by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) not the police. If the offence is a summary offence (tried in the Magistrates’ Court) or an either-way offence (can be heard in the Magistrates’ Court or Crown Court, the latter before a jury) the police can issue a caution. If the offence is indictable only (can only be tried in the Crown Court) the police must seek advice from the CPS.

Will I be released on bail following a domestic abuse-related offence?

Under what is known as ‘Kay’s Law’, police must consider the views of a complainant before releasing a person arrested following a domestic abuse incident on bail.

In addition, if further investigation is required following arrest, the police are now encouraged to use pre-charge bail where necessary and proportionate. Conditions may be attached to pre-charge bail. Custody officers can authorise that a pre-charge bail period lasts for three months. To extend bail to six or nine months, approval from a police inspector or a superintendent respectively must be obtained. Anything beyond nine months will require court approval.

The encouragement to use pre-charge bail instead of releasing a person under investigation means it is essential to have an experienced criminal law solicitor present at the police station to advise and represent you. They can examine the information the police are using to justify pre-charge bail and challenge their decision to impose it or apply to have any conditions varied.

What can I be charged with following a domestic abuse incident?

Offences against the person, for example, assault and/or battery are the most common charges laid following a domestic abuse incident, however, depending on the circumstances of your case you may be charged with a sexual offence, attempted murder, or murder or manslaughter.

Due to the wide range of offences which you may be charged with, it is crucial to have an experienced criminal defence solicitor on your side. Many of the aforementioned offences carry lengthy custodial sentences. You could also be prevented from seeing your children and your personal and professional reputation is likely to be severely compromised if you are convicted. A solicitor can advise you on the best action to take, including, should the case go to court, how to plead, and build a solid defence case that, in so far as possible, protects your interests.

How we can help

Our criminal defence solicitors have the expertise and experience to assist you with defending charges related to a domestic abuse incident.

Please contact us through our contact page here. Alternatively, you can phone 0333 240 7373, or email us at