Domestic violence and alcohol : the reaction of the legal system


Domestic violence and alcohol : the reaction of the legal system

Tendances n° 55, OFDT, 4 p.
July 2007

In France, during the first nine months of 2006, a total of 113 homicides were committed between intimate partners1 according to the Ministry of Social Cohesion and Equality. Alcohol was a factor in a quarter of these cases. These observations highlight both the phenomenon of domestic violence and its long-presumed link with alcohol consumption.
A major obstacle in observing this phenomenon lies in its obviously illegal nature. Hence the idea of describing these events at the point at which the data is collected in sufficient quantity and is amply documented: i.e. the penal system. Such data may be subject to bias as the population group being observed is «assembled» by the same penal system. An initial stage in the demonstration therefore involves reviewing this reconstruction process. Indeed, not all of the delinquent acts committed are identified or revealed. Furthermore, the offences are not all investigated or processed identically.
Generally, the manner in which a law is applied is only known for those cases resulting in a sentence. The contribution made by this study is that it makes it possible to describe the cases registered with the public prosecutor’s office ahead of that stage. It examines the way in which they are processed, in relation to the characteristics of the perpetrators and the facts concerned. The dismissal of the case without charge, (the main course of action), is therefore also examined at first hand, offering a new perspective.
In the present case, almost 700 cases of domestic violence (please see the panel on page 2) will be described. Three quarters of these were dismissed while the others were tried. They involved 736 presumed perpetrators. Three crossdisciplinary questions are examined here. What is the exact nature of the facts recorded and who were the perpetrators? To what extent are domestic violence and alcohol related in France? What are the respective roles played by violence and alcohol in the cases dealt with?

Authors :
Claudine Pérez-Diaz, Marie-Sylvie Huré

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