The Role of Police Risk Assessments in Judicial Decisions Regarding Domestic Violence Offenses in Israel

Efrat Shoham


Increasing awareness to the issue of domestic violence offenses in Israeli society has led to changes in legislation and enforcement, with an additional degree of severity attributed to domestic violence. These changes have also led the Israel Police to develop an actuarial risk assessment tool to improve the validity of decision-making processes regarding domestic violence. The purpose of this tool was to empower police investigators to assess information from domestic violence complaints, and to derive the best recommended action from that information. Thus, the tool results in uniformity of attitude between various professionals in the law-enforcement system towards domestic violence. To test whether this tool indeed increases uniformity of attitude between various law-enforcement professionals, towards the risk level of the assaulting partner, this study examined all domestic violence offense cases opened in a large city in the south of Israel and analyzed a small sample of protocols from domestic violence investigations that ended with conviction. The study data show that both in requests for remand extension and in penalty judgment decisions, the legal system tends to ignore the risk assessment score provided by the police tool. These data indicate that Israeli legal discourse tends to overlook police risk assessments of domestic violence offenders, which in theory could increase the probability of “false negative” errors in predicting the risk level of an offender. In turn, this may result in additional assaults by violent partners against their victims.


Domestic Violence; Risk assessment; Court decision

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