Throughout this knowledge module, reference to certain provisions or sections of a piece of legislation, part of a legal judgment, or aspect of a practice does not imply that the legislation, judgment, or practice is considered in its entirety to be a good example or a promising practice.

Some of the laws cited herein may contain provisions which authorize the death penalty. In light of the United Nations General Assembly resolutions 62/14963/16865/206, and 67/176 calling for a moratorium on and ultimate abolition of capital punishment, the death penalty should not be included in sentencing provisions for crimes of violence against women and girls.

Other Provisions Related to Domestic Violence LawsResources for Developing Legislation on Domestic Violence
Sexual Harassment in Sport Tools for Drafting Sexual Harassment Laws and Policies
Immigration Provisions Resources for developing legislation on sex trafficking of women and girls
Child Protection Provisions Resources on Forced and Child Marriage
Other provisions related to dowry-related and domestic violence laws
Related Tools

Duties of prosecutors

Last edited: January 07, 2011

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  • Drafters should require that crimes involving domestic violence are not treated less seriously than other crimes. See Law of Georgia, Ch. V. Art. 6.

For example, in the law of Austria, prosecution is exercised at all levels of injury in cases of violence. See also Handbook, Ch. 3.8.2.)

By holding violent offenders accountable, prosecutors communicate to the community that domestic violence will not be tolerated. 

  • Legislation should require prosecutors to ensure that all available evidence has been collected by the police investigating body, including witness statements and photographs of injuries and the scene of the crime. By relying primarily on the evidence collected by the police rather than the victim’s testimony, prosecutors may be able to reduce the risk of retaliation by an abuser and increase the likelihood of a successful prosecution.
  • Legislation should mandate that prosecutors investigate the level of risk to domestic violence victims in each case of domestic violence. Other agencies of the criminal justice system, including police and judges, should also assess the level of risk to victims. See Lethality or risk assessments below in Criminal Law Provisions and in Duties of police and Duties of judiciary.

See Role of Prosecutors; and Prosecutorial Reform Efforts, StopVAW; and CPS Policy for Prosecuting Cases of Domestic Violence, UK (March 2009).

Example: the Law of Spain creates the position of “Public Prosecutor for cases of Violence against Women,” who must supervise, coordinate, and report on matters and prosecutions in the Violence against Women Courts. Article 70. The legislation also requires prosecutors to notify the complainant/survivor of the release of a violent offender from jail and requires prosecutors who dismiss cases of violence against women to tell the complainant/survivor why the case was dismissed.

Legislation should require that prosecutors keep complainants/survivors informed of the progress of legal proceedings and their rights therein, including all of the court support systems in place to protect them.

Pro-prosecution policy

Legislation should include a pro-prosecution policy in cases where there is probable cause that domestic violence occurred. This will ensure that the violence is treated seriously by prosecutors. (See:  UN Handbook, 3.8.3)

Absent victim prosecution

Legislation should provide for prosecution of appropriate cases even when the complainant/survivor is unable or unwilling to testify. This approach provides for the safety of the complainant/survivor while offering the support of the criminal justice system. (See: UN Handbook, 3.9.5.) Legislation should require prosecutors to consider all evidence in a case that might support or corroborate the statement of the complainant/survivor, including evidence of a history of abuse.