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Conservatives Outline Domestic Violence Plans

Conservatives Outline Domestic Violence Plans

Support for domestic violence victims

The Conservatives have said they will crack down on the “hidden scandal” of domestic abuse if they win power.

The main purpose of a proposed domestic violence and abuse bill would be to introduce a statutory definition of domestic violence, which the Conservatives claim would help provide clarity and increase the chances of successful prosecution of perpetrators.

A newly-created domestic violence commissioner would have the power to hold both the police and the criminal justice system accountable in an area of the law in which conviction has historically proved difficult.

Those who subject children to domestic violence or abuse would receive additional punishment as part of the revision of legislation. The new aggravated offence of domestic violence directed at a child, allowing judges to hand out tougher sentences, would help ensure that its “poisonous effects do not harm future generations,” say the Conservatives.

Domestic violence must be ‘tackled head on,’ says Prime Minister

Theresa May said such a bill would enable a “relentless drive to help survivors find justice and increase the number of successful prosecutions.”

“This hidden scandal, that takes place every day in homes across Britain, must be tackled head on. And we must respond to the devastating and lifelong impact that domestic abuse has on children, who carry the effects into adulthood,” the prime minister said.

The Crime Survey for England & Wales estimates that about 8.2% of women and 4% of men had suffered domestic abuse in 2014/15 – a total of 2m people.

About 70% of cases which were referred to the Crown Prosecution Service went to court, and of those 92,779 cases, nearly three-quarters (74%) resulted in convictions.

While the number of reported cases of domestic violence has fallen, it is estimated that only a fifth of victims come forward.

Victims at mercy of postcode lottery

Home Secretary Amber Rudd admitted there were areas where too many cases still went unreported amid concerns that a regional variation in police responses has resulted in a postcode lottery.

Ms Rudd said: “The fact is that across the country [standards] are varied, and part of [the reason for] this legislation and having a commissioner is to make sure that we raise standards everywhere, so that women get a good service, wherever they are.”

Women’s groups broadly welcome proposal

Sarah Green, co-director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, welcomed the proposals and noted that the law around domestic violence was unclear. There were often cases when police dealing with assault cases missed the underlying ongoing problem of domestic violence, she said.

“This is a massive and endemic social problem. A new law and a new commissioner is not the whole answer. What we have got is persistent disbelief of domestic violence victims by a range of services… there is systemic stuff that needs to happen, not just a simple altering of the law,” said Green.

“We hope for an end to women and children being forced to flee for their lives while perpetrators walk free and continue their coercive control through the family courts,” she added.

Diana Barran, chief executive of domestic violence charity SafeLives, also welcomed the proposal, and said: “We need a practical and visible commissioner who can work with specialist services, local commissioners, policy makers and crucially with survivors.”

Sandra Horley, chief executive of national domestic violence charity Refuge, said: “We hope that a dedicated commissioner and new act will bring the sea change that is needed to give victims the protection they need and deserve.”

Critics have said that many refuges for victims of domestic abuse have closed since the Conservatives took power. The charity Women’s Aid claims 17% of specialist women’s refuges had closed since 2010.

Contact our experienced childcare and domestic violence solicitors

If you are suffering from domestic violence or domestic abuse, please contact IBB in confidence to arrange a meeting and protect yourself and your children: call us on 01895 207857.