Reform of the law on Domestic violence is vital because at the moment less that 7% of reported incidents end up with a conviction. The cross-government definition of domestic violence and abuse is: any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are, or have been, intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality. The abuse can encompass, but is not limited to:
There has been a 40% decline in incidents since 1995 yet 1.2 million women experienced domestic abuse last year in the UK, including half a million victims of sexual assault. To make matters worse 50% of Refuge services have been hit by funding cuts since the introduction of austerity measures. In the last year, 7.3% of women and 5.0% of men reported having experienced domestic abuse (estimated 1.2 million female victims and 800,000 male victims). The UK government’s own grim statistics reveal that overall, 31% of women and 18% of men had experienced any domestic abuse since the age of 16. For women who had been victims of serious sexual assault since they were 16, the most common perpetrator was a partner or ex-partner (52%).
Today (Wednesday) Plaid Cymru Parliamentary Leader Elfyn Llwyd MP, will present a Ten Minute Rule Bill in the House of Commons that, if passed, would criminalise all aspects of domestic violence – particularly those aspects which are not currently criminal offences, including coercive control. Back in In March 2013, a new, cross-government definition of domestic violence was adopted to encompass psychological, physical, sexual, emotional and financial abuse, but at present not all of these behaviours are criminal offences. The bill is sponsored by the Justice Unions Parliamentary Group and Napo.
Mr Llwyd will state that the bill would give the government’s definition of domestic violence statutory underpinning, offering victims greater protection and place duties on the police in respect of investigations into domestic violence incidents. Mr Llwyd hopes that the bill will go some way towards emphasising the prevalence of domestic violence in society and prompt a fundamental change in the way that allegations are treated by the police.
Speaking ahead of presenting the bill, Mr Llwyd said:
“Domestic violence is pervasive in our society. Every minute, police across the country will receive a domestic violence-related call.
“These are not trivial incidents, yet according to Women’s Aid, only 6.5% of reported domestic violence incidents result in a conviction. Many domestic violence cases which are passed on to the Crown Prosecution Service result in no action being taken. This cannot be right.
“This bill not only seeks to criminalise all aspects of domestic violence as defined by the government thus broadening the scope of legislation but also prompt a change in which reports and allegations are treated by the police.
“The flaws in the current system create substantial costs to victims and to us as a society. The physical care of abused women costs the NHS £1.2 billion, while the cost of mental health care for these women is £176 million.
“At present, our criminal system is too focused on the physical evidence of violent crimes committed against a victim. Coercive control and emotional blackmail, on the other hand, do not leave scars or bruises – but they are every bit as debilitating.
“This bill provides that a person could be found guilty of an offence if they display behaviour which is covered by the government’s definition of domestic violence.
“Any progress on strengthening the law must be informed by the experience of victims of domestic violence and organisations such as Paladin, Women’s Aid and the Sara Charlton Foundation among others must be commended for their tireless work.
“I’m hugely grateful to those members from all parties who have lent their support to this bill to date, and hope that many more names will join us in securing this vital reform.”