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UK to get law that addresses the most prevalent form of domestic abuse - coercive control

December 18, 2014

The government announced today that they will be introducing a new bill on coercive control, as an amendment to the Serious Crime Bill.  Harry Fletcher, Criminal Justice Director, Digital-Trust, who has been campaigning and working with all parties to introduce new legislation, welcomes the announcement.

In February 2014, Elfyn Llwyd MP, put before Parliament a Ten Minute Rule Bill concerning Domestic Violence.  Llwyd and Fletcher have been in consultations for the last eight months with victims, criminal justice agencies and women’s groups on what any new legislation should contain.

“The Bill we have proposed is very much influenced by victims’ experience. We wanted to know what had happened in their particular case and what legal remedy would have helped. For example, we proposed there should be no time limit on ‘coercive control’ because victims often need time to get safe and recover before enduring a legal case” explained Fletcher.

Wendy Green, Domestic Violence Coordinator for Rushcliffe Borough Council, who contributed to the consultation and works with vulnerable women every day and, “It can be very difficult to safeguard women because the current law doesn’t recognise psychological or financial abuse. This law is a huge step forward but it has to be accompanied with training and guidelines on investigation, evidence gathering and prosecution before it can be effective.”

The Bill which Fletcher drafted this year alongside Llwyd’s office would require police services to adopt, publish and implement policies and standards for officers’ responses to coercive control. That training would not only be a requirement for the police, but any agency who may come into contact with domestic violence cases - including Crown Prosecution Service, health care, social services and education. 

Elfyn Llwyd MP supports a change in the law.  He said:  “Some of the worst cases of domestic abuse don’t include physical harm, but use coercive and controlling behaviour to inflict psychological abuse and maintain power over a victim. The current law is inadequate to deal with this type of abuse”

Llwyd and Fletcher will continue to work with Parliamentarians as the Bill goes through the House of Commons and the Lords. They will be making sure the provisions are robust and successfully implemented within the criminal justice system.

Background
The lack of appropriate legislation is a major contributory factor into the low charging and conviction rates on domestic abuse in England, Wales and Northern Ireland which in 2011 stood at just 6.5% . It is also why murder or suicide rates amongst victims of domestic violence remains far too high.

  • Two women are killed every week in England and Wales through domestic abuse, a recurring number (Home Office statistics).
  • 500 women who have experienced domestic abuse in the last six months commit suicide every year. Of those, just fewer than 200 attended hospital for domestic abuse on the day they died. (The Cost of Domestic abuse. Women and Equality Unit, Walby, 2004).

Examples of digital coercive control

  • Accessing text, email or online accounts to gather information or monitor a victim
  • Using GPS tracking devices to find victim’s location
  • Installing surveillance software on computer or mobile phones
  • Employing listening devices or video cameras to surveil victim
  • Providing children with spyware installed on smartphones to listen to conversations in a room or track their location.

Statistics

  • 80.4% of women in refuges and 85.6% of women using non-refuge services had experienced emotional abuse (Women’s Aid)
  • 57.4% of women in refuges and 49.7% of women using non-refuge services had experienced financial abuse (Women’s Aid)
  • 500 women who have experienced domestic abuse in the last six months commit suicide every year. Of those, just fewer than 200 attended hospital for domestic abuse on the day they died. (The Cost of Domestic abuse. Women and Equality Unit, Walby, 2004).
  • Some domestic homicides and so-called ‘honour killings’ may be disguised as suicides or accidents, with the help of the extended family and community (Southall Black Sisters).
  • 1 in 4 women experience domestic abuse during their lifetime and 6% to 10% of women experience domestic abuse in any given year (Analysis of ten separate domestic abuse prevalence studies by the Council of Europe, 2002).
  • Domestic abuse has a higher rate of repeat victimisation than any other crime. (Home Office, July 2002).

PRESS CONTACTS:
Elin Roberts, PR Plaid Cymru t: 07738 182 864 e: [email protected]

Harry Fletcher Criminal Justice Director, Digital-Trust, CIC
 t: 0786 054 0145 or e: [email protected]
Twitter @hfletcher10  www.digital-trust.org
 

Domestic Violence Law Reform

Parliament returns on 13th October for its last session before the General Election for a term which is likely to witness the introduction of new laws on domestic abuse. In February, Elfyn Llwyd MP tabled a private members bill which criminalised coercive control, placed duties on the Police to investigate the totality of abuse in an individual case and made training mandatory for all Criminal Justice staff .It had all party support. During the summer the Bill was given a technical make over by the legal clerks in the Commons. The Bill was redrafted many times by Harry Fletcher and MPs throughout 2014.

During late October Peers will debate an amendment to the Serious Crime Bill which will state that for the purposes of that Bill, Domestic Violence must be regarded as a serious crime. The concept is likely to be widely supported.

Later when the Bill reaches the Commons, the 3 main points made in Elfyn's Bill listed above will be put down as new clauses.

Meanwhile on August 20th the Home Office announced a consultation on Domestic Violence asking whether the current law were enough. The consultation closes on October 15th. So far there have been over 400 responses.

Briefings are already being prepared by the Home Office for Treasury Lawyers paving the way for Government amendments to the Serious Crime Bill. It is essential therefore that what emerges for these procedures, protect victims, ensure that in the future Police investigate courses of conduct of perpetrators and that all staff are trained on the nature and dangers of coercive control.

The process of amendment will take place within a few days probably in November, MPs and Peers will need to be vigilant and campaigners will need to respond at speed to ensure the best outcomes for victims.

The new laws themselves are likely to be enacted in the middle of 2015 to give time for training and adjustment. The outcome for victims must be better protection and less risk from harm. Those campaigning have done a professional job.

Campaign Developments

The summer recess is normally a quite time but significant progress was nonetheless made with the campaign for DV laws. The Conservatives are currently studying Elfyns Bill, Labour will make a statement at their party conference in the Autumn and both they and the Lib Dems look like making manifesto commitments. Early Day Motion 142 which supports the campaign has 62 signatures, MPs can sign until the Election is called so lobbying will continue. Amendments will be tabled between now and Xmas and talks continue with women's Community Groups

On Wednesday 20th August the Home Office announced that a consultation is to take place on the need or not for laws on coercive control in a domestic setting. It is likely that legislation will follow. The Bill introduced by Elfyn Llwyd this spring will be tabled as an amendment to the Serious Crime Bill this Autumn. As well as criminalising abusers behaviour the Bill also proposes Mandatory training for Criminal Justice workers including the Police

UK Government: Strengthening the law on domestic abuse: a consultation

The UK Home Office

This consultation seeks views on whether the current law on domestic abuse needs to be strengthened to offer better protection to victims. It is specifically focused on whether we should create a specific offence that captures patterns of coercive and controlling behaviour in intimate relationships, inline with the government’s non-statutory definition of domestic abuse.

How to respond

Please send us your comments by using our online form. You may wish to read through the full consultation document first before beginning the online survey.

The closing date for responses is 15 October 2014.

For more details contact:

Strengthening the Law on Domestic Abuse Consultation
5th Floor, Fry Building
2 Marsham Street
London
SW1P 4DF

or email: [email protected]

Government starts consultation on DV Bill

Digital-Trust, CIC welcomes the government’s consultation on creating a law against domestic violence that includes coercive control. Current legislation is inadequate in dealing with the psychological and coercive nature of domestic violence.

Read More

End of Term

The commons have risen for the Summer break and will return in early September. BY July 22nd the Early Day Motion (142) which supports the aims of the campaign had reached 63 signatures. They included all the main parties from England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

It is the 15th best supported Motion out of 299, so a good total. Lobbying will continue until the election is called and all Motions fall.

The motion states: 'That this House believes that domestic violence is a serious offence, is concerned at the under-reporting of domestic abuse by victims and the low number of prosecutions, and supports efforts to criminalise coercive control in a domestic setting'

It was drafted by Harry Fletcher and the Primary sponsor was Elfyn Llwyd. He also introduced the Private members Bill which went through 7 drafts and had the same aim.

Next term Peers will table an amendment to the Serious Crime Bill that simply says that Domestic Violence is a serious crime and should be regarded as such by Police and the CPS.

The coalition can either support it or state that it is a serious crime anyway and that the amendment is therefore not needed. When the Bill reaches the Commons, say November time, the Bill as amended by the clerks will attempt to be tabled on the grounds that it is serious and therefore falls within the short title of the Bill itself.

The Bill may well be amended again over the summer and subject to the clerks agreement is likely to have wide political support

Lobbying Continues

The Campaign to criminalise coercive control in a domestic setting continues in the final Parliament of this session. Early Day Motion 142 which states that DV is a serious crime and supports Elfyn Llywds Bill now has 58 MPs signed up. EDMs fall at the end of each Parliament so this one will be open all year. The last motion in favour of the campaign had 93 supporters by end of May2014. The current motion was tabled on 20th June so is progressing well. As with the last session support is from all sides of the House and includes Labour, Lib Dems, Plaid, Conservative, Green, Alliance,SDLP, DUP and SNP. An amendment to the Serious Crime Bill saying 'For the purposes of this Act Violence in a Domestic setting will be regarded as a serious crime ' will be tabled in the Lords soon. The 10 Minute rule bill introduced by Elfyn and simplified and tightened by the clerks will be tabled as a NEW clause to the same bill after the summer break. Meetings and talks meanwhile are on-going with Keir Starmer and Labour, with officials at Downing Street and with key women's groups in the sector aimed at consensus

Bill Returns

The revised Domestic Violence Bill which was first tabled by Elfyn Llwyd MP with all party support is now back from the clerks and the changes agreed.

It is direct and focussed and is now of course the copyright of Parliament. The explanatory notes drawn up by Harry Fletcher and Delyth Jewell have also been significantly amended.

The key now is action post the Queens speech which will be delivered on June 4th.

Opportunities will be sought in the members ballot, amendments to Bill's in the speech, the private members route and a Bill in the Lords. The campaign team will also be looking for manifesto pledges.

In addition fresh Early Day Motions will be tabled, back bench debates sought and there will be European liaison.

External to parliament contact will continue with all Criminal Justice organisations, the Judiciary and major pressure groups.

Bill Returns from Commons Experts

The 10 minute Rule Bill which makes Domestic Violence (DV) a criminal offence came back from consideration by the Commons clerks who have been working it up over the last month or so.

The Bill which was redrafted six times by Harry Fletcher with the help of lawyer and victims was introduced in late February by Elfyn Llwyd MP with all party support. The Bill has been condensed and now is tighter and much more focused. The first draft was produced by Paladin and Harry Fletcher.

It creates an offence of Domestic Violence with a maximum term of imprisonment of 14 years, gives the Home Secretary powers to set out matters which must be taken into account when deciding whether to send a case to the Crown Court, allows for non disclosure of a victims address if that would put them at risk and gives the right to a court to order the abuser to attend a treatment programme.

The redrafted measure also places duties on the Police to compile policies, standards and enforce training. This includes prioritising cases of DV as serious criminal offences. Powers are also given to Ministers to provide training to all in the Criminal Justice System within one year of the Act coming into force.

If the law did come in it would extend to England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The Bill will be sent to all Parties over the next few weeks and has already been the subject of discussions in Downing Street and the Cabinet Office.

The Queens Speech which outlines Bill's for the 2014/15 parliament will be made on Wednesday June 4th. There may be an Organised Crime Bill and another which strengthens Child Neglect Laws in particular a new offence of emotional cruelty.

The DV Bill's supporters will explore the possibility of tabling amendments to these measures Early Day Motion 917 which supports the Bill will fall when the current Parliament draws to a close on May 14th, a little earlier than expected.

Nevertheless 92 MPs from all Parties signed the Motion. It was therefore amongst the top 30 out of over 1300 tabled. It just exceeded support for the Stalking EDM in 2011 which had 84 names and that issue went on to become Law!