Domestic Violence Act deters victims from seeking help

// 14 April 2008

Jennifer Drew’s recent feature The epidemic of male violence against women has been depressingly underlined by a report in The Times which states that "applications for non-molestation orders have fallen by between 25 and 30 per cent since implementation (of legislation to criminalise domestic abuse) in July 2007".

The piece continues, "[u]nder the Domestic Violence Act 2007 a breach of a non-molestation order is now a criminal offence and not dealt with in the civil courts.". Consequently, battered partners are reluctant to seek an order, as a successful prosecution will give those found guilty a criminal record, and perhaps a prison sentence of up to five years. Two possible reasons are given for the reluctance: either offenders have changed their behaviour or the victims do not want their attackers to be criminalised.

Judges have become concerned by the way the law has backfired and Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, and Sir Mark Potter, President of the Family Division will have talks to seek a way of changing this.

Amazingly, in the face of all the evidence, the Crown Prosecution Service denies that prosecution numbers have dropped, with a spokesman saying that the numbers of cases and the conviction rate were up on previous years. Although these statistics are from the time before the DVA was introduced, it is something of a worry that an organisation like the CPS seems to be ignoring the facts as they appear now, namely that at least 5,000 women have not come forward to ask for the courts’ protection since the DVA was implemented.

Comments From You

Pandoradan // Posted 14 April 2008 at 3:45 pm

I wish it on nobody; yet part of me wishes that those implementing the law had a CLUE what the victims go through when even reporting a crime like this. Humiliation and degradation are just words to most people. Then the churning wheels of the system drag and drag…you’re forced to repeat your experiences again and again. The inevitable bail that the b****** gets whilst you have nightmares. Then the fear that they won’t be prosecuted. I’m sure that the process wasn’t written by a woman. I doubt it was written by somebody that’s ever felt violated by anything anybody has done to them.

JENNIFER DREW // Posted 14 April 2008 at 8:17 pm

How convenient the reason for the reduction in prosecution of males who physically and/or sexually assault their female partners is either the offenders have changed their behaviour or the female complainants have dropped charges. Of course, it is women’s fault once again even when the wonderful male-dominated legal system makes physical and/or sexual assault of an intimate a criminal offence.

I doubt very much men who batter their female partners have changed their behaviour – evidence proves this is not common. Take a look at the sentences male offenders receive for physically/sexually attacking their female partners. Paul Clark who has a history of violence against his female partner received a suspended sentence! Another man only received a 15 month jail sentence for committing physical violence against his female partner.

As the above commentator said the wheels of justice (what a joke) grind very slowly and of course women who dare to give evidence against the male abusers are routinely disbelieved. So, once again reasons are not the simple ones as this article claims. But then of course we can always fall back on blaming women for not following through with their complaint they were subjected to repeated physical, sexual and/or psychological abuse by their male partners. We must not forget women who do report their male partner has abused them have commonly experienced multiple, yes multiple assaults not just an isolated one.

A different Helen // Posted 14 April 2008 at 9:13 pm

As I was coming home today Fiona McTaggart was being interviewed about this on Radio 4, and she had a rather different take on it. She felt that the introduction of the new law was working because more women were now reporting domestic violence. She said that it was the number of women applying for non-molestation orders that had reduced, and this was because women do not need a non-molestation order if the perpetrator of the violence is in prison. She is apparently in touch with Women’s Refuges and the like, who she says all report that the new legislation is ndeed helping. I have a lot of respect for Fiona McTaggart and am inclined to believe her.

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