Thank you for contacting me about domestic and sexual violence.
I note the Government has continued to take action to combat these abhorrent crimes by significantly strengthening our laws and introducing new tools to protect victims. This includes the criminalisation of forced marriage, new stalking offences, an offence for failing to protect a girl from Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), lifelong anonymity for victims of forced marriage and FGM, a mandatory reporting duty on FGM, the national roll-out of the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (also known as ‘Clare’s Law’), making Domestic Homicide Reviews mandatory and a new offence of domestic abuse covering controlling and coercive behaviour.
I welcome the introduction of the Domestic Abuse Bill to Parliament. The Bill will create a legal definition of domestic abuse to provide clarity that domestic abuse can be financial, verbal and emotional as well as physical and sexual and that critically it is about patterns of abuse over time. As part of this definition, children will be explicitly recognised as victims if they witness abuse.
Measures in the Bill also include the introduction of new Domestic Abuse Protection Notices and Domestic Abuse Protection Orders to further protect victims and place restrictions on the actions of offenders.
A Domestic Abuse Commissioner has also been appointed to stand up for victims and survivors; raise public awareness; monitor the response of local authorities, the justice system and other statutory agencies; and hold them to account in tackling domestic abuse.
I particularly welcome the fact that the Bill will invalidate any courtroom defence of consent where a victim suffers serious harm or is killed.
Non-fatal strangulation is an horrific act calculated to degrade and terrify. As you may be aware, there are several offences that can already cover this crime. They range in seriousness from common assault, also known as battery, to attempted murder. It is important to also consider that strangulation can be part of a pattern of behaviour amounting to an offence of controlling or coercive behaviour. There is also the specific offence under section 21 of the Offences against the Person Act 1861, which covers choking, suffocation and strangulation.
While I do understand the desire to create a new offence, there is a risk that this could limit the circumstances covered and create additional evidential burdens when compared with existing offences.
The Government has also supported the introduction of a new civil Stalking Protection Order to stop perpetrators and protect victims at the earliest possible opportunity, particularly victims of so-called ‘stranger stalking’.
Domestic Abuse Refuges
A total of £76 million will also ensure that the most vulnerable in society can access the support that they require. Of this, £10 million is being provided specifically for safe accommodation. The Emergency Support Fund for Domestic Abuse Safe Accommodation will support refuge charities so that can continue to operate and they can apply to provide temporary accommodation through the £10 million fund.
The Law Commission is engaged in a wide-ranging review of hate crime and related measures.
On the specific issue of misogyny, I understand that the Law Commission has proposed adding sex or gender to the protected characteristics as a proposal for reform of hate crime laws.
A consultation has now been launched and will run until 24 December 2020. I would recommend taking part to ensure your voice is heard. You can do so at the following link - https://consult.justice.gov.uk/law-commission/summary-hate-crime/.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
Craig Whittaker MP