Government Promise Domestic Violence Legislation Reform

Kerry Smith

Kerry Smith
Head of Family at
K J Smith Solicitors

Did you know that in a recent survey of 2,000 people, just one out of every five of the respondents believed that it was easy to spot domestic violence?

Less than one third of them believed that domestic violence could happen between former partners.

Domestic violence is, generally, considered to be physical or verbal abuse. However, psychological and financial abuse can also occur.

The latter two are dreadfully difficult to spot, and even harder to prove. This means that many people who commit that type of domestic violence are actually getting away with it.

The problem is many people do not recognise certain situations as domestic abuse.

For example, less than half of the respondents believed that keeping a tab on the spending of a partner is abuse. This means that many people could be carrying out domestic abuse, even if they are not aware of it.

That being said, the Crown Prosecution Service has put a lot of effort into ensuring that those who commit domestic abuse are punished for their crimes.

In fact, in 2014, over 107,000 people, the vast majority of them men were prosecuted for domestic abuse-related crimes. This is a far higher number than ever before.

Michael Gove, the justice secretary, pledged to reform domestic violence legislation. At the moment, he believes that it is far too easy to reoffend. He also believes that the length of time that a trial takes from start to finish is a form of abuse in itself, as some cases take a couple of years to get to trial.

Gillian Guy, currently working for Citizens Advice, believes that it was a good sign that the government are starting to tackle domestic violence properly, or, at least, entertain the notion of making improvements to the law.

She believes that the reforms that the government is proposing is likely to reduce the amount of stress it takes for a victim to get the help that they need, either on a legal basis, or on a basis where they can be helped psychologically and ensured that it is not their fault.

She also believes that reforms in legislation may have an impact on the recognition of abuse. As mentioned previously, many people do not realise that they are a victim of domestic violence and are less likely to report it.

New legislation will also aim to make coercive control illegal and ensure that those who try to control their partners, even after a separation, will feel the full force of the law.

Sadly, at the moment, there is still very little being done when it comes to legal aid.

As you may well know, a person can only apply for legal aid in domestic violence cases if they have evidence of domestic violence in the past two years. Sadly, many victims do not have the evidence that is required and, therefore, people are not being punished for their crimes.

More articles by Kerry Smith

About Kerry Smith

Kerry Smith is the head of family law at K J Smith Solicitors, a specialist family law firm who deal with a wide range of issues including divorce, domestic violence, civil partnerships and prenuptial agreements.

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