Domestic abuse is an area of law which has been and continues to evolve within the United Kingdom. Noticeably domestic abuse can be considered as a relevantly recent criminal offence within the UK, whereby recognition was only given in the late 1970’s. Since then, vast changes and reforms have changed the way in which courts and other multi-agency bodies have responded to victims of domestic abuse.
However, the historic stigma of domestic abuse has often faced back lash when considering agency responses to those who were victimised by their current or ex-partner, with many articles reporting that abusers either receive light sentences considering the acts of aggression and violence they commit against the victim, or the courts and other multi-agency bodies have failed to reflect the gravity of domestic homicide when considering sentencing and punishment. This arguably creates a barrier for victims of domestic abuse to report their abuser to the police leading to an increased percentage of victims who face excessive abuse or the risk of future harm.
Recent reports have provided that currently, there are at least two women a week who are killed by their current or ex-partner following a history of domestic abuse, whereby over half of these instances have involved controlling or coercive behaviour with the other half reported to have suffered excessive violence or acts of aggression. In response to these statistics, the Deputy Prime Minister has announced to do everything to protect vulnerable women and keep their abusers in prison for longer.
In light of recognising the severity of domestic abuse, the government on the 17th March 2023, shared their plans to sanction tougher sentences on abusers who kill their partner or ex-partner, with laws sets to consider historic acts of coercive or controlling behaviour and the use of gratuitous violence which will be a paramount requirement for the court to consider in the sentencing decision for a charge of murder. This therefore means that when an abuser commits the act of murder against the victim, they could face a considerable lengthier sentence than oppose to the sentencing considerations prior to 2023 announcement. This change has been recognised to be a positive step in the awareness of the damage caused to victims and their families caused by acts under this offence.
The reform of this area of law establishes a greater understanding of the protection needed for both the victim of domestic homicide and wider public, ensuring that not only will abusers face a lengthier jail time, but women also who lash out after years of mistreatment are not inadvertently punished with lengthier jail terms than deemed just or necessary.
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