UK

Domestic violence: Theresa May to oversee new law

  • 18 February 2017
  • From the section UK
Theresa May Image copyright PA
Image caption As home secretary, Theresa May introduced several new measures on domestic violence

Theresa May will directly oversee the creation of new laws to deal with domestic abuse in England and Wales, the government has said.

Downing Street said current legislation lacked clarity and it was "unacceptable" that some areas worked harder to tackle abuse than others.

A new act would aim to address this inconsistency and make the law work better for victims.

Labour said success depended on funding for policing and to support victims.

Mrs May said it was an issue she had always attached a "personal importance" to.

"Domestic violence and abuse is a life-shattering and absolutely abhorrent crime," she said.

"There are thousands of people who are suffering at the hands of abusers - often isolated, and unaware of the options and support available to them to end it."

It is unclear what shape the Domestic Violence and Abuse Act might take, but the government is consulting with experts who work with victims of abuse.

Their ideas and suggestions will help shape the new law.

Diana Barran, chief executive of anti-abuse charity SafeLives, said she would like to see legislation simplified and consolidated.

She said the police's inconsistent response was partly down to "cultural blocks". Officers did not always take reports seriously, and had to deal with a large number of cases.


Sarah's* story

I was with my partner for only a couple of months 10 years ago, and became pregnant. I wanted to keep the baby, but he wanted it aborted.

I had the baby but he's been punishing me ever since.

He tried to kill me twice, and drown me in a swimming pool. At the time, I didn't go to the police.

But, last year, he was given full custody of my daughter so I went to the police because I was worried about her living with an abusive man.

I spoke to them six times, but each time I was fobbed off.

My ex-partner can be very charming and he's told lies about me to the social services and the police.

Now the police won't take me seriously and investigate. I am currently planning to pay to have him privately prosecuted.

I'm distraught. He has told lies about me and he has been believed. Nobody has gone after him. That's abuse in itself.

As told to BBC News. *not her real name


Victims' commissioner Baroness Newlove, who also backed the plan, said she wanted to make sure victims had confidence to come forward to report abuse.

"I have met victims who have been dangled out their front window to scare them, who have been thrown into baths to be woken up from being beaten up - these are horrendous issues."

She said she knew of police interviews that had taken place in the home of the victim and perpetrator, meaning the victim was too scared to speak.

Domestic abuse in figures

Year ending March 2016

1.8m

People aged 16-59 who told Crime Survey for England and Wales they were a victim

  • 1.2m Female victims

  • 651,000 Male victims

  • 79% Did not report partner or ex-partner

  • 100,930 Cases resulted in prosecution

During her six years as home secretary, Mrs May introduced domestic violence protection orders and a new offence against controlling and coercive behaviour.

Domestic violence prosecutions and convictions have started to rise in recent years, and the prime minister said "no stone will be left unturned in delivering a system that increases convictions, and works better for victims".

Anti-abuse charities including Women's Aid, the NSPCC and Refuge welcomed the news, with one saying the laws around domestic abuse needed to be clearer.

Mark Brooks, chairman of the ManKind Initiative charity, called for a "real step change" in supporting and recognising male victims of domestic violence, saying they made up to a third of all victims.

For Labour, shadow women and equalities secretary Sarah Champion said the consultation was "much needed and long overdue".

She pointed out that the lack of central government funding for refuges for victims meant the quality and provision of support was inconsistent.

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