We are continuing our work to tackle harmful archaic notions which prevent victims from reporting or continuing with the criminal justice process
Reports of domestic abuse to the Crown Prosecution Service have been steadily increasing.
The sheer scale of the different ways abuse can manifest is truly shocking. In recent years, awareness of the devastating impact on victims of psychological and emotional trauma has heightened, and coercion and controlling behavior is now, rightly, recognized as a crime.
But violence and physical abuse remain all too prevalent. We need to be vigilant as changing behavior leads to new ways for abusers to terrorize their victims.
On Tuesday new laws came into force which for the first time make non-fatal strangulation and suffocation specific, stand-alone offences. This is testament to tireless campaigning from domestic abuse advocates, who exposed the sheer scale of this chilling abuse, and how frequently victims were denied justice because of gaps in the law.
In 2020, I chaired a symposium with experts and academics, including Dr Catherine White and Professor Jane Monckton Smith, to learn more about this dangerous and increasingly prevalent form of domestic terror. They made a compelling case for change, and the need for wide ranging action to protect victims from serious harm.
Their voices, along with many other campaigners working to fight the horror of violence against women and girls, have been heard, and from this week, prosecutors have new powers that mean more violent criminals are prosecuted, and more victims given the protection they deserve.
The legislation sets out that a person commits an offence of non-fatal strangulation if they intentionally strangle another person, and non-fatal suffocation where a person does any other act that affects someone’s ability to breathe and constitutes battery.
All Crown Prosecution Service lawyers have been updated on the new offences, and our legal guidance has been updated, to assist prosecutors when considering charging offences of this type.
Research has shown it takes just 10 seconds for someone to lose consciousness. A dangerously short time – but long enough for the perpetrator to know what they are doing is wrong.
This is not a “crime of passion”; it is simply a crime. It is a determined act of violence – used to control their victims, to instill fear, to make them believe there is no escape. Sadly, we know this type of offending is rarely a one-off incident, but a pattern of abusive behavior that can escalate to further violence.
By prosecuting perpetrators of these offences, we can better track patterns of abuse and understand the severity of the offending so action can be taken to ensure victims and their loved ones are properly protected from further harm.
Often this type of offending leaves minimal or no visible injury, which can mean these hidden harms go unreported if victims fear they won’t be believed.
I want victims to feel safe in the knowledge that no matter the form of abuse – whether physical or psychological – our prosecutors won’t hesitate to prosecute whenever our legal test is met. They will work tirelessly with investigators to help build the strongest possible case.
Domestic abuse is and remains a high priority for the CPS. In recent years we have seen extensive work being done to better understand and improve how cases are handled, including working with our police partners to build evidence-led prosecutions, meaning we are able to bring perpetrators to justice without directly involving the victim in every case.
It is important we continue to shift the onus from the victim to the perpetrator, by focusing on the actions and behaviors of the perpetrator before, during and after the attack.
There is no “typical” victim, and we are continuing our work to tackle harmful archaic notions which prevent victims from reporting or continuing with the criminal justice process. In April we published for public consultation our new domestic abuse legal guidance to ensure each, and every myth or stereotype is rightly challenged.
More needs to be done to restore public confidence in how the criminal justice system responds to violence against women and girls. By listening to victims, adapting how we work to reflect the very latest expert insight into changing behaviors, and working relentlessly to secure justice in every possible case, I am determined that the CPS will do all we can to help.
Source Credit: Max Hill QC, iNews. Link to original article.