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Bid to make domestic abuse a crime welcomed by Wirral refuge
PROPOSALS to make domestic abuse a crime for the first time has been welcomed by a leading Wirral refuge.
A new Bill being introduced in the House of Commons this month would make repeated abusive behaviour an offence punishable by a jail term of up to 14 years.
The Domestic Abuse Bill would criminalise a pattern of abusive behaviour involving two or more incidents against a victim or their children.
It also includes plans for protective orders which would ban convicted abusers from behaviour including contacting their victim or entering certain geographical areas, which if breached would mean a jail term of up to five years.
It is a move that campaigners claim will improve “appallingly low” conviction rates and may “empower” victims to come forward faster.
According to Women’s Aid, figures show that in the five years to 2011, only 6.5% of domestic violence incidents reported to the police led to convictions.
Valerie Sanders, head of service at Wirral Women and Children’s Aid said anything that encourages victims to go to the police sooner has to be a good thing.
She said: “Anything that gives the authority the power to deal with, particularly the severe cases of domestic abuse, has to be a plus.
“It is a crime, let’s face it - any act of aggression and violence is a crime and domestic abuse should definitely be criminalised.
“I would like to hope that it would make a difference and I would hope it might empower victims to report it to the police quicker than they currently do in the knowledge that something could be done.
“It needs to be taken more seriously. The statistics for domestic abuse are horrendous and they are not improving. At least two women a week are murdered because of domestic abuse and that’s a very high percentage of homicides.
“Anything that will encourage victims to perhaps go to the police a bit quicker has to be a good thing and also anything that gives the police and the Crown Prosecution Service a little bit more power to be able to deal with things if it’s a crime, that may help.”
Criminal justice expert Harry Fletcher, who drafted the legislation, said: “Domestic abuse is still not taken seriously by the criminal justice system. The number of convictions is appallingly low at 6.5%.
“This Bill will criminalise abusive behaviour as part of a course of conduct. It will lead to more reporting, more convictions and greater confidence for victims.”
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