Yesterday two surveys were published demonstrating how badly the UK compares to its European neighbours in terms of domestic violence and why a criminal offence of domestic violence is crucial if we are serious in tackling domestic violence.
A survey organised by Paladin, Women’s Aid and the Sarah Charlton Charity showed that whilst 94% of domestic violence victims said that mental cruelty was worse than physical harm the criminal justice system failed to take into account psychological harm.
Even though the definition of domestic violence used by the police was amended last year to include coercive control there is currently no criminal offence of domestic violence which means that the police and CPS do not have the tools necessary to tackle psychological abuse.
The Campaign by Paladin, Women’s Aid and Sara Charlton Charity seeks to introduce a specific offence of domestic violence, not only to enable the prosecution of psychological abuse but also to link domestic violence incidents together to demonstrate the pattern of abuse. Domestic violence is very rarely a one off incident yet unfortunately is usually treated as such by the Criminal Justice System resulting in sentences that in no way reflect the seriousness of the pattern of violent and psychological terrorism faced by most victims.
All of the victims of the Paladin survey felt that law reform was needed and this is something that I very much support.
The second report was prepared by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights which showed that the UK ranked as one of the worst in the European Union for levels of domestic violence. The survey highlighted that whilst the average number of women in Europe who had been a victim of physical or sexual violence was 33% in the UK the figure is 44%. Similarly the rates of sexual harassment across Europe are 55% but 68% in the UK.
This surely demonstrates that the UK needs to take action to tackle domestic violence and the domestic violence offence would be a great start.