Calls for Tougher Domestic Violence Laws

94% of domestic violence victims who responded to a survey felt that mental cruelty could be more damaging than physical violence, and an overwhelming majority of victims believed that Police and the court system did not give enough emphasis to psychological abuse.

Domestic violence campaigners are lobbying for laws on domestic violence to be tightened after results of a survey showed that in a large number of cases the perpetrators are never prosecuted.

88% of the 258 respondents to the online domestic violence survey thought that the Police and courts did not account for psychological harm. This was despite 94% of those surveyed feeling that mental abuse was on occasions worse than physical assault.

57% of respondents had reported domestic violence to the police on three or more occasions, but 81% reported that this pattern of abuse was not taken into account by either the Police or the courts. A similar domestic violence survey published in The Guardian revealed that across England and Wales there are 10,000 women and children who are classed as “high risk” in terms of risk of being seriously injured or killed by a partner or ex-partner.

Nearly every respondent to the survey agreed that reform to the domestic violence law was sorely needed, and that people at every level of the Police and the justice system should be given compulsory training on the impact of domestic violence.

The domestic violence survey was commissioned by the national stalking advice service Paladin, as well as two charities working in the arena of domestic violence. The charities and the advocacy service want changes in the law to make coercive and controlling patterns of behaviour and psychological harm to be criminal offences.

Criminalising this behaviour is needed to bring the justice system’s response to incidents of domestic violence into line with a new Home Office definition of domestic violence which now includes coercive, controlling behaviours.

A new domestic violence bill covering these topics is being supported by all political parties in its journey through the legislative process. This new bill would make sure that patterns of abuse and psychological abuse were taken into account when courts are deciding on sentences.

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