Posted on 10th July 2007

Crime Crackdown on the Home Front

A crackdown on domestic violence will see more abusive partners brought before the criminal courts, according to Judith Middleton, partner at Darlington law firm Latimer Hinks. Those who commit domestic violence are now more likely to be treated as criminals, thanks to a law change this month. The move is designed to improve protection of those at risk of attack. July 1, 2007 the relevant parts of the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004 came into effect. Previously, many domestic crime incidents were dealt with by the family courts, which could order a non-molestation injunction. The court could add to this a power of arrest, which would involve the aggressor being brought before a civil court. From July 1, no power of arrest order is needed. Police have an automatic right to arrest somebody they suspect has broken a non-molestation order and they will now be brought before a criminal court. Judith said: Anyone who commits domestic violence is now more likely to end up with a criminal record. They could also face up to five years in prison. Domestic violence is very common, with one in four women experiencing it in their lifetime and between one in eight and one in 10 experiencing it annually*. Although it is thought that less than half of domestic incidents are reported, the Police still receive one call about domestic violence every minute in the UK. The British Crime Survey (2004/5) found that there were an estimated 12.9 million incidents of domestic violence acts against women and 2.5 million against men in England and Wales. Judith said: Despite this positive move a problem with this change could be delays in cases being dealt with in the criminal courts. Another factor will be the willingness of victims of domestic violence to give evidence in court given that less than half of cases are even reported to the police. *Figures from Womens Aid 2004/2005