Now that I am retired having been many years a magistrate with a long awareness of the declining freedoms enjoyed by the ordinary citizen and a corresponding fear of the big brother state`s ever increasing encroachment on civil liberties I hope that my personal observations within these general parameters will be of interest to those with an open mind. Having been blogging with this title for many years against the rules of the Ministry of Justice my new found freedom should allow me to be less inhibited in these observations.





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Tuesday, 10 September 2013

AYE; THERE`S THE RUB



“We have a case of assault in a domestic context”.  These are the opening words  I usually use when pronouncing the bench decision after a trial of assault where the defendant and complainant are or were individuals in an intimate relationship although by default the term applies more widely eg father to child or sister to sister in law.   The important consideration is that there is no offence of “domestic violence” although that is the generic term widely used to describe acts ranging from assault which is a summary only offence to murder. And perhaps that is part of the problem for a problem there certainly is.

Much legislation by the very nature of our system of government is enacted for or by political pressure whereby a government of the day seeks to gain favour with the electorate.  To quote Wikipedia, “The first known use of the expression "domestic violence" in a modern context, meaning "spouse abuse, violence in the home" was in 1973”.  It is no coincidence that by this time the “women`s movement”  had become firmly established  subsequent to widespread use of  oral contraceptives and the drive for equality in all walks of life including the marital home.  Thereafter efforts to promote that equality have been part and parcel of  the  parliamentary as well as economic process. Much of the evidence used in DV training for J.P.s is derived from studies in the state of Michigan U.S.A.  where it was concluded that victims suffered over 30 episodes of violence prior to informing police.  It was only about a decade ago that the Metropolitan Police decided to investigate cases where there was little hope of the victim being persuaded to appear in court. My memory of the training sessions on DV is that the trainers considered that we should bear in mind that when a case appears in court it is as the tip of a violence iceberg.  That philosophy might be appropriate if government had legislated for DV  per se.  Instead we have it under various levels of assault as mentioned earlier with the context as an aggravating factor.  The result is that we must IMHO disregard statistics and find only on the facts of any case on which we are sitting.  This inevitably results in acquittal of some who might have been found “not proven” north of the border.


However of all criminal law making  DV must come as high a priority as any when  a party becomes a vote seeker in 2015 which is a good reason why Theresa May, the Home Secretary, last Friday announced that Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) will inspect the performance of police forces across the country, to identify where improvements need to be made to ensure effectiveness of the police approach to domestic violence and report back in April 2014.  But it is not just the police in the dock.  The CPS and its associate the Witness Service have much to answer for also insofar as those agencies have been entrusted with the task of actually bringing the evidence before a court where that evidence seems likely to lead to conviction and is in the public interest.    And as the Bard might have considered when writing in his will that his wife should inherit only his second best bed…….. “Aye, there`s the rub”. 

2 comments:

  1. PLEASE NOTE: Not the Witness Service (which is part of Victim Support not the CPS). Perhaps you mean the Witness Care Unit?

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    1. Thank you for the correction Anonymous; indeed I do.

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