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Embargoed: 00:01 Tuesday 9th September 2014

Plaid Cymru and The Digital-Trust welcome the government's eight-week consultation on strengthening the law on domestic violence.

The government recognises that there is no specific law against coercive control in a domestic relationship and is using its consultation to ask how the law could be strengthened. The government is likely to conclude that the law is inadequate and fails to take into account patterns or courses of abusive behaviour.

The criminalisation of coercive control was contained in a bill introduced in the House of Commons by Elfyn Llwyd MP in February this year. The bill would fill a perceived 'gap' in current British law on domestic abuse. The bill states that any person who commits an act or engages in a course of conduct that amounts to coercive control is guilty of an offence.

If a person is convicted on indictment at a Crown Court they are liable to a term of imprisonment not exceeding 14 years.

In addition, the bill places mandatory duties on the Secretary of State to ensure that every police service in England, Wales and Northern Ireland develops and implements written policies and standards for officers' responses to domestic violence incidents.

The bill also ensures that there shall be training into domestic violence behaviour for all criminal justice agencies within one year of the measures coming into effect.

The bill attracted all-party support including Sir Edward Garnier (Conservative), Cheryl Gillan (Conservative), Sir Bob Russell (Liberal Democrat), Sandra Osborne (Labour), Caroline Lucas (Green) and Margaret Ritchie (SDLP).

In a briefing to MPs published today (Tuesday), its authors Elfyn Llwyd MP, Delyth Jewell and Harry Fletcher argue that the 10-minute Rule Bill would strengthen the law, result in more victims reporting abuse, ensure that the Police investigated courses of coercive control properly and give prosecutors more evidence to mount prosecutions and gain convictions. Members of Parliament are being urged to support the amendment to the Serious Crime Bill in the Autumn.

Harry Fletcher, Director of The Digital-Trust, who co-ordinated the drafting of the bill during 2014, said:

"Domestic violence is a serious crime, the law does not protect predominantly female victims, and perpetrators are empowered by patterns of abuse”

“Stronger laws are needed now."

Plaid Cymru Parliamentary Leader Elfyn Llwyd MP said:

"My bill meets the government's thinking, it criminalises coercive control and makes training mandatory for all criminal justice professionals, in particular police and prosecutors.

"The bill will be tabled as an amendment to the Serious Crime Bill expected to arrive in the Commons some time in the autumn. It is highly likely that the government will be producing their own proposals at around the same time.

"If the measures are properly enforced, they will result in a sharp rise in reporting, prosecutions and convictions."

---ends---

Notes to editors

Further information can be found in the two appendix documents supplied

Appendix 1 – DV Bill Draft - 2 9 14, or see the following link:
http://www.hfletcher.co.uk/bill

Appendix 2 – Domestic Violence Campaign and bill overview (PDF)

About Digital-Trust:

The Digital-Trust is a new not-for-profit organisation that brings technologists together with those professionals working within the criminal justice system and the associated support charities. This new organisation will provide an accessible central resource for other stakeholder organisations struggling to keep abreast of the changing nature of digital abuse through technology. Digital-Trust will continuously develop new advice, tools and guidance to combat the developing risks to victims in this new digital age. The new organisation will formally launch in the autumn of 2014.

Harry Fletcher:
Harry Fletcher is a criminal justice expert and parliamentary campaigner. Harry was the Assistant General Secretary of NAPO for over 20 years. His role as a criminal justice expert has been to campaign and influence for changes in government policy. He was instrumental in getting the new stalking law through parliament. His approach was to have parliamentary enquiry into stalking and then campaign for a new law. It was very effective and the new law passed in record time. Harry is currently working on a new Domestic Violence law.

Jennifer Perry:
Jennifer Perry has over 20 years in the tech industry and has worked on e-crime issues since 2005. She wrote the UK Guidelines on Digital Risks for victims of domestic violence and stalking in 2012. She was special Cyberstalking advisor to the NSS (Network for Surviving Stalking) and has been running Digital-Stalking.Com on a voluntary basis for the past four years. Later this year with her colleagues, she will be launching the Digital-Trust to work with the criminal justice system and to help victims of digital abuse.

For further information on any of the topics mentioned in this release, or to arrange interviews please contact Kathleen Clark at the press office on 0845 833 8292, or email press@digital-trust.org

Appendix 1 – DV Bill Draft - 2 9 14

A BILL To

Make provision for the investigation of allegations of coercive control and domestic violence, for duties on the police in respect of domestic violence, for risk assessment and training in connection with related criminal proceedings in England and Wales; and for connected purposes.

Be it enacted by the Queen’s most Excellent Majesty, by and with advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by authority of the same as follows:

1. Offences of Coercive Control and Domestic Violence

1) Any person who commits an act or engages in a course of conduct that amounts to Coercive Control in a domestic setting shall be guilty of an offence.

2) A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable-
a) on summary conviction to a community order or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale, or
b) on conviction on indictment to a community order or term of imprisonment not exceeding 14 years or a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum.

3) The Secretary of State shall by regulations-
a) set out matters that the Court must take into account when determining whether to refer the matter to the Crown Court,
b) require a court, local authority or other public body not to disclose the current address or postcode of the victim of an alleged offence under (1) if, in the court’s view, it would place the victim at risk of harm by the alleged perpetrator or any other person,
c) provide the court with the power to require those convicted of an offence under (1) to successfully complete a domestic violence program and/or another appropriate counselling program as ordered by the court, and
d) provide the court with the power to issue Domestic Violence Orders under Section 28 of the Crime and Security Act 2010 to those convicted of an offence under (1).

4) Regulations under this section shall be made by statutory instrument and may not be made unless a copy has been laid in draft before, and approved by, both Houses of Parliament.

2. Definition of Domestic Violence

1) For the purposes of this Act, “Domestic Violence” means-
a) controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour,
b) physical violence, or
c) abuse, including but limited to, psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional abuse
between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality.

2) For the purposes of the definition in subsection (1)-
“coercive controlling behaviour” shall mean a course of conduct, knowingly undertaken, making a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour.
“coercive or threatening behaviour” means a course of conduct that knowingly causes the victim or their child or children to-
a) fear that physical violence will be used against them,
b) experience serious alarm or distress which has a substantial adverse effect on the victim’s day-to-day activities.

3) For the purposes of subsection (2) a person shall be deemed to have undertaken a course of conduct knowingly if a reasonable person in possession of the same information would conclude that the individual ought to have known that their course of conduct would have the effect in subsection 2 (a) or (b).

3. Domestic violence: policies, standards and training

1) The Secretary of State shall require every police service in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to develop, adopt, publish and implement written policies and standards for officers’ responses to domestic violence incidents within one year of this Act coming into force.

2) The purpose of the policies required under subsection (1) shall be to ensure that police forces prioritise cases of domestic violence as serious criminal offences.

3) The purpose of the standards required under subsection (2) shall be to ensure-
(i) a minimum level of information and support for victims of alleged domestic violence, and
(ii) all police officers involved in domestic violence cases shall have had appropriate training in domestic violence behaviours.

4) In developing these policies and standards each police service shall consult with local domestic violence experts and agencies.

4. Provision of Training

(1) The Secretary of State shall, within one year of this Act coming into force, publish and implement a strategy to provide training in domestic violence behaviours for those who may into contact with domestic violence cases in-
(a) the Crown Prosecution Service,
(b) health services,
(c) social services,
(d) educational establishments, and
(e) such other public bodies as the Secretary of State considers appropriate.

5. Annual Report

The Secretary of State shall lay before both Houses of Parliament an annual report on the effect of the sections contained within this act on victims of domestic violence.

6. Commencement and Extent

(1) This Act extends to England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
(2) The Secretary of State may by Order in Council extend the provisions of this Act to the Isle of Man and any of the Channel Islands.

7. Commencement

This Act shall come into force on such a day as the Secretary of State may by statutory instrument appoint.

8. Short Title

This Act may be cited as the Domestic Violence Act 2014.

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SCHEDULES

SCHEDULE 1 – DEFINITIONS

1) Definitions

a) “Domestic Violence” means any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality. This can encompass but is not limited to the following types of abuse:
i) psychological
ii) physical
iii) sexual
iv) financial
v) emotional

b) “Coercive Controlling behaviour” means a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour.

c) “Coercive behaviour” means an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim. This definition includes so called 'honour’ based violence, female genital mutilation (FGM) and forced marriage, and is clear that victims are not confined to one gender or ethnic group.

d) “Victim” means a person who is a victim of domestic violence.

e) “Perpetrator(s)” means a person or persons who are perpetrator(s) of domestic violence.

f) “Officer” means any officer of the police service.

g) “Child(ren)” is a child of a victim of domestic violence or a perpetrator of domestic violence or both.

SCHEDULE 2 - LOCAL POLICIES

1) A police officer investigating allegations of domestic violence shall provide victims if required with the following:

a) Emergency assistance to victims such as medical care, transport to a refuge or to a hospital for treatment where necessary.

b) Assistance out of the perpetrator’s residence if needed.

c) The names and phone numbers of local hotlines for refuges or for counselling.

d) Assisting the victim in pursuing criminal charges such as providing a crime number and referral to the relevant investigation unit.

e) Furnishing a statement to the victim that “for further information about a refuge you may contact _”

f) A statement that “for further information for other services in the community you may contact _”

g) A statement informing the victim about the right to go to court to request a Domestic Violence Protective Order or an order directing the perpetrator to leave the household, or an order preventing the perpetrator from entering the household or the place of employment of the victim, or an order restraining the perpetrator having contact with children.


Final draft - 2.9.14

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