Jan Williams highlights the importance of civil protection, and Simon Davis voices support for the domestic abuse bill
Davina James-Hanman rightly identifies austerity policies, including legal aid cuts, as contributing to an average of three women a week being killed by their partners or former partners (‘There’s no secret abuser’s handbook. It’s called mainstream culture’, 10 October).
However, I wonder if she has considered the devastating impact of the ill-considered Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004 which made breach of a family (civil) court non-molestation injunction a criminal offence. Implemented in 2007, this egregious example of a law of unintended consequences actually weakened the protection such orders afforded victims, by prohibiting judges from attaching powers of arrest. Prior to this, when an applicant reported breach, the police had only to arrest the respondent and return him to court the next working day, for immediate contempt proceedings. With up to two years’ custody for breach, 90% of orders were obeyed, providing essential calm while the court resolved the issues keeping victims trapped – long-term living arrangements, finance, divorce, and, crucially, children. Now, on breach, victims lose the court’s protection, and their legal aid, to rely on criminal proceedings – if there is enough evidence and if they can face these.
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