Just over twenty years ago the Dangerous Dogs Act became law propelled into legislation in great part by a media frenzy over a few tragic child victims in the years previously who had been savaged by dogs out of control. Prior to that Act many cases were brought to court under an Act of 1871. For each family an incident involving injury or worse by an out of control dog was an overwhelming tragedy for those concerned but as was predicted at the time hasty law does not necessarily make good law and so it was proved. Amendments have been made and more are being considered. It is arguable that a similar pattern of legislation involving out of control men subjecting women to violence is taking place.
For centuries in England the law and religion were an effective combination which effectively ensured women were second class citizens. Under that umbrella of protection many women suffered mental and physical harm that is as foreign to us nowadays as slavery. It is to the shame of humanity that such attitudes still pervade societies where â€œenlightenmentâ€ can be construed as treason. It is to the shame of some within these shores that such attitudes (and practices) have not been yet eradicated. But are current events sufficient to broaden the concept of â€œDomestic Violenceâ€? For whatever reason our legislators have not attempted to introduce an actual offence of DV preferring instead to tinker with the constituent parts of broader law already in place. No more than a generation ago most police forces did not consider the pursuit of a charge of assault by a male against his female cohabiter within the marital home worth the effort until the results became tragically such, that action was unavoidable. Time has moved on and so has society`s tolerance. The term â€œdomesticâ€ has widened to include even once removed family members and it is reckoned that about 90% involve traditional male to female violence, the remainder mainly but not all female on male violence. From March 31st the term â€œviolenceâ€ has been widened to include acts of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour by offenders. And for the first time the definition of â€œviolenceâ€ will include psychological abuse meaning that domineering men who torment their partners but do not assault them. and who take control of a spouseâ€™s finances, could all count as acts of domestic abuse.
For Justices of the Peace who preside over a majority of allegations of assault in a domestic context judgements will have to be made within these new parameters. As a consequence no doubt there will be a noticeable increase in the number of convictions being taken to appeal at the Crown Court in the next twelve months.