New laws that would see domestic violence classified in its own right could soon become law in the UK. Included in the new class of crimes would be the crime of emotional blackmail, and such crimes would carry a maximum 14 year jail sentence. The Bill, is being drawn up by campaigners, and supporters hope that it would see a rise in the number of domestic violence arrests and prosecutions, as happened following a similar Bill being passed in the US.
Currently, domestic violence is not considered a separate crime in the UK. While it is possible to prosecute for offences such as rape or assault, these cases rarely take the history of the criminal and victim into account. Each incident is treated as individual, and this means that punishment can seem lenient to victims that have endured physical and psychological abuse over a period of years. Campaigners hope the new Bill would change that.
The figures for domestic violence are worrying. It takes an average of 30 incidents before a crime is reported, and only 30% of those reports lead to an arrest with just one in six leading to a charge being brought against the accused. In the US, following the introduction of a similar domestic violence Bill, arrest rates and the number of victims that reported such crimes rose significantly.
The new law would mean that anybody causing or attempting to cause physical or psychological harm to their partner or spouse would be breaking the new law. These laws would carry a maximum 14 year prison sentence, and supporters of the new law believe that it already has broad support within parliament and that it is only a matter of debating the details before the Bill is passed into UK criminal law.
In the UK, 1.2 million women say that they have experienced domestic abuse over the past 12 months and two thirds of these incidents involved repeated abuse. Two women are killed every week by their partner, or by an ex-partner, and supporters of the proposed changes hope that they can combat the stigma and the worry associated with reporting this type of crime.