The Times reports today that judges are concerned that the new domestic violence laws are not working, as there has been a marked decline in the number of victims seeking help since the laws were introduced last July. They put this down to a reluctance on the part of the victims to seek an order, for fear of giving their partners a criminal record and, potentially, a prison sentence. The concerns will be discussed at an urgent meeting between Sir Mark Potter and Jack Straw.
Meanwhile, the CPS has denied that prosecutions had dropped, although their latest figures pre-date the new laws.
If the judges are correct, it seems to me that there are three possible explanations for the estimated reduction of 25% in the number of victims seeking non-molestation orders:
- That the judges are right that victims fear giving their partners a criminal record and, potentially, a prison sentence - although under the old law victims should have been aware that a prison term was likely if the perpetrator should breach the order.
- That there has been a marked decrease in the incidence of domestic violence since last July - extremely unlikely, as the report mentions, particularly as few perpetrators would even be aware of the new laws.
- Dare I say it, that the old law was abused by some people who were not really victims of domestic violence - they simply wanted to get their partners out of the house - but now they are reluctant to go to court because of the more serious criminal implications.