Domestic killers with a history of compulsive behavior face harsher penalties
Offenders with a history of coercive or controlling behavior toward their victims will face tougher penalties under new government plans.
The use of excessive or gratuitous force is also becoming an aggravating factor in sentencing decisions for murder, the Department of Justice (MoJ) said.
The law will be changed following recommendations by Clare Wade KC in an independent review of domestic homicide convictions commissioned in 2021.
The changes I’m announcing today will mean longer jail terms for those who kill women in the home by giving more consideration to the specific factors involved, whether it be controlling and coercive behavior or particularly cruel cases labeled “overkill “ is known.
Ms Wade, who served as defense attorney for Sally Challen, the first woman to have her murder conviction overturned under coercive control laws, said the current sentence framework does not adequately reflect that many domestic homicides are preceded by years of abuse, the MoJ said.
Justice Secretary Dominic Raab said: “This Government will do everything it can to protect vulnerable women and keep in prison longer those who attack or threaten them.
“The changes I’m announcing today will mean longer jail sentences for those who kill women in the home by giving more consideration to the specific factors involved, whether it be controlling and coercive behavior or particularly cruelty cases classified as ‘ Overkill’ is known.”
Carole Gould and Julie Devey, who co-founded the campaign organization Killed Women after the deaths of their daughters, said in a joint statement: “After years of campaigning, we welcome today’s government announcements, but they must only be the beginning of the fundamental reform that is needed to ensure that murderers of women face punishments that reflect the cruelty and brutality of their crimes.”
The couple called on the government to ensure the changes “are felt in courtrooms”.
Domestic killing is defined as a death resulting from violence, abuse, or neglect by a partner, ex-partner, relative, or member of the same household.
Far too many people in the UK lose their lives to a current or former partner
Controlling or coercing behavior was introduced as a criminal offense under the Serious Crimes Act 2015 and can include physical or sexual violence, economic, emotional or psychological abuse and threats.
More than half (51%) of the homicides examined in the Wade Review involved controlling or coercing behavior.
Patrick Ryan, chief executive of domestic violence service Hestia, said: “Far too many people across the UK are losing their lives at the hands of a current or former partner.
“As a specialist domestic violence charity, Hestia welcomes these harsher penalties and we now await a more detailed and resourced plan.
“In particular, we welcome the recognition of other forms of violence, including coercive measures.
“Survivors often tell us they have been abused for years before the physical violence escalates, and it is right that we take that into account in sentencing.”
After years of electoral campaigning, we welcome today’s government announcements, but they must only be the beginning of the fundamental reform needed to ensure that murderers of women face punishments that reflect the cruelty and brutality of their crimes
A public consultation will be launched to determine whether a higher sentence of 25 years should be used in murder cases with a history of control and coercive ill-treatment.
Currently, the 25-year starting point only applies to homicides where a knife was deliberately brought to the scene.
The government has also asked the Sentencing Council to review manslaughter sentencing guidelines to tell judges that cases where death occurs through rough sex should be punished with longer prison sentences.
While the law clearly states that there is no such thing as a “harsh sex defense,” the review found the high risk of death should be reflected in sentences that may be several years longer, the MoJ said.
Conservative MP Laura Farris last year urged ministers to back proposals for a minimum sentence of 12 years for sex-motivated manslaughter, fearing the law does not adequately punish such crimes.
Ms Farris said: “I am pleased with today’s decision which will result in perpetrators receiving much harsher sentences for so blatantly disregarding the lives of their victims.
“In recent years there have been some appalling cases of men receiving derisive punishment for brutal murders, including strangling. The announcement recognizes the gendered nature of these crimes and the fact that they are often part of broader patterns of domestic violence.
“We will not solve violence against women overnight, but today’s decision shows that these crimes are being treated with the seriousness they deserve.”
The government will respond fully to the Wade Review in the summer.
https://www.standard.co.uk/news/politics/killers-government-dominic-raab-conservative-b1067991.html Domestic killers with a history of compulsive behavior face harsher penalties