Society evolves and with it the law. The rate of legislative change for actions deemed “acceptable” to “unacceptable” is as variable as the British weather. In the case of domestic violence we are in a period of transition. There is as yet no specific offence so named. It can safely be said that only since the 1970s has this subject become a matter of public concern. The so called liberation of women in the previous decade focussed many minds political and apolitical on male violence against women within an intimate relationship. As in many of life`s twists and turns this was a situation long overdue for attention.
A former senior police officer on my bench who is not yet 60 remembers clearly instructions from his sergeant when he was a bobby on the streets to treat domestic incidents where there was perhaps only limited violence as a “domestic” and not to follow up.
We are now at the point where the government will be soon deciding whether or not to implement countrywide Domestic Violence Restraining Orders which are being trialled in Wiltshire amongst other places. This latest addition to the array of legal powers in this regard is the right of police to remove suspected abusers from their marital home for between two and four weeks. These domestic violence protection orders can be applied to those who have not even been charged. This is a major change. The subject of such actions will not therefore even have been found not guilty . There will not even have been enough evidence to have brought the charge against him; a charge which he at least could have defended in court. I have posted here several times on DV. As a matter of principle I am extremely pleased that my court has not been involved. To impose such draconian action on the basis that a police superintendant considers that on the balance of probabilities a woman, and it`s usually a woman, is liable to be subjected to violence is perhaps a step too far. It will not be unlikely that the usual suspects will label any opposition to such measures as belonging to another age. I hope that before the almost inevitable implementation of this further encroachment on the principle of innocent until proved guilty the whole subject will have the public debate it deserves.