Domestic abuse in the news

Buzzfeed is often associated with flippant "rate these songs and we'll guess your age!" clickbait stories, but beneath the froth they also have a number of writers who consistently pick up on serious social issues, including DA, and are worth following. Here Hannah Al-Othman picks up on the same Women's Aid research on cross-examination in the family courts covered in the Guardian. (Buzzfeed)

Sophia thought that once she asked her abusive ex-partner to leave, life would improve for her and her children. Instead, she said, he continued to exert control over her, accused her of neglecting the children, took her to court to win custody – and ultimately convinced the family court to take his side.

Research shows that perpetrators are consistently using the court system as a means of extending control over their victims, and Women’s Aid is quite rightly calling for the government to commission an independent inquiry into the family courts to tackle these failings. (The Guardian)

Victims of domestic violence continue to be cross-examined by their abusers in family courts more than a year after the government promised to stop such ordeals, a report has found. Almost a quarter of survivors (24%) surveyed said they had been cross-examined by their abusive ex-partner. Three in five (61%) said there was no special protection, such as separate waiting rooms, different entry/exit times, screens or video links, despite the domestic abuse allegations.

This interesting article discusses Norfolk Constabulary's initiative to try and reduce victims withdrawing from criminal justice cases. Attrition rates are often a big issue for police who try to keep victims supportive of any prosecution. There is a lot that can be done such as Body Worn Video evidence, improving multi agency collaboration, and victimless prosecutions, but Norfolk are looking in particular at their response time to see if this will help keep victims supportive. Bearing in mind that they cover a large area with a relatively small population, this may be key. (Eastern Daily Press)

Norfolk Constabulary figures for the past 12 months reveal 50.2% of domestic abuse victims do not support a prosecution, for reasons police say are “multi-faceted”. It is a rise of 13.2% from a three-year average of 37%, and police are looking to reverse the trend by upgrading their response.

A pilot project trialled in the west of the county has been rolled out county-wide, and will see officers treat all domestic incidents as at least a Grade B (priority attendance), even if it occurred days ago or did not involve injuries. It is hoped that by responding within a one hour window they can collect better evidence and provide support for victims earlier in order to secure a conviction.

There were shocked news reports across Liberia this week during preparations for the 35th Africa Day celebrations. They led to a public rejection from a senior politician in the country of the western world's stance on FGM being a violation of rights. Whilst delivering a speech to a delegation from the African Union, House Speaker Bhofal Chambers made some incredible suggestions about FGM and how transgender surgery was a worse violation of human rights. (Liberian Daily Observer)

Chambers told the Special Representative of the African Union (AU) in Liberia and his entourage at his Capitol Building offices yesterday that the practice of FGM should be any female's choice when they attain the age of 21, in accordance with the country’s Penal Law. Against all odds, Speaker Chambers is of the opinion that the practice is traditionally in line with a woman’s faith or beliefs, “therefore, it should not be considered as human rights violation.”

The NCDV picks up the story covered by the FT earlier this month on the way universal credit can play into the hands of controlling personalities in abusive relationships. (NCDV Online Magazine)

Marilyn Howard, a financial abuse expert at the University of Bristol, told MPs: “Our concern is the one payment of universal credit can concentrate power and resources in the hands of one partner, and that carries the risk that abusers can take advantage.”

This week saw the conviction and imprisoning for four and a half years of a mother who forced her daughter into a marriage in Pakistan. The defendant has been convicted of one count of forced marriage, one count of practising deception with the intention of causing another person to leave the country for the purpose of a forced marriage, and one count of perjury. (Crown Prosecution Service)

The defendant took her 17-year-old daughter to Pakistan in 2017 under the guise of a holiday. When they arrived, the victim was told that she was to be married to a 36-year-old man in September, after she had turned 18. When her daughter protested the marriage the defendant threatened to burn her passport and assaulted her.

The defendant returned to the UK without her daughter but was brought before the Family Division of the High Court after the involvement of social services. The defendant lied to the court that the girl had not been married and wished to stay in Pakistan but the judge ordered her immediate return to the UK. With the assistance of the Home Office, the girl was brought back to the UK and told police and social workers what had happened.

The Home Office and the Foreign & Commonwealth Office has recently published their annual report on cases dealt with by the Forced Marriage Unit. In 2017, the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) gave advice or support related to a possible forced marriage in 1,196 cases; this represents a 19% decrease compared with 2016, but the FMU does not think that it reflects an actual decrease in prevalence of forced marriage in the UK. In 2017, the FMU handled cases relating to 65 ‘focus’ countries with victims ranging from babies to people post-retirement age. 120 (10%) of the cases had no overseas element, with the potential or actual forced marriage taking place entirely within the UK.

James Millar interviews Victoria Atkins, Minister for Women and for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability, about the government's proposed Domestic Abuse Bill and whether it can make a real difference. (Politics Home)

Atkins seems confident that she’s piloting a genuinely transformative bill. Before dashing off to the launch of a new app to make it easier to report domestic abuse, she says: “I do truly think that if we can get a bill through the House, along with the non-legislative measures that we’re working on so hard, I do really believe that will be game-changing, and we’ll be protecting potential victims of domestic abuse in the years to come.”

Combating domestic violence and abuse has become a regular part of the Duchess's charity work since she attended a meeting of SafeLives, a charity which works to reduce domestic violence, in 2016 and realised the extent of the problem and how many people are affected by it. (Sky News)

The Duchess of Cornwall is backing a series of animated videos designed to highlight the often hidden signs of domestic abuse. The striking 'Cut your strings' videos have been put together by animation students from Bournemouth University, after they were asked by Dorset's High Sheriff, Dorset police and the Dorset Criminal Justice board, to make films that would illustrate common types of coercive behaviour. In a video to support the campaign, Camilla said: "Thankfully the sometimes disastrous effects of domestic abuse in society are now much better understood."

(Original article is behind a paywall) Concerns over an increased likelihood of economic abuse under the Universal Credit system have been expressed by (among others) Surviving Economic Abuse, Women’s Aid, the UK Women’s Budget Group, Refuge and some MPs. In Scotland payments are automatically split between couples but the Prime Minister and the Department for Work and Pensions have so far rejected calls for a similar change in policy in England. (The Financial Times)

The idea of universal credit is to simplify the welfare system — to help claimants and to cut fraud — and encourage work, but its rollout has been plagued with delays and the policy has been blamed for increasing hardship. Now experts are warning that the system is increasing the risk of abuse for thousands of women by paying money for couples into a single nominated household bank account. “The new system provides scope for perpetrators of domestic violence to control a victim’s access to money,” said Dr Nicola Sharp-Jeffs, founder and director of the charity Surviving Economic Abuse. “If you have no money, that makes it very difficult to leave, in the sense that you might not be able to afford petrol for your car, a bus, or a train fare.”