New sentencing guidelines reflect seriousness of domestic abuse

28 February 2018

Domestic abuse represents one in 10 crimes, the Crown Prosecution Service has revealed, as judges are today given updated sentencing guidelines to emphasise the seriousness of the crime.

According to the CPS, police respond to more than 100 domestic abuse calls an hour. Victims will experience an average of 35 incidents of abuse before they contact the police or support services. One in four girls aged between 13 and 18 report experiencing physical abuse in an intimate relationship. The shocking figures emerged yesterday in a CPS session entitled 'Tackling domestic abuse' as part of a festival in Brighton to mark LGBT+ History Month.

Publishing updated guidance for courts today, the Sentencing Council notes that there is no specific crime of domestic abuse, but it features in sexual, assault and harassment offences. The guidelines' purpose, the council says, are to ensure the seriousness of the offences are properly taken into account during sentencing, and 'sufficient thought' is given to address the offender's behaviour and prevent reoffending.

Today's guidelines replace those published in 2006. Highlighting the extent of changes over the past 12 years, the council points out that the term ‘domestic abuse’ has now replaced ‘domestic violence’ to reflect the fact that offences can also involve psychological, sexual, financial or emotional abuse.

The previous guidelines stated that offences committed in a domestic context should be seen as no less serious than those in a non-domestic context. They also refer, for the first time, to abuse perpetrated through emails, texts, social networking sites or tracking devices. There is also additional guidance on restraining orders and victim personal statements.

Sentencing Council member Jill Gramann said: 'Domestic abuse comes in many forms such as harassment, assault and sex offences. The increasing use of technology in offending has meant that it has also evolved in its scope and impact. The new guidelines will ensure that courts have the information they need to deal with the great range of offending and help prevent further abuse occurring.'

The guidelines will apply to offenders aged 16 and above, who are sentenced on or after 24 May. 

Article from The Law Society Gazette. 

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