New domestic abuse sentencing guidance published
The Sentencing Council has published a new sentencing guideline Overarching Principles: Domestic Abuse. This replaces the 2006 Sentencing Guidelines Council domestic violence guideline and will apply to all offenders aged 16 and older sentenced on or after 24 May 2018.
There is no specific crime of domestic abuse as it can be a feature of many offences, such as assault, sexual offences or harassment. The guideline aims to ensure that the seriousness of these offences is properly taken into account when such offences are being sentenced and that sufficient thought is also given to the need to address the offender’s behaviour and prevent reoffending.
The emphasis in relation to the seriousness of domestic abuse is emphasized throughout the new guidance compared with the previous 2006 guidance. Previously any offence committed in a domestic context was to be seen as no less serious than those in a non-domestic context. However, the new guidance has flipped this on its head making it clear that such offences taking place in a domestic context makes the offence more serious. This is because domestic abuse is rarely a one-off incident and tends to become increasingly frequent and more serious the longer it is allowed to continue. It can also lead to lasting trauma for victims and their children.
For the first time, the guideline also includes a reference to abuse which is perpetrated through use of technology, such as email/text, social networking sites or tracking devices fitted to a victim’s car, since these are increasingly common methods by which domestic abuse can occur. The guidelines recognise that these offences can affect people of all backgrounds and the guideline is also clear that abuse can occur between family members as well as between intimate partners.
For anyone who is experiencing domestic abuse or is concerned their relationship may deteriorate to this, it is important that they seek support from friends and professionals alike. It is important to take independent legal advice as soon as possible so all options can be explained in detail and the right option chosen for each particular situation. At Barker Gotelee we are able to offer a confidential consultation in a safe environment to discuss all the options available.
Amanda Erskine is a solicitor in the Family department at Barker Gotelee Solicitors.