Domestic Violence Act deters victims from seeking help

Jennifer Drew’s recent feature The epidemic of male violence against women has been depressingly underlined by a report in The Times which states that "applications for non-molestation orders have fallen by between 25 and 30 per cent since implementation (of legislation to criminalise domestic abuse) in July 2007".

The piece continues, "[u]nder the Domestic Violence Act 2007 a breach of a non-molestation order is now a criminal offence and not dealt with in the civil courts.". Consequently, battered partners are reluctant to seek an order, as a successful prosecution will give those found guilty a criminal record, and perhaps a prison sentence of up to five years. Two possible reasons are given for the reluctance: either offenders have changed their behaviour or the victims do not want their attackers to be criminalised.

Judges have become concerned by the way the law has backfired and Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, and Sir Mark Potter, President of the Family Division will have talks to seek a way of changing this.

Amazingly, in the face of all the evidence, the Crown Prosecution Service denies that prosecution numbers have dropped, with a spokesman saying that the numbers of cases and the conviction rate were up on previous years. Although these statistics are from the time before the DVA was introduced, it is something of a worry that an organisation like the CPS seems to be ignoring the facts as they appear now, namely that at least 5,000 women have not come forward to ask for the courts’ protection since the DVA was implemented.