Real Justice?

In this guest post, Clare Laxton considers the Coroners and Justice Bill’s impact on women who kill their partners after years of abuse. Clare is feminist campaigner, living in London and working for a sexual health charity

The Coroners and Justice Bill is currently going through the House of Lords. Clauses 44, 45 and 46 of this Bill passed through the Lords recently. You may not have heard about them as they are just three of 166 clause in the bill. Other clauses and amendments such as the one to not prosecute families who take their loved ones to the Dignitas clinic have been much publicised.

But the bill will also hopefully change the lives of women who kill their partners after years and years of abuse, and bring men who kill their partners to justice as well.

Clause 44 looks at loss of control as a partial defence to murder. The important part of this clause for me, is the fact that a person cannot be convicted of murder if their loss of self control has a qualifying trigger.

Clause 45 deals with that ‘qualifying trigger’, stipulating that fear of serious violence from the victim is a qualifying trigger for loss of self control and subsequent murder/assault. This means that women who kill their partners after prolonged abuse and violence fear of violence from their partner will have this counted as reason for their actions.

Clause 46 abolishes the defence of ‘provocation’ that is often used by men in cases when the prolonged abuse and violence that they have brought on their partner has finally ended in their death. This defence often means that while women serve life sentences for the murder of their violent partners, men often get away with suspended sentences of short sentences because they claim that they were ‘provoked’ by their partner.

The implementation of these clauses could mean that women no longer serve these long sentences for the murder of their violent partners, but there is a danger that when violent partners kill women they could also claim that there was a ‘qualifying trigger’.

It is no surprise that, although the bill was brought to the Commons in January, these clauses have received pretty much no publicity at all, although Julie Bindel did mention them in The Guardian.

When implemented, these clauses do have the power to change the way that women who have fought against or killed their violent and abusive partners are treated by the Judicial system – hopefully for the better. It also means that men will not longer be able to employ the simple ‘provocation’ defence when they kill their partners after prolonged violence and abuse.

Justice for Women is a feminist organisation set up in the early 90’s that supports women that have fought back against or killed their violent partners.