image of a women putting her hand out to stop domestic abuse

Domestic abusers who kill their partners set for tougher sentences

Domestic abusers who kill their partners or ex-partners will receive tougher sentences under government plans published on 17th March 2023. 

The law will be changed so a history of coercive or controlling behaviour against the victim or the use of excessive or gratuitous violence are made aggravating factors in sentencing decisions for murder.

This means that these criminals will face more jail time, as judges must consider longer jail terms for their abuse and aggression. The changes follow recommendations made by Clare Wade KC in an independent review into domestic homicide sentencing, which the government will respond to in full in the summer.

Responding to the government plans, Ruth Davison, Refuge CEO said:

“Refuge welcomes the news that the Government are looking at ways to increase sentencing for domestic abuse perpetrators who kill their partners or ex-partners and are planning to implement some of the recommendations made by Clare Wade KC in the Independent Review of Domestic Homicide Sentencing.

For too long sentencing for domestic homicides has failed to reflect the gravity of this crime. 2 women in England and Wales are killed each week by a current or former partner and domestic homicides account for around a quarter of total homicides. “

Around one in four (26%) homicides in England and Wales are committed by a current or former partner or relative. Of the murder cases reviewed by Clare Wade over half (51%) involved controlling or coercive behaviour while excessive violence, or overkill, was identified in 60%, with men being the perpetrator in all but one case.

Deputy Prime Minister, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Dominic Raab said:

“This government will do everything we can to protect vulnerable women, and keep in prison for longer those who attack or threaten them.

The changes I am announcing today will mean longer jail sentences for those who kill women in the home, by taking greater account of the specific factors involved, whether it is controlling and coercive behaviour or cases involving particular savagery known as ‘overkill’.”

Lucy Hadley, Head of Policy at Women’s Aid also responded to the plans by stating that “coercive control is at the core of all domestic abuse and this law change is a positive step towards greater awareness and recognition of the immense damage caused by controlling behaviours”.

It is “imperative that sentencing for male violence reflects the severity of the crime and sends a clear message that society will not tolerate these horrific murders”, said Hadley.

Justice Minister Edward Argar said:

“The Wade Review was established to understand whether the law could be updated to better protect both victims of domestic homicide and the public, while ensuring women who lash out after years of mistreatment are not inadvertently punished with longer jail terms than necessary.

The government’s full response and the consultation on introducing a new 25-year starting point for domestic murders preceded by coercive or controlling behaviour will be published in the summer.”

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