The realms of domestic crime is always and forever a minefield, not least of which being the politically charged “domestic” tag, or the more contemporarily coined, “family violence”, both labels suggesting that the actions in question are of a strictly private, rather than societal nature, which of course they are not, and have never been.
Domestic violence is the leading cause of death and disability for women aged under 45.
New laws to be introduced in
Such laws in other jurisdictions generally place the removal decision firmly in the hands of the police, and whatever decision they make, based on the circumstances they encounter, cannot and will not be withdrawn.
The obvious difficulty with this approach is the overt paternalism of removing all decision-making and all responsibility from the (usually) female victim.
The approach also pushes the envelope in terms of assuming guilt, with the first decision - removal - carrying with it the twin assumptions that, in the heat of some event, the victim is being factual and truthful, and the accused is guilty (and instantly homeless), with both assumptions tending to unrelentingly flow through the entirety of the legal process.
Far more controversially, the new legislation will expand the definition of family violence to include psychological and economic abuse, and rules of evidence will be relaxed to permit hearsay.
With around 30,000 cases dealt with each year, and an estimated 120,000 unreported cases, the government aims to encourage women to speak out.*
Additional training for magistrates, prosecutors and police will be funded, along with more legal aid for offenders. There is no suggestion of an expanded police force or judiciary will be provided to deal with the potential deluge during the next decade.
The existing laws are, from time to time, exploited by women out of spite, or revenge, perhaps little realizing the seriousness of what they are doing when they unleash the laws on innocent men. This is likely a very small percentage of cases, but I have no idea, and no data.
The flip side is that, all too often, women at most risk are not safe no matter the law, and no matter the thorough and professional job done by police. The judicial system frequently plays a part in failing to protect women in worst case situations.
There is no information yet on who will establish that accusations of psychological and economic abuse have a foundation in truth; nor the nature of the spectrum upon which such abuse will be measured; nor how such abuse will be punished as a criminal offense.
I don’t question for one moment that psychological and economic abuse are real and possibly even wide spread in the community, but I cannot begin to fathom how anyone, no matter their professional role, will provide proofs and determinations of the degree and true nature of such subjective and, literally hidden, behaviors, thoughts and responses.
It will be quite some time before we start seeing investigation articles about the consequences of this ill-defined slippery slope aspect of the legislation.
There are some things that cannot be legislated by governments - many things, in fact; there are some behaviors that cannot be measured in a robust manner, and, therefore, should be tackled via other social mechanisms or forums, rather than one that will, quite obviously, be open to its own form of abuse from day one.
This legislation might not be wrong, but nor does it appear to be right.
*Sorry, lost where I saw those figures; from memory only, treat with caution.