Domestic violence is despicable, we can all agree on that. It is violence invariably perpetrated by the husband on the wife in an unhappy and fragile relationship, where the wife has little or no chance of defending herself. It is invariably perpetrated within the family home, and often in front of the children, which makes it all the more despicable. It is almost always fuelled by alcohol and pig ignorance.
No less a luminary than Sir Mark Potter, President of the Family Division of the High Court, is concerned at the dramatic drop in the number of complaints from battered wives since the advent of the Domestic Violence Act 2007, which brought criminal sanctions into what was formerly the preserve of the civil jurisdiction. He wonders why. Really?
Time and again in my professional practice, I encounter battered wives, many of whom have sustained serious injuries, who are unwilling to support a prosecution, be it criminal or civil, and amazingly, they take these pig ignorant and alcohol fuelled husbands back into the family fold, and so the vicious cycle begins again. The Police get fed up with having to act as peacemakers when they should have better things to do, and the CPS and the courts get thoroughly exasperated, not least by the waste of public time and money.
The battered wife has very few options available to her. A small number decide to end the relationship, and with their help, the violent husband can be removed from the scene long enough to give the wife a chance to rebuild her life. But with the pig ignorant husband seething with resentment and ready to settle the score as soon as he is released, even a change of location well away from her former life, perhaps even a change of name, may not be enough to save the wife, and few indeed can simply pick up
sticks and move away. These wives will be spending the rest of their lives looking over their shoulder, and that’s no way to live.
So most of these sad victims resign themselves to the fact that they will never be rid of their violent partners. They delude themselves into believing, or at least hoping, that their violent husbands will see the light and turn over a new leaf, and whilst waiting for a conversion of damascene proportions, they prepare themselves for more of the same.
The Domestic Violence Act, whilst well intentioned, was set up to fail, and it doesn’t take rocket science, or meetings with the Justice Secretary or surveys amongst the lower judiciary, to tell us what we all knew in the first place.
Criminal sanctions and imprisonment are not the answer. At the risk of overburdening the already overburdened probation service, these violent husbands need counselling. There are excellent courses available on anger management and alcohol awareness, to name but two, which should be compulsory. These, coupled with injunctions available within the civil jurisdiction to exclude the husband from the matrimonial home until he has passed the various courses, summa cum laude, are the best way forward
in tackling a distressing and seemingly intractable problem.