Gary Rycroft column

Gary Rycroft.
Gary Rycroft.

The bank holiday weekend was wonderful.

A chance to recharge, and for me, the opportunity to stay at home at relax.

For most of us our homes are a sanctuary, a place where we can shut the door on the world and all that goes on in it.

However, for some, home is precisely where they would rather not be. Domestic violence takes many forms. It can be physical violence, but there is an increasing recognition that mental cruelty is just as destructive.

This is why the charity Women’s Aid along with Paladin (the first national stalking advocacy service which was launched in 2013) and others have been campaigning for domestic violence law reform.

At present the law is somewhat of a blunt instrument in that whilst there are criminal offences such as breach of a restraining order, assault and murder on the statute book which can be used to prosecute perpetrators of domestic violence, there is no specific offence which goes to the essence of what domestic violence is, namely about fear and a pattern of continued acts and abuse.

This is why it was good news last week that the Home Office published proposals for a new offence of “domestic abuse” that would make it a criminal offence for men and women who bully, cause psychological harm or exercise coercive control such as denying money to their partners.

The detail of the proposed new offence has yet to be fully worked out, but the Home Office have said there will have to be a “pattern” of abuse to trigger a prosecution.

There will inevitably still be practical issues to overcome, not least a reluctance by some victims to recognise the nature of what they are living through.

However, the criminal law is a powerful beast and the very fact that domestic abuse is given due prominence as a specific offence will help victims realise that they should not have to put up with it and may also act as a deterrent to those inflicting abuse. It is a step in the right direction.

Two hundred years ago slavery was outlawed. Sadly many people are still slaves in their own homes today and that needs to change.