Tougher sentences for domestic killers with history of coercive or controlling behaviour

17 March 2023, 08:23

It follows a review into domestic homicide sentencing
It follows a review into domestic homicide sentencing. Picture: Getty/LBC
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

Killers with a history of coercive of controlling or coercive behaviour will face tougher sentences after an independent review into domestic homicide sentencing.

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The use of excessive or gratuitous violence will also be made an aggravating factor in sentencing decisions for murder, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has confirmed.

Manslaughter sentencing guidelines around "rough sex" will also be reviewed.

It comes after recommendations from Clade Wade KC, who conducted an independent review into domestic homicide sentencing.

Ms Wade, who was defence barrister for the first woman to have her murder conviction quashed under coercive control laws, found the current sentencing framework does not adequately reflect that many domestic homicides are preceded by years of abuse, the MoJ added.

Speaking to LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast, Justice Secretary Dominic Raab said he wants "perpetrators behind bars for longer" in the most brutal cases.

“In these most brutal cases, I want the perpetrators to be behind bars for longer and I want, frankly, the women in this country and the bereaved of the victims to know that the justice system is fully, fully on their side," Mr Raab told Nick.

Dominic Raab says domestic killers with history of coercive behaviour should face tougher sentences

Domestic homicide is defined as a death that occurs due to violence, abuse or neglect by a partner, ex-partner, relative or member of the same household.

Controlling or coercive behaviour was introduced as a criminal offence in the Serious Crime Act 2015 and can include economic, emotional or psychological abuse and threats alongside physical or sexual violence.

Patrick Ryan, chief executive of domestic abuse support service Hestia, said: "Far too many people across the UK lose their lives to a current or former partner.

"As a specialist domestic abuse charity, Hestia welcomes these tougher sentences and we now await a more detailed and resourced plan.

Dominic Raab said he wants tougher sentences for domestic killers
Dominic Raab said he wants tougher sentences for domestic killers. Picture: Getty

"In particular, we welcome the recognition of other forms of violence including coercive control.

"Survivors often tell us that they have endured years of abuse before physical violence escalates and it's right that we take this into account when sentencing."

A public consultation will be launched to determine whether a higher sentencing starting point of 25 years should be applied in murder cases where there is a history of controlling and coercive abuse.

Currently, the 25-year starting point only applies to murders where a knife has been taken to the scene with intent.

The Government has also asked the Sentencing Council to review the manslaughter sentencing guidelines to explain to judges that cases where deaths occur during rough sex should be punished with longer jail terms.

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While the law is clear that there is no such thing as a "rough sex defence", the review found that the high risk of death should be reflected in sentences potentially several years longer, the MoJ said.

Conservative MP Laura Farris last year asked ministers to support proposals for a minimum 12-year sentence for sexually motivated manslaughter amid concerns the law does not adequately punish such crimes.

Ms Farris said: "I am delighted by today's decision which will see perpetrators receive much heftier sentences when they show such blatant disregard for their victims' lives.

"The last few years have seen some appalling cases where men have received derisory sentences for brutal killings including strangulation. The announcement recognises the gendered nature of these crimes, and the fact they are often part of wider patterns of domestic abuse.

"We won't solve violence against women overnight but today's decision shows that these crimes will be treated with the seriousness that they deserve."

The Government will respond in full to the Wade Review in the summer, Mr Raab told LBC.

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