Not long ago the UK introduced a new legislation as part of the Serious Crime Bill. The new law makes it illegal for anyone to exercise financial, emotional, or psychological control over their partner. Women’s groups around the UK have fought for this new law for years. They feel that a coercive control law should have gone into effect years ago to protect women from violence.
However, last month a new amendment to the law on domestic violence has gone into effect that criminalizes coercive control. What this means is that a woman with a disability would be excluded from the domestic violence law. Many women’s organizations are worried about what this could mean to women with disabilities that rely on their spouse for care. These women are particularly vulnerable to violence, abuse, and control from their caretakers.
The new amendment that was introduced last month by the UK government would allow the spouse a new line of defense. The spouse can now claim that he was acting in his partners’ best interest when he inflicted violence, control, or mental anguish on his partner. The court would then be responsible to decide if this person’s behavior towards his spouse was reasonable.
The women’s groups around the UK are rallying for changing this law and adding a safeguard to protect women with a disability so their care taker can’t escape justice. They feel this line of defense is unnecessarily vague and too subjective and shouldn’t apply to women with a disability.
The group feels that the spouse should be able to defend himself, but at the same time it shouldn’t be up to the spouse to determine what’s in his wife’s best interest. The group understands how vulnerable disabled women can be and how they are subject to domestic violence. Statistics have shown more than once that disabled women are more vulnerable to domestic abuse than non-disabled women. Many caretakers use their spouse’s disability to their advantage to further control their spouse.
Many people feel this new amendment will further harm, disabled women from seeking justice against their spouses abuse. Many people view the controlling behavior a man displays towards his wife as showing concern and not abuse. The evidence will be hard to prove in a court of law and the abusing spouse won’t be punished for his behavior.
The new amendment that was introduced this month will add to the defense of the partner accused of the new crime of coercive control. The defendant only has to prove that he was acting in his partner’s best interest and if his behavior was reasonable in all their actions. The second amendment to the coercive control law now reduces the maximum sentence for the crime from 14 to 5 years in prison.
The new law isn’t going into effect for another 2 years, until the police and CPS (Crown Prosecution Services) are fully trained to recognize coercive control in the case of women with a disability. The courts will need to step up and recognize their duty to investigate such allegations as coercive control when it comes to women with a disability. The courts will be responsible for determining if this behavior was reasonable in all circumstances.
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