3/27/2006

Domestic Violence, a dirty secret still!

I have read with interest the news that a policy document has been published by the PPS with a view to providing victims of domestic violence with information on how the PPS approaches domestic violence cases.

The simple answer would be that they handle it very badly, very badly indeed. The entire law on the subject is deeply gendered and flawed.



The simple fact is that under our law we do not allow for Cumulative provocation or the "slow burn process". This basically means that because of the Duffy case our law no longer takes into consideration the previous abuse when concerning itself with the issue of provocation. We define provocation by the standards of "reasonableness" that reasonableness however has a gendered tinge and we only look at that standard in relation to masculinity.

We come from the perspective that men would never stand for this, we would lash out straight away and therefore that is what a "reasonable" person would do.The law places no concern for gender on this issue and because of this women are sent to jail simply because they are being judged by a male standard.

The Duffy case established a rule banning any consideration of past abuse in the availability of the defense of provocation. In that case, the English House of Lords showed an astonishing degree of compassion for the accused’s abuser, a man who had violently assaulted his wife on several occasions:

"Severe nervous exasperation or a long course of conduct causing anxiety are not by themselves sufficient to constitute provocation in law. A long course of cruel conduct may be more blameworthy than a sudden act provoking retaliation, but you are not concerned with blame here--the blame attaching to the dead man. You are not standing in judgment of him. He has not been heard in this court. He cannot now ever be heard. He has no defender here to argue for him. It does not matter how cruel he was, how much or how little he was to blame, except in so far as it resulted in the final act of the appellant."

While the law has progressed somewhat we are still lagging behind and the refusal of the Judiciary just shows them up for what they are, a homogenous group of White, Protestant, middle-aged men.

Let's just remember where the law is coming from on this issue. The judiciary once pronounced that men were entitled to use "Reasonable means of force in order to keep the unaccommodating wife inline" and Blackstone asserted the husbands right to "domestic chastisement"

Let's not kid ourselves that the law is blind and justice will be served, we only have one groups perspective of justice on offer!

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