Law Reform

LCCSA responds to SAP's consultation on Domestic Violence & Sentencing

PUBLISHED October 1, 2004

Our answers to the questions posed in the consultation paper by The Sentencing Advisory Panel (SAP) on domestic violence and sentencing follow. In considering these questions, we have adopted the definition of ?domestic violence? outlined in paragraph 5 of the consultation paper. For the sake of clarity, we confirm that we have considered that domestic violence includes all violence within a domestic context, including parent / child relationships, stepchildren, foster children, mothers / fathers-in-law, siblings, partners or otherwise. We note that the consultation paper has been drafted further to concerns that sentencing for domestic violence is comparatively lower than sentencing for other offences of violence. Whilst we agree that domestic violence is an extremely serious form of offending which should not be tolerated within today?s society, standard sentencing principles for assaultshould nevertheless be applied. It is not the experience of the members of the LCCSA that domestic violence is treated in a less serious manner. The fact that there is a disparity between the two categories of violence may reflect that there are very different issues to be weighed up by the sentencing court in each case, rather than lenience towards domestic offenders. Whilst victims of violence committed by a stranger are likely never to encounter their attacker again, domestic violence victims will very commonly have an on-going relationship with the offender, especially in cases where the victim and offender have children. In these cases, the court will need to weigh up conflicting factors in particular the protection of the victim (as well as any other parties involved) and any wishes the victim may have to continue their relationship with the offender. Sentencing offenders in domestic situations will never be straightforward and, accordingly, we consider it of utmost importance that flexibility is retained within the revised sentencing guidelines.