31st March 2019
CAA has noted with warm approval the outspoken criticism by the Director of Public Prosecutions of penalties handed down by our courts for rapists. The maximum penalty provided is 25 years imprisonment – but it is NEVER imposed. And we simply do not understand why these violent offenders are treated so inadequately, in light of the seriousness with which our Parliament and our public rhetoric purport to regard this crime.
But there is another kind of crime against – typically – women, that we also contend is too frequently treated leniently; we refer to assaults in the home, sometimes called “domestic violence”, which too often are habitual, and too often prove fatal.
Despite millions of dollars spent on some truly great commercial advertising, we are not satisfied that this social scourge is actually being meaningfully reduced. Nor are we satisfied that so-called “apprehended violence orders” or “intervention orders” are achieving enough. More needs to be done.
We do not advocate interfering with any of those mechanisms, nor do we want draconian legislation; we do, however, urge the police to apply with rigour the powers of arrest they already have, to protect victims of assaults in the home, according to the evidence available. We note that for this to be effective those so arrested cannot readily be granted freedom on bail if the protection, and the policy of direct intervention is to succeed. If the bail laws lack that sort of flexibility (which we doubt) then that should be remedied.
A little history may be in order. It used to be the law that a woman could never give evidence against her husband. Today this concept is rightly scoffed at – it meant women were victimised with impunity.
Then the law was changed to allow women to give evidence against their husbands if they wished. But that simply did not work either. The social folklore was still too strong.
Now the general rule that the victim of a crime of violence can be compelled to give evidence in the interest of society at large is applicable (at least in theory) because the community has a stake in preventing and punishing violent offending regardless of who the victim might be.
We recognise the complexities and the social pressures that can be found in some domestic relationships but we simply say present laws and policies are not doing enough to protect women the way the architects of these historical changes hoped.
The police, the first-line defenders of victims of assault, should be directed to use their undoubted powers much more readily and much more rapidly, and given adequate support in doing so, as an effective public demonstration of our intolerance of the battering of domestic partners.