This week West Mercia Police started a trial of new powers to allow them to temporarily ban domestic violence suspects from their homes.
On the face of it this seems perfectly acceptable – thousands of men and women have their lives destroyed by domestic violence and the consequences of their abuse stay with them for the rest of their lives – but try and detach yourself from the emotion of it and think about it again.
The powers are for the police to ban suspects from their homes. Suspects, not people who have been proven to be guilty of domestic abuse. The powers are intended to be used where there is (or is thought to be) insufficient evidence to secure a conviction. So not only are the powers to be used against people who haven’t been found guilty of committing a crime but they are to be used when there is a lack of evidence that any crime has been committed.
The constitution says that you can’t deprive someone of their liberty or property unless they’ve been convicted of a crime. The constitution is the law. For the police to require someone to forfeit their home – even temporarily – without the lawful judgement of the courts and before a jury if requested, is unconstitutional and illegal. To punish someone accused of a crime but not tried or convicted of it is unconstitutional and illegal.
Something clearly needs to be done to help people in abusive relationships escape from their abusers. It’s a hard thing to do – the victims are invariably broken down mentally and bullied into thinking they can’t or shouldn’t escape the abuse. You can’t pass a law to make victims of domestic abuse want to or feel able to escape their abuser but a big part of the problem is that there isn’t enough support for the victims if they do pluck up the courage to try and escape and it is this that has to be fixed.
Someone who has been subjected to domestic abuse is already in a fragile state without the soul destroying prospect of ending up in a hostel full of people with god knows what personal problems or a poky little flat with a couple of kids. The onus is on the victim to go to court and protect themselves, relying on someone who is probably scared to go out in public on their own to face their abuser in court and accuse them in person. ake it easier for people to get away from their abusers and make the temporary accommodation better. Don’t force victims to face their abusers and make the punishment fit the crime when they’re convicted. This is what needs changing, not giving the police permission to break the law and doing away with the presumption of innocence that has underpinned English law for centuries.