Police chief welcomes new sentence rules for domestic violence

Dame Vera Baird
Dame Vera Baird

Northumbria Police chief, Dame Vera Baird QC, has welcomed new guidelines for sentencing in domestic abuse cases.

The new guidelines from the Sentencing Council say domestic abuse should be treated as more serious than similar offending in a non-domestic context.

This includes both physical and emotional and psychological violence.

Guidelines, published in 2006, said that domestic offending was “no less serious” than offending outside of the home but that will now change.

Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Dame Vera Baird, has welcomed the new guidelines.

She said: “Historically, sentencing has been weak for domestic abuse. We have had some devastating failures in this region.

“There has been cases where serious violence inflicted in a home has been met with non-custodial sentences, when the same violence on the street would have brought custody.

“These guidelines are not simply tough. They show an understanding, which is very commendable, of the dynamics of domestic abuse.

“The sentencing council makes clear that the huge breach of trust involved when inflicting harm on a partner, or a family member, itself merits harsher punishment.

“They recognise that long-term abuse is cumulative and deeply damaging, making recovery long and difficult.”

She added: “It is welcome that these guidelines state clearly that previous convictions, or a ‘good character’, is not taken into consideration in mitigation of domestic abuse cases.

“It is well known that perpetrators of domestic abuse have two different personalities, one outside their home and another for their victims.

“I also welcome the assertion that sentences should be appropriate in the public interest irrespective of the wishes of the victim.

“This may seem strange to some but it is vital because pressure can be put on a victim to ask for leniency when the responsibility is that of the court.

“I hope these guidelines lead to an improvement in cases here in the North East and beyond.”

Following the report the Justice Committee has also asked the Courts to identify domestic abuse related cases and monitor how the guidelines are working.”