A week in family law: Domestic violence homicides, marriage statistics and a new Commissioner

Family Law|September 20th 2019

As I discussed here in this post, data obtained by the BBC from 43 police forces across the UK shows that the number of domestic violence-related homicides in the UK is at its highest level in five years. The data reveals that last year 173 people were killed in domestic violence-related homicides, an increase of 32 deaths on 2017 when there were 141 (there were 165 in 2014, 160 in 2015, and 139 in 2016).

Victoria Atkins, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability, commented:

“These tragic cases are a stark reminder of the devastating impact of domestic abuse and we are determined to do more to protect victims and bring more perpetrators to justice.”

However, Liverpool University criminologist Professor Sandra Walklate argues that successive governments have placed too much emphasis on reforming the criminal justice system.

She says:

“What might change behaviour is to ensure that police forces, health services, education, social services all speak from the same hymn sheet in relation to violence against women. It is at that point at which you start to send out general messages that this is not tolerable.”

The popularity of marriage in continued decline

As I also discussed here, in this post, the Office for National Statistics (‘ONS’) has published its latest annual statistical bulletin giving estimates of population by legal marital status and cohabitation status by age and sex for England and Wales, for the year 2018. The main points were that the proportion of the population aged 16 years and over in England and Wales who are married has continued to decline in 2018 to 50.5%, down from 51.0% in 2017; that whilst the proportion of the population under age 70 years who are married has declined, the proportion aged 70 years and over who are married has increased from 50.3% in 2008 to 55.8% in 2018; that the number of people aged 16 years and over who are single and have never married has continued to increase, rising by 369,000 from 2017 to a total of 16.7 million people (35.0%) in 2018; and that the number of people aged 16 years and over who live with a partner and have never married has continued to increase, rising by 1.3 million people since 2008, to a total of 5.0 million (10.4%) in 2018. As I said in my post, it does appear that the popularity of marriage is in a continued decline.

Fewer children applications at last

The latest figures for care applications and private law demand, for August 2019, have been published by Cafcass. In that month the service received a total of 1,087 new care applications, 92 fewer than in the same month last year. New care applications received by Cafcass have decreased year-on-year in each of the last ten months. As to private law demand, Cafcass received a total of 3,817 new private law cases in August – 3.3 per cent (131 cases) lower than the same month last year. This is the first month since September 2018 in which new cases have declined when compared with the previous year. Has the corner been turned at last?

Nicole Jacobs announced as the designate Domestic Abuse Commissioner

And finally, the Home Secretary has announced Nicole Jacobs as the designate Domestic Abuse Commissioner. Ms Jacobs was the former Chief Executive Officer at charity Standing Together Against Domestic Violence and has more than two decades of experience working to reduce domestic abuse. A press release from the Home Office tells us that: “The role of Domestic Abuse Commissioner will lead on driving improvements in the response to domestic abuse in the UK, championing victims and making recommendations on what more should be done to better protect victims and bring more offenders to justice.”

Home Secretary Priti Patel said:

“Domestic abuse is unacceptable, and I am absolutely determined to do all I can to protect victims and their families and ensure perpetrators face tough action. I am delighted that Nicole will be taking on the crucial role as Commissioner and acting as a voice for those who need it most.”

It will be interesting to see whether having a Domestic Abuse Commissioner will actually make a difference.

Have a good weekend.

John Bolch often wonders how he ever became a family lawyer. He no longer practises, but has instead earned a reputation as one of the UK's best-known family law bloggers.

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