Protecting victims of domestic violence are we getting the balance right?

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The importance of protecting domestic violence victims is undisputed, yet the appropriate legal response to domestic violence is much debated (Macaulay, 2005; Hitchings, 2005; Stark, 2005). It has been suggested that criminalising breaches of non-molestation orders reflects ‘society’s increased understanding of the seriousness of domestic violence and emphasis on protection of victims’ (Hester et al, 2008, p19). Feminists ‘have, since the 1970s, been at the forefront of campaigning for criminalisation of domestic violence’ (Hester, 2005, p79). However, many scholars (including feminists) oppose criminalisation. Stark (2005) suggests victims suffer harm from criminalisation. Mills (1999) argues strongly against all mandatory state arrest and prosecution. Some see the criminal law as inappropriate because it encourages women to rely on an alternative patriarchal figure; the state (Lewis et al, 2001). Despite these debates, the piloting of domestic violence protection notices (DVPN) and domestic violence protection orders (DVPO) is taking place. The first of the questions that this paper asks therefore is ‘should the state play a greater role in protecting victims of domestic violence?’ It questions whether DVPN and DVPO, alongside existing remedies, achieve the right balance between the victim’s rights to self-determination and their rights to protection. These pilots are not, however, the only changes proposed to the law. It has been suggested that women should be afforded the right to ask the police whether their partners have a history of domestic violence. Such proposals will result in significant interferences with assailants’ rights to privacy. The second issue that this paper therefore considers is whether, in its efforts to afford domestic violence victims with protection, the government is proposing to allow disproportionate interferences with perpetrators’ rights to privacy. In summary, this paper questions whether proposed amendments to the law on domestic violence will result in unjustified state intrusion both into the lives of perpetrators of domestic violence and the lives of their victims.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 12 Sept 2012
EventSociety of Legal Scholars Conference - Bristol, UK
Duration: 14 Sept 2012 → …


ConferenceSociety of Legal Scholars Conference
Period14/09/12 → …


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