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Changes to law on provocation rejected

CALLS for a change in the law on provocation in murder cases to give battered women more legal protection were rejected by the Government yesterday.

A cross-party group of MPs and the Law Commission had recommended new legislation to provide women who kill violent partners with a stronger defence.

But yesterday the Government said it did not share the Home Affairs Select Committee's view that existing homicide law was 'uncertain or unclear'.

It said current law maintained a proper balance between not exonerating a premeditated revenge killing and leaving the judgement of the facts in any individual case to the jury.

'The law does not, in the Government's view, require the reaction to provocation to be instantaneous. However it is quite right that evidence of premeditation should undermine a defence of provocation,' it said.

The Government also declined the committee's central demand - a co-ordinated policy for better refuge provision. Instead it has promised a working group to 'discuss' provision.

Nevertheless, David Maclean, the Home Office minister, said the Government was determined to tackle domestic violence: 'It must be treated as a crime and the perpetrators brought to justice.'

He promised new measures dealing with brutality in the home, including a study to monitor the arrest and detention of suspects by police, consideration of a nation-wide publicity campaign to raise awareness, and a survey to discover more about the extent of domestic violence.

The Lord Chancellor, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, said he would take into account recommendations on civil remedies to help protect battered women, alongside proposals from the Law Commission.

John Wadham, legal officer for Liberty, said: 'We are worried that the Government is being too complacent. We believe the law should be changed because it discriminates against women who are abused.'