Men face curb even if cleared of attack on partner

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Men cleared of domestic violence offences could still be made subject to restraining orders under wide new powers to be included in the Queen's Speech this month.

Men cleared of domestic violence offences could still be made subject to restraining orders under wide new powers to be included in the Queen's Speech this month. The measure is among proposals aimed at strengthening the law to help protect women from abusive husbands or boyfriends.

Ministers also want breaches of civil non-molestation orders made a criminal offence, and women granted anonymity when they bring domestic violence complaints to court.

But the most controversial power is to permit a judge to impose a restraining order on a defendant after the court has cleared him. That would mean if a woman withdrew her complaint before the end of the trial, the judge would still be able to protect her if he felt there was sufficient evidence.

Ministers also want the criminal courts to be able to use other powers now common in the civil courts, including ex parte injunctions where the man is not warned about the court action. They also plan powers to impose restraining orders when a person is charged, pending trial.

Jane Hoyal, chairwoman of the Association of Women Barristers, said she hoped restraining orders on men acquitted of criminal charges would be subject to the criminal standard of proof "beyond reasonable doubt". She added: "This is a very good idea because there are often cases where the woman decides she no longer wants to testify against her husband or boyfriend and the court can't protect her or her children."

Sandra Horley, the chief executive of Refuge, said the Government's measures would help give women more confidence in the courts system.

The Domestic Violence Bill is being introduced by the Home Office but many of its proposals have been championed by Harriet Harman, the Solicitor General, who has campaigned for tougher laws.

Domestic violence has risen up the political agenda in the Government's legislative programme. It is understood ministers also want the Bill to be a vehicle to abolish provocation as a defence to murder.