Shireen’s law: House of Lords debate could lead to domestic violence law by Christmas after Hampstead mum’s campaign
- Credit: Nigel Sutton
Historic plans to introduce a law for domestic violence with no statute of limitations – inspired by a Hampstead mother’s campaign – are set to be debated in the House of Lords today.
Momentum is gathering behind efforts to create a new offence of coercive control, which for the first time would criminalise abusive and controlling patterns of behaviour in a domestic setting.
The proposals have been heavily influenced by Shireen Jamil’s campaign in the Ham&High to remove a time limit on bringing domestic violence prosecutions.
The debate in the Lords today will be an important step towards winning government backing. It comes as MPs pressing for the law are set to meet privately with Home Secretary Theresa May this week.
Mother-of-two Mrs Jamil, 58, who lives in sheltered accommodation, has debilitating physical and emotional scars as a result of years of abuse.
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She said: “I’m ecstatic – this is absolutely huge. I will feel absolutely elated knowing that it will prevent at least some women from living in lifelong pain.
“While I have not got justice for myself, we will get others the justice they deserve.
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“I have seen how this six-month time limit stops cases going to court. As far as I’m concerned, this six-month loophole has been used as a cynical ploy to drop cases.”
There is currently no specific law for domestic violence. Incidents are therefore treated as common assault in many cases – but this charge must be put before a court within six months.
Mrs Jamil launched her campaign in the Ham&High after police dropped an investigation into the historic abuse she suffered, citing the time limit.
Campaigners are confident the new law will win the government’s backing shortly after today’s debate. They expect it to be incorporated into the Serious Crime Bill – currently going through Parliament – as an amendment.
Criminal justice expert Harry Fletcher, who has drafted the proposed amendment, estimates there is a 75 per cent chance it will be passed before Christmas.
A crucial clause to the amendment, which rules out any time limit on coercive control prosecutions, was added as a direct result of Mrs Jamil’s campaign.
Mr Fletcher said: “It’s absolutely essential because coercive control by definition has to occur over a period, it would be almost absurd to have it time-limited because police would not be able to do their job properly.”