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Shireen's law: New domestic violence legislation thanks to Hampstead victim's campaign

PUBLISHED: 07:30 30 December 2015

Shireen Jamil. Picture: Nigel Sutton.

Shireen Jamil. Picture: Nigel Sutton.

© Nigel Sutton email pictures@nigelsuttonphotography.com

A Hampstead mother's two-year campaign helped bring a new domestic violence law into force this week, allowing generations of victims to seek justice.

An image of Shireen Jamil in her younger years (left) and another image of injuries she suffered through abuse. Picture: Nigel Sutton.An image of Shireen Jamil in her younger years (left) and another image of injuries she suffered through abuse. Picture: Nigel Sutton.

Shireen Jamil lobbied the government for change after bravely telling of her own horrifying story of domestic abuse, and how her attacker escaped repercussions due to a six-month time limit on prosecutions.

Now her campaign – launched in the Ham&High – has helped increase the statute of limitation to two years under changes enacted on Tuesday to the Serious Crime Bill.

The amendment also establishes a new offence of coercive control, criminalising controlling and emotionally abusive behaviour.

The 60-year-old, who lives in sheltered accommodation in Fitzjohn’s Avenue, said: “The wounds and scars of the physical damage faded with time but those left behind by coercive control, which are invisible to the naked eye, will never heal.

“I’ve been agoraphobic for 22 years, and even on occasion tried to take my own life, as I’ve suffered with clinical depression.”

She added: “Coercive control is the most sinister type of control an aggressor has on a vulnerable person. This law will liberate the souls of generations of both women and men.”

Partners who emotionally abuse their other halves could be jailed for up to five years under the new law.

Examples of psychological abuse include preventing access to bank accounts, nonpayment of child allowance, and confiscating car keys or passports.

Criminal justice expert Harry Fletcher worked on the new legislation with Welsh MP Elfyn Llwyd and used Mrs Jamil’s testimony in the House of Lords to argue for the changes to the law.

He lobbied against the six-month time limit on prosecutions after meeting and speaking with Mrs Jamil.

He said: “I thought there was something wrong with the domestic violence laws for a number of years and we drafted the bill after hearing evidence from victims like Shireen, and from police who felt they could not bring prosecutions if there was only evidence of physical violence, not if it was psychological.”

The amendment to the law was made earlier this year but only came into force on Tuesday so the police force and Crown Prosecution Service staff could be trained.

It comes too late for Mrs Jamil to now seek a criminal prosecution, as it is rare for new legislation to apply retrospectively.

But it has just made her more determined to keep fighting on behalf of thousands of other victims. She is now calling for the government to scrap the statute of limitations for domestic violence entirely.

She said: “I will not rest until the time limit is abolished. It took me 30 years to come forward.”

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