British government introduces new proposals to crack down on domestic abusers

Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced a new proposal on Monday to address domestic abuse in his country. Photo by Simon Walker/No. 10 Downing Street/UPI

Feb. 20 (UPI) — The British government on Monday announced a series of new measures to protect women and girls against domestic abusers.

The government said the new proposals will include stiffer penalties for “controlling or coercive behavior,” increased monitoring for domestic abuse offenders and plans to bolster its program to provide discreet assistance for victims.

“No woman or girl should ever have to feel unsafe in her home or community and I am determined to stamp out these appalling crimes,” Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said in a statement.

“As well as extra support for victims, we’re making it a priority for the police to tackle violence against women and girls and toughening up the way offenders are managed — preventing more of these crimes from happening in the first place and bringing more perpetrators to justice.”

Under the proposals, the government will alter a law to place penalties for controlling or coercive behavior on the same level as physical violence. As a result, offenders sentenced to one year or more in prison for such offenses could automatically have their cases actively managed by the police, prison and probation services under multi-agency public protection arrangements.

Offenders will also be added to the violent and sex offender registry to ensure that they “don’t fall through the cracks” the government said.

The government also plans to impose a trial of domestic abuse protection notices in Gwent, Greater Manchester and three boroughs of London that will enable courts to impose requirements on domestic abuse offenders.

Under the trial, courts can order offenders to wear electronic monitoring devices, bar them from going within a certain distance of a victim’s home, require them to notify police of name and address changes and order mandatory attendance of behavior change programs.

The government also said that beginning Monday, victims will be able to seek assistance under the “Ask for ANI” or Action Needed Immediately, program at 18 job centers and jobs and benefits offices throughout Britain. It noted the program, which allows anyone suffering from or fearful of domestic abuse to ask for ANI to be guided to a safe and private space and offered support, is already operating in more than 5,000 pharmacies in 88 municipalities across the country.

“As safe spaces with strong links to the wider community, [Department of Work and Pensions] job centers are uniquely placed to help vulnerable people access help on a local or national level,” Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Mel Stride said. “Ask for ANI provides victims with a discreet route to get urgent help and is an important part of the extensive support offer already in place nationally across our network.”

Additionally, the government published a new strategic policing requirement categorizing violence against women and girls as a national threat, instructing law enforcement to treat the crimes with the same level of importance as terrorism, serious and organized crime and child sexual abuse.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman said the changes are an elevated step the government can take to send a message that such crimes will be dealt with more harshly.

“It is completely unacceptable and as home secretary will do everything in my power to stop it,” Braverman said. “The wide-ranging measures announced today will mean the most dangerous offenders will be watched more closely and added to the violent and sex offender register.”


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