Get Involved!

If you are interested in submitting a piece of work to be published on this blog, please email
Views are strictly those of the individual author.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Childhood Maltreatment and Risk of Revictimisation , A.Smith

Childhood Maltreatment and Risk of Revictimisation

A. Smith

Research on victimization suggested that individuals who are smaller in size and younger are at most risk of experiencing victimization. In addition, the Office for Victims of Crime (1988) found that “certain children are targeted more frequently, including those labelled “bad kids”; those who are shy, lonely, and compliant kids and also emotionally disturbed or ‘needy’ adolescents” (p.81). In addition, the Office for Victims of Crime (1988) argued that youth with physical, emotional, or developmental disabilities were at greater risk of experiencing victimization. This is particularly important because those who experienced childhood maltreatment often develop many emotional and developmental difficulties later in life, such as depression, anxiety, and aggression, which can contribute to an increased vulnerability to victimization.

With regards to the effect of childhood maltreatment on later potential for (re)victimization, Hosser, Raddatz and Windzio (2007) found that those who experienced childhood maltreatment had double the risk for later victimization in adolescence. Furthermore, Heitmeyer and colleagues (1996; as cited in Hosser et al., 2007) also found higher rates of adolescent re-victimization amongst those who experienced childhood maltreatment. In addition to these results, more support for the relationship between early childhood maltreatment and later re-victimization comes from a study by Becker-Lausen, Sanders, and Chinsky (1995; as cited in Hosser et al., 2007) who also found that childhood abuse increased later re-victimization; but instead of twice the risk of being victimized, they found four times greater risk for later re-victimization. We found more support for the relationship between early childhood victimization and subsequent adolescent victimization in an analysis by Hosser et al. (2007). Specifically, they asserted a positive correlation between childhood victimization and later victimization in adolescents. Furthermore, their results indicated maltreated children “consisted of the highest amount of ‘frequent victimizations’ (33.5%). Those who were never corporally punished, 20.3% of them reported frequent victimization “the risk of victimization in adolescents was 2.33 times higher for children who experienced maltreatment as for persons who did not” (p. 323 – 325).

When looking at the relationship between behavioural characteristics and vulnerability to victimization, Hosser et al. (2007) reported the following;

Those who did not report any victimization or indicate levels of aggression had an 18.6% probability of being victimized in adolescence. Furthermore, those who did not experience childhood maltreatment, but indicated aggressive tendencies had a 49.6% probability of experiencing victimization. At most risk were those who experience childhood maltreatment and display aggressive behaviour; as this group had a 69.6% probability of experiencing later victimization.

Hosser et al. (2007) found a clear connection between those who experienced maltreatment or serious punishment as children and an increased risk for later victimization during adolescents and suggested this was partly because of the “trauma-induced offense cycle” termed by Greenwald (2002). The trauma-induced offence cycle can be compared with the cycle of violence hypothesis; it hypothesizes that previous abuse and trauma make an individual react to situations triggering trauma-related effects with a heightened sense of fear, aggression, sense of helplessness, and heightened risk of violent “reactions and re-victimization furthering sensitivity to trigger situations” (p.329). In general, the trauma-induced offense cycle intensifies fear and anxiety within an individual who previously experienced victimization and increases their chances of a violent outburst which increases the likelihood they will be re-victimized. In support of this hypothesis, Geenwald (2002; as cited in Hosser et al., 2007) provided results indicating that maltreated children who showed aggressive behaviour in childhood had a much higher probability of revictimization in adolescence than control children.

As we have discussed, there are various characteristics that can increase a person’s vulnerability to victimization, and these are further discussed by Meadows (2001) who distinguished various offender “types” that included the depressed, dull normals, and the lonesome (p. 14 – 16). In addition to the Office for Victims of Crime (1988), Meadows (2001) argued that not only was depression a potential behavioural outcome of childhood maltreatment, but it was also a predictor of later re-victimization. As explained by Hentig (as cited in Meadows, 2001), “depressed people are likely to become victims because of their apathetic state of mind. A depressed person is generally a submissive person, frequently weak in both mental and physical strength, gullible, and easily swayed” (p.14).

In addition to depression being a predictor of later victimization, it is suggested that being classified as dull normal and lonesome increases the risk of later re-victimization. The reason for this is that dull normals are assumed to have lower IQ levels, thus their intellectual status increases their vulnerability to later victimization. Those classified as lonesome were known to seek intimate relationships with others and desire companionship so desperately that they were most likely to succumb to victimization (Meadows, 2001; 15). Knowing these specific types of individuals who are at a heightened risk of later victimization can add to the importance of this study when looking at the relationship between childhood maltreatment and adolescent characteristics, such as aggression, defiance, and compliance. However, before we can begin to identify these individuals, we must first discuss the experiences of youth while they are incarcerated in order to gain a better understanding of our population and the potential impact incarceration can have to further or correct their cycle of violence.

*References available upon request. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Restorative Justice and Domestic Violence/Abuse, Helen Grimbleby

In the too difficult box No. 1: Restorative Justice and Domestic Violence/Abuse

There is little work in this field. However, HMP Cardiff commissioned Marian Liebmann and Lindy Wooton’s report of 2008 (updated 2010). This report summarises developments in the UK which make interesting reading it also highlights a need for better research and understanding;

“The government consultation paper Restorative justice: the Government’s strategy (Home Office 2003) asked a question on restorative justice and domestic violence:
·         What would be the benefits and disadvantages of developing more specific principles in particular areas – for example for sensitive offences such as hate crimes, sex crimes and domestic violence?

The responses showed that views were strongly polarised: ‘Domestic violence specialists were strongly against their use in any such cases, while proponents of restorative justice thought they could be beneficial in some cases.’ The arguments against the use of restorative justice centred round the risk of re-victimisation, the power imbalance and the seriousness of domestic violence. Those involved in restorative justice cited the right to choose, the use of highly skilled facilitators and a multi-agency approach. The government conclusion was that more evidence was required on what works for victims.
(Home Office 2004a)

Accordingly, the subsequent publication Best Practice Guidance for Restorative Practitioners, based on discussions with many restorative justice organisations, under Section B: Sensitive and complex cases, says: ‘The use of restorative processes in domestic violence cases is not agreed; the government’s forthcoming paper on domestic violence will address this issue.’ (Home Office 2004b). At the time of writing (August 2008), this paper was still awaited. Meanwhile the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Bill was passed in November 2004, providing new powers for courts to deal with perpetrators of domestic violence, closing some anomalous loopholes and giving victims statutory rights (Home Office 2004c). These are enshrined in the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime, launched in April 2006 (Home Office 2006). However, restorative justice is not included.”

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Childhood Maltreatment and Learned Helplessness

Childhood Maltreatment and Learned Helplessness

A. Smith

Some authors have argued that individuals who experienced childhood maltreatment may have internalized problems that would appear to make them more compliant to certain situations. Compliant characteristics could include instances when people are well behaved, they do as they are told, they are considered relatively quiet and generally keep to themselves. According to Dietrich (2002), individuals who have experienced maltreatment and withdrawal from associating with others could be at an increased risk of adult revictimization. Dietrich (2002) suggested that individuals displayed behavioural characteristics considered compliant because they felt they have no control over the situation and it was a form of learned helplessness.

In addition to this notion of learned helplessness, Shirk (as cited in Straus, 1988) argued that youth who experienced maltreatment tended to withdrawal from group settings and avoid social interactions. Shirk (1988) argued that abusive parents contributed to the “maladaptive interactions with peers because their children lack essential social experiences with others” (p.68). In support of this finding, Howes and Espinosa (as cited in Straus, 1988) examined the social interactions between groups of children who experienced abuse and those who did not and found that abused children were no different from non-abused children in well established social settings; however, they differed in newly formed settings. Their study also concluded that abused children were less competent in peer interaction, which increased levels of social withdrawal. Information regarding social interactions is important to consider when looking at the effects of abuse within the current study because it is important to identify those who are suffering from past abusive experience, but do not display the negative behavioural outcomes normally associated with such abuse. It is important to provide an intervention to those who have experienced previous childhood maltreatment, but have internalized the negative behaviours associated with the maltreatment and are now potentially suffering in silence.

*References available upon request. 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Dangers of Labeling, Elizabeth Berenguer Megale

The Dangers of Labeling
Elizabeth Berenguer Megale

            Principles of cognitive psychology teach us that labeling and categorizing objects is natural.  From the time language develops, the left brain tends to dominate right-brained activities and categorizes the world around us.  Children are encouraged to label objects through word-recognition books and exercises requiring them to choose the object that “doesn’t belong.” 

            To a certain extent, labeling and categorization are necessary to our very survival.  Daily, we must make snap decisions about the safety of our choices, and labeling helps us make those decisions quickly.  Labeling, however, can also interfere with our ability to truly live and assess the world around us because in the instant that we categorize something, we cease to “see” that something for what it truly is.  As a fundamental matter, this is why the “-isms” (sexism, racism, and others) are so dangerous and breed senseless hate.

            Let me give you an example of what I mean by “labeling.”  In her book, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, Betty Edwards observed art students who struggled to draw a simple object, like an orange, when she placed the object on a table before the students.  One student remarked that she was looking at the orange, but that she could not see the orange.  What Edwards concluded was that the student failed to see the precise orange resting before her, rather the student was relying on a mental image of what an orange should be. 

Based on this conclusion, Edwards developed an exercise in upside-down drawing where students viewed the original drawing upside down and partially-covered.  This technique tricks the left-brain and prevents categorization of the object.  In turn, it permits the right-brain to assess the item for its true value.  In the context of a drawing, this means the artist begins to see the lines and negative space without identifying the object as a whole.  The end result is a nearly perfect and proportional replica of the original piece.

So, what does this mean in the context of criminal law?  If we accept the notion that crime is a construct, we can understand the potential dangers associated with the human tendency to categorize and label.  Basically, the more criminal laws that exist, the more individuals are likely to be caught in the cross-hairs and become labeled criminal.  Once labeled “criminal,” an individual is hard-pressed to overcome the stigma associated with the label because society ceases to see the person as a person; the person is now just a “criminal.”

If we focus on felons alone, we see that most jurisdictions disenfranchise convicted felons.  Thus, once labeled “felon” individuals lose the ability to participate in the political process in any sort of meaningful way.  Additionally, convicted felons often find it difficult to obtain employment because employers do not want a “criminal” working for them.  They also struggle to obtain suitable housing because landowners do not want a “criminal” living on their property. 

Other labels aside from “felon” exist.  In Florida, someone could be a Prison Releasee Reoffender, a Habitual Felony Offender, or a Habitual Violent Felony Offender.  These labels serve as a basis for seeking stricter and more severe punishment against these individuals.  Throughout the nation, anyone convicted of a sex-related crime may be required to register as a sex offender and thereafter labeled sex offender.  To an outsider, though, these labels all mean essentially the same thing: this person is really bad. 

When a society engages in a process of labeling individuals, it should continually question whether the labeling accomplishes any legitimate purpose.  Certainly, members of society as a whole may feel they are “safer” because they “know” who the “bad guys” are.  This premise is likely untrue, though.  First, if we take marginalized members of society who engage in bad behavior, punish that behavior, and later send them back into a society that no longer accepts them, we are necessarily encouraging worse behavior.  The label further marginalizes individuals who likely already struggled to find a place in society.  Therefore the labeling is likely to encourage more criminal behavior rather than less. 

As a society, our efforts would be well-spent studying the numerous causes of crime and potential responses to those causes.  Over time, increased punishment and permanent designation of individuals as criminals has failed to lower our crime rates.  Moreover, separating out individuals who have committed a crime by labeling them “criminal” seems counterproductive to our goals as a society.  Shouldn’t we want individuals to overcome their pasts, obtain gainful employment, and go on to live healthy and productive lives?  If so, we must eliminate any form of continued punishment associated with the label “criminal.”

Elizabeth Berenguer Megale
Assistant Professor of Law
Barry University School of Law
*References available upon request. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Domestic Abuse – “Clare’s Law”, Right to Ask, Right to Know or Not? Helen Grimbleby

Domestic Abuse – “Clare’s Law”, Right to Ask, Right to Know or Not?
 Helen Grimbleby

I have already written about “Clare’s Law” and at that time I was concerned that any implementation should be slow, measured and considered. On the subject of the law itself I was more or less agnostic.

As the Home Office launches its consultation I am writing this blog to consider the merits of the law in more detail by reference to learning from Child Sex Offender Disclosure Schemes here in the UK, “Sarah’s Law” and in the US “Megan’s Law”.

Child Sex Offender Disclosure Schemes

Sarah’s Law is based on the concept of “Right to Ask” which enables members of the public to request information from the police about a person who has contact with a child.

Megan’s Law is based on the concept of “Right to Know” which requires community notification and access to information about convicted sex offenders (generally through sex offender registry websites such as here). This right to know is much wider than Clare’s Law anticipates that the police would proactively disclose information on a potential abuser which is held on police records to the Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC), who would then consider whether to disclose the information to a potential victim and other third-parties.


Sarah’s Law was subject to a controversial evaluation (here) examined in detail by David Wilson here whose conclusions are obvious in his StraplineThere is no evidence that the News of the World's 'naming and shaming' campaign protects children from predatory paedophiles.”

The NSPCC Study of 2006 find “Most states have very little evidence on the actual impact of community notification on their jurisdiction. Most of the understood benefits of the laws are based on assumptions about the nature of sexual offending and the behaviour of parents and community members. Such assumptions are rarely supported through research, but continue to legitimise the law for law enforcement workers and members of the public.”

·         There is currently no empirical evidence that community notification has had a positive impact on offender recidivism rates.
·         There is no evidence that community notification has resulted in fewer assaults by strangers on children.
·         There is currently very little monitoring of vigilantism against offenders. Although there are few known incidents of harassment, it is likely that these crimes are under-reported and under-recorded.
·         By focusing on a small number of known offenders, the system may detract attention from more common crimes such as intra-familial abuse, leaving parents and children vulnerable to abuse from people known to them.
·         There are conflicting reports about the extent to which members of the community will take measures to protect family members, and increase the surveillance of known sex offenders.
·         There is some evidence that victims of intra-familial abuse may be deterred from reporting crimes because of fears related to community notification.
·         Practitioners speak of the success of Megan’s Law in terms of increased use of risk assessments, better information-sharing and additional funding for treatment and surveillance. However, these practices are distinct from the community notification element for which there are no evidenced benefits.
·         The financial cost of implementing community notification is high.


The evidence in so much as it can be considered transferrable learning has highlighted for me the following concerns:
·         The risk of false positives for these issued which often remain hidden for years.
·         Risk of adverse impact on people’s willingness to report for fear of “suspected abusers” being put on a list or register
·         Cost – this is a big one. The costs in the US have burgeoned with no demonstrable impact for reducing the number of or harm to victims.

Helen Grimbleby
*Opinions are individual to the author. 

Friday, November 4, 2011

Childhood Maltreatment and Difficulty with Peers. A.Smith

Childhood Maltreatment and Difficulty with Peers


In addition to the relationship between early childhood victimization and later violent behaviours, one may hypothesize that these two aspects may also increase the difficulity a person has with peers and adjustment which could further perpetuate stress and violent outbursts. For instance, Dahlberg and Simon (2006) found that youth who reported they had been frequently maltreated during childhood also had significant problems with their peers both during school and within the community. One reason for this peer rejection was because of the fact the rejected youth exhibited extremely antisocial and aggressive behavioural tendezcies. Dahlberg and Simon (2006) suggested that these maltreated youth were not only being rejected by their peers during adolescence, but the presense of a recurring event that has followed them throughout childhood. Being rejected by peers for many years not only increases aggression and the propensity towards violent outbursts, but it also creates difficulities with regards to adjustment.

Furthermore, problems with adjustment amongst youth who have experienced childhood abuse was also discussed years before in a study conducted by Galambos and Dixon (1984; as discussed by Straus, 1988). Galambos and Dixon (1984) found that adolescents who had experienced abuse since childhood exhibited serious adjustment problems when compared to control youth. Straus (1988) argued that youth who experienced abuse over a long period of time not only had difficulities with adjustment to new situations, but they also had ego deficits and demonstrated severe violent emotional and behavioural reactions. The impact early childhood victimization has on violent adjustment problems is important to consider when discussing the various adjustment problems youth have upon entering custody and the outcome of those adjustment problems on their violent behaviour towards other inmates. 

*References available upon request. 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Violence in the Workplace and Domestic Abuse Pt1, Helen Grimbleby

Violence in the Workplace and Domestic Abuse Pt1
Helen Grimbleby

According to a joint study by Cardiff and Plymouth Universities published this week and reviewed in the press, 5% of the British workforce experience violence in the workplace with 3.8% being injured.

The reported message is that violence is more common than previously thought, yet these statistics do not surprise me at all.

Why – because 75% of domestic abuse victims are targeted at work.

Using the same workforce numbers as the report one could expect 10% of that number to represent a snapshot of current victims of domestic abuse in the workforce based on Devon County Council consultation 2004-2007 as reported here.

That’s a staggering 2 million victims in the workforce.

 If 75% of those victims are targeted at work then 1.5 million victims of domestic abuse are targeted at work. Not all of these incidents will be violent in nature but it is clear that domestic abuse must be a significant contributor to violence in the workplace.

It is important therefore that any policies on violence in the workplace must consider the particular issues which relate to domestic abuse.

Helen Grimbleby
*Opinions are individual to the author. 


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Childhood Maltreatment Linked to Adolescent Violent Offending, A. Smith

Childhood Maltreatment Linked to Adolescent Violent Offending

A. Smith

With an understanding of the impact of childhood victimization on later behavioural characteristics, it is of value to discuss the connection between these negative behavioural deficits and later adolescent behaviour. We will first discuss the characteristics that increase the potential for an individual to be considered an aggressor or defiant followed by a discussion of how childhood maltreatment can be related to what seems to be compliant characteristics.
As discussed in the piece about “The cycle of violence” Widom (1989,2002) asserted that youth who experienced early childhood maltreatment were not only more likely to be incarcerated earlier in adolescence, but they were more likely to committ twice as many offenses. In addition, she suggested “maltreatment or neglect in childhood increased the likelihood of being imprisoned to about 59% during adolescence and to 25% during adulthood” (as cited in Hosser et al., 2007:319).

With regards to an increased potential for developing delinquent behaviours, negative family dynamics and family violence can increase the manifestation of later delinquent behaviour. While discussing various studies regarding the impact of family dynamics on later delinquent behaviour, Dahlberg and Simon (2008) found that “a number of family characteristics increase the probability of involvement in violent and delinquent behaviour” (p.108). More specifically, they made reference to the Cambridge study by Farrington (2003) who found that poor parenting (including poor supervision, punishment, and authoritarian child-rearing perspectives) was one of the most significant predictors of later violent offending.

Similair to Dahlberg and Simon (2008), Shirk (1998) examinined the impact family violence could have on later violent behaviour and found that families categorized as aggressive, produced children with higher rates of adversive behaviour. Shirk (1998) made special reference to adversive behaviour of high frequency and concluded that “with threatening commands and negative physical behaviours such as hitting others…children were more aggressive and less compliant than control children” (p.72). In addition, Shirk (1998) noted that children who belonged to aggressive families often misbehaved more in their families than the control group.

In a more recent report conducted by Widom (2003), amongst a sample of individuals at the age of 33, the chances of being arrested during adolescence for a violent offence increased 96% with those individuals who reported experiencing childhood maltreatment. In addition, Vandergoot (2006) reported that the type of childhood maltreatment can affect the probability that an individual will committ a violent crime during adolescence. Overall, findings reported by Vandergoot (2006) suggested a combination of physical abuse, neglect, and also verbal abuse had the strongest impact on an individual’s later quality of life, and also propensity towards adolescent violent offending.

Other studies (Vandergoot, 2006; Hosser et al., 2007; Widom, 2003) also paid particular attention to the effect of previous childhood victimization on the development of later violent behaviour. For example, Vandergoot (2006) examined various studies and found within a sample of 11 to 17 year old males that there was a direct link between previous childhood maltreatment and later violent offending. In addition, Hosser et al. (2007) argued that childhood victimization and trauma play a “central role in the development and persistence of violence”  when compared to adolescents who had not experienced childhood victimization (p.318). These findings were supported by Widom (2003) who reported that maltreated children were 30% more likely to committ an act of violence later in life and further by Hosser et al. (2007) whose reults indicated that individuals who experienced frequent childhood victimization had a 33% increased likelihood of becoming frequent violent offenders. These results further strengthened the hypothesis that there is a relationship between early childhood victimization and the later manifestation of violent behaviours.

*References available upon request. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Doc Bonn's "Murder Mystery Challenge" starts now!

Doc Bonn's "Murder Mystery Challenge" starts now!

 Be a crime profiler for the next two weeks and solve the greatest  whodunit mystery of all time! You could win the $100 Grand Prize!

  Click the link to read the contest rules and start to play right now. Be sure to "like" my Doc Bonn Facebook page!/Dr.Bonn.  
You can play on Facebook and twitter.  Follow me @DocBonn on twitter #Whodunit Good luck and please share this challenge with with your friends!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Legal Aid and Domestic Abuse. Helen Grimbleby

Will victims of domestic abuse be worse off with the proposed Legal Aid changes?
Helen Grimbleby


Today, 31 October 2001 sees the Report Stage of The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill in the House of Commons.

This Bill fundamentally alters the way in which the state funds legal advice and representation (legal services) moving from the current opt out system where everything is funded unless specifically excepted to an opt in system where nothing is funded unless specifically provided for.

This blog is an in depth analysis and comparison of the legal aid law and guidance as it is now and how it will be if the 2011 Bill is enacted which will allow us to answer the questions will victims of abuse be worse off and if so how.

Do domestic abuse victims still qualify for legal aid?

Domestic Abuse will continue to be funded being specifically provided for within the legislation including:
·         home rights, occupation orders and non-molestation orders (under Part 4 of the Family Law Act 1996).
·         an adult (“A”) in relation to a matter arising out of a family relationship between A and another individual (“B”) where A has been abused by B or is at risk of being abused by B
o   there is a family relationship between two people if they are associated with each other[1] and
o   “abuse” means physical or mental abuse, including(a)sexual abuse, and (b)abuse in the form of violence, neglect, maltreatment and exploitation

What is all the fuss about?

The legislation continues to provide funding for domestic abuse cases so I started to wonder why some Parliamentarians, media and women’s groups are getting very hot under the collar.

The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) definition of Domestic Abuse is
‘any incident of threatening behaviour, violence or abuse (psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional) between adults, aged 18 and over, who are or have been intimate partners or family members, regardless of gender and sexuality.’ (Family members are defined as mother, father, son, daughter, brother, sister and grandparents, whether directly related, in-laws or step-family.)

This definition is wider than the Bill envisages because it includes wider family members.
The current Legal Services Commission Funding Code and its decision making guidance currently provides that funding is
“not limited to any particular definition of domestic abuse” thus capable of encompassing wider family members.

The Bill on the other hand does not include family members and thus reduces the groups entitled to funding for legal services.

I have read and re-read the legislation and nowhere could I find reference to the need for the highest level of evidence of abuse to be able to secure funding.  I am confident that the legislation does not in itself do this. That, however, is not the end of it.

The Lord Chancellor will set out criteria in secondary legislation (Regulations) to determine whether an individual qualifies for legal services. These Regulations are not yet drafted but the government’s response to the consultation gives a good guide as to what they might contain:

1.      (Only) The following circumstances would provide appropriately clear, objective evidence of domestic violence for the purposes of qualifying for legal aid
o   there are ongoing criminal proceedings for domestic violence offence by the other party towards the applicant for funding
o   the victim has been referred to a Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference (as a high risk victim of domestic violence) and a plan has been put in place to protect them from violence by the other party; and
o   there has been a finding of fact in the family courts of domestic violence by the other party giving rise to the risk of harm.

The current criteria are not prescriptive as to acceptable evidence. The current threshold for refusal of funding is where the prospects of success are poor. There is no doubt that this amendment will raise the evidential bar for those who are eligible for legal services.

This will undoubtedly reduce the pathways for redress that are open to victims of domestic abuse.

It does also seem to go against other measures such Domestic Violence Protection Orders currently being piloted by the Home Office which aim to provide breathing space for victims to seek legal advice and longer term remedies such as non-molestation orders (but not, it would seem if the victim needs legal services funding) – bearing in mind that financial abuse is a common feature of domestic abuse you see the problem? Is this a classic case of the Ministry of Justice failing to consult properly with the Home Office???

2.      There will be a twelve month time limit to protect victims and to enable them to deal with their private family law issues.

Victims of domestic abuse often suffer for years before seeking redress. Enough said. This time limit does not exist at the moment.

3.      Legal aid would only be available for the victim of domestic violence or the protective party, and not to the other party

On the whole, this follows the ACPO guidance which encourages the police to identify a perpetrator and victim in each case. There is, however clear evidence of where this is extremely difficult and when incidents are looked at in isolation those roles might seem to be the reverse of a longer term pattern of behaviour. A blanket rule is questionable.

4.      Mediation will be an alternative to legal action.

Really? This idea is fraught with danger for victims and could risk perpetuating a cycle of violence and low self-esteem. There has been a statutory duty to consider mediation since 1997 but the underlying presumption that this could be appropriate for domestic abuse cases is definitely new.


Victims of domestic abuse will have less access to justice under the current proposals especially if they are non-intimate partners or if they do not make a formal complaint or if they are not assessed at the highest risk.

This will have a disproportionate impact on women but will also impact on men.

Helen Grimbleby
*Opinions are individual to the author. 

[1] they are or have been married to each other, they are or have been civil partners of each other, they are cohabitants or former cohabitants, they live or have lived in the same household, otherwise than merely by reason of one of them being the other’s employee, tenant, lodger or boarder; they are relatives, they have agreed to marry one another (whether or not that agreement has been terminated, they have or have had an intimate personal relationship with each other which is or was of significant duration,  they have entered into a civil partnership agreement (as defined by section 73 of the Civil Partnership Act 2004) (whether or not that agreement has been terminated), in relation to any child, they are both parents or having parental responsibility, they are parties to the same family proceedings  

Friday, October 28, 2011

Children and Young People in Custody

Children and Young People in Custody Report, 2010-2011

An analysis looking at the experience of 15 - 18 year olds in custody has been published and can be downloaded as a PDF HERE .


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Increasing Offences to Face Life Sentences, A. Smith

Increasing Offences to Face Life Sentences
 A. Smith

Justice Secretary Ken Clarke has proposed changes to those offences faced with mandatory life sentences. As discussed on BBC News, this includes those who have been convicted of a second serious sexual or violent crime in England and Wales.
Violent or sexual offences were not the only crimes listed to potentially receive increased sentences; those 16 and 17-year-olds who have threatened someone with a knife could face mandatory custodial sentences which could result in an additional 400 young people being in custody per year.

Some young people were asked their thoughts and said this new mandatory sentence is not the way forward. As discussed on BBC Newsbeat, some young people said that the lawmakers are not understanding the reason WHY youth carry a knife in the first place. Their concerns were that some young people carry a knife because they are scared and they use it as a means of protection. Other young people commented and said that the new sentence would not act as a deterrent for young people – if they are going to carry a knife they will do it with or without the threat of consequences.

Currently offenders can be sentenced to an indeterminate sentence. This means that the offender can remain in custody until the parole board decides that they are no longer a threat to society. Indeterminate sentences are known to increase strain and stress on offenders and instead of participating in programs and focusing on how to become a better person, they are constantly thinking about and worried about the fact that they have no idea when they can be let out of custody. If you have been in custody for a long while and have started to become institutionalised, leaving custody can be just as frightening as arriving to custody.

With regards to the new sentences for knife crime, offenders could receive an automatic four-month detention and training order. On the first day of November the House of Commons will debate these new measures and potentially add them to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill which is, at the moment, going through Parliament.

For more information visit


What are your comments regarding life sentences for a second violent or sexual offence? Do you agree or disagree with this approach?
Do you think the new mandatory custodial sentence for 16 and 17 year olds who threaten with a knife will act as a deterrent or do you think this could potentially be another method of net-widening?

A. Smith 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Looking Closer at England Rioters, A. Smith

Looking Closer at England Rioters

Information about those involved in the "disturbances" in England between August 6th - 9th 2011 has been released. The information has been condensed below. For more information visit the Justice Statistic Bulletin

*Click to enlarge photos 

So what do these figures tell us? Are these figures similar to the initial statements made by the press when the riots were first taking place?


When reading some of the quotes and responses of those involved or of friends and family of those involved, there seemed to be a common theme; some participated because they were bored, some because they were angry and frustrated, and others because they saw an opportunity to make money when in need. 
I am sure there are many other reasons as to why certain individuals were involved in the riots and I do not condone their actions or approve of what happened; however, I would hope that one of the government responses would be to address the frustrations expressed. 

Or maybe not. 
Wake up. 

*All posts are the opinion of the author.