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British Home Secretary Jacqui Smith

Britain Proposes Registry to Curb Domestic Violence

March 09, 2009 01:29 PM
by Lindsey Chapman
Troubling rates of domestic violence in Britain have prompted officials to suggest a violent offenders registry to protect people from future abuse.

Domestic Violence Registry

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In 2007, domestic violence in the United Kingdom resulted in 142 deaths, according to the BBC. It is estimated that there are thousands of abuse cases annually.

Britain’s Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has requested a national debate on the matter, asking police to explain what would be required to help them address the problem.

The government has issued several proposals, including the creation of a registry to help people know if their partner has a history of abuse.

“Violence against women and girls is unacceptable in any form,” Smith was quoted as saying by the BBC. “We’ve already made real progress with domestic violence incidents more than halving in the past 12 years. But I want to start a national debate on what more we can do to prevent it and challenging attitudes which condone it.”
Proposals will also address honor killings, female genital mutilation and “the sexualisation of young girls,” wrote the BBC.

Smith’s suggestions have been negatively received by some, according to London paper The Times. Sandra Holey, chief executive for a women’s charity, said, “The Government is hoping to get away with useless initiatives like this register and it is hypocritical to sound tough and do little.” Holey continued, “I’m afraid this is just spin and PR … The majority of violent men don’t come to the attention of police and it won’t keep women safe.” 

Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling wondered whether police officers could keep up with monitoring domestic violence cases, too. The Daily Mail quoted him as saying, “All of us are concerned about domestic violence but we also have to be realistic about what our police can achieve at a time when forces are cutting numbers.” He also said, “I struggle to see how on earth the police [c]an be expected to keep tabs on people in this way.”

Background: U.S. domestic violence proposals

In 2008, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that a Nevada lawmaker had proposed creating an Internet registry of domestic violence offenders. “I know it’s a cliché, but it seems like it’s a lot easier not to get into an abusive relationship than it is to get out of one,” Assemblyman James Ohrenschall explained. He said he had not spoken to any woman, or a man with sisters or daughters, who didn’t like the idea.

Others found problems with the suggestion, however. Gary Peck, executive director of Nevada’s American Civil Liberties Union stated, “It’s unclear how people get on the list. Are they really people who are high risk of repeating this kind of behavior or not?” Peck called the idea a “feel-good” proposal that was “really not going to accomplish much of anything.” Others worried about the price tag for establishing and maintaining the registry.

Pennsylvania and California had considered similar bills in 2008 as well. California ended up cutting the idea from the legislation it was included in, however; the Pennsylvania measure was “stuck” in a judiciary panel at the time the Review-Journal wrote its article.

Related Topic: Rihanna and Chris Brown

Singers Rihanna and Chris Brown have reunited several days after an alleged instance of domestic violence, drawing heavy attention to the issue in the United States. Psychologists and domestic violence experts have expressed dismay—but not surprise—at the couple’s reconciliation. The director of the domestic violence project Manhattan’s Urban Justice Center told the New York Daily News that people in a close relationship often give one another second chances. A New York City psychologist worries that many young women who listen to Rihanna’s music regard her as a role model and as such, she is setting a poor example for them.

Reference: Domestic violence resources

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