Response to Sentencing White Paper

We welcome the Government’s efforts to combine more appropriate sentencing alongside enhanced rehabilitation programmes that focus on behaviour change and long-term reduction in crime (as set out in the Sentencing White Paper released today).

However, we call on the government to look at the whole criminal justice system: thousands of victims will never get to the sentencing stage, thousands will have their cases dropped or overturned, thousands will be re-traumatised by a system that fails to prioritise their safety and wellbeing.

Domestic abuse is a violent crime that has a profound impact on mental and physical health – not just that of the victim but also the whole family, including thousands of children who currently live in fear. Last year alone, around 100,000 women were assessed as needing protection due to the high risk of serious harm or murder as a result of domestic abuse.

We need a whole system overhaul to ensure much greater understanding of domestic abuse, those who perpetrate it, links with other offending, and the long-term physical and mental health implications for victims and whole families. We welcome the government’s focus on sentencing, but that is only part of the picture.

Suzanne Jacob, OBE, Chief Executive of SafeLives:

It is encouraging to see reference to mental health, drug and alcohol rehabilitation programmes, but specialist domestic abuse perpetrator programmes must sit alongside this. If a domestic abuse perpetrator is leaving prison, we must focus on the safety of the victim and whole family.

Where is the perpetrator living, what contact do they have with the victim and any children, what risk do they continue to pose to that family?

This is especially critical if the offence they were prosecuted for was not domestic abuse. We welcome any effort to make people safe and to reduce violent crime, but this must sit alongside a whole system change that reflects that the criminal justice system can be traumatising and ineffective.

We need a joined up system, with professionals working together to put the needs and safety of victims first and foremost.

Suzanne Jacob, OBE, Chief Executive of SafeLives

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