Laws and Legislation for Protection of People from Violence in the United Kingdom
It is always beneficial to be aware of the laws and their legislation concerning issues pertaining to physical and emotional violence in the United Kingdom. This article will cover laws governing acts of domestic abuse, hate crimes, stalking, harassment, sexual abuse and rape and anti-social behaviour.
A new law came into force under the Serious Crime Bill last December. It has targeted people who physically, emotionally and psychologically abuse their spouses, partners or family members. It has now come to light under the new domestic abuse law that all domestic abusers who coerce victims through the social media channels or spy on their victims online would be facing up to five years of imprisonment under the new law which is currently in force. This has paved the way for charges to be pressed in cases where evidence is collected to prove coercive or controlling behaviour.
The Crown Prosecution Service has stated that this kind of abuse would be treated as an offence that includes a pattern of humiliation, threats and intimidation.
Cases of domestic abuse have frequently been prosecuted on charges of common assault; now, they can also be prosecuted criminally under charges of damage, threat to life, harassment and sexual assault. Victims had been earlier given the time period of six months within which they had to report domestic abuse. Unfortunately, many victims could not muster enough courage to do so. Under the new legislation, victims can now report such crimes within a period of two years. Both the person abusing and the victim have to be connected personally when the incident occurred. This means that they had to be in an intimate relationship, married or were family members who were living together.
The Crime and Disorder Act of 1998 has termed hateful behaviour towards a victim based on a membership in a racial or a religious group as an act of aggravation that could be prosecuted for specific crimes. A racial group is defined as a group of persons established through reference to race, colour, ethnic and national origins. A religious group is defined as a group of persons established through reference to particular religious beliefs or lack of religious beliefs. The Criminal Justice act of 2003 requires a court to regard whether a crime that is not specified by the Crime and Disorder Act of 1998 is religiously or racially aggravated. Hate crime, England and Wales statistics.
The Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 has provided two new types of offences concerning stalking. Sections 2A and 4A have been added to the Act of 1997. The new offences came into effect in November 2012. They are not retrospective and they offer further options to all prosecutors for consideration when charges are selected. The Home Office has also issued some guidelines concerning the stalking offences. It has set out examples of acts which are associated with stalking. For example, they will include following an individual, spying on them or watching them and forcing contact through any means and that also involves the social media channels (cyber stalking). The main intention of such behaviour is to restrict the freedom of movement of the victims, to leave a feeling that they have to be always careful of their surroundings. In most cases, cases of stalking may appear to be innocent when studied in isolation; but, when these acts are carried out repeatedly, they cause harassment, alarm and significant distress to the victims.
Protection from Harassment Act 1997 came into effect in June 1997. It was later amended by the Protection of Freedoms Act of 2012. The Act now allows for taking out restraining orders to prohibit defendants from harassing their victims. Section 2 of the Act allows for a prosecution for harassment with imprisonment for six months and a Level 5 fine. Section 4 covers fear of violence and it also carries a maximum of five years’ imprisonment and a fine on indictment.
Sexual Abuse and Rap
The Sexual Offences Act of 2003 was brought into effect in May 2004 and since then; it has applied to all offences that are committed on or after that date. Its intention was to strengthen the law and update it on matters of sexual offences while protecting individuals from sexual offenders. The Act contains various offences and that allows prosecutors with a vast choice of charges. Offences particularly against children under thirteen years of age can now be charged under Sections V – VIII. For example, Section V (that includes rape of a child under thirteen years of age) has to be given preference over Section I rape offence to reflect that this particular offence was committed against a child.
The laws that apply to this behaviour fall under the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act of 2014. In Chapter XII of this Act, anti-social behaviour has been defined as a conduct that has caused alarm, harassment or distress to any individual. This behaviour can also fall under the purview of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act of 2011 that makes provisions about firearms, sexual harm, violence and forced marriage. The courts may grant injunctions under this Chapter against persons over ten years of age if two conditions are met – the first condition is that the court has to be satisfied that the respondent has engaged in anti-social behaviour and the second condition is that the court has to consider it convenient to grant an injunction for the purpose of preventing a particular respondent from engaging in anti-social behaviour.