DOMESTIC abuse could become a criminal offence in the Island within weeks.
Home Affairs Minister Deputy Helen Miles has lodged an Appointed Day Act, which is due to be debated in the States Assembly on 13 June. If passed, the Act will bring into force the Domestic Abuse (Jersey) Law 2022 seven days later.
The legislation, according to the accompanying report, ‘will create a new criminal offence of domestic abuse including coercive and controlling behaviour’.
It will also allow the courts to issue domestic-abuse protection orders (DAPOs) to try to prevent a person convicted of the crime or a similar offence from committing further domestic abuse and require them to provide information to the police.
Offenders, or those who fail to comply with the DAPO, could be jailed for up to five years or fined.
The report states: ‘Ultimately, the law sets out new offences and fills the gaps in the current legislation to ensure that the police and the courts have the relevant tools to safeguard and support our victims.’
This final step in approving the law comes after a delay of over a year since the legislation was first approved in April 2022.
At a Scrutiny hearing in February, Constable Karen Shenton-Stone said the government was ‘dragging its heels’ and added that she wanted ‘concrete evidence that women’s safety has not been put on the back burner and that real progress is being made’.
Deputy Miles replied by saying that the law officers needed time to develop the accompanying judicial framework.
Jersey Women’s Refuge recently raised concerns that, unlike in the UK, the legislation did not cover areas such as financial and economic controlling behaviour.
Lisa Leventhal, the organisation’s chief executive, said: ‘Under the new law, it is an offence for someone to be controlling and coercive to their partners.
‘It may be that the law officers view financial and economic control under that general offence but, in the UK, they have that as a specific offence.
‘From the feedback, the reason [it hasn’t been listed separately here] is that they feel it’s too difficult an offence to prove.’
However, Ms Leventhal said that JWR had ‘plenty’ of evidence from women supported by its services.
Examples included women having their joint account overdrawn or withheld by an abuser.
JWR also considers ‘non-fatal strangulation’ as an offence missing from the law.
‘This is an offence which has awful physical and emotional consequence to women.
‘We are hearing about more cases of that locally, and that’s why it needs to be addressed,’ she said.
Ms Leventhal added: ‘It is still a massive step for us to have a Domestic Abuse Law coming in.
‘But we would want it to come in actually covering all the areas that we see, and that’s where the taskforce is so important, because it’s flagging up all the areas that are missing.
‘It is becoming apparent along the way that Jersey is far behind the UK. We have a lot of gaps in the legislation, which is not good for us.’