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Campaigners urge Government to grasp chance on domestic abuse

By Richard Guttridge | Crime | Published:

A groundbreaking Domestic Abuse Bill has returned to Parliament following calls for a change in the law from campaigners who have highlighted the death of a woman in the West Midlands.

Natalie Connolly

Campaigners and prominent supporters, including former Labour frontbencher Harriet Harman, hope new legislation will be passed to finally stop men accused of killing their partners from using the "rough sex" defence.

The group We Can't Consent to This was set up following the death of Natalie Connolly, who was left to die in a pool of blood at the bottom of the stairs by her partner John Broadhurst during a drink-and-drugs-fuelled sex session at their home in Kinver in December 2016 in which she was subjected to violent abuse.

Broadhurst was jailed for three years and eight months in 2018 after admitted her manslaughter on the grounds of gross negligence.

It subsequently launched an investigation which found in the past decade 30 women and girls had been killed in what was claimed to have been consensual violent sexual activity in the UK.

The Bill returned to Parliament this week after stalling because of the general election.

John Broadhurst where he appeared at court in 2018

It is hoped a range of new measures will be passed to help protect domestic abuse victims, including requiring councils to provide safe accommodation and stop abusers cross-examining victims in family courts.

Domestic abuse survivor Sam Billingham, from Dudley, who launched support group Survivors of Domestic Abuse (SODA), said she was "delighted" the Bill had returned to Parliament.

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Sam Billingham added: “I welcome the re-introduction of the Bill, especially as the number of women being killed is at a 14-year high. However, for it to be strong enough to support survivors of domestic abuse we have to take a 21st century approach on this complex crime.

“I am delighted to see that the Bill will improve the previous pledge to ban abusers from cross-examining their victims in family court and I sincerely hope that the Domestic Abuse Protection Orders will provide immediate protection to victims.

“The Government have the opportunity to strengthen the Bill to protect all victims of domestic abuse and as a survivor of domestic abuse myself I think we still have a long way to go yet. I believe that seeing a stronger deterrent and punishment is the way forward, not only is it telling abusers that we don’t tolerate domestic abuse, but it will also give victims the confidence and faith to report the abuse."

Stourbridge MP Suzanne Webb, who is working with Ms Billingham and backing the Bill, said: “Domestic abuse is an abhorrent crime that has a severe impact on victims for years to come. This new Bill will ensure the law does not provide a safe haven for perpetrators who destroy victims’ lives."

Richard Guttridge

By Richard Guttridge
Investigations Editor - @RichG_star

Investigations Editor for the Express & Star.

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