Friday, August 22, 2014
Bullying husbands face jail under new British proposals
What about bullying wives? There are plenty of them
HUSBANDS who keep their wives downtrodden could face prison under new plans set out by the Government today. Theresa May, the Home Secretary, published proposals for a new offence of “domestic abuse” designed to criminalise men who bully, cause psychological harm or deny money to their partners.
The law would make the worst cases of non-violent “controlling behaviour” a jailable offence.
Exact terms of the offence are yet to be defined, but it could involve humiliating, frightening or intimidating a partner, keeping them away from friends or family or restricting their access to money.
A 15-page consultation document issued by the Home Officethat there would have to be a “pattern” of abuse to trigger a prosecution.
It comes after the Government unveiled a “Cinderella” law earlier this year which will see parents who starve their children of love and affection being prosecuted for “emotional cruelty”.
Both proposed offences mark a significant incursion by the State into what have previously been regarded as private affairs.
Mrs May said she was clear that domestic abuse was “not just about violence”. “Within every community there are people living in fear of those closest to them,” she said.
“The terrifying reality is that for the most part these appalling crimes happen behind closed doors. We must bring domestic abuse out into the open and send a clear message that it is wrong to put your partner or your family in fear.”
Although the new domestic abuse offence is mainly designed to protect wives and girlfriends from male partners who intimidate them, it will apply equally to men being targeted by women. The Home Office said 16 per cent of men admit to being victims of domestic abuse during their lifetimes compared with 30 per cent of women, according to research.
Women’s Aid, one of the groups working with the Home Office on the proposals, highlighted the case of a mother-of-two whose abusive marriage illustrated the kind of relationship that could be covered by the law.
She suffered years of psychological abuse from her husband who, she said, would “put me down”, hide her possessions and “scream” at her if she came home late.
“I wasn’t allowed any money for myself,” she said. “He would spend £200 a week at a strip club; I had to give a comprehensive budget of everything I was spending.”
In a separate case highlighted by Rachel Horman, a solicitor who specialises in domestic abuse cases, a woman was woken in the night by her husband, who had been drinking.
He ordered her to go to the garage to buy cigarettes for him, and to bring a receipt to show how much of his money she had spent.
When she returned without the receipt, he shouted obscenities at her and ordered her to get on her knees to beg his forgiveness, which she did immediately to avoid being hit.
The consultation paper acknowledged that domestic abuse was already partly covered by stalking and harassment laws, but it said a new offence might be necessary because some experts had argued that “the law is ambiguous and perpetrators are … not being brought to justice”.
A new offence would strengthen protection for people in relationships with each other, and could also cover abuse between family members and ex-partners. The consultation, which is open for eight weeks, defines domestic abuse as “a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish or frighten their victim”.
A Home Office spokesman said the crime would be prosecuted “along the same lines” as anti-stalking and harassment offences. Under those laws, there must have been at least two occasions when the victim was caused distress.
She added that the worst cases of domestic abuse, where there was intimidation “over a long period of time”, would carry a jail term, although no maximum sentences had yet been drawn up.
Less serious examples are likely to be dealt with by community orders or fines.
The number of domestic abuse cases referred by police for prosecution reached a record high of 103,500 last year.
Conviction rates for this type of crime have increased from just under 60 per cent in 2005-06 to nearly 75 per cent in 2013-14, according to the Home Office. Polly Neate, the chief executive of Women’s Aid, said: “This is a vital step forward for victims of domestic violence.
“Two women a week are killed by domestic violence, and in our experience of working with survivors, coercive controlling behaviour is at the heart of the most dangerous abuse.”
Prof David Wilson, a criminologist at Birmingham City University, supported the move, but warned that the new offence could pose initial legal problems.
“The dividing line between abuse and criminality is often one that is difficult to measure,” he said.
Peter Lodder QC, a criminal barrister, added: “The law can be a blunt instrument and if you are talking about how people conduct their private lives the criminal law is not always the best way to control that.
“Extreme cases may be obvious but the difficulty may come with where one draws the line."
Tony Martin, 15 years on: I don't want to go back there because it could happen again
Tony Martin, the farmer jailed for shooting dead a teenage burglar, is yet to return home 15 years after the incident and has been sleeping rough in his car.
Mr Martin, now 69, said he did not want to go back to his Norfolk farmhouse – called Bleak House – in case he was burgled again. He said he would not hesitate to do the same again if he was and did not want to go back to prison.
"If I was in Bleak House again and someone came in there then I'm not going to just stand there and let him hurt me. I'm going to act,” he said.
“That's one of the reasons I don't want to go back there because it could happen again. I don't relish the idea of going back in there, getting arrested and going to prison again,” he added.
After the shooting, on August 20, 1999, the farmhouse – left to him by an uncle – was boarded up with sheet metal and has remained that way ever since.
Mr Martin said he said he doubted he would ever return. He refused to say where he was living but said he had been staying with friends, in a hotel and in his car.
His friends and supporters have urged him to sell the farm and its land, thought to be worth in the region of £3 million, and live a "more comfortable existence" but he has refused.
"The whole thing that happened to me in simple terms is preposterous. I don't think I'll ever go back and live at Bleak House,” he said.
"I wouldn't call this place a home anymore, it is just a place to visit. It is a time that place forgot. "I looked at it last night and it is encased in steel and flooded with water. It looks like the Everglades.
"I just live anywhere, I sleep anywhere. If I go up north to a farm show then I will just stay in my car. "I live a little bit like Bonnie Prince Charlie and go from place to place. I have very kind friends."
Mr Martin, a bachelor, was convicted of murder and jailed for life in April 2000 for killing 16 year-old Fred Barras and seriously injuring his accomplice, Brendon Fearon, then 28.
His sentence was later reduced to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility after a psychiatrist said he had paranoid personality disorder, probably made worse by an earlier invasion of his property by burglars, and he was released from prison in 2003 having served three years.
The incident provoked a fierce debate over the right of homeowners to defend themselves and their property and led to the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) releasing new guidelines stating that a householder could use "reasonable force" to protect themselves against crime.
But Mr Martin said he did not think the guidelines went far enough, and that guns should be legalised in the UK.
"I would definitely do something to legalise guns and give people the right to protect themselves,” said Mr Martin, who allegedly received death threats from people wanting to “seek revenge” after the shooting.
"You certainly need to be safe in your own house with impunity. If somebody breaks into your house has to be considered the extreme and if it is not then god help us.”
Speaking about the case of Paul Kohler, the businessman and academic who was set upon by a masked gang when he answered the door to his home in Wimbledon last week, Mr Martin said: “If they had something like a gun in that house they could have picked it up and things would have been different.
"I think it is just hypocrisy that a man can't go to any length to protect himself and his own ….”
Fearon and Barras - who was from the travellers’ community, both had a string of previous convictions. They had travelled from Newark in Nottinghamshire to the farmhouse in Emneth Hungate with the intention of stealing antiques.
Mr Martin, who was said to be living in fear after a burglary three months earlier, shot them with an unlicensed Winchester pump action shotgun.
During his murder trial, the court heard that Mr Martin was well known in the area for his outspoken views on criminals particularly travellers, and lived an unconventional life in his ramshackle farmhouse, which was lit with just two lights.
He told the court he fired in the darkness from halfway down the stairs into his breakfast room after a torch was shone into his eyes, insisting he was acting in self-defence.
The prosecution, however, persuaded the jury that Mr Martin had lain in wait for the burglars and shot them in cold blood.
Malcolm Starr, who who led protests to downgrade Mr Martin's murder conviction said: "We keep on at him to do so [sell his farm] because Tony is sat on 300 prime acres in the area, and he isn't getting any younger.
"Tony would benefit from living a cosier, more comfortable existence."
New plan to end secrecy in British family courts
Crucial steps towards ending secrecy in the family courts have been set out by a leading judge as he published proposals to open cases to the public for the first time.
Sir James Munby, president of the High Court’s family division, said he was seeking “preliminary views” on allowing the public to attend divorces and other types of case involving family matters such as child custody hearings.
The judge said opening the courts was a key part of his “transparency agenda” which aims to open the court’s often controversial work to greater public scrutiny.
He also proposed a number of measures designed to make it easier for the Press to report on family hearings, including giving access to case summaries and other documents.
“The public has a legitimate interest in being able to read what is being done by the judges in its name,” said Sir James.
The family courts have seen a number of controversies over decisions being taken in secret.
Last December the Telegraph disclosed how Alessandra Pacchieri, an Italian who suffers from a bipolar condition, was taken into hospital while visiting England and sectioned under the Mental Health Act.
In a hearing which took place behind closed doors at the Court of Protection, a judge granted permission for doctors to forcibly remove her unborn child, a girl, who was put into foster care almost immediately.
Miss Pacchieri’s case was later described by Sir James as a “final, stark and irrefutable demonstration of the pressing need for radical changes” in the family courts and the Court of Protection.
Earlier in 2013 it had emerged that Wanda Maddocks, 50, was jailed "in secret" for contempt for disobeying court orders relating to care for her 80-year-old father, who was suffering from dementia.
In the new proposals from Sir James, he said: “I am seeking preliminary, pre-consultation views about the possible hearing in public of certain types of family case.
“I am likely to propose that if the matter proceeds at all, it will initially be by way of a pilot.”
He asked for views on which types of family case might be appropriate for public hearings, what “restrictions and safeguards” would be required and what form a pilot scheme might take.
Granting the media the right to obtain copies of certain types of documents would “assist them in performing their watchdog role”, he added.
Key words might also be added to case numbers to assist reporters in identifying important cases, Sir James added.
Currently, family cases are listed in court only by an alpha-numeric code which conveys no detail about what the case is about.
Bridal Shop Bullied For Not Participating in Lesbian Wedding
The Christian owners of a bridal boutique in Pennsylvania who refused to make wedding gowns for two lesbians and bridesmaids dresses for their cross-dressing groomsmen were bullied for sticking to their religious beliefs.
Al Luschas, an attorney representing Victoria and Thomas Miller - proprietors of W.W. Bridal Boutique, which has been family owned and operated for two decades in Bloomsburg, Penn. - said they were victims of “very vicious attacks across the board” even though they did nothing illegal.
The attacks included “very, very nasty telephone messages in which people said ‘I hope you get raped,’ or ‘I hope your children get raped,’ and a whole series of violet threats,” Luschas told CNSNews.com.
In addition to the verbal threats, Luschas added, some people posted “false bad reviews online.”
“Their website was also hacked by a group, which posted on their website that they had gone out of business. Two local news stations then broadcast that they had gone out of business, so they were fielding frantic calls from girls who had ordered wedding dresses. It’s been a difficult time for these people,” he said.
According to the shop's website, customers can now be seen "by appointment only."
Luschas, who noted that the Millers have been “instructed not to comment,” declined to say whether the couple intends to pursue legal action.
However, a town spokeswoman told CNSNews.com that the Bloomsburg Town Council’s Commerce and Economic Development Committee will meet on August 26th to discuss a proposed ordinance that Luschas says would “make any discrimination against gays and lesbians illegal.”
In a Facebook post, a woman identified as G. Andrea Shay said that she had called the shop to schedule an appointment to order two wedding dresses as well as “dresses for the groomsmen.”
“I was put on hold for about 5 minutes so the lady could get her appointment book. She took me off hold and said unfortunately she would not be able to schedule an appointment for us because they currently do not service same sex couples and it’s just not something they do,” Shay reportedly said in a Facebook post.
Calling the shop “strange and rude,” she added:
"My husband and I tried to give W. W. Bridal our business, but when the management found out that we needed to order a wedding gown for my husband, and dresses for the groomsmen, they would not allow us to order from them claiming that such a thing would 'Break God's Law.' So they do not want money from people who enjoy cross-dressing. They insisted that we 'Must be gay,' since we wear clothing of the opposite sex. Very strange and rude management."
In a statement to the local newspaper, Thomas Miller, Jr. said that the shop had inadvertently accepted a prior order for a wedding dress from a same-sex couple in June.
“We faced the gay marriage issue knowingly for the first time in June of this year, when one of our employees accepted a wedding dress order from a gay couple. When we realized what had happened, we decided that we had an obligation to follow through for them,” Miller wrote. “We will complete the order we received in June or provide a full refund. The choice is theirs. W.W. Bridal has never failed to honor a commitment.
“But, now we had to decide whether or not our conscience and faith would allow us to participate in future gay and lesbian weddings. To be clear, our objection is not at all directed to gays or lesbians as individuals. We will sell our products to gay individuals. It is our participation in the marital process between same sex couples which we concluded to be a violation of a sacred tenant of our religious faith, which is that a marriage is a commitment between a male and a female.“
“The gay and lesbian community has won a hard-fought battle to protect their liberty and rights to pursue happiness. But, does that give gay activists the right to take our liberty and to restrain our right to pursue our religious faith as we see fit?” Miller asked.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and DISSECTING LEFTISM. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.