‘Rough sex’ defence will be banned – Justice Minister

The so-called “rough sex gone wrong” defence will be outlawed in new domestic abuse legislation, a justice minister has told MPs.

Alex Chalk said it was “unconscionable” that the defence can be used in court to justify or excuse the death of a woman “simply because she consented”. He said it would be made “crystal clear” in the Domestic Abuse Bill that it was not acceptable.

The bill, for England and Wales, is due to become law later this year.

The campaign group We Can’t Consent To This, which wants the defence outlawed, said the minister’s response was “a big step forward”.

The group says the “rough sex” defence can result in a lesser sentence.

Campaigners want to make it the expectation that murder charges are brought against those suspected of killing a person during sex.

As it stands, if someone kills another person during sexual activity they could be charged with manslaughter alone. To murder someone, there needs to have been an intention to kill that person or to cause them grievous bodily harm (GBH).

We Can’t Consent To This has collated 60 examples of women “who were killed during so-called ‘sex games gone wrong'” in the UK, since 1972.

The group claims that 45% of these cases ended in a “lesser charge of manslaughter, a lighter sentence or the death not being investigated as a crime at all”.

There are also 115 people – all but one of whom were women – who have had to attend court where it is claimed they consented to violent injury, the group has said.

The violence used in the non-fatal assaults included waterboarding, wounding, strangulation, beating and asphyxiation.

Alex Chalk said: “It is unconscionable for defendants to suggest that the death of a woman is justified, excusable or legally defensible because that woman had engaged in violent and harmful sexual activity which resulted in her death, simply because she consented.”

The We Can’t Consent to This campaign group said what had happened in Parliament “was genuinely a big step forward”, adding: “We should know within weeks what their proposals are and if they’ve gone far enough.”

Extracts from a longer news report at https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-53064086

June 18, 2020

Single mothers and lowest paid hit hardest by loss of income in Covid-19 crisis – Institute for Social and Economic Research

New data released today by the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Essex from Understanding Society: the UK Household Longitudinal Study shows that earnings have fallen for households across the UK, but particularly for the lowest earners, and with severe losses for single parents.

In the highest income bracket, average earnings in February stood at £832 a week, and fell by £46 a week. In the lowest income bracket, they fell £43 a week, but from an average of £297. On average, single parents’ earnings fell by more than double the amount experienced by households with children and more than one adult1.

The new figures cover respondents aged between 20 and 65 taking part in a regular Understanding Society survey of the UK population’s experiences of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Covid-19 survey interviewed 17,450 respondents who are part of the established longitudinal study, which is representative of the UK population as a whole. The survey asked people about their circumstances in the last week of April, and what their circumstances had been in January and February.

The data show that nearly 18% of the lowest earners were behind on their household bills, compared to just 2% of those in the highest income bracket. The lowest earners were also over five times more likely to report that they had been hungry but not eaten at some time in the last week2.

The survey also explores what people are doing to mitigate the economic effects of the pandemic. Of those who reported a fall in earnings

  • more than two thirds (68%) said they had reduced their spending
  • more than a quarter (26%) have used savings
  • significant numbers have taken a mortgage holiday (10%), borrowed from friends or family (10%) or applied for Universal Credit (7%).

This first look at the data was carried out by the team at Understanding Society.

Notes

  1. Average weekly household earnings for individuals who are a single adult with children fell £73 from £326 in February to £253 in April, compared to a drop of £36 (from £511 to £475) for individuals living in a household with more than one adult and children. For individuals with positive household earnings in February, single parents saw an average drop of £119 (from £427 to £308), compared to £43 (£537 to £494) for individuals in a household with more than one adult and children.
  2. 31% of the lowest earners said their earnings had fallen by a fifth (20%) or more, compared to 21% of the highest earners. 35% of single parents said their earnings had fallen by a fifth (20%) or more, compared to 21% of households with children and more than one adult. Average household earnings fell by 8%.
  3. 7.7% of those in the lowest income quintile reported that they or someone in their household had been hungry in the last week but did not eat, compared to 1.5% of the highest income quintile.
  4. Overall, 20% of people expected to be worse off in the next month, compared to 9% who expected to be better off. (71% of people expected to be in the same financial situation.) In the lowest income quintile, 24% expected to be worse off next month, compared to 8% who expected to be better off. Among single parents, 26% expected to be worse off next month, compared to 7% who expected to be better off.
  5. Other headline figures from the first month of the Understanding Society Covid-19 survey include:
    • The number of hours people worked fell significantly, from an average of 35 hours a week in February to 23 hours a week in April. Of those reporting a drop in the number of hours they worked:
    • 43% had been furloughed
    • 14% experienced a drop in self-employed work
    • 10% said their employer had reduced their hours
    • 7% said it was because they were caring for others, but this figure was twice as high for those aged 30-49
    • The fall in the average number of hours worked was particularly large for people without degrees, people on zero hours contracts, and the self-employed.
    • People have taken a variety of actions to mitigate a loss in earnings. Of those who reported their earnings falling:
    • Two thirds reported that they have reduced their spending
    • More than a quarter have drawn on their savings
    • Significant numbers have taken a mortgage holiday (10%), received money from friends or family (10%) and applied for Universal Credit (7%)

Read the briefing paper

Part of a longer press release at https://www.iser.essex.ac.uk/2020/05/29/single-mothers-and-lowest-paid-covid

June 18, 2020

24 July 2020 ~ Online survey focusing on the experience of rape victims in the criminal justice system – Victims’ Commissioner – closing date

The Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales Dame Vera Baird QC is asking victims of rape to share their experiences of the criminal justice system.

The Commissioner has launched her research by publishing a request for information which takes the form of a questionnaire.

Dame Vera is asking anyone who has been the victim of rape – and who feels able to – to tell her about their personal experience of the criminal justice system. It does not matter how far the offence progressed in the system, the VC wants to know about what happens at every stage.

Researchers from Dame Vera’s team will analyse the responses and produce a report which will be published in the autumn.

The research is independent of the Government’s ‘End to End Rape Review’ which is continuing.

Launching the research Dame Vera said: “It is vitally important that the lived experience, opinions and thoughts of those people who have been raped and are heard.

“I intend to give survivors a voice and ensure that they are listened to by the criminal justice agencies. I understand entirely that it can be very difficult for survivors to revisit what happened to them.

“Clearly we will not ask for details of the offence to be rehearsed but have left space for survivors to add anything of relevance

“No one else can give this perspective. And it will help the criminal justice agencies to understand what victims think they are getting right and what they are not.

“So, I am appealing for as many rape survivors as possible – I repeat as long as they feel able to do this – whatever their age, gender, ethnicity or occupation – to take part. And be assured your contributors will be anonymous,” she said.

The request for information will be open from 12 June until 24 July. To take part click here.

Anyone who requires help and support related to sexual assault or abuse can find a list of support agencies here.

https://victimscommissioner.org.uk/news/victims-commissioner-launches-new-research-focusing-on-the-experience-of-rape-victims/

June 16, 2020

Employers are breaking the law and forcing pregnant women out of work during the pandemic – TUC

A quarter of pregnant women have faced discrimination at work during the coronavirus outbreak, according to a new TUC survey.

  • New TUC poll reveals 1 in 4 pregnant women have been treated unfairly at work during the coronavirus outbreak
  • Low-paid pregnant women are most likely to have lost pay or work since the crisis began
  • Health of pregnant women at risk as 2 in 5 haven’t had a workplace safety assessment

A new poll of more than 3,400 women who have been pregnant or on maternity leave during the Covid-19 pandemic found that one in four (25%) had experienced unfair treatment at work, including being singled out for redundancy or furlough.

Of those surveyed, low-paid pregnant women (earning less than £23,000 a year) were much more likely (28%) than women on higher salaries (17%) to have been forced to lose pay and stop work.

Pregnant women told the TUC they were required to take sick leave when they were not sick, to take unpaid leave, to start their maternity leave early or to leave the workplace, because their employer did not act to make their workplace safe for them.

All of these actions are illegal, says the TUC. Pregnant women have the right to be suspended on full pay if workplace risks to their health cannot be removed or reduced, or suitable alternative work is not available.

Health and safety at work

The TUC poll also exposed a range of health and safety concerns for women who have been pregnant during the coronavirus outbreak:

  • One in four (25%) of those surveyed told the TUC they felt unsafe at work
  • Two in five (42%) responding to the poll said they had not had a workplace health and safety risk assessment
  • Of those who had a risk assessment, almost half (46%) said their employer did not take the necessary action to reduce the risks identified – which is against the law – and a quarter (25%) said the risk assessment did not include the additional risks posed by Covid-19

Government must act now

The TUC is calling on the government to take action now and:

  • Change the law to protect new and expectant mums’ health and safety: Employers are already required to undertake a Covid-19 risk assessment, which should take account of additional risks to anyone who is pregnant or a new mum. The government should now change the law to require employers to undertake individual written risk assessments when they are informed that a woman who works for them is pregnant, has given birth in the past six months or is breastfeeding. Assessment of risk should involve discussions with the woman involved, and if any risk is identified then it must be removed
  • Enforce the law: The government should make it clear to employers that if the risks facing a pregnant worker cannot be removed, and there is no alternative work available, pregnant women have the right to be suspended from work on full pay. The Health and Safety Executive should enforce the law through spot checks and should encourage pregnant women to raise concerns with them (anonymously if necessary). Employers who break the law should be subject to the full range of penalties including fines

Notes:

  • The report is available at: www.tuc.org.uk/sites/default/files/2020-06/PregMatCovid-19.pdf 
  • During the week commencing 1 June 2020, the TUC surveyed a self-selected sample of 3,407 pregnant women, mums on maternity leave or women that have recently returned to work from maternity leave to understand the key issues they face at work and the impact this health and economic crisis is having on their incomes, jobs and livelihoods. Almost one third (30%) of respondents earned below median wage, 55% earned median wage and 13% earned over £50,000. The survey was run on the www.pregnantthenscrewed.com website.

Part of a longer press release at https://www.tuc.org.uk/news/employers-are-breaking-law-and-forcing-pregnant-women-out-work-during-pandemic-warns-tuc

June 11, 2020

Domestic abuse safe accommodation: COVID-19 emergency support fund – Re-opened for applications on ‘first come first served’ basis – Ministry HCLG – until 20 July 2020

This prospectus provides prospective bidders with information on how to apply for funding and how the assessment process will work.

MHCLG secured £10 million for domestic abuse safe accommodation charities as part of a £76 million government package of support to charities supporting vulnerable people including domestic abuse victims.

We launched the £10 million Emergency Support Fund for charitable domestic abuse services on 7 May 2020, welcoming 112 bids. We have announced that £8.15 million funding will be granted to 147 service providers through 103 successful bids across all regions of England.

The fund will help ensure that:

  1. Safe accommodation services can continue operating and keep bedspaces open for victims and their children fleeing from abuse during COVID-19 emergency.
  2. Safe accommodation services can help more victims access these life-saving services.

We are now re-opening the remaining £1.85 million fund for applications on a rolling ‘first come first served’ basis. The Fund Prospectus remains the same, with minor updates and clarifications to help bidders in submitting their applications.

We will continue to accept bids until the funding has been exhausted or until 20 July 2020, whichever is sooner.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/domestic-abuse-safe-accommodation-covid-19-emergency-support-fund

See also:

June 8, 2020