Campaigners say there should be tougher sentences for people convicted of domestic abuse.
More than 1,300 people have signed a petition set up by a charity calling for sentencing for domestic abuse to ‘fit the crime’.
The campaign is in response to a recent court case in which a Douglas man received a suspended sentence and a fine for a violent attack on his then girlfriend on Christmas Day.
In the Examiner of March 13, we reported that Shaun Liam McEntee, aged 34, of Holly Grove, Pulrose, was sentenced to four months’ custody by magistrates, suspended for 18 months, after dragging his partner around by the hair and grabbing onto her throat in front of her horrified children.
In addition to common assault, he was sentenced to one month for resisting arrest, which was also suspended for 18 months, and ordered to pay £1,000 compensation to his victim, plus prosecution costs.
Tamasin Wedgwood is one of the founding members of Safe, Strong and Secure (3S), a charity set up by survivors of domestic abuse. She believes that sentences like this ‘discourage victims’ from coming forward and going through the court process.
‘We need laws that make domestic violence an offence and laws that cover coercive control,’ she said.
‘The ruling of the court displayed a totally inadequate understanding of abuse. The fact that strangulation was involved should have been a major red flag.
‘The victim’s own level of fear is also an important indicator.’
The victim feared for her life, and told the court she might have blacked out.
One of her children, aged 14, told police she thought McEntee was going to kill her mother and called the police.
Officers had to break in to the room of the house and taser McEntee.
Ms Wedgwood added: ‘It is entirely inappropriate that character references are admitted to court in mitigation – an abusive person is usually very charming – of course he can get any number of friends to write that he is a lovely man really and this is “out of character”.
‘The abuser may well may be a “lovely” and well-respected person in their public life, but in the home, behind closed doors, they are violent, coercive and frightening.
‘The one does not cancel out or excuse the other. This sort of “mitigation” should simply not be allowed in our courts.
‘Too many charges are reduced to ABH [actual bodily harm] and dealt with by magistrates – this in itself sends out a wrong message that these cases are unimportant and low level.
‘Training in abuse for the judiciary and magistrates should be made compulsory so that cases are no longer tried before people who have inadequate understanding of the dynamics of abuse, and so that outdated, stereotyped thinking no longer directs our sentencing.
‘The use of fines in place of custodial sentences for domestic violence should be abolished. They are no deterrent and they hurt and insult victims.’
She added: ‘It is a tragic irony that in the Isle of Man, International Women’s Day should be marked by the handing down of a sentence like this.’
Magistrates passed sentence on McEntee after reading a recommendation made by the probation service.
The charity 3S has contacted a number of MHKs, asking them to listen to members of the public who were shocked at McEntee’s sentencing.
Ms Wedgwood, who has suffered abuse herself, added: ‘I came to the island to get away from this type of abuse and make sense of it.
‘I was very angry about what had happened to me, but didn’t want to remain bitter for the rest of my life. I decided to find understanding and to help others.
‘We’re really pleased with the public response to the petition and we’re excited that there is a lot of support. The negative is that it shows how much of a problem domestic abuse and its sentencing is in the island.’
The charity 3S provides support and help and legal advice. It says abuse affects one in three women and one in six men around the world.
To find the petition search online for ‘Change the law to make sentencing for domestic violence fit the crime’ on the change.org website.
Source: IOM Today