Repeal of provisions about defence for controlling or coercive behaviour offence

Part of Domestic Abuse Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 9:25 am ar 17 Mehefin 2020.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Alex Chalk Alex Chalk Assistant Whip, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice 9:25, 17 Mehefin 2020

We have to be very clear about this. If an individual does not have that defence, considering the elements of section 76, we would be left with a person who is apparently being caused some distress—as would be evident to the first responder, or indeed to a police officer, who might have to effect an arrest—and the distress would appear to have been caused by that person’s liberty having been restricted. In those circumstances, unless the individual has the defence that they were exercising proper control in the interests of the other person, they are at risk of being arrested and prosecuted. That would be a serious concern, would it not?

I should also add—I do not think this point is controversial—that there is an exemption within section 76 concerning under-16s. In other words, where people are in a position of responsibility for somebody who is under the age of 16 and may have to inhibit that person’s liberty, that is considered perfectly understandable and justified. The argument would therefore be this: why is it that in circumstances where, sadly, an individual is at risk and vulnerable, it should not be open to that carer—who everyone accepts is loving, decent and caring—to say that this was in the interests of the individual?

I accept the hon. Gentleman’s premise that it is possible that some people would seek to advance an unmeritorious defence. That is absolutely right, but I respectfully say to him that when he says, “The courts let them get away with it,” he is unfairly labelling the courts. In my opinion, the courts have shown themselves well able to see through a spurious defence. The carer who seeks to try it on and to abuse this proper defence will be given short shrift by a bench of magistrates, or indeed by a jury. We should trust juries and courts to do justice in each case.