Men who murder their partners after years of abuse could be jailed for at least 25 years under plans being considered by ministers. The Ministry of Justice is trying to close a loophole that means murders outside the home result in longer sentences than those behind closed doors. But a major review by Clare Wade KC also found sentencing rules do not take into account the years of abuse often preceding domestic murders.
The Government will launch a consultation on the proposals this summer, which could see murderers who control or coerce victims for years face at least 25 years behind bars.
Ministers also want judges to treat controlling or coercive behaviour in the years before a murder as an “aggravating factor”.
This is considered a “short-term” option that can be introduced quickly while ministers consult on plans to jail abusive killers for at least 25 years.
And those who use “excessive” amounts of violence will be jailed for longer. Officials are concerned about the number of victims with a huge number of wounds.
Justice Secretary Dominic Raab said: “This Government will do everything we can to protect vulnerable women, and keep in prison for longer those who attack or threaten them.
“The changes will mean longer jail sentences for those who kill women in the home, by taking greater account of the specific factors involved, whether it is controlling and coercive behaviour or cases involving particular savagery known as ‘overkill’.”
It follows a campaign by Julie Devey, whose daughter Poppy was stabbed 49 times and Carole Gould, whose daughter Ellie was stabbed 17 times. The review by Ms Wade found “overkill” was identified in 60 per cent of domestic murders. Officials said over half of women murdered every year also suffered coercive or controlling behaviour.
Families are furious murders in the home result in a lesser sentence as it downplays the lives of victims.
Currently, judges can only sentence a killer to 25 years or more if they arrive at the scene with a knife. This is because of the “intent”. Stabbing someone to death with a knife found in the house would result in a 15-year sentence.
Julie Devey, mother of Poppy Devey-Waterhouse, told the Daily Express: “This lower sentence totally diminishes my daughter’s life and those lives of women cruelly taken by men, often under the label of domestic homicide.
“For some reason these murderers seem to be thought of as less dangerous. How can that be? They often use what is called ‘overkill’ where they inflict excessive injuries far beyond those needed to kill the person and try to cover their tracks and get away with it.
“Some even kill while their children are in the home. They are no less dangerous than men who attack and kill strangers outside. Their sentences should be equal to them.”
The Ministry of Justice has also asked the Sentencing Council to demand judges take deaths involving “rough sex” more seriously.
The MoJ said there was “no such thing as a ‘rough sex defence’”, but the review found “the high risk of death these acts may carry” means killers should face longer sentences.
Justice Minister Edward Argar said: “Julie Devey and Carole Gould have campaigned tirelessly after the awful killing of their daughters, Poppy and Ellie. The Government is determined to see an end to murders and violence by abusive partners.”
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