Victims of domestic abuse cases could be allowed an exemption regarding disclosing their safe addresses in open court after a change in legislation was backed by Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister. This follows a case last year whereby a victim was threatened with contempt of court for refusing to publicly give details of her safe address.
The Conservative home secretary, Theresa May, announced a code of practice to help protect victims in court when announcing the rollout of Clare’s Law earlier this month. She said they included a “commitment to put in place a new code of practice to ensure that safe addresses of victims of domestic and sexual abuse are protected”. She added:
“This will take effect where victims might otherwise have to reveal details of their address to people who could threaten them – for example in court cases unrelated to their abuse, or when required for their children’s school records, or the family’s access to benefits.”
However, her plans were criticised by campaigners who felt that they stopped short of proposing legislation to reinforce them. Mr Clegg however, has confirmed that he believes the measures should be given statutory footing. Clegg confirmed his support for a parliamentary motion calling for the changes in a letter sent last month. The motion says that “victims of domestic violence and abuse are being placed at risk when forced to give their safe address in open court”. It added that other victims would not come forward because of the fear of being exposed by the courts.
The law it backs has been named Eve’s Law by campaigners relating to the domestic violence survivor Eve Thomas, who first proposed the same. Thomas’s husband was convicted of battery in 2011. However, when she later returned to court for an unrelated case, the judge ordered her to give her address. She refused, fearing for her own safety, and was threatened with prison for contempt of court so Thomas welcomed the latest news.
Labour’s shadow victims minister, Dan Jarvis, said:
“It’s simply unacceptable that victims of domestic violence and abuse currently risk being forced to disclose their address and contact details in open court. Victims need to know that the criminal justice system is on their side.
“Labour has been calling for months for the government to tackle this problem but ministers have resisted going any further than a voluntary code of practice. We need to go further so that victims’ confidential information is properly protected.
“That’s why Labour will be putting proposals before parliament this week to make Eve’s Law a reality. I hope Nick Clegg and Liberal Democrat MPs will support closing this small legal loophole, which will have a huge impact on the lives of people who have suffered the horror of domestic abuse.”