Domestic violence laws 'have backfired'

New laws governing punishments for domestic violence could have meant a reduction in the number of people reporting the crime, the Ministry of Justice has said.

The new legislation has meant that a partner breaching a non-molestation order will be dealt with at the criminal rather than the civil courts, making it more likely that they will get a criminal record or face jail time of up to five years.

Judge John Platt told the Times that the number of women seeking non-molestation orders had dropped by between 25 and 30 per cent since the introduction of the new rules.

As such, around 5,000 women a year could be less well-protected than they would have been before the rules came in.

Judge Platt told the Times this was a "very worrying figure" which had most likely come about because "victims do not wish to criminalise the perpetrators".

Solicitors in Northern Ireland can offer confidential legal advice to anyone suffering from abuse.

The Ministry of Justice has said that it will set up an urgent meeting with judges to discuss the issue.

Earlier this month, the Ministry of Justice announced the creation of more than 30 new specialist domestic violence court systems across England and Wales.

According to the Home Office, domestic violence accounts for 16 per cent of all violent crime and will affect one in four women and one in six men during their lifetimes.

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