Ministry of Justice
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Year of targeted action to better protect women

Tougher sentences for cowardly killers delivered a year on from Wade Review.

  • domestic murderers and ‘rough sex’ killers face longer behind bars
  • over 5,000 responses to government murder sentencing consultation

Cowardly domestic killers face tougher sentences than ever before as a direct result of decisive government action - one year on from the publication of Clare Wade KC’s review.

Wade’s independent review looked at domestic homicide sentencing, and provided key recommendations for the government to protect vulnerable women from vile criminals. The review found that:

  • when intimate partners murder, women are the victims in 90% of cases
  • of the murder cases reviewed by Clare Wade over half involved controlling or coercive behaviour
  • while excessive violence was identified in 60%, with men being the perpetrator in all but one case.

In the year since its release, the government has taken action to overhaul how the justice system punishes perpetrators of these horrific crimes - including creating new statutory aggravating factors for murders preceded by controlling or coercive behaviour and those committed with excessive violence.

Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary, Alex Chalk KC, yesterday said:

No woman should feel unsafe in her own home or be at risk of violence from those she should be able to trust. I want to thank all those who have campaigned tirelessly for reform in this area.

We have taken decisive action to toughen sentences to send a clear message that violent and abusive killers will face longer in a prison cell for their appalling crimes.

Building on this action, the Sentencing Council yesterday announced it will add an aggravating factor for strangulation and suffocation to the manslaughter sentencing guidelines, making them more consistent with those for assault. It will also update the guidelines to include specific reference to coercive or controlling behaviour.

This follows an ask from the Lord Chancellor for the Sentencing Council to review the manslaughter sentencing guidelines.

Minister for sentencing Gareth Bacon yesterday said:

I am immensely proud of the unprecedented action this government has taken to better protect women; however we know there is more work to be done.

In a perfect world there would be no victims of these horrific crimes, but women’s safety remains our priority and we will continue to work tirelessly to evaluate sentencing and keep dangerous offenders behind bars.

Since the Wade Review, the government has taken extensive action to give domestic killing specialist consideration in the sentencing framework, including:

  • Creating new statutory aggravating and mitigating factors for murders preceded by controlling or coercive behaviour. This means abusers who go on to kill their victims face longer sentences, while victims who lash out and kill their abuser will not be excessively punished with longer jail terms.
  • A new statutory aggravating factor for killers who use sustained and excessive violence, known as ‘overkill’.
  • A further statutory aggravating factor, for bitter former partners who murder at the end of a relationship.
  • A statutory aggravating factor for manslaughter involving sexual conduct. This will target offenders who cause death through abusive, degrading or dangerous sexual behaviour - a clear message that not only is there no ‘rough sex gone wrong’ defence, but those who kill in this manner will be punished even more severely.
  • Inviting the Law Commission to review defences to murder in cases of domestic homicide, and the Commission published the Terms of Reference for the review in November 2023. Work towards a consultation on proposals for reform will start in Spring 2024.

A consultation was also launched to understand views on sentencing starting points for murders preceded by controlling or coercive behaviour or committed with a knife or other weapon which was already at the scene.

The consultation closed at the beginning of this month and has received more than 5,000 responses. The feedback is undergoing careful consideration, and a response will be published in due course.

Two other recommendations had already been introduced at the time the Wade Review was published - a new Domestic Homicide Library to better analyse patterns and risk factors, and improved Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) mandatory training on understanding controlling and coercive behaviour.

This financial year the government has also committed up to £39 million to tackle domestic abuse, including over £11 million for supporting victims, over £19 million for tackling perpetrators, and £5 million to strengthen the systems to prevent domestic abuse and support policing. £2 million has also been invested in payments which go directly to victims to help them leave abusive relationships and rebuild their lives.

Notes to Editors

  • The Domestic Homicide Sentence Review was commissioned in 2021 to examine whether the sentencing framework should be reformed to better reflect the seriousness of domestic homicide and to identify options for improvements.
  • The Murder Sentencing consultation ran for 14 weeks and closed on 4 March, 2024.
  • The measures taken expand on the government’s ongoing work to tackle domestic abuse including:
    • Quadrupling funding for victim support services by 2024/25 compared to 2010, including investment to recruit more Independent Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence Advisers – bringing the total to around 1,000 overall.
    • Legislating to put controlling or coercive behaviour on a par with physical violence, which will mean offenders sentenced to a year or more imprisonment or a suspended sentence where the custodial term is 12 months or more, will automatically be managed by the police, prison and probation services under Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA).
    • Trialling stricter management of domestic abuse offenders, who could now be fitted with a tag upon release from prison into eligible probation regions to monitor compliance with conditions, including restrictions on visiting a victim’s address.
    • Piloting the new Domestic Abuse Protection Notices and Orders from spring 2024, in selected courts and police forces. This new cross-jurisdictional order can impose mandatory notification requirements, electronic monitoring (‘tagging’) and attendance on perpetrator behaviour change programmes, providing a stronger raft of protective measures for victims.
    • Adding violence against women and girls to the Strategic Policing Requirement, which for the first time categorises violence against women and girls as a national threat and sets clear expectations about how this threat should be tackled by police forces.
    • Adding a further £2 million investment in the Flexible Fund for the financial year 2023-24 and 2024-25, on top of the original £300,000 in 2023.


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