Domestic abuse, gender stereotyping, and outdated attitudes : your letters to the editor
Open up this closed shop
It is heartening to see Ashurst and DWF recognise that academic ability is not an accurate predictor of performance (‘Firms drop A-level requirements’).
Our 20,000 members comprise judges, advocates, law firm partners and founders who have long demonstrated this.
Yet the legal profession remains largely a closed shop to capable and talented individuals, just because they do not have the right grades, go to the right school or even graduate from the right university.
It is a poor reflection on our profession. It also shows us to be out of step with the realities facing the world today.
As a nation we are facing unprecedented economic and social pressures. Remodelling our profession to better reflect the society it serves would create a strong platform for the profession to reinvent itself and allow fresh talent to be unleashed.
The legal profession can only be enriched by encompassing the perspectives of those from different backgrounds and experiences. As a profession we should also accept that in the 21st century specialist lawyers can often provide a better service to clients than a generalist.
The time to act is now. Law firms need to open their minds to the abilities and competencies of individuals, embrace in full the diversity of routes to entering our profession and find better ways to identify talent than to simply assume it corresponds with being a graduate of a particular alma mater or the entitlement to wear an exclusive old school tie.
Professor Chris Bones
Chair, Chartered Institute of Legal Executives, Bedford
Domestic abuse and gender stereotyping
I write in relation to the article, ‘Protecting domestic abuse survivors who offend’ . I wish to remain anonymous because I am myself a victim of domestic violence.
The article relates the recent legislative additions in relation to domestic abuse, specifically controlling and coercive behaviour. The author states: ‘It is hoped the landmark Domestic Abuse Bill goes even further – especially as its aims include making the justice system more effective in protecting victims/survivors.’
I find it disturbing that the article then attempts to ‘hijack’ domestic abuse legislation and make it gender-specific, in an attempt to make a gender-based political statement.
From the general introduction, talking of domestic abuse legislation and the hope that it is ‘effective in protecting victims/survivors’, the whole article is then totally focused on alleged inequalities in the system for women.
I am a criminal solicitor and past victim of domestic abuse. I am also male. I found the article insulting, demeaning and marginalising in relation to my experience of domestic violence.
All that is ever reported or written about domestic violence perpetuates the completely incorrect stereotype that men are the abusers and women are the victims. This is incorrect.
The Office for National Statistics has produced data showing that over 30% of domestic abuse cases involve male victims. This does not factor in the obvious differential in reporting of male victims compared with female victims, so the figure is, if anything, far higher.
The inequality in the drafting of legislation concerning domestic violence and its application is stark, but never reported.
I refer to the ONS’s ‘Domestic abuse and the criminal justice system’ figures from November 2019 (data for the year ending December 2018). These showed that:
- Almost one-third of domestic abuse cases involve male victims, while the total proportion of proceedings issued against men for engaging in controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate family relationship was 96.71%. Although the figure of 96.71% does not represent all domestic abuse cases, it is questionable, to say the least, as to why when males make up a third of domestic violence victims, only 3.39% of cases involving controlling or coercive behaviour were issued against women.
- Of proceedings issued concerning controlling or coercive behaviour, 499 were issued against men and only 10 against women. Of these cases, 305 (of 499) resulted in a conviction of male defendants, compared with only one conviction of the 10 cases brought against female defendants.
- In terms of sentencing, following conviction for breaching non-molestation orders, 11.75% of male defendants received an absolute or conditional discharge, compared with 24.2% of women.
- Further, of those sentenced for breaching non-molestation orders, only 5% of women received an immediate custodial sentence (8/157), while 14.67% of men did so (380/2590).
Similarly, the average sentence for a women was 2.9 months and 4.4 months for a man. So men are three times more likely to receive a custodial sentence and, once sentenced, can expect a sentence of 51% longer.
Name and address supplied
I am writing to respond to Mr Finburgh’s letter of 20 July (‘SRA crusade misplaced’). Mr Finburgh’s view is that the SRA’s investigations into sexual harassment in the legal profession are misplaced. He notes that there are far more pressing problems that the SRA could be spending its time and money on. This may well be true. However, the tone of his letter is worrying.
He says that you need to be a monk in order to avoid the grasp of the SRA today. The insinuation seems to be that men who make unwanted advances towards female colleagues are just exhibiting normal male behaviour. He also refers to alleged sexual misconduct as ‘peccadilloes’, meaning a minor fault or transgression. It is ill-advised to minimise these incidents. Failing to take them seriously will just further enable predatory behaviour. He also says that being able to attract clients is ‘surely what it’s all about’. This is wrong. Being a solicitor is also about being of upstanding character and a pillar of society. I am in full agreement that the SRA should not hold us to unreasonable standards, but it is another thing entirely to say that it should not investigate allegations of sexual misconduct when they are raised. He says he joined the legal profession over 60 years ago. I am afraid to say that it shows – his attitude is outdated and dangerous.