This week is the first anniversary of Sarah Everard’s horrific murder, which serves as a poignant reminder that we must redouble our efforts to take action on Violence Against Women and Girls.
A central part of this is our response to domestic abuse, where victims are overwhelmingly female.
Everybody agrees that domestic abuse is a heinous and cowardly crime that must have severe consequences for the perpetrators.
But there are still so many holes in our domestic abuse laws that this is often not the case, with victims and their families being robbed of justice.
I am campaigning with a Vauxhall constituent to make a small but important change to the law in this area.
Astonishingly, there is currently nothing to stop a convicted domestic abuser from inheriting the estate of their victim. This applies even if there is a clear link between the abuse and the victim’s death.
In September last year, my constituent Tom contacted me after his mother had tragically died of suicide following domestic abuse perpetrated by her husband, his stepfather.
The coroner ruled that his stepfather’s actions were a direct cause of her suicide.
Prior to her death, she pressed charges and he was convicted of violent offences against her in court.
She had also started divorce proceedings to end their marriage. But due to the profound impact of the abuse on her mental health, she was unable to complete the lengthy process of divorcing him or complete a will.
As a result, her convicted abuser has now inherited her family home and full NHS pension from her many years as a GP.
This has left Tom and the rest of the family completely distraught and compounded the trauma of her death.
In November, I raised the case with Boris Johnson at Prime Minister’s Questions in Parliament.
This led to him meeting me and Tom in January at Downing Street. The Government accept that this is a clear injustice and ministers have since told me that they are “committed to considering the case for reform on domestic abuse and inheritance”.
This is progress, but they will not commit to changing the law to prevent convicted abusers from inheriting from their victim against their wishes. They are concerned that doing so could lead to “unforeseen consequences that may arise given the different interests within extended families.”
Though it is of course vital to have safeguards against spurious claims to an estate by opportunistic relatives, it is simply not good enough to leave the current situation unchanged.
Hearing their pain, I feel compelled to fight to ensure that nobody else has to experience what they have.
Changing the law as an opposition MP is unfortunately not easy because the Government controls Parliamentary time and any new proposal would need considerable support from Tory MPs.
But I will keep doing everything in my power to push for this and raise awareness of such a blatant injustice. If we can build enough momentum, the Government will be forced to listen.
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