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Bishop's Stortford MP Julie Marson describes how boy with black eye brought home horror of domestic violence



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Bishop's Stortford's MP gave an emotional account of a battered child in support of the second reading of the Government's new Domestic Abuse Bill.

Conservative Julie Marson told fellow parliamentarians on Tuesday (April 28) about her experiences as a magistrate, before she was elected as member for the Hertford and Stortford constituency in December.

She said: "Nearly 10 years ago, one summer's day, I remember sitting in a stifling hot room looking at a photograph of a cute, blond four-year-old boy who was beaming up at the camera. Nothing remarkable in that, you might think, and I expect that many of us have similar photographs of our own children smiling and laughing at the camera, just as they should be at that age, making happy memories.

Julie Marson MP
Julie Marson MP

"The difference on this occasion was that I was in court, sitting as a magistrate. The photograph had been taken by a police officer and the little boy had an enormous black eye. He had been trying to protect his mother from being attacked by his father and had strayed too close to a flailing fist.

"He was just four years old and he had already been subjected to more emotional and physical trauma than most of us can imagine.

"Domestic abuse is a crime and an abomination against victims and their families. It is a crime against our whole society.

"I truly understood the dynamics of domestic abuse for the first time only after I experienced the training given to magistrates. It opened my eyes and completely changed my perspective.

"It is vital that those involved in policing and the justice system have rigorous training so that they can recognise the abuse cycle, from subtle control to murderous violence, and the fact that the most dangerous moment for a victim is often when they leave the relationship and try to regain control of their own lives."

She added: "Domestic abuse is a dangerous and destructive cycle. It was about 10 years ago when I saw that photograph. That little boy will be 14 or 15 by now, and what I wonder most is whether he spent his childhood in that environment or whether things might have changed for him. Perhaps his father received the justice or indeed the help he needed; perhaps his mother managed to escape.

"Heartbreakingly, that boy might be condemned to repeat the cycle of control and abuse he grew up with, knowing no different and believing that that was normal family life. I support this Bill because I think it will help children like him."

The Bill aims formally to define and raise awareness of domestic violence, protect victims and their children, change the response of the criminal, civil and family justice systems and improve the performance of national and local agencies dealing with the problem.

A key feature is introduction of the new domestic abuse protection order (DAPO) which aims to bring together the best elements of the existing civil order regimes. It will be available in the civil, criminal and family courts and can include conditions that perpetrators wear electronic tags or attend special programmes. Breaches will be punishable by up to five years' jail, a fine or both.

Mrs Marson said: "I welcome those measures, along with the trial of protection orders and protection notices and the extra cross-court safeguards in the justice system, which will give more effective protection to victims and their children – explicitly, whatever their immigration status might be."

She praised former Prime Minister Theresa May for her work ensuring provision about coercive control is also included in the legislation.

In her submission, Mrs Marson singled out Hertford's award-winning Future Living charity, founded by Sandra Conte, which provides therapy for those in recovery from addiction and domestic abuse in East Herts, and she flagged up her concerns about an increase in domestic violence during the coronavirus lockdown and an expected further surge when it ends.



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