Divorce Policy will Incentivise False Allegations

February 23, 2011

photo: Dr John Bullas

Well done, the Tories. Another policy classic from the stupid party.

Now women are going to be incentivised to make false allegations against their partners if they want to get a solicitor. The new legal aid rules restrict representation to those who have suffered domestic violence.

Imagine the conversation outside the school gates on how to get a solicitor. “All you have to do is say that he pushed you. Then it becomes a domestic. Don’t think he wouldn’t do it to you.”

There have been huge resources poured into domestic violence over recent years. The “Positive Arrest” policy means that any allegation of even the smallest touch during an argument must result in the accused being arrested and investigated.

The wishes of the apparent victim are not taken into account for fear that conflicting loyalties will pervert justice, although to take such a strong line can be a perversion of common sense.

Often, when the best advice is for one of them to stay at a friend’s for the night, the actual outcome is that one of them spends 18 hours in a police cell. This can cause considerable bitterness at a time when the relationship is already in trouble.

Under the Positive Arrest policy, a full investigation is then carried out by specially trained officers of CID status. A defence solicitor is provided and the CPS makes the disposal decision. The cost must be considerable.

The perfectly reasonable logic behind this policy is that by investigating the smallest incidents of domestic conflict, the bigger incidents become less likely, so the potential is nipped in the bud, as it were. This whole process can best be described as a glorified risk assessment, but it eats up so much resource that less is available for the genuine serious incidents.

Men and women are just as malicious as each other, but the malice presents itself in different ways. If a man wishes to be vicious to a woman, he is more likely to use his fists feet or penis. If a woman is vicious to a man she is more likely to do it by proxy. I’ll get my brother onto you; I’ll spread a nasty rumour, or I’ll make a false allegation.

It’s also worth remembering that men can also be victims of the violence of women, but are highly unlikely to report it to the police. The macho psychology of men manifests itself in an “I can handle it” attitude.

One of the most common defences is that she is lying in order to get him out of the flat, so she can have possession, or to keep custody of the children. Whether or not his defence is truthful, the situation will not be helped by further incentives such as the promise of a solicitor and barrister in the divorce court, in return for an allegation made to the police.

The government believes that money will be saved by withdrawing the right to legal advice, but the opposite is often the outcome. Family courts are highly emotional and the legal advice provides focus.

Without advice litigants arrive with arguments such as, “She doesn’t deserve custody because she turned up five minutes late”. Genuine and worthy issues don’t come to the fore due to the confusing emotions involved in the breakup.

The Tories are trying to present this policy by highlighting the mediation service prior to court business. This service is the successful policy of the Labour Party, with the single innovation that couples will be forced to attend the service rather than the voluntary service previously.

Mediation is by its nature a process achieved by co-operation, so it’s unlikely to improve on the current service.

However, it is worth noting the way that the Tories always try to cover up cuts by presenting something apparently positive. It’s just a shame that they have so few ideas themselves that they have to appropriate successful Labour policies and present them as their own.

Let’s hope people see through them by the time of the next election.