Posted by dnotice
January 28th, 2011
This post originally appeared on Forty Shades of Grey.
Background: Supreme Court issues judgement that says that a victim of emotional/psychological abuse who flees their home has not made themself ‘intentionally homeless’ under s.177(1) of the Housing Act 1996. The judges in this case were Lord Hope, Lord Rodger, Lord Walker, Lady Hale and Lord Brown. Lady Hale gave the leading judgement, with which Lord Hope and Lord Walker agreed, without need for further judgment. Lord Roger agreed and added his own comments, and Lord Brown dissented. This was the result of a test case, the object of which was to bring the Housing Act into accordance with the definition of ‘violence’ under other UK laws. The judgment in full, is here (PDF). The Mail originally reported this under the headline of “Women entitled to a council house if they move out because their partner shouts at them, top judges rule” – a story which was covered by the links at the top of the page. You might think this was bad enough. But no. Apparently, that headline and article weren’t quite offensive enough for the Mail.
Instead, they’re now going with the headline: “Shout at your spouse and risk losing your home: It’s just the same as domestic violence, warns woman judge“. No really, they are.
In the interests of comparison, here’s the Mail’s original story:
“The Supreme Court ruled that women whose partners shout at them persistently can claim they are effectively ‘homeless’ – and will be entitled to a council house. In a test case, the judges ruled that Mirhmet Yemshaw was the victim of ‘violence’ at the hands of her husband even though she was never physically attacked. Her local authority had earlier ruled that she was at low risk of being physically attacked by her partner.The decision could have wide-ranging implications for councils across the country. If a couple split and the ‘abused’ partner is shouted at they will potentially be entitled to be handed a new home by their local authority.
In August 2008, Mrs Yemshaw fled the flat she shared with her partner and two children – a girl aged six and a boy who was eight months old. She sought the help of the housing authorty in Hounslow, London, as she had nowhere to live.
In interviews with the housing officers Mrs Yemshaw said she was scared and complained that ‘her husband hates her and (she) suspects that he is seeing another woman. ‘(She) is scared that if he confronts him he may hit her. (However her) husband has never actually hit her,’ the judgment said.
Mrs Yemshaw complained that her partner did not give her money for housekeeping and was scared he would take the children away. She was told by officers she could not be classified as ‘homeless’ under the Housing Act as her husband had not threatened her with physical violence. A review panel found that it was reasonable for her to continue to live at the matrimonial home.
Today a panel of five justices in the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that she could be classed as ‘homeless’ as the shouting could be construed as ‘violence’. They referred the case back to the housing authority. If a person is without a place to live then the council must give them accommodation – unless they left their previous property voluntarily.
Lady Hale, giving the lead judgment, said the definition of domestic violence must now include not only physical and threatening or intimidating behaviour but any other form of abuse which may give rise to the risk of harm.
Mrs Yemshaw had told the housing officers that her husband, who rented the property in his sole name, shouted in front of the children and did not treat her ‘like a human’.
Lady Hale said that ‘violence’ can also include ‘strength or intensity of emotion, fervour and passion’.
She said the legal understanding of domestic violence had moved on ‘from a narrow focus upon battered wives and physical contact’.
The Justice of the Supreme Court said the meaning of ‘violence’ under the 1996 Act should be brought up to date in line with modern thinking. Lady Hale added: ‘The essential question is whether an updated meaning is consistent with the statutory purpose. ‘In this case the purpose (of the Act) is to ensure that a person is not obliged to remain living in a home where she, her children or other members of her household are at risk of harm.’
Lord Rodger said he could see no reason why Parliament would have intended the position to be any different where someone will be subjected to deliberate conduct, or threats of deliberate conduct, that may cause her psychological, as opposed to physical, harm.”
Again, go read the links at the top of the page for the analysis of this version of the story.
Here’s the new version:
“Men and women who shout at their partners risk being thrown out of their homes under a sweeping ruling by judges yesterday.Raising your voice at a husband or wife, or a boyfriend or girlfriend, now counts as domestic violence under the landmark Supreme Court judgment. The decision also means that denying money to a partner or criticising them can count as violence and bring down draconian domestic violence penalties from the courts.
The Supreme Court made its decision in the case of a woman who left her husband’s council flat and then demanded a new council home. She said she left because she had suffered domestic violence – even though her husband had never harmed her.
Lady Hale, leading a bench of five justices, said the definition of violence must change so that a range of abusive behaviour now counts in law. The decision will affect domestic violence and family law which has given the courts powers to throw someone out of their home if their partner accuses them of violent behaviour. Until now violence has always had to mean physical assault.
The judges were hearing the case of Mihret Yemshaw, 35, who said she had been subjected to domestic violence and was entitled to be rehoused under the 1996 Housing Act. Officials in Hounslow, West London, turned her down after hearing that her husband had never hit her nor threatened to do so.
Mrs Yemshaw told them he had shouted in front of their two children, failed to treat her like a human, had not given her housekeeping money, and she was scared he would take the children away from her.
Lady Hale said the meaning of the word ‘violence’ had moved on since Parliament passed the Housing Act.
The word ‘is capable of bearing several meanings and applying to many different types of behaviour. These can change and develop over time’. The judge added that ‘it is not for Government and official bodies to interpret the meaning of the words which Parliament has used. That role lies with the courts.’
Lady Hale said that according to the dictionary, violence means physical attack, but can also apply to extreme fervour, passion or fury. One judge, Lord Brown, said he had a ‘profound doubt’ as to whether the domestic violence provisions were ever intended ‘to extend beyond the limits of physical violence’.
The judgment means that Mrs Yemshaw will now have her case reconsidered by Hounslow. It will also apply to a wide field of legislation, including the 1996 Family Law Act which allows people to be ejected from their homes if their partners complain of domestic violence.
The decision comes at a time of growing concern over the powers of senior judges and their willingness to alter laws made by Parliament. Family law expert Jill Kirby yesterday drew a comparison between the ruling and the Humpty Dumpty character in Lewis Carroll’s Through The Looking-Glass, who said words meant whatever he wanted them to mean. She said: ‘The judiciary are taking the Humpty Dumpty view, and it risks undermining confidence in the legal system.’
Mihret Yemshaw’s husband told the Daily Mail last night he had never been violent towards his wife who, like him, was born in Ethiopia. They married in London ten years ago. Samuel Estifanos, a 40-year-old bus driver, claimed she left the flat where he still lives because she was ‘unhappy’. He added: ‘I never hit her and I never even screamed or swore at her.’”
I have highlighted the particularly offensive parts of this article, and will now go through them.
- “shout at their partners” – This is what Lady Hale gives as the actual definition of domestic violence:
“The term ‘violence’ itself is often used in two senses. In its narrower meaning it describes the use or threat of physical force against a victim in the form of an assault or battery. But in the context of the family, there is also a wider meaning which extends to abuse beyond the more typical instances of physical assaults to include any form of physical, sexual or psychological molestation or harassment which has a serious detrimental effect upon the health and well-being of the victim.” (at para 21 in the judgment)
- “sweeping ruling” – The main principle of judicial precedent is that of stare decisis – i.e. like cases should be treated alike. Legally speaking, this case only has to be followed if another case arises with exactly the same facts.
- “denying money to a partner or criticising them can count as violence” – What actually happened: “her husband hates her and [she] suspects that he is seeing another woman. [She] is scared that if she confronts him he may hit her. [However her] husband has never actually threatened to hit her.” She went on to complain of his shouting in front of the children, so that she retreated to her bedroom with them, not treating her “like a human”, not giving her any money for housekeeping, being scared that he would take the children away from her and say that she was not able to cope with them, and that he would hit her if she returned home.”
- “draconian domestic violence penalties” again, stare decisis applies – this case only means that women in the same circumstances as the complainant will be eligible for council housing.
- “demanded” – just a pretty humiliating word to toss out there when you’re talking about a scared mother who has just fled her home with two children aged six years old and eight months old and nowhere else to go.
- “even though her husband had never harmed her” – Even though the ruling accepts that he had.
- “said the definition of violence must change so that a range of abusive behaviour now counts in law” – All Lady Hale did not change the definition of ‘violence’. She merely agreed that the Act in question should use the same definition of ‘violence’ as other Acts do.
- “given the courts powers to throw someone out of their home if their partner accuses them of violent behaviour” – I will only repeat this one more time. STARE DECISIS. You simply cannot just assume that because one case with limited facts has gone one way, that others, to do with completely different laws will follow!
- “Lady Hale said that according to the dictionary, violence means physical attack, but can also apply to extreme fervour, passion or fury. One judge, Lord Brown, said he had a ‘profound doubt’ as to whether the domestic violence provisions were ever intended ‘to extend beyond the limits of physical violence’” – Yes. Lady Hale did say that, in order to give her judgment some context. Yes, Lord Brown did say that. However, Lord Brown was the only dissenting judge in the case. He was the only one to disagree – what he said means nothing to the judgment as it now stands in law.
- ” It will also apply to a wide field of legislation, including the 1996 Family Law Act which allows people to be ejected from their homes if their partners complain of domestic violence” – Honestly, now, it’s like they’re trying to test my patience. STARE DECISIS!!!!
- !like him, was born in Ethiopia. They married in London ten years ago” – Yeah, and so?
All this is is another absolutely repugnant and hateful argument by the Mail, which shows their hatred for women and lack of any knowledge to do with anything that they voice an opinion on.