From 30 September courts will have greater freedom to grant restraining orders when abusers appear before them, giving victims immediate protection and sparing them the ordeal of a separate civil action.
Currently courts can only issue restraining orders following conviction for two types of offences: harassment or putting someone in fear of violence. Under the new rules an order can be made following conviction for any offence and even where someone is acquitted in order to better protect victims. Breaking the terms of a restraining order is a criminal offence punishable by up to five years in prison.
I am fully aware of the nasty reality of domestic violence. I have read the relevant research, I have done all the training that has been offered to me and I have chaired a good few DV trials, hearing detailed evidence of violent domestic attacks, that are often the culmination of a systematic course of ill-treatment. But for all the training and the awareness I refuse to swerve from the path marked by the 'Golden Thread' of the presumption of innocence. Criminal allegations must be proved beyond reasonable doubt or the defendant is entitled to be acquitted - even if it is a DV case.
It now seems that acquitted defendants might nevertheless be made subject to a restraining order with criminal penalties for breaching it. So we say "You are not guilty of the offence, but we are going to impose this order because we think you might do something soon".
The slippery slope gets steeper and more slippery by the day.