Ministers to review 'rough sex gone wrong' defence amid fears killers are dodging convictions
The Government has promised to review the use of the "rough sex" defence that campaigners say is being used by men to dodge murder convictions.
The Home Office confirmed that it would look "at what more can done" to stop perpetrators using the courtroom to try and "escape justice" by blaming women for their own deaths.
The move came as ministers introduced an "enhanced" Domestic Abuse Bill after years of delays in getting the law through Parliament.
The promised review of the "rough sex" defence follows a public outcry over the killing of British backpacker Grace Millane, whose killer tried to claim that she died in an accident after asking him to strangle her.
Labour MP Harriet Harman has said such claims represent a "new version of men being able to blame the woman they killed for her own death".
Unveiling the Domestic Abuse Bill, the Home Office said it would look "at what more can done to stop the so called ‘rough sex’ defence being used by perpetrators in court to attempt to escape justice".
The promise has been welcomed by Alan Andrews, whose daughter Natalie was killed by property developer John Broadhurst in 2016.
He told The Sun: "This is brilliant news and it’s not a day too soon.
"No woman ever consents to being violently injured or killed during sex. I know Natalie certainly did not consent to being brutally hurt.
"The law as it stands enables these killers to blame their crimes on innocent women, knowing that their victims can’t challenge their lies."
Campaigners have also given a cautious welcome to the wider Domestic Abuse Bill, which comes after years of false starts in the Commons.
The legislation was originally promised by Theresa May in 2017 and finally introduced to the chamber last July - but was dropped after Boris Johnson prorogued Parliament in October.
The Home Office said the new version of the bill would "go even further to support and protect victims and punish perpetrators" by requiring councils in England to provide safe accommodation for victims and their children.
"The bill will also improve on the previous pledge to ban abusers from cross-examining their victims in the family courts, to apply to all family proceedings where there is evidence of domestic abuse," the Government promised.
Measures already announced that will feature in the new bill include powers to support the recently-appointed Domestic Abuse Commissioner, who will scrutinise authorities' attempts to tackle the problem.
The definition of domestic abuse will also be broadened to include economic abuse, where a victim has their access to "fundamental economic resources" limited by a controlling partner.
The Government has also launched a review into the support offered to migrant victims of domestic abuse.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said: "An astonishing 2.4 million people in England and Wales have suffered domestic abuse. That is unacceptable, and the reason why it is so important to shine a light on this crime.
"The Domestic Abuse Bill is a monumental step to empower victims and survivors, provide protection and tackle perpetrators at the earliest stage."
'PRESSURE ON BUDGETS'
The introduction of the Bill has been welcomed by charities working to support the victims of domestic abuse, including Refuge and Women's Aid.
Sandra Horley, chief executive of Refuge, said: "Refuge welcomes the re-introduction of the Domestic Abuse Bill, which is significantly enhanced by the addition of a legal duty on local authorities to provide refuge accommodation.
"This bill offers the government a real opportunity to transform the response to domestic abuse in this country, but key to its success will be meeting this duty with adequate funding, so that no woman or child is ever turned away when seeking safety."
That view was echoed by the Local Government Association, which warned that while "domestic abuse is an issue that councils take very seriously", stretched resources could hamper efforts to clamp down on the crime.
The LGA's Simon Blackburn said: "There needs to be a greater focus on prevention and early intervention measures to tackle the root causes, support more victims, and stop domestic abuse occurring in the first place.
"This will require funding and investment for evidence-based perpetrator programmes and for key learning and best practice from Domestic Homicide Reviews to be shared on a national level.
“However, the ability of councils to fund services for victims is limited by significant pressures on their budgets.
"Ahead of the Budget, we want to work with government to ensure councils receive long-term and sustainable funding to protect individuals and families from the physical and psychological harm of domestic abuse.”