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Domestic violence bill to encourage greater reporting but ignites concern

Bill aims to protect victims, but critics say parts of it are not in the public's interest

A new domestic violence bill that was recently passed by the Massachusetts House and is now on its way to the Senate will do much to protect victims of domestic violence, but could also open up a legal loophole that would protect offenders, according to the Metro West Daily News. The bill arose after a horrific incident that saw a man allegedly stab his girlfriend to death after being released on personal recognizance for a charge of assaulting her the night before.

Bill rushed through the house

The bill is designed as a response to that murder incident and was rushed through the House in a unanimous vote. The bill introduces a number of measures to help protect victims of domestic assault, including introducing delays when setting bail in domestic violence cases so that victims have more time to seek safety from their alleged attackers.

The bill also introduces stronger penalties for domestic violence, better training for police, judges, and prosecutors, and establishes a new crime of first-offence domestic assault, according to the Worcester Telegram and Gazette.

Police log section arouses controversy

While all of the above measures have been almost universally lauded, there is one section of the bill that is causing considerable controversy. The bill would keep all reports of domestic violence, rape, and sexual assault off of daily public police logs. Instead, the reports would be contained in a separate log not available to the public.

Supporters of this measure say that keeping domestic violence reports out of public police logs will encourage victims to report abuse. One of the impediments that many victims currently face when coming forward to police is the fear of reprisal from the attacker after the victim reports the abuse.

Critics of the measure, however, say that the law will create a legal loophole that will just end up protecting perpetrators of domestic violence. The measure would mean that the public would have a much more difficult time knowing if cases of sexual assault and rape were being reported in their neighborhoods. It could also mean that if public officials, including elected politicians, were charged with domestic assault then the public would have a more difficult time learning of those charges.

These critics also contend that while victims of domestic abuse need to feel safe reporting to police, there is very little evidence that keeping police logs confidential would actually encourage victims to come forward.

Domestic abuse charges

Domestic violence is an extremely serious charge in Massachusetts and if this bill passes then the new law could have profound effects on both the victim and the accused in a domestic violence case. Anybody involved in a domestic violence charge needs the advice of an experienced family law lawyer who understands the intricacies of the law for both parties. Such a lawyer can guide the client through what to expect in during case and how to go about seeking a satisfactory resolution.

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