The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has announced it has appointed a “leading” criminal defence barrister to conduct an independent review of domestic homicide law.

Clare Wade QC will examine the need for reform, consider whether the law could better protect the public and whether sentences reflect the severity of the crime committed. 

The announcement follows an initial review carried out by the MoJ which looked at more than 100 domestic homicide cases, and analysed the sentences imposed and sentencing remarks, as well as information on the gender of perpetrators and victims and the method of killing. 

The initial review was carried out in response to concerns over sentences being handed down for murders committed with a weapon.

Victims’ commissioner for England and Wales, Dame Vera Baird QC, said: “I’m pleased the Lord Chancellor has reflected on the Domestic Abuse Commissioner’s and my concerns and committed to this review and I’m delighted at the appointment of Clare Wade QC, an incredibly effective and well-respected individual and a former professional colleague.

“Evidence shows that women are more likely than men to use a weapon to defend themselves against an abusive partner, but this attracts a longer sentence than violence without a weapon. The fear is women – who are themselves victims – are serving lengthy jail sentences for simply choosing to survive.”

Wade will further analyse the data and report back to ministers with recommendations later this year. 

Wade is an expert in the field of murder and manslaughter and has specialised in domestic homicide. She has previously worked with the Law Commission on reform of the law of homicide and was lead counsel in the high-profile case of Sally Challen. Challen’s conviction for the murder of her husband was successfully overturned on the basis she had been subjected to coercive control for many years.

Lord chancellor, Robert Buckland QC MP, said: “We want to take a closer look at how the law is working to ensure the public is protected and that sentences reflect the severity of these heinous crimes.

“I am delighted Clare Wade QC can bring her unparalleled expertise to this complex piece of work before we consider any future proposals.”

Domestic abuse commissioner, Nicole Jacobs, commented: “I strongly welcome the review into domestic homicide sentencing, and the appointment of Clare Wade QC to lead this vital piece of work. 

“It is time that we ensured that sentencing for domestic homicides truly reflect the reality and gravity of domestic abuse, which so often follows prolonged periods of abuse. Victims and their families deserve no less”.

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