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Newbury MP Laura Farris gives House of Commons speech on Domestic Violence Bill

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"This bill shines a spotlight in the darkest corners and puts victims centre stage"

NEWBURY MP Laura Farris delivered a passionate speech in the House of Commons yesterday (Tuesday) in support of a cross-party amendment to the Domestic Abuse Bill aiming to tackle the problem of the ‘rough sex’ defence.

This defence refers to the situation in which a perpetrator inflicts injuries upon a victim, but defends the actions through a justification that the victim consented to the injuries during intercourse.

Speaking in the second reading of the bill, Mrs Farris said: “This bill shines a spotlight in the darkest corners and puts victims centre stage.

“I speak in support of the amendments that are jointly proposed by the Mother of the House [Harriet Harman, Lab] and my honourable friend the member for Wyre Forest [Mark Garnier, Con].

“And that is ‘the rough sex defence’ – where acts of extreme violence are given a different complexion because it is said the victim wanted it.”

Speaking on the worrying trend of the ‘rough sex defence’, Mrs Farris said: “Under the current law, the defendant may well establish consent even if the victim does not live to tell the tale.

“The Natalie Connolly story is a case in point.

“I cannot imagine how hard it was for her family to hear how John Broadhurst inflicted more than 75 injuries on Natalie, sprayed bleach in her face and then left her to die.

“And yet he established in court that some of the most extreme and violent injuries were done with her consent.

“The intimate insertion of a bottle of carpet cleaner after he’d beaten her black and blue, and was close to death, was done with her consent.

“In fact, the court found at paragraph 31 of the sentencing remarks that it was done at her ‘instigation’.

“It’s not hard to see why her father, Alan, told The Sun newspaper in March this year: ‘At times it was like Natalie was on trial.’”

Mrs Farris went on to discuss the frequency of similar cases, pointing out that the case of Natalie Connolly was by no means an isolated example.

“Take Laura Huteson in 2018 – whose throat was slit during sex.

“Or Anna Banks a few years earlier – who was throttled to death by a partner.

“What is really extreme violence against women, is given a veneer of complicity because of the sexual element.

“The lurid details are made public, but if the victim had lived, and the case had proceeded as one of sexual assault – she would have been entitled to anonymity.

“The perpetrator receives a derisory sentence for manslaughter.”

Speaking on the normalisation of sexual violence, Mrs Farris said: “We must recognise that violence of this nature is becoming normalised.

“ComRes undertook a survey last November of women aged between 18 and 39 and found 70 per cent had experienced strangulation during sex and more than half of those said that they hadn’t been asked and it had been unwanted.

“Some of the respondents gave interviews and said they genuinely thought they were going to die.

“And we saw it in the tragic case of Grace Millane.

“So this landmark legislation offers an opportunity for the Government to show cultural leadership.

“I hope it will look to the horizon, and build in the statutory protections which will keep women in relationships safe for the future.”

Parliament has recently started to function again, with legislation debated by MPs – both in person and remotely via video calls.

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