What do we think of using the defence 'marital coercion' in accepting points on licence?(20 Posts)
I had an argument with the guys in my team today about this. They felt that unless she was being beaten she had free will to refuse. I was saying it's a whole lot more complicated than that, and particularly when family finances are at stake.
Really interested for your views.
P.S I am not just talking about Vicky Pryce here. Women generally.
Without commenting on this individual case, I do think that there's a case for marital coercion being a defence in itself, distinguished from straightforward coercion. In the absence of violence/threats, it would be difficult for some random person to make another person break the law. But within a relationship there are many other factors: e.g. guilt, love, a misguided sense of duty, and practical issues such as finances and the family implications of not doing what the other person wants.
It's not the same as duress (which your work colleagues seem to be muddling it up with), as the threats do not have to be physical. The criminal act does, I think, have to be in the presence of the husband for this defence to apply. And it can be used only by a married woman.
I think it needs updating to include CP couples, and either spouse in either role.
I will be interested to see if it succeeds in this case; general loyalty to husband isn't sufficient. Will she be able to establish he was present, and I wonder what sort of threat she will say he put her under?
Wow IBetTheresFlumpPorn. I wish you could have been with me in my argument at work today with me. You said what I wanted to say to them really well.
Hmmmm.... I think marital coercion should go as a defence. It does indeed make women out to be helpless which they are not. Duress will still protect them from fear of violence.
Not referring to this case, but self interest (if he loses his job, the family income will go down) is really not a valid reason to break the law, and some women (not V Pryce as far as we know) might try to wriggle out of criminal behaviour by pleading marital coercion."
In any case, it is nonsense that it all hinges on "marriage" and if not on "marriage" then you can't really draw a clear line so it is also a bad law from that point of view.
Hmm - I had no idea that it could only be used by a married woman .
I do still think that the additional factors within a relationship make it harder to refuse. But if it applies to married women it should also apply to men and civil partners. I imagine that the law was made at a time when husbands could tell their wives what to do.
Bloke next door asks me to take the points for him - simple, he can feck off.
My friend - added sympathy, but still no way.
My sister - another layer of worry, but it's still her lookout, not mine.
My dh - now it's MY problem. Maybe he'll lose his job, which we depend on, and then the children will suffer as well.
(I still wouldn't do it, but you can see the reasoning.) He wouldn't have told me what to do, but he could make a persuasive case on the basis of the fact that we're married and have a family together.
But that only works if it's anyone in a relationship, not just married women.
Marital coercion has been a defence since the 1920s and is a defence based on a premis that if a wife commits an offence in the presence of her husband she is acting under his coercion.
Doesn't it go back further than that? Oliver Twist, Mr Bumble and his wife, and "the law is an ass" etc?
I think it's a valid defence actually.
It's not just the threat of violence - that's covered by standard coercion.
It's not just self-interest re the economics of the family.
It's the long term threat to the relationship, that women (or men) are responding to in this situation.
He loses his job, family is much worse off because of it and she could have saved them it, he's got a stick to beat her with for the rest of their marriage. Life has a momentum of its own, you don't know what is going to happen as a result of the points/ ban and you don't know if that decision is still going to be causing trouble in your relationship five, ten, twenty years down the line. You also don't know, if it might be a contributory factor, to your relationship breaking down altogether.
Given that the state and society are constantly telling women that they are the guardians of relationships and that they should be working hard all the time to keep the relationship healthy, happy, etc., it is right and proper that the law recognises this cultural assumption as a potential form of coercion.
I have mixed feelings about this. Yes of course someone who is in a relationship can be coerced and that coercion could be more effective if one partner is financially dependent on the other and/or they have kids. But i also think there comes a point where we have to take responsibilities for our own actions.
I think I would be happier with this as a mitigating factor than an actual defence i.e. it could have an impact on the level of sentence, rather than actual guilt or innocence
Does the defence consider children to be a factor? If a family have children, then one of the main earners going to jail would have an impact. Of course, that depends on factors such as the age of the children, if she is working.
Or the coercion could be - take the blame or you suffer physically.
What would the coercion be if they had no children? She has a job.
They could lose their home. But is that enough of a defence? But the OH could still be subject to DV.
And it has to be applied to modern relationships or scrapped as a defence altogether.
I think coercion could be used as a defence, can't it?
This came up in discussion with my DH well before the Huhne case as a hypothetical "If I get points you can accept them because it's more important for me to be able to drive." We have a very happy marriage but had quite a row about this as I said I'd refuse. Wonder what he'll say if Chris Huhne gets sent to prison.
Ive seen a few threads on the Relationships boards where no actual physical violence has taken place. Only psychological.
But tables have been thumped or cups have been broken so the threat of it is there.
With all these mixed messages in society is it any wonder that domestic abuse victims sometimes cant be sure if what is happening to them is abuse or not.
I think it's a realistic defence, but I also think it should be available to anyone in a marriage or a CP.
I also agree with Writehand re extending it to Civil Partnerships.
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