Friday 12 August 2022

Domestic violence is everyone's business


A guy I once worked with was utterly shocked (along with the rest of his family) when his sister was killed by her husband; they hadn’t known that there were any issues at all between the pair. I remember his words to me at the time: “No-one ever knows what goes on behind closed doors”. When it comes to domestic violence, there are only ever two people who really know what happened, and even they will have different versions of events. Plaid seems to have got itself into more than a little bit of difficulty in its response to the assault by MP Jonathan Edwards on his wife, and the party’s response seems to have led to some uncomradely comments, not to say bitterness and dispute, amongst the members, judging only from the public comments I’ve seen on Facebook and elsewhere. Bearing in mind the words of that erstwhile work colleague, I don’t know enough about the detail of what actually happened to comment on the original event. There are some general political issues, though.

Firstly, it seems that Plaid’s disciplinary rules don’t actually allow the party to distinguish, in the way that the NEC attempted to do, between re-admission to the party and re-admission to the parliamentary group. From my own past extensive involvement with the party’s rules, that doesn’t surprise me: there are always new situations which those drawing up the rules failed to foresee and allow for. It’s why the rule book ends up as a lengthy and unwieldy document as new rules are invented to plug any gaps identified. In principle, though, expecting higher standards from those representing a party – any party – as a candidate for public office than are expected of ordinary members is not at all an unreasonable position to take. It’s part of the reason parties, including Plaid, use some sort of selection or vetting process to ensure that only suitable individuals get selected as candidates, even if such procedures can never be perfect.

Secondly, society as a whole often seems to apply dual standards to the question of domestic violence. It’s hard to imagine another violent crime in which the forgiveness of the victim (even if later regretted) is considered to be some sort of mitigation which diminishes the seriousness of the initial assault. There are power differentials as well as genuine feelings which can drive 'forgiveness' in  such circumstances. No violent assault by one person on another is ever, or should ever be, ‘just a matter for the individuals involved’. It is understandable that, in a domestic situation where the police believe that reconciliation is possible, attempts are made to resolve the issue by issuing a caution rather than a prosecution in order to spare families the trauma of a court case, but it is wrong to assume that the issue of a caution in itself somehow makes the case less serious. The decision between a caution and a prosecution isn’t simply based on the perceived degree of seriousness of the offence. And a perpetrator doesn’t somehow become a victim if the offence affects his or her future career, although that’s what some seem to be arguing.

Thirdly, parties need to be wary of trying to hold other parties to a higher standard than they expect of their own politicians. Arguing that a man fined for breaking lockdown rules should be forced out of office, but a man cautioned for domestic violence should be allowed to ‘move on’ and get back to normal is not a good look.

There is a debate to be had, of course, about whether someone committing a crime should have that held against him or her for ever, or whether society should be prepared at some point to forgive and allow the individual to return to normal life, particularly where contrition is genuine. I’ve always been in the latter camp on that question, but returning to normal life as an accepted member of society isn’t necessarily the same thing as going back to what the individual was doing before. There are some roles where different criteria are going to be applied, even if those roles aren’t formally identified, and the criteria aren’t written down anywhere. Ultimately, it’s a matter of opinion and judgement, and people will make different judgements. That difference of opinion seems to be at the heart of the uncomradely comments to which I referred above.

I haven’t been a member of Plaid for the last 12 years, and I no longer have any involvement with the rules or processes which the party applies, so there’s a sense in which it’s not my business. I do, though, live in the Carmarthen East constituency (the boundary with Carmarthen West is at the end of our drive) and I, like others, will have to decide at some point for whom to vote. It would be naïve for any party, or any individual, to believe that the events which have transpired will not affect the decisions made by individual electors.


dafis said...

Any member of the electorate here in Wales has a right to be "interested". Initially I accepted Edwards' return to the fold as a bit of closure after about 2 years of police procedure and being cast into the wilderness by Plaid. However this recent statement from the soon to be ex- Mrs Edwards suggests that there were some odd behaviours by Plaid officers back in 2020 and that recent decision making was not fully informed of the off the record activities of said press officer. It may put people in East Carms off voting for Edwards or any replacement Plaid candidate at the next GE. Equally it may put people off voting for them in other parts of Wales as there is a lack of real transparency ( one of Plaid's own favorite phrases when sinking its teeth into some other delinquent). It may not affect the wider prospects much because we are already into overloads of dodgy and/or deviant behaviours from other parties. However it may just prompt more people to opt out altogether or even vote for a Farage Mk 3-4-5 or whatever crackpot outfit that turns up purporting to defend the "common citizen" yet funded by shadowy hedge fund types and wealthy tax dodgers based offshore.

Spirit of BME said...

I agree with you that only those involved will know the real detail and it is difficult and dangerous from the outside to come to definitive answers. All these cases are sad and occur in different environments, but in most cases the damage and injury are similar.
Two questions that come to mind –
Should you know the moral standing of your barber, butcher, bus driver or dentist before you hire them? Should you have the right to reject them on what you may find distasteful e.g., the Northern Ireland baker case?
The other question is should all sections of society abide by the Laws of England, or should some sections be exempt due to their alternative moral code which comes from a multi- racial society? Which will afford less protection in some marriages.
My view is that if your contract for hire does not specify the need to know the persons moral or criminal record then it is not an issue, and you judge their contract on the quality of the service they are employed to do. To the second question, the majority view must prevail unless a special court, which is incorporated and recognised in law is established, such as the Jewish courts on religious and domestic issues.

CapM said...

"... unless a special court, which is incorporated and recognised in law is established, such as the Jewish courts on religious and domestic issues."

Religious courts should not be incorporated or recognised in national law. The judgements of religious courts should have the same status as the judgements made by for example golf club committees. Both are essentially organisations based on membership. Members can be expelled for breaking the organisations rules or resign if they disagree with the rules. Any sanction or punishment handed out by either must comply with national law.