WHEN is 26 years not 26 years? When it’s only 13.
When a man who bludgeoned his wife to death with a claw hammer in 2010 could be given permission for early release having only served a pathetic half of his sentence.
This is the reality unless justice secretary Dominic Raab intervenes and blocks the automatic release of Robert Brown, who murdered his wife, Joanna Simpson, within earshot of their two children.
This had followed a sustained period of domestic abuse which included coercive control, isolation, intimidation and severe violence.
Brown buried Joanna in a pre-dug grave and shockingly, despite all this, he was only convicted of manslaughter due to diminished responsibility.
Joanna’s mother, Diana Parkes — who inspired Camilla, Queen Consort, to join her in a passionate campaign against domestic abuse — is asking, with considerable dignity, quite simply, that “the punishment fits the crime”.
Domestic abuse affects more than one in four women before the age of 50, according to a recent World Health Organization study, and charity Women’s Aid says two women are murdered each week by their partner.
And still the authorities struggle to handle this crime and its punishment with the gravity and urgency it needs.
We keep having conversations about our revulsion over crimes like this. We keep sharing horror stories.
Many of us know someone who has been on the receiving end of some form of it.
Yet it seems that, regardless of our fears and lived experiences, little appears to change.
Why is it that there are so many systemic failures that allow survivors and their families to be left feeling so utterly helpless and overlooked?
Why does the law continue to let down survivors by failing to protect women properly?
And the law includes, of course, the first point of contact — the police.
Mel B, who has done such a sterling job campaigning for domestic abuse to be treated with greater urgency after claiming she suffered at the hands of her ex-husband, Stephen Belafonte, during their ten-year marriage, said this week that she would be unlikely to go to the police even today because she just doesn’t trust them.
I think that’s true for many women.
There is a collective reluctance to tell our truths because we fear not being believed, getting lost in the system, and not being taken seriously by an authority that has time and time again been proven to be sexist and misogynistic.
She also spoke about how she thought it was likely that the other Spice Girls suspected the “abuse” she suffered — always denied by her ex — but she had become very adept at hiding the emotional and physical evidence.
That’s what survivors do, they change their lives and behaviour so no one finds out, because that would inevitably make things worse for them.
It’s a coping mechanism and a form of self-preservation.
Which is also partly why the system keeps letting down survivors, because if they struggle to reach out for help from friends or family, the chance of them turning to the authorities for support and protection is zero.
Still get it wrong
Fundamentally, the police are too poorly trained to deal with this crime.
And yet, for those who eventually succumb — in desperation — and report the crimes, then starts a whole new nightmare of fearing that justice won’t be properly done.
Survivors must think they have to die at the hands of their aggressor before they will be taken seriously.
Even then, the conclusion in Brown’s case was that a man capable of “severe violence” and who had pre-dug a grave for his wife, would only be convicted of manslaughter as he acted with diminished responsibility.
How many times have we heard how inept the parole board has been in previous cases?
When their sole purpose is to perform a risk assessment of a prisoner to determine whether they can safely be released into the community or if they pose a future risk to the public and they still get it wrong.
Many, many times.
Little wonder Joanna’s mum feels helpless.
Our faith in the system has not just diminished, it has disappeared.
Brown appears to have shown no remorse.
In return, we should show him no pity.
Help Dogs Trust avert crisis
I HAVE been left heartbroken by the countless stories of people feeling compelled to surrender their pets as a direct result of the cost of living crisis.
I can’t imagine anything worse than being forced to choose between feeding myself and my family and giving my pet away.
It’s not a choice any of us would take lightly and I think I might consider giving up one of my children instead.
I jest, of course, but it must be a horrendously painful decision to have to make.
Dog shelters are bursting at the seams with pets that so many people decided to get during lockdown, only for the owners to buckle under the pressure of looking after an animal when things returned to normal.
But it’s the people who can no longer afford to keep their beloved pooches that my heart bleeds for.
In response to this very real crisis, the brilliant Dogs Trust is launching a petition calling on the Government to help support owners by pausing the VAT on pet food and veterinary services for 12 months.
Shockingly, around 1,000 people a week are contacting the charity about handing over their pets due to financial pressures.
I can’t imagine how devastating that must be for both dog and owner. No one should have to face that choice.
Some might argue that humans should be prioritised but for me, as a passionate advocate of all things canine, without the help and campaigning by the likes of the Dogs Trust, I wonder who will speak up for pets.
It’s no exaggeration that this current situation has all the hallmarks of an imminent animal welfare crisis.
So, if you have a minute, head to the Dogs Trust and sign its petition and let’s see what people power can do.
Let’s paws the VAT.
A SCHOOL in Worcester replaced the mirrors in the girls’ toilets with posters that claimed make-up is a “harmful drug” that can make them feel ugly.
A.I is kiss of death
SNOGGING is the best thing in the world.
But I wouldn’t let a new “miracle kissing device” – invented by an engineer in China – near me.
You put your smartphone into the top of a moving silicon mouthpiece and record your kiss.
The device mimics the movement, pressure and heat of your partner’s lips – to make it feel like you’re snogging them. It even makes smooching sounds.
Surely the best thing about kissing is the intimacy with another person and NOT interacting with a piece of silicon and a phone app.
Sometimes I despair at the world.
I only hope I’m 6ft under before technology like this becomes the norm.