Suzanne Harrington: It is time to stop shielding violent men

Suzanne Harrington: It is time to stop shielding violent men
Suzanne Harrington with her 15-year-old daughter Lola.  Pic by Andrew Hasson

So the singer from Kasabian avoided jail after a sustained violent attack on his girlfriend because – checks notes – the judge (another man) deemed the Kasabian bloke’s previous charity work a good enough reason to sentence him to community service instead of anything custodial.

Great. I think I might go out, get off my head on booze or whatever, and violently drag someone smaller than me around by their ankles, bash their head against a hard surface, throttle them, and threaten them with a – what was it again – oh yes, a wooden pallet. I’ll do all of this in front of a small child, who will be terrified enough to call 999. Then I’ll deny it ever happened until someone shows me the CCTV, which I will subsequently refuse to watch because it’s “horrible”. I might cry a bit, preferably in public. Boo hoo.

And I’ll get away with the whole thing because I’ll tell the judge how I’ve baked cakes for a donkey sanctuary, or done charity raffles for hamsters or orphans or something. Any old crap to get me off the hook. Should work a treat. Especially when you think how another guy in a high profile ‘domestic incident’ last summer, involving the police being called out to his flat, ended up being elected the Prime Minister of Britain. Lads will be lads, eh?

This isn’t really about the bloke from Kasabian. He’s just another ugly symbol of a system that shields violent men as it jails non-violent women - 95% of women in jail are there for poverty/addiction-related offences like shoplifting. Not for bashing people up.

Jailing women for non-violent repeat offences so that they are in and out of prison as often as they are in and out of the shops they steal from is nonsensical. It solves nothing, helps nobody, costs a fortune, and horribly disrupts the lives of their children, perpetuating a cycle of deprivation and disadvantage.

We could easily use the money spent jailing non-violent women – the 95% – on addiction and mental health services instead. Jailing non-violent women is the current equivalent of sending Dickensian paupers to the workhouse for nicking loaves of bread. It’s not just cruel and stupid, it serves no long term purpose.

What is even crueller and more stupid is not jailing men who are repeatedly violent towards women. While caging rather than addressing the underlying causes of violence is undeniably primitive – and doesn’t work, as any repeat violent offender will confirm – men who bash women should automatically forfeit their freedom to do it again. 

And again, and again, and again. But rather than just leaving them to rot in a cell, why not throw resources at the violent man, to break the pattern of violence? That Kasabian singer should be in jail. 

Not for vengeful reasons – vengeance is so Old Testament – but to therapeutically address the damage underneath, shine a light on what drives the violence, and make it stop. For good.

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