Justice for Jane Clough

Vera Baird writes about the small concession wrung from a government which is uniformly poor on women’s issues.

Vera Baird QC is a barrister, writer and lecturer, as well as Co-Director of Astraea: Gender Justice (Research and Education)

Yesterday saw one small victory for women over the Tory government. The Justice for Jane Clough Campaign and the Labour shadow team forced a concession from Crispin Blunt, the minister well known for championing anonymity for rape defendants, and in charge of the iniquitous legal aid bill. It is a new prosecution right of appeal against bail that could protect women who are fleeing from violent relationships.

It took great courage for Jane Clough, in 2009, a nurse and the mother of a new baby to complain to the police about her treatment at the hands of her partner, Jonathan Vass, who was a steroid-taking strongman.

He was charged with nine rapes, three assaults and one sexual assault as a result and appeared at court that December.

The Crown Prosecution Service told the judge that Vass was extremely likely to approach Jane again and that he should be kept in custody. Nonetheless Judge Simon Newell gave him bail.

In fear, Jane went into hiding at her parent’s home but Vass knifed her to death on her way to work on 25th July 2010 at Blackpool Victoria Hospital.

Shadow justice minister Helen Goodman strongly criticized Newell’s decision in a commons committee yesterday.

Some judges undervalue serious allegations of violence from a partner. They seem to fear that it is a battle in a domestic war which may come to nothing and mediate their concern by granting bail with a condition that the defendant should not contact the complainant.

A judge should refuse bail if there is a risk of interfering with a witness. This is never more likely than when the principal witness is an intimate partner who was dominated by the defendant but has now escaped his grasp and whose evidence can send him to prison.

Further, there is considerable evidence that a domestic abuser becomes desperate to reassert his power when his victim complains, and his violence can dramatically escalate.

No bail condition will impede such a person, in such a state of mind, with such a lot to lose, from finding the complainant and, one way or another, stopping the proceedings.

This means that women, like Jane, who have summoned up the courage to leave their violent partners, can be left by the authorities at their mercy.

After her murder Jane’s devastated family started the campaign that culminated yesterday in Helen Goodman’s successful bid for a prosecution right to appeal against a grant of bail. There is currently an appeal when magistrates grant bail but not if it is done by a Judge.

The Cloughs highlight further issues from Jane’s case. CPS abandoned the rape charges when Vass pleaded guilty to murder, though hours of her taped complaints were available to the court.

This means that her original wrong has not been put right and that Vass is not a convicted sex offender. He is not on the sex offenders register; he will not be managed as a sex offender in prison and will therefore be as dangerous to women on release as he is to women now.

It also adds nine abandoned rape charges to the low conviction figures that continue to deter women from reporting sexual abuse day to day.

The appeal right has the weakness that the appellate judge may be another Newell, as poor as the first in understanding intimate violence. Its hope is that a second application, in itself, might promote better awareness. The right will apply to all serious crimes but current judicial culture makes it is imperative for cases like Jane’s.

Yesterday Blunt had either to accept the spirit of the amendment or deny the justice of the Cloughs’ cause in their presence. Jane died in July 2010 and the appeal right should have been in this Bill in the first place. By defending the judge and being as vague as he could about timing, Blunt made clear that this concession was being wrung from him.

The Cloughs are to be congratulated for turning their heart rending loss to some good.

See also:

Exposed: The legal aid minister’s £97,000 conflict of interestAlex Hern, October 11th 2011

Tory MP: People opposed to legal aid cuts are “irresponsible and unhelpful”Jonny Mulligan, October 5th 2011

How domestic violence victims risk losing support because of the cutsRichard Exell, September 1st 2011

Fat cats will continue to milk the legal aid budget – while the vulnerable sufferJonny Mulligan, June 22nd 2011

Two women a week die from domestic violence; legal aid cuts will see moreJonny Mulligan, June 16th 2011

46 Responses to “Justice for Jane Clough”

  1. Neill Harvey-Smith

    @bethharveysmith "women's issues" alert! MT @leftfootfwd One small concession on women’s issues: //t.co/3tYXqWra by @VeraBaird"

  2. Lucy V Hay

    Justice for Jane Clough: One small concession on women’s issues wrung from the government: //t.co/9rYcoRgd by @VeraBaird

  3. Elaine Howard

    Terrible case. The law has a lot of catching up to do. Justice for Jane Clough //t.co/FcfKghbn

  4. w.m o'mara

    RT @leftfootfwd: Justice for Jane Clough //t.co/WEyWbPme "Blunt (Tory MP) made clear that this concession was being wrung from him"

  5. Shamik Das

    Justice for Jane Clough: One small concession on women’s issues wrung from the government: //t.co/HdBdchZ0 by @VeraBaird

  6. Ellie Cumbo

    Justice for Jane Clough: One small concession on women’s issues wrung from the government: //t.co/HdBdchZ0 by @VeraBaird

  7. Political Planet

    Justice for Jane Clough: Vera Baird writes about the small concession wrung from a government which is uniformly… //t.co/LY1Yaume

  8. Vera Baird

    Justice for Jane Clough: One small concession on women’s issues wrung from the government: //t.co/9rYcoRgd by @VeraBaird

  9. Coventry Rape Crisis

    Right to appeal bail decisions, a concession 'wrung' from Crispin Blunt yesterday. @VeraBaird //t.co/01nddM4j

  10. Coventry Rape Crisis

    Justice for Jane Clough: One small concession on women’s issues wrung from the government: //t.co/9rYcoRgd by @VeraBaird

  11. Anna Martindale

    New right of appeal against judges granting bail will help women escape from violent partners – //t.co/Nl4zjMKs

  12. Ashley Harnett

    New right of appeal against judges granting bail will help women escape from violent partners – //t.co/Nl4zjMKs

  13. Kim Evans

    Justice for Jane Clough: One small concession on women’s issues wrung from the government: //t.co/9rYcoRgd by @VeraBaird

  14. Daniel Elton

    @Lefty_Lisa V.Imp>> Vera Baird on new prosecution right of appeal against bail for rape defendents on @leftfootfwd: //t.co/oFPADbta

  15. Daniel Elton

    @PennyRed V.Imp>> Vera Baird on new prosecution right of appeal against bail for rape defendents on @leftfootfwd: //t.co/oFPADbta

  16. Daniel Elton

    @KatBanyard V.Imp>> Vera Baird on new prosecution right of appeal against bail for rape defendents on @leftfootfwd: //t.co/oFPADbta

  17. Daniel Elton

    @pollytoynbee V.Imp>> Vera Baird on new prosecution right of appeal against bail for rape defendents on @leftfootfwd: //t.co/oFPADbta

  18. Daniel Elton

    @UK_feminista V.Imp>> Vera Baird on new prosecution right of appeal against bail for rape defendents on @leftfootfwd: //t.co/oFPADbta

  19. Daniel Elton

    @suey2y V.Imp>> @VeraBaird on new prosecution right of appeal against bail for rape defendents on @leftfootfwd: //t.co/oFPADbta

  20. Daniel Elton

    @CateySmith @VeraBaird on new prosecution right of appeal against bail for rape defendents on @leftfootfwd: //t.co/oFPADbta

  21. Daniel Elton

    @McCormack_Evans @VeraBaird on new prosecution right of appeal against bail for rape defendents on @leftfootfwd: //t.co/oFPADbta

  22. Selohesra

    Tragic story but hardly supports the opening comment about being victory over Tory government – they did not release him on bail and Labour had 13 years to change the bail appeal rules but didnt. You do yourself no favours trying to politicise things where even a Daily Mail reader would say Vass should have been loclked up

  23. Daniel Elton

    @KiraCochrane @VeraBaird on new prosecution right of appeal against bail for rape defendents on @leftfootfwd: //t.co/oFPADbta

  24. Daniel Elton

    @compassoffice @VeraBaird on new prosecution right of appeal against bail for rape defendents on @leftfootfwd: //t.co/oFPADbta

  25. Daniel Elton

    @stopitswa >> @VeraBaird on new prosecution right of appeal against bail for rape defendents on @leftfootfwd: //t.co/oFPADbta

  26. Daniel Elton

    @crimsoncrip >> @VeraBaird on new prosecution right of appeal against bail for rape defendents on @leftfootfwd: //t.co/oFPADbta

  27. Omar Salem

    @compassoffice @VeraBaird on new prosecution right of appeal against bail for rape defendents on @leftfootfwd: //t.co/oFPADbta

  28. Coventry Rape Crisis

    @CoventryWomen @verabaird It's here, but not sure if we need @leftfootforward permission as well as Vera's..? //t.co/bGj1ZmbW

  29. Sue Marsh

    RT @leftfootfwd: Justice for Jane Clough //t.co/M3704K9P

  30. Ebony Dawn Marsh

    RT @leftfootfwd: Justice for Jane Clough //t.co/M3704K9P

  31. Justice for Jane

    RT @leftfootfwd: Justice for Jane Clough //t.co/jMz2koRN

  32. Claire Moore

    Right to appeal bail decisions, a concession 'wrung' from Crispin Blunt yesterday. @VeraBaird //t.co/01nddM4j

  33. Coventry Women

    good article by @VeraBaird here about @JusticeForJane //t.co/2TKfFAIF

  34. Anon E Mouse

    Once again this fine blog is let down by stupid sloppy partisan “journalism”.

    How many victims were murdered when the last government let violent thugs out of jail early?

    Longer prison sentences and bring back capital punishment to act as a deterrent and we may get somewhere but this article serves only to remind us how bad Labour and their silly policies were.

    What is wrong with you people?

  35. thelawmap

    RT @leftfootfwd: Justice for Jane Clough //t.co/lKlQOflB

  36. Mr. Sensible

    You’re learching to the right, Mr Mouse.

    The fact with capital punishment is that, any society that puts its own citizens to death is in no position to tell them that violence is wrong.

    Also, I refer you to the recent case of Troy Davis over in the States, who was put to death even though the case against him has been collapsing more and more by the day. Are you telling me that, in the interest of so called justice (vengence more like), that is a price worth paying? The Davis case shows another example of why we should never ever bring back capital punishment in this country.

    On the article itself, I think the proposal to allow the right of appeal is sensible in cases like this.

  37. Ed's Talking Balls

    I don’t understand the purpose of the opening paragraph. First, we don’t have a Tory government. Second, and more pertinently, why politicise this tragic case?

    I would hope that everyone can see how dreadful this is and that it should never have been allowed to happen.

    The fight you should be picking is against lofty judges who don’t care about the scum they see fit to release into the community to commit yet more horrific crimes. In a wider context, you might want to take this fight to psychiatrists who assess seriously unhinged, violent individuals as posing no threat to society; to probation officers who swallow cynical expressions of contrition and allow dangerous criminals their freedom again; and to the likes of Shami Chakrabarti, who seemingly revel in the fact that crass laws (or at least interpretation thereof) force us to keep rapists, murderers and terrorists in this country.

    Direct your fire at these guilty parties.

  38. Ed's Talking Balls

    ‘The fact with capital punishment is that, any society that puts its own citizens to death is in no position to tell them that violence is wrong.’

    As an aside, this is nonsense.

    There is a quite obvious distinction between an individual committing murder and the state, backed up by laws passed by a democratically elected parliament, executing criminals found guilty in a court of law by a jury of their peers.

    A state which carries out capital punishment in accordance with the law will always be in a position to tell citizens that violence contrary to the law is wrong. What is more, it will be able to demonstrate to its citizens that failure to adhere to the laws of the land will have the most serious consequences.

  39. Crimson Crip

    @crimsoncrip >> @VeraBaird on new prosecution right of appeal against bail for rape defendents on @leftfootfwd: //t.co/oFPADbta

  40. UK Feminista

    @UK_feminista V.Imp>> Vera Baird on new prosecution right of appeal against bail for rape defendents on @leftfootfwd: //t.co/oFPADbta

  41. Matthew Steeples

    A terrible story but the falsely accused are victims too. You may like to take a look at my piece on the same subject: //dasteepsspeaks.blogspot.com/2011/10/rape-and-anonymity.html

  42. Monika Schwartz

    Vera Baird on the Justice for Jane Clough campaign: //t.co/EqozRCbT #PMQs

  43. Shamik Das

    .@vicderbyshire @BBC5Live read “Justice for Jane Clough”: //t.co/hF0GnJe3 by @VeraBaird

  44. Vera Baird

    .@vicderbyshire @BBC5Live read “Justice for Jane Clough”: //t.co/hF0GnJe3 by @VeraBaird

  45. Sue Haile

    .@vicderbyshire @BBC5Live read “Justice for Jane Clough”: //t.co/hF0GnJe3 by @VeraBaird

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