State lawmakers take aim at domestic violence

Despite making domestic violence awareness a priority the past few years, most incidents are never reported. Credit: Colourbox
Mass. lawmakers want to crack down on those who commit acts of domestic violence.
Credit: Colourbox

As House Speaker Robert DeLeo prepares this week to release a proposal to address domestic violence, Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker detailed his own plan to stiffen penalties for repeat offenders, expand victim services and allow anyone over 18 to defend themselves with pepper spray.

“I care deeply about the families torn apart by violence and believe our plan will put abusers behind bars and families in healthier situations,” Baker said in a statement released Monday with his proposal. “The current resources available and laws on the books are clearly not doing enough to address the complicated problem of domestic violence.”

The Swampscott Republican’s plan would create a new crime of strangulation, which is part of a bill the Senate approved last October, and allow cases that result in probation or continuances without a finding to count as a first offense.

Baker also called to reform state bail laws to eliminate the presumption of release on personal recognizance for repeat bail defaulters, and said the state should partner with local police departments to implement victim advocate programs across Massachusetts.

Finally, the plan recommends waiving the $50 criminal background check fee for people seeking information for their own personal safety, and proposes to set up a task force within the Department of Children and Families to monitor domestic abuse cases involving children.

DeLeo began exploring the issue of domestic violence late last summer following the alleged murder of 27-year-old Jennifer Martel by her boyfriend, Jared Remy, looking in part at laws pertaining to restraining orders.

Legislation filed this session by Rep. Carolyn Dykema, a Democrat from Holliston, would broaden the aggravated assault and battery statute when the defendant has previously been convicted of certain crimes, including violating a restraining order.

The bill (H 3242), entitled “an act relative to protecting domestic violence victims from repeat offenders,” was reported favorably by the Committee on Public Safety and is before the House Ways and Means Committee.

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