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Legacy of murdered Norwich mum Kerri McAuley must be to help shape government’s domestic abuse bill - and protect other victims

PUBLISHED: 06:31 10 November 2018 | UPDATED: 07:33 10 November 2018

Mandy Proctor, right, with friends and family of Kerri McAuley helping to launch 'Kerri's Campaign' to raise £10K for Leeway. Picture: Nick Butcher

Mandy Proctor, right, with friends and family of Kerri McAuley helping to launch 'Kerri's Campaign' to raise £10K for Leeway. Picture: Nick Butcher

Archant © 2017

The recently published review into the murder of Kerri McAuley highlights the urgent work that still needs to be done to tackle domestic abuse.

Kerri McAuley as killed by her ex-partner Joe Storey in January 2017. Submitted by Kerri's family.Kerri McAuley as killed by her ex-partner Joe Storey in January 2017. Submitted by Kerri's family.

My thoughts go out to Kerri’s family and friends who will have been so upset reading through it, hearing what could have been done to better protect Kerri.

Throughout a difficult couple of years, Kerri’s family and friends have been excellent, raising awareness of domestic abuse and helping to set up a campaign in memory of Kerri to raise money for Leeway.

Their courage has been inspiring and it speaks volumes of their character that they have been so keen to share Kerri’s story to ensure that others in similar situations can access support.

It was tough reading the review, but it is essential that there are reviews to improve responses to domestic abuse here in Norfolk and across the country.

There were missed opportunities, as highlighted by the review, and it is important that lessons are learned from this and changes are made to better protect people in the future.

On a wider scale, a lot more needs to be done to ensure that people are aware of domestic abuse and coercive control, as well as the impact it has.

“Why doesn’t she leave?” is a question that we hear quite a bit, but when you live in fear of what will happen to you or your family if you do leave, it is not as simple as that.

It is time to challenge this view with “why doesn’t he stop?”

Questioning this is a key part to tackling domestic abuse and it is up to us, as a society, to challenge these attitudes and openly discuss the issue.

Kerri’s Campaign did a fantastic job at breaking down some of these barriers and made people more aware of domestic abuse and the impact it has.

The support that the campaign received was incredible and the fact that the £10,000 target was smashed in just a month showed how much the case touched the local community.

Many people that donated will have never met Kerri but gave whatever they could to support other women and children that have experienced domestic abuse.

The donations from the campaign have enabled us to kit out our new refuge to ensure that it is homely and welcoming for those fleeing abusive relationships

It is fantastic that Kerri’s legacy has created something positive, helping many women and children already and this will continue in the coming years.

I hope that the legacy will go further than this though and will help to shape the government’s domestic abuse bill that is due to be released soon.

Local MP Chloe Smith has been very proactive and took Kerri’s story to parliament to highlight the need for strong measures to protect those experiencing domestic abuse and to shape the domestic abuse bill.

We have met with Chloe a couple of times to offer our thoughts on the government’s proposals and what we feel needs to be done to further protect those experiencing domestic abuse.

The policies outlined in the bill are positive, especially the proposed introduction of a perpetrator register, which will hopefully stop repeat offenders from abusing multiple women.

Other proposals include a new legal definition of domestic abuse, a Commissioner to oversee and maintain good practice, as well as plans to deliver healthy relationship education in schools.

New guidelines from the Sentencing Council were also published earlier this year, recommending tougher sentences for perpetrators of domestic abuse.

Whilst all these new proposals will not totally eradicate domestic abuse, it is a massive step forward and I’m confident they will have a positive impact.

These changes are long-overdue, and Kerri’s story highlights the desperate need for measures like these to protect those in a similar situation.

The time has come for the government to deliver the “landmark changes” that have been promised, ensuring that lessons really have been learnt, to further protect those experiencing domestic abuse.

• Mandy Proctor is the chief executive of domestic abuse charity Leeway.

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