NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

April 4, 2014

Our view: A strong beginning, but work to be done on domestic abuse reform

(Continued)

“There are indicators, there are patterns,” DeLeo told the State House News Service. “As so many folks I spoke to in preparing this bill said, it is preventable. And that was the key word that stuck with me throughout this whole process, that many of these acts were preventable.”

The House proposal calls for sweeping changes, many of them long overdue. It would create new categories of domestic crimes, including strangulation and suffocation, which can point to the possibility of a future homicide.

Battery suspects would remain in custody for at least six hours before being released on bail, to give accusers a chance to plan for their safety. Judges would have access to more information on a defendant, including past charges and restraining orders, when making bail and sentencing decisions. Justices and court personnel would be trained on domestic violence issues every two years.

Another measure would provide domestic abuse victims with 15 days of unpaid leave from their job to deal with issues such as court appearances and the search for safer housing.

While the Associated Industries of Massachusetts supports the measure, there are several questions that need to be answered, including who ultimately decides a leave is appropriate.

As it is written now, the proposal would give the person taking leave up to six ways to document abuse, including police reports, medical reports and written affidavits. Are employers expected to become experts on such legal documents, and if so, how will they be trained, and at what cost? Who is the final arbiter over whether leave needs to be granted? And the provision applies only to companies of 50 or more employees, leaving a large swath of businesses — and employees — unaffected by the law.

The bill has the support of Attorney General Martha Coakley and several of the state’s district attorneys, and DeLeo said he expects the bill to pass next week.

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