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Move to make domestic violence a crime gets support

Staff report
February 04. 2014 7:54PM

CONCORD — A bill making domestic violence a crime was endorsed unanimously by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.

Senate Bill 318, or Joshua's Law, is named after Joshua Savyon, who was killed by his father, Muni Savyon, during a court-ordered supervised visit last August at a Manchester YWCA visitation center. Muni Savyon, who turned the gun on himself, was under a domestic violence protective order because he had threatened to kill both Joshua and the boy's mother, Becky Ranes.

Ranes testified before the committee last month supporting the bill.

"Joshua's mother told me that she never recognized the signs of domestic violence in her own relationship with Joshua's father," said the bill's prime sponsor Sen. Donna Soucy, D-Manchester. "This law would not only shed more light on the issue of domestic violence, but it also would assist others in getting services and protections earlier in the process."

At the public hearing, Soucy said there is a significant difference between a bar fight and violence within a household, yet the perpetrators are charged with the same crime. She said the bill would not change existing law or enhance penalties, but would bring them under a new umbrella, while increasing due-process rights and retaining law enforcement discretion.

Supporters say the bill mirrors the federal domestic violence law and requires prosecutors to prove the incident involves family or household members or those in an intimate relationship.

Law enforcement says the bill would clarify what is and what is not domestic violence — critical information for prosecutors and judges during arraignments for setting bail or release conditions.

Half of homicides

And they also note, domestic violence is involved in half of the homicides committed in New Hampshire and 92 percent of the murder-suicides.

"Although New Hampshire has enacted reasonable civil protections for victims, we still do not yet have a crime of domestic violence," Soucy said. New Hampshire is one of only 15 states that do not have a crime of domestic violence.

Joshua's Law is supported by chiefs of police, county sheriffs and attorneys, the attorney general and the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence.

The bill now goes to the full Senate for action.

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