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NH takes aim at domestic violence with Joshua's Law

State House Bureau

June 19. 2014 9:48PM

CONCORD — Becky Ranes, the mother of slain 9-year-old Joshua Sayvon, helped convince lawmakers New Hampshire needs a separate crime of domestic violence.

Thursday, Ranes joined Gov. Maggie Hassan in her office when she signed Senate Bill 318, or Joshua’s Law.

Joshua Sayvon was shot and killed by his father, Muni Savyon, at a Manchester visitation center last August. Muni Sayvon then turned the gun on himself. Muni Savyon was under a protective order for threatening his family.

Hassan said Ranes has shown remarkable courage in sharing her story and advocating for this law.

“I’m proud that New Hampshire has finally joined the majority of states in establishing a specific crime of domestic violence, which will help law enforcement and prosecutors better identify and stop repeat abusers, while providing victims with access to support and protections as early as possible,” Hassan said. “Though there is nothing we can do to alleviate her pain, enacting this law in Joshua’s memory is an important step forward for the safety of our communities. Becky’s advocacy is an inspiration for us all, and I thank her on behalf of the countless families and communities that will be helped by this measure.”

Joshua’s Law would not change current law or enhance penalties but would gather existing laws under one section of the criminal code.

Under current law, someone who assaults or threatens a domestic partner or family member is usually charged under one of 17 state statutes that include such crimes as simple assault, criminal threatening, kidnapping or stalking.

The new law enables law enforcement and prosecutors to charge a suspect with domestic violence, which would be treated differently than an assault by a stranger.

Deputy Attorney General Ann Rice, in testifying in favor of the bill, has said the change would improve the accuracy of state records in domestic violence cases, which in turn would improve the likelihood that such cases would be properly adjudicated and reported to federal authorities.

Bill supporters say because the state does not have a crime of domestic violence, chronic abusers go unrecognized. They say the change in law will allow law enforcement to capture domestic violence statistics and that will lead to better monitoring and earlier intervention.

Law enforcement officials have said 50 percent of homicides and 92 percent of murder-suicide cases are domestic-violence related.

Sen. Donna Soucy, D-Manchester, was the prime sponsor of the bill, which sailed through the Senate and House with bipartisan support.

The new law is effective Jan. 1.

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