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Doing (linguistic) violence to prevent (domestic) violence? Yemshaw v Hounslow LBC in the Supreme Court [2012] CFLQ 95

Date:18 JUN 2012

This comment considers the decision of the Supreme Court in Yemshaw v London Borough of Hounslow. The Court held that the meaning of 'domestic violence' in section 177 of the Housing Act 1996 (duty to provide housing to such persons, who are not to be considered intentionally homeless) was not restricted to physical contact, but included other forms of abuse, such as psychological and emotional. It is argued that the judgment is justified by reference both to the wording of section 177 and the statutory purpose. Although the Court was required to 'update' the statutory meaning beyond the original Parliamentary intent, the construction adopted is consistent with the wording and purpose of the provision. The primary problem is the practical consequences for the fact finder, but such concerns cannot be determinative of the correct legal meaning. The decision in Yemshaw is an important step forward furthering the cause of joined-up law and government, as well as providing greater protection for an immensely vulnerable class.

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