The family of murdered backpacker and University of Lincoln graduate Grace Millane have welcomed plans to outlaw the “rough sex gone wrong” defence.
A man, who met 22-year-old Grace on the Tinder dating app, strangled her to death during sex before stuffing her body inside a suitcase while she was on a trip in New Zealand in December 2018. He was sentenced to life imprisonment in February, with a minimum of 17 years jail time.
He had claimed she died accidentally after asking to be strangled, but his defence was rejected and he was convicted of murder.
Personal details of Grace’s sex life were discussed in court and reported around the world and the case led to increased concerns about the defence. A campaign group formed to put pressure on ministers to ban it.
The defence will be outlawed in new domestic abuse legislation and a new bill is set to become law in England and Wales later this year.
Minister Alex Chalk said it would be made clear in the Domestic Abuse Bill that the defence was not acceptable. He told fellow MPS it is ‘unconscionable’ that perpetrators could use this to defend themselves in court just because their victims consented to ‘violent and harmful sexual activity’.
Grace’s cousin Hannah O’Callaghan told the BBC: “It won’t change things for us but hopefully it will stop any other family having to go through this.
“Men must not be allowed to use this defence as an excuse to kill women, knowing they can get a lesser sentence.
“Families won’t have to sit and listen to only one side of the story while the victim is re-victimised and does not get the chance to tell their side.”
Fiona Mackenzie, founder of the We Can’t Consent To This campaign said she was “extremely thrilled” by the announcement.
The group had collated 60 examples of women “who were killed during so-called ‘sex games gone wrong’” in the UK since 1972. The group also claimed that 45% of these cases ended in a “lesser charge of manslaughter, a lighter sentence or the death not being investigated as a crime at all.”
Meanwhile, Grace’s family also set up an initiate called Love Grace x to help domestic abuse victims and create a positive legacy from her death.
They have donated thousands of handbags packed with toiletries to refugees across the world, as well as making care packages for patients, nurses, doctors and carers during the coronavirus pandemic.