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February 14, 2014

N.H. Senate OKs 'Joshua's Law'

Domestic violence would be recognized as specific crime

CONCORD — The Senate unanimously approved a bill yesterday establishing domestic violence as a crime in New Hampshire.

Gov. Maggie Hassan, in her state of the state speech, had urged the Legislature to approve Senate Bill 318 last week.

It’s called “Joshua’s Law” for 9-year-old Joshua Savyon, a Manchester boy murdered in a domestic violence incident last year.

“Passing ‘Joshua’s Law’ to establish a crime of domestic violence is a common-sense step that will improve the safety of our families by helping law enforcement and prosecutors better identify and stop repeat abusers,” Hassan said in a statement, issued after the Senate vote, that also asked the House to pass the bill. “Nothing can assuage the pain caused by the tragic murder of Joshua Savyon, but passing this bill in his memory will strengthen our communities and help countless families.”

Joshua’s mother, Becky Ranes, attended the governor’s speech last week at the Statehouse.

Sen. Donna Soucy, D-Manchester, said Ranes asked her to name the bill in his honor.

“Joshua’s mother told me that she never recognized the signs of domestic violence in her own relationship with Joshua’s father, who killed himself after killing their son,” Soucy said.

That happened despite a domestic violence protection order in the matter.

New Hampshire is just one of 15 states where domestic violence isn’t classified as a specific crime.

Soucy, in remarks delivered in the Senate, said when a punch is thrown in the home it is now treated the same as one in a bar.

“Is that really the same crime of assault? No,” Soucy told senators. “We know that these are very different situations.”

Codifying domestic violence under state law will help victims, but also provide greater due process to alleged perpetrators, she said.

It also will assure repeat perpetrators are properly labeled, Soucy said.

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