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Friday, June 20, 2014

Governor signs domestic violence bill named for slain Amherst boy

Flanked by the Amherst mom who spurred this movement, Gov. Maggie Hassan privately signed “Joshua’s Law” on Thursday, creating the crime of domestic violence that memorializes tragically slain Joshua Savyon.

Hassan said creating a separate crime will make it easier to prosecute and track the incidence of domestic violence; police and prosecutors have previously charged abuses with simple assault. ...

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Flanked by the Amherst mom who spurred this movement, Gov. Maggie Hassan privately signed “Joshua’s Law” on Thursday, creating the crime of domestic violence that memorializes tragically slain Joshua Savyon.

Hassan said creating a separate crime will make it easier to prosecute and track the incidence of domestic violence; police and prosecutors have previously charged abuses with simple assault.

New Hampshire had been one of only 15 states without such a separate criminal designation.

“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 in a statement.

Savyon’s mother, Becky Ranes, was present for the signing.

Hassan signed in private because all the advocates could not be present for this event.

A separate public ceremony is in the works for later this summer.

Joshua Savyon was killed by his father, Muni Savyon, during a court-ordered supervised visit last August at a Manchester YWCA visitation center.

Muni Savyon, who fatally turned the gun on himself, was under a domestic violence protective order because he had threatened to kill Joshua and Becky Ranes.

“Joshua’s mother Becky has shown remarkable courage in sharing her story and advocating for this law,” 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.”

State Sen. Donna Soucy, D-Manchester, authored the measure.

She also represents Litchfield.

The new law takes effect Jan. 1.

The legislation (SB 318) does not change the criminal charges or the legal threshold for criminal conduct but will make it easier to track the level of abuse.

Advocates point out that the simple assault charge is often not about domestic abuse but can be a bar room fight between two men.

“We struggle with capturing the full scope of the problem because we have no way of maintaining this data,” said Rep. Shannon Chandley, D-Amherst. “Domestic violence is a crime mostly suffered in silence, behind closed doors. And as we have seen so many times, it almost always escalates.

“It is time to call domestic violence what it is.”

Chiefs of police, county sheriffs and attorneys, the Attorney General and domestic violence advocates across the state backed the measure.

There was almost no public opposition to it.

The state Senate passed the bill 24-0; the House of Representatives endorsed it 325-3.

Deputy General Ann Rice noted domestic violence is involved in half of the homicides committed in New Hampshire and 92 percent of the murder-suicides.

Advocates say creating this new crime would increase due process rights for the accused and retain discretion for law enforcement.

The language in 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.

Kevin Landrigan can reached at
321-7040 or klandrigan@nashua
telegraph.com. Also, follow Landrigan on Twitter (@Klandrigan).