Ministers are to introduce a new law to prevent alleged killers using the “fifty shades” defence of rough sex to counter murder charges.
The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) introduced an amendment to the domestic abuse bill last night that will enshrine in law that consent cannot be used as a defence to actual bodily harm.
At least 60 British women have been killed in episodes of so-called "consensual" sexual violence since 1972, with at least 18 women dying in the last five years, according to the advocacy group We Can't Consent To This.
In 45 per cent of those killings, the claim that a woman's injuries were sustained during a sex game "gone wrong" resulted in a lesser charge, a lighter sentence, an acquittal, or the death not being investigated, the group said.
Earlier this year police criticised the “rough sex defence” in the trial of the killer of Grace Millane, the 21 year old Essex backpacker murdered in New Zealand, warning that the term “retraumatises” victims and their families.
The legislative change by the MoJ will enshrine in law a House of Lords ruling, known as R v Brown, where a group of men who willingly engaged in sado-masochistic sex were convicted of wounding and assault despite their defence claims that it was consensual.
It follows a campaign by a cross-party group of MPs including former deputy Labour leader Harriet Harman and the Conservative MP Mark Garnier.
Ms Harman, a former solicitor general, said: “This is a highly significant step forward in protecting women from male violence. Now men will no longer be able to say “it was her fault I killed her, because I was only doing what she wanted. It was rough sex gone wrong”.
“The law will now be there unequivocally to protect women from this male sexual violence. This will send a strong message to men that they cannot beat women and get away with it. They cannot drag their victim's name through the mud in court.
“And it will strengthen women by telling them that the law will protect them. It will tell the police, prosecutors and courts that the “50 shades of grey defence” has ended - and it must be rigorously enforced.
Mr Garnier campaigned on behalf of Natalie Connolly, 26, whose killer, millionaire property developer John Broadhurst, was convicted of manslaughter by gross negligence after insisting she had died because of rough sex she had consented to. He was jailed for three years and eight months.
“Natalie's death was one that is the stuff of nightmares,” said Mr Garnier. “What we hope to achieve from it is a way to make sure that people take more responsibility for their actions, and that killers get the right sentences, whilst victims get justice.
"The case of my constituent Natalie Connolly, and the woeful underperformance of the system with regards to her killer John Broadhurst, highlighted a rising menace of justice game-playing by killers and abusers.
“This response by the Government is a breakthrough in how we tackle the rough sex defence. But it is also a textbook example of Parliament at its best, with a genuine cross-party approach and a willing government, all seeking the same outcome."
Justice Minister Alex Chalk said: “No death or other serious injury – whatever the circumstances – should be defended as ‘rough sex gone wrong’.
“Perpetrators of these crimes should be under no illusions – their actions will never be justifiable in any way, and they will be pursued rigorously through the courts to seek justice.
“Great credit is due to the MPs and campaigners who have worked so tirelessly to further the protections on offer to victims of sexual violence and their families.”