David Ruffley cautioned for common assault – what does that mean?

    David Ruffley cautioned for common assault – what does that mean?

    From Conservative Home
    From Conservative Home


    David Ruffley, the MP for Bury St Edmunds, is in the news at the moment for all the wrong sort of reasons. On 16th March 2014 he received a police caution for a common assault on his (then) partner.

    Since then, he has stated that the “incident was dealt with by the police and I accepted responsibility for my actions at the time. I regret this matter in its entirety and the position in which I put my former partner and I now ask that her privacy be respected.


    What is a caution?

    We have a factsheet on what police cautions are, which sets it out in more detail. It is important to note that this required there to be a prima facie case of assault and that Mr Ruffley had made an admission to the police of his guilty.

    Further, it has to be determined that it is in the public interest to prosecute. In practice, the police will always hold that to be the case in domestic violence cases as they take it very seriously. This is a serious matter for him.

    As was said in CaetanoAlthough sometimes referred to in terms of a slap on the wrist without serious consequences, that is not so. The declaration which anyone who accepts a caution has to sign makes that clear. Dr. Caetano’s position illustrates it. She is not yet certain of her future employment. She may wish to work in the United States or Australia. She has to attend conferences all over the world. A caution for ‘assault by beating’ could be a serious impediment both to travel and work”.

    Having said that, it is surprising (to us at least) that Mr Ruffley was cautioned. The CPS Policy on Prosecuting Domestic Violence states “In cases of domestic violence, if the evidential stage is passed and the victim is willing to give evidence, we will almost always prosecute, even if, for example, the injury was minor or the parties have reconciled. Police guidance states that cautions by police officers are rarely appropriate in domestic violence cases“.

    Given that Mr Ruffley was a high profile individual, we would have thought that the police would have erred on the side of caution and Mr Ruffley would have been charged.


    Can he still be an MP?

    There are petitions calling for him to resign as an MP. However, a police caution is no impediment to him continuing until the next election, at which point (if he is still maintained by the Conservative Association as the candidate) it will be up to his constituents to hire him or fire him.

    The law is contained in s1 Representation of the People Act 1981. Mr Ruffley is not required to resign from the House of Commons and is not barred from seeking election again.

    s1 states :

    A person found guilty of one or more offences (whether before or after the passing of this Act and whether in the United Kingdom or elsewhere), and sentenced or ordered to be imprisoned or detained indefinitely or for more than one year, shall be disqualified for membership of the House of Commons while detained anywhere in the British Islands or the Republic of Ireland in pursuance of the sentence or order or while unlawfully at large at a time when he would otherwise be so detained.

    So, anyone who is in prison and serving more than 12 months cannot stand for election. If a sitting MP gets more than 12 months, then by virtue of s2 their seat will be vacated and a by-election called (there are also exemptions for people who are convicted of electoral offences).

    It is clear that there is no legal impediment to Mr Ruffley remaining as the representative of the good folk of Suffolk.


    Should he stay as an MP?

    That’s a different question.

    There are actually good reasons why a criminal conviction shouldn’t bar anyone from standing for Parliament. It’s a democracy and it’s up to the voters who they want. Also, 1 in 5 people in the UK have a criminal record, and that should not, of itself, preclude them from being a Parliamentarian.

    If there was a recall mechanism, then it may be that this would be triggered and the voters would decide. As stated, it’s the voters that should call the shots on this one.



    Dan is a barrister at 2 Dr. Johnson’s Buildings practising in crime.


    1. The petition you referred to is, clearly, just another example of misandric feminists trying to whip up male hatred over domestic violence.

      If the genders had been reversed, there would not have been a peep of protest, despite the fact MEN – not women – make up the majority of victims when it comes to domestic violence.


      And feminists want men to have to resign from their jobs or to be paraded in front of the media merely following an untested accusation of sexual misconduct.

      This isn’t just or fair. It’s absolutely outrageous.

      And it’s about time that men stood up to them.

      • I think that’s probably an extreme view … I’m not sure your stats that men are the majority of DV victims hold up frankly – have you got some more evidence you could link to?

        But anyway, I imagine that there would still have been an outcry if it had been a female MP who had been cautioned.

        I agree that no-one should have to resign due to an untested allegation sexual misconduct (or even a sexual offence), but here Mr Ruffley accepted being violent against his then partner. That is unacceptable on any view. To my mind, I don’t think it should mean he should resign, but that’s a matter more for his electors.

      • Domestic violence is not gender specific, and is not acceptable. End of discussion.

        Ruffley should seek help for his know anger issues and leave his seat at the earliest opportunity. I’m neither a feminist nor a woman, but Ruffley is my MP and what he has done is wrong. To save what is left of his reputation he should resign now.

        • “Domestic violence is not gender specific, and is not acceptable. End of discussion” I believe that male violence against their female partners is very a common and gender specific issue. And that should mark the start of a discussion, why is this, not the end of one.

          However I agree with you that it is not acceptable and that no-one of either gender should have to tolerate it. And that the partner abusing MP should resign.

    2. America domestic violence …

      “The most comprehensive review of the scholarly domestic violence research literature ever conducted concludes, among other things, that women perpetrate physical and emotional abuse, and engage in control behaviors, at comparable rates to men.”


      UK on sex assault. Never trust academic research into these matters. …


    3. It would be interesting to know the facts. Many common assaults are so trifling they should never be dealt with by the CJS. However once it’s categorised as DV the sky falls in. Sounds like the police probably took a pragmatic view of a case which was technically an assault but in all the circumstances de minimis. I speculate of course

    4. Sounds like the all too familiar tale of minimising of male violence against women by trivialising it and at a time when parliament and politicians are coming under uncomfortable scrutiny for their complicity in covering up historical abuse committed under the protection of “I’m a politician and I am therefore untouchable” is simply staggering. He should have been charged and he should resign. I notice the Conservatives, who were all too quick to name and shame tax avoiders are extremely closed mouth when it’s one of their own up to no good.

    5. @Liberte, “I’m a politician and I am therefore untouchable” ”

      It’s got nothing to do with him being untouchable. It’s to do with this disgusting expectation by some people that men should have their lives messed up just becasue ANY woman wants to mess it up – often over some petty relationship dispute.

      • Straw manning? Seriously, it has to do with male violence. If men don’t use violence, as is their want, and as a feminist I’m concerned in particular with male violence against women and children. Then problem solved no charges/cautions for assault or battery. Same applies to rape. If men don’t rape no convictions for rape. Seems quite straightforward to me but happy to help. Yours In Sisterhood.

    6. @Liberte ” as a feminist I’m concerned in particular with male violence against women and children”

      As a feminist you, are supporting an ideology that is based on hatred and bigotry akin to Nazism …


      … and, in my view, it is hatred, selfishness and stupidity that seems to drive most feminists, not concern for anyone.

      Thankfully, the internet is helping to expose this, especially to young women such as yourself …


      And many of them are waking up!

    7. Feminist belief is that women should be treated and are equal to men. My PERSONAL philosophy is that women are striving for equality with something with which they are already far superior to. None of this however is in any way comparable to hatred, bigotry and certainly not Nazism. Feminism is derided by men, such as yourself, because you fear it could result in men being treated in the way in which women currently are, hence the fear and outrage expressed towards feminisim.
      However this post is about violence, domestic violence, by a man towards his female partner. He is also an MP, he is supposed to represent his people and lead by example. Instead of which he assaults his female partner (is there a clearer example of hatred and he’s not the only man who thinks women can be subjugated by violence and abuse) and ends up with a police caution.

      The problem here is male violence, with 92% of all violent crime being committed by men, it is a significant concern. As you like to quote me, if you take one quote away from this and run with it, it is this: male violence against women has to stop. The propensity for men towards violence has to stop, responsibility for being violent rests solely with the perpetrator and no-one else. Yours in sisterhood.

        • Seriously – why wouldn’t I be? When women and our children (or either gender) are being injured and or dying at the hands of men and male violence yes I am particularly concerned about that.

          • Sorry, it sounded as if you were saying that concern regarding male violence against women and children is the exclusive province of the feminist