real life

Eight years after James Ramage violently murdered his wife, he was released from jail.

The victim-blaming law that needs to change.

After 23 years of abuse, Melbourne woman Julie Ramage finally worked up the courage to leave her violent husband.

Six weeks later, at their family home in the leafy suburb of Balwyn, Julie’s husband James bashed and strangled her to death.

James Ramage then took great care to conceal his crime: After laying his wife’s petite body on a plastic sheet, he shoved her corpse into the car boot. Then he buried her battered body in a shallow hole in the bush, denying her even the dignity of a respectful burial.

Ramage eventually confessed to the killing, Fairfax Media reports.

But he also claimed Julie had “provoked him”, a defence that saw his conviction downgraded from murder to manslaughter.

Julie and James Ramage. (Screenshot via 60 Minutes)

Today, James Ramage is a free man. He served just eight years for the sickening slaughter of his wife, and currently lives in a million-dollar home in Melbourne with a new, lookalike blonde girlfriend.

Meanwhile, Julie’s two children and other family members are left to grieve the smiling, loving woman cruelly taken from them 12 years ago.

Related: Phil Cleary: We need a royal commission into domestic violence.

The injustice in this situation is clear. And last night, a powerful 60 Minutes report shed a light on the so-called “provocation law” that allowed Ramage to quite literally get away with murder.

The law, which allows violent men to kill their partners and then use the excuse that she “provoked them,” was abolished in Victoria amid public outrage surrounding the Ramage case.

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But the defence still stands in South Australia, Queensland and New South Wales, and domestic violence experts say that needs to change.

James Ramage today. He is now a free man, living in a million-dollar house with a new girlfriend. (Screenshot: 60 Minutes)

“It sends a message that it can be partially understandable for you to lose control and kill a woman who is leaving you,” Kate Fitzgibbon from Deakin University told 60 Minutes.

She explained the law dates back to 17th century England, where it was honourable for men to attack those who questioned their manliness.

In reality, the defence allows domestic violence perpetrators to blame the victim, painting aggressors as men who were needlessly slighted by out-of-line women and had to defend their honour by using violence.

It also leads to puzzling and inconsistent outcomes.

As 60 Minutes reporter Allison Langdon said on the program, the fact that the law is only applicable across parts of the country essentially says to perpetrators: “If you’re a violent man and wish to kill your partner, these are the best states to do it in.”

Julie met James Ramage when she was still in school. (Screenshot via 60 Minutes)

Julie’s sister Jane told 60 Minutes she still “hates” James Ramage, but that she feels heavily let down by the legal system meant to serve up justice.

“I hate what he did to my sister,” she said on the program. “But I hate even more the process the law that allowed him to drag her name through the courts.

Julie Ramage’s twin sister Jane still mourns for her sister.

“I just wonder how many more cases like my sister’s there’s got to be before people wake up.”

If you are in danger call 000, or 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – The National Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Counselling Service.

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Related:
The “red flags” that signal an abusive relationship.
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