The Government has introduced its Domestic Abuse Bill to Parliament, a major step towards transforming the UK’s response to domestic abuse.The bill went through its first reading on the sixteenth of July. MPs will next consider the Bill at Second Reading.
This is the most comprehensive package ever presented to Parliament and is focused on supporting victims while bringing perpetrators to justice. Below we cover five of the biggest changes that the Domestic Abuse Bill will bring into law.
1. The Domestic Abuse Bill Introduces the First Ever Legal Definition of Domestic Abuse
Domestic abuse is complex – it occurs not only between couples, but can also involve siblings, parents with their children, and elder or honour-based abuse. It can include physical force, but also manipulation, isolation, control, humiliation, fear, and intimidation.
That’s why we have made it a key priority to create the first-ever statutory government definition of domestic abuse.
The new definition encompasses a wide range of abuse, and recognises that domestic abuse can include different types of relationships, as well as former partners.
2. The Domestic Abuse Bill will Establish a Domestic Abuse Commissioner.
We want to establish a Domestic Abuse Commissioner in law, to provide leadership on domestic abuse issues and oversee and monitor provision for domestic abuse across England and Wales.
The Commissioner will ensure consistency in support for victims of abuse and shine a light on both exemplary and poor practice. They will provide recommendations to both national and local government to improve the response to domestic abuse. Most of all, the Commissioner will give a voice to victims and survivors of domestic abuse.
3. The Bill Introduces Domestic Abuse Protection Orders to Protect Victims and Stop Offenders
Protection orders are an important tool to help keep victims safe and to prevent abuse continuing or escalating. They also give the police time to gather evidence and build a case while still protecting victims and survivors.
That’s why the Domestic Abuse Bill brings about Domestic Abuse Protection Orders to protect victims and survivors of abuse. The new Orders will be able to impose requirements like drug or alcohol treatment on perpetrators. And we will trial electronic monitoring to reduce the risk of further abuse.
4. We’re Prohibiting Cross-Examination of Victims by their Abusers
In some cases, victims are cross-examined by their abusers. This is fundamentally wrong.
So we have introduced new powers into the family court system to prohibit direct cross-examination of victims by their abusers.In proceedings like sexual offences, modern slavery cases or child cruelty, there is a prohibition in place already to prevent victims being cross-examined by unrepresented defendants.
The Domestic Abuse Bill grants extra security to domestic abuse survivors as well.
5. We’re Improving Court Communication to Ensure Victims can have Confidence in the Legal System
We want to ensure that victims have confidence in the justice system to be fair, impartial, and understanding of domestic abuse. But we recognise that the justice system can be daunting. The process can be traumatising, forcing victims to recount their experience of abuse.
That’s why we want to do as much as possible to support victims and survivors through the legal process. And we’ve added a number of measures to the Domestic Abuse Bill to make that happen.
We are improving our digital offer to victims, to provide a wider range of choice in how to access court services. We are also investing more in face-to-face support tailored to the needs of individual victims. And in 2018 we recruited 25% more registered intermediaries to help continue this process.
The Domestic Abuse Bill is Historic Legislation
Domestic abuse can take many forms, from horrific physical violence to coercive behaviour that robs people of their self-esteem. It makes people feel unsafe in their own homes, and tears families apart. It takes immense bravery to stand up to an abuser and seek support.
Justice Secretary David Gauke said: “This Bill marks a fundamental shift in our response to domestic abuse – establishing greater protections for victims, whilst ensuring perpetrators feel the full weight of the law.”
To keep our families and communities safe, the Domestic Abuse Bill is a key part of our Conservative plan to promote justice and tackle crime.