Domestic Abuse Draft Bill

Domestic Abuse Draft Bill

On 21st January 2019 the Government unveiled its much-awaited draft domestic abuse bill. Until now in England and Wales there has been no single dedicated law or policy in respect of domestic abuse. There have been over the years some significant steps in the right direction such as an updated definition of domestic abuse in 2013, introducing coercive control as a stand-alone offence in 2015 and updating the criminal sentencing guidelines in 2018 which recognise the seriousness of domestic abuse.

Despite this the lack of a unified legal framework and policy, progress has been hindered which has resulted in thousands of victims of domestic abuse not receiving the support and protection needed.

Figures are shocking in relation to domestic abuse. The following shows that domestic abuse victims are still being failed.

  • Over 20,000.00 victims were turned away from refuges in 2017 to 2018 due to lack of beds
  • Local Authority funding for refuge support was cut from £31.2m in 2010 to £23.9m in 2017
  • In 2018 2 million people experienced domestic violence which is a rise from previous years
  • 2 women per week each year continue to be killed in a domestic abuse situation, the perpetrator being a partner, ex-partner or family member
  • The Criminal Justice Inspectorate also found that Police continue to under record domestic abuse offences

It is therefore not surprising that Lawyers and service providers for domestic abuse victims have eagerly awaited the Government’s draft Domestic Abuse Bill.

Harbinder Gosal, Associate Solicitor from the Family team and a Resolution Accredited specialist in domestic abuse looks at the key points of the Bill and explores how it will assist our clients.

Firstly, looking at the key points of the Bill, Harbinder notes its key aims as follows:

  • It will introduce the first statutory Government definition of domestic abuse which will include economic abuse and controlling and manipulative behaviour
  • Establish a domestic abuse Commissioner to drive the response to domestic abuse issues
  • Prohibit the cross examination of victims by their abusers in Family Courts
  • Provide automatic eligibility for special measures to support victims to give evidence in Criminal Courts
  • Introduce new domestic abuse Protection Notices and Protection Orders to further protect victims and place restrictions on the actions of perpetrators

Harbinder comments, “We welcome the proposed introduction of a definition of domestic abuse which will allow more victims to come forward and it will give clarity to all concerned about what domestic abuse is. A much-awaited introduction will be the prohibition of the cross examination of victims by their abuser in Family Courts.

Too often we see victims being cross examined in Family proceedings by their abuser which is a further form of control and abuse. The introduction of Protection Notices and Orders will empower the Police to act quicker. It is disappointing that the special measures to support victims will only be available in Criminal Courts and not the Family Court however it’s a much-needed step in the right direction.”

At this stage this is just a draft Bill and for it to become legislation it will need to be debated in the House of Commons and House of Lords and if no objections are raised then it will be passed and become law. The Bill was significantly delayed, and some say this is an indication that the Government are still not taking the issue of domestic abuse seriously.

At Alsters Kelley we hope that the Bill is debated and passed as soon as possible. The Alsters Kelley Family team welcome the Bill but hope that the Government is also going to give some thought to how funding will be made available to service providers in order that the victims of domestic abuse can have access to health services, housing, financial support, social care and legal representation and financial to safeguard themselves and their children.

As Family lawyers, in the future we would welcome further changes in the law as follows:

  • Perpetrators of domestic abuse having to do mandatory domestic violence perpetrator programmes and/or anger management before making an application for Child Arrangements
  • The Court to take a view of a presumption of no unsupervised contact for perpetrators of domestic abuse with their children
  • Special protective measures for victims and their witnesses when attending the Family Court.

Domestic abuse continues to be a sensitive subject and here at Alsters Kelley solicitors we can assist you with obtaining protection. If you require our assistance, please call 02477 710236 for a discrete and confidential consultation. The first appointment is free of charge and in some cases Legal Aid is available.



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