Long-awaited and much needed, the Houses of Parliament finally approved the Domestic Abuse Bill on 29 April 2021 to be made law.
For the first time in history (!) there will be a wide-ranging legal definition of domestic abuse which includes a range of abuses beyond physical violence. This includes emotional abuse, coercive or controlling behaviour, and economic abuse.
Within this Act, the following important elements have now been included for victims of domestic violence in obtaining protection:
- New offence of non-fatal strangulation to be introduced to reduce claims of ‘rough sex gone wrong’;
- Controlling or coercive behaviour offence extended to include abuse where perpetrators and victims no longer live together. This change follows a government review which highlighted that victims who leave abusive ex-partners can often be subjected to sustained and increased controlling or coercive behaviour post-separation;
- ‘Revenge porn’ offence widened to cover threats to share intimate images, and;
- For the first time, the law will formally recognise that children who experience domestic abuse taking place, are also classed as victims of domestic abuse;
- A duty placed on local authorities in England to provide support to victims of domestic abuse and their children in refuges and other safe accommodation ;
- Guidance supporting the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (“Clare’s law”) placed on a statutory footing.
Domestic Abuse Protection Notices and Orders
The new ‘Domestic Abuse Protection Notices and Orders’ will be established to provide immediate protection to victims of domestic abuse. These new Orders can require perpetrators of domestic abuse to be electronically monitored. The Court can also now force perpetrators to take steps to change their abusive behaviour, including seeking support regarding drug or alcohol misuse, and mental health support.
The Act also includes provision to make it easier for victims who may prefer not to report abuse by widening the list of evidence to prove abuse has occurred; this can include things such as a letter from a doctor or an employer. In addition, within the family court, respondents will no longer be able to directly cross-examine their victims of domestic abuse in the family court.
It also sets out clarity in the use of ‘barring orders’ in the family court, by way of preventing abusive ex partners from taking their victims back into the court arena – something which can also be used as a form of domestic abuse.
Harrowingly, but most importantly, the Act included a requirement for authorities conducting reviews of domestic homicides to provide copies of their reports to the Domestic Abuse Commissioner to strengthen the opportunity to prevent future deaths.
Whilst it is shocking that such measures were not already in place, it is a huge step in the right direction for our vulnerable members of society who are victims of domestic abuse. There is still a long road ahead, but with this new law, it is hoped more victims will feel safe to report their perpetrators and make steps to reclaim their lives.
If you are or know someone who is currently a victim of Domestic Abuse you can get help.
Whatever your situation we can provide immediate support and advice to you. We have vast experience in dealing with these matters, so please do not hesitate to contact us today for help.
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