Awareness of domestic abuse issues has increased over the past year, with the lockdowns across the UK highlighting the need to ensure that an effective system is in place to protect and support the victims of domestic abuse and take action against the perpetrators.
What is the Domestic Abuse Bill?
Following a public consultation in spring 2018 which elicited over 3,200 responses, the government published a draft Domestic Abuse Bill in January 2019. The government committed to a transformation of the justice process, with victim safety prioritised, a promise to provide protection and support for the victims and their families and to ensure the response to perpetrators of domestic abuse was effective.
What will the Domestic Abuse Bill do?
The Domestic Abuse Bill will:
- Provide a statutory definition of domestic abuse, encompassing not only physical violence but also emotional, economic and controlling abuse
- Create a new Domestic Abuse Protection Notice and Domestic Abuse Protection Order
- Put a duty on local authorities in England to provide refuges and other safe accommodation to victims and their children
- Put a stop to perpetrators being able to cross-examine their victims in person in family and civil courts in England and Wales
- Ensure that eligible homeless victims of domestic abuse will automatically get ‘priority need’ for homelessness assistance
These are just some of the changes the Domestic Abuse Bill will make.
Why do we need the Domestic Abuse Bill?
According to government figures, there are around 2.4 million victims of domestic abuse per year aged between 16 and 74 years old. Two thirds of these are women. Domestic abuse related offences make up more than one in ten of all offences recorded by the police.
Ensuring that victims of domestic abuse are able to escape to a place of safety and receive the support they need to move on, is essential. Campaigners have been raising awareness and pushing for change in this area for some time. The Covid-19 pandemic has further highlighted concerns about the support available for those experiencing domestic abuse.
National charity Women’s Aid has said that the pandemic has “laid bare” the lack of protection and support for victims of domestic abuse and has “demonstrated the urgent need for change”. It says that even though domestic abuse survivors are saying that abuse is escalating during the pandemic, in its survey, 85% of domestic abuse services had to reduce or cancel one or more of their services.
When will the Domestic Abuse Bill become law?
The Bill was voted through by the House of Commons in July last year and has recently completed committee stage in the House of Lords. Hopefully, we will not have to wait too much longer.
If you or someone you know is suffering from domestic abuse and you would like advice as to how the law can help to protect the victim and their family, get in touch to book your free consultation with one of our experienced family lawyers.