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The 'most comprehensive package ever' to tackle domestic abuse announced by Government

28 January 2019 Written by Davidson Shirley Solicitors Category: Criminal Law

On Monday 21st January 2019, the landmark draft Domestic Abuse Bill was published, aimed at pursuing offenders and supporting victims and their families. The Bill comes after it is revealed domestic abuse costs the country £66 billion a year and is said to provide a ‘once-in-a-generation’ opportunity to transform how the UK responds to domestic violence.

What will the new legislation do?

Under the draft Bill, nine measures were identified as needing primary legislation implemented:

  • introduce the first ever statutory government definition of domestic abuse to specifically include economic abuse (such as withholding access to a bank account) and controlling and manipulative non-physical abuse
  • new Domestic Abuse Protection Notice and Domestic Abuse Protections Order to further protect victims and place restrictions on the actions of the offenders
  • cross-examination of victims by their abusers will be banned in the family courts
  • establish a Domestic Abuse Commissioner who will drive the response to domestic abuse issues
  • high-risk domestic abuse offenders will be subject to lie-detector testing following their release from prison
  • guidance that supports the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme will be placed on a statutory footing
  • where a local authority grants a new secure tenancy for reasons connected with domestic abuse, they ensure it is a secure lifetime tenancy
  • provide automatic eligibility for special measures to support more victims in giving evidence in criminal court
  • extend the extra-territorial jurisdiction of the criminal courts to further violent and sexual offences in England and Wales

Around two million adults are currently estimated to experience domestic abuse every year, affecting almost 6% of all adults.

Between the draft Bill and its consultation response, the government is making 120 commitments to deal with the UK's high rate of domestic abuse, including some non-legislative measures such as:

  • a new crisis support system for those with no recourse to public funds
  • updated support, training and guidance on economic abuse
  • additional £500,000 funding for provisions for male victims

Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, and Justice Secretary, David Gauke, concluded:

“Ending domestic abuse remains an absolute priority for this government and we will continue to show strong leadership and take decisive action to ensure that we are doing all we can to transform our response and end the suffering and harm that abuse causes.”

Migrant women ‘left behind’

Although there has been a lot of positive responses to the Bill, Lucila Granada, director of Latin American Women’s Rights Service, warned that migrant women may fear deportation should they report abuse form a partner:

“The draft Bill offers little hope for migrant victims to access safety and support. This is particularly alarming, as the Bill itself recognises the ‘significant vulnerability’ of migrant victims who fear deportation as a result of coming forward.”

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