Government publishes landmark domestic abuse bill
In the year ending March 2018, two million people told the Crime Survey for England and Wales that they had been a victim of domestic abuse.
Now domestic abuse victims will receive a wide range of new measures to protect them in what ministers are describing as landmark legislation, as new laws will create a legal definition of domestic abuse for the first time, including economic abuse and control.
The legislation will also see the banning of abusers from cross examining victims in family courts, something which has been long awaited by many people.
The new measures have been described as a “once in a generation” opportunity to combat the impact of abuse.
It is also thought that the draft bill going before MPs will create new powers to force perpetrators into behaviour changing rehabilitation programmes. As well as setting up a national “domestic abuse commissioner” who will be tasked with improving the response and support for victims, and make the victims automatically eligible for special protections when they are giving evidence in criminal trials.
Giving domestic abuse a definition will make it emphasise that it goes beyond violence, and includes victims who are affected psychologically and economically manipulated and controlled.
The legislation will also clarify the workings of “Clare’s Law” – a measure introduced four years ago to permit police to tell a member of the public of concerns over a partner’s previous violence.
Over the past year there has been increasing awareness of the punishing effects of cuts to legal aid for family cases, which has resulted in many alleged perpetrators of abuse acting as their own lawyers and, as a result, cross-examining victims during court proceedings. It is therefore no surprise that this bill has been eagerly anticipated.
As Head of Domestic Abuse at Watson Woodhouse Solicitors I work with numerous local domestic violence organisations and hear daily accounts of victims whose lives have been ripped apart because of the physical, emotional or financial abuse they have suffered by someone close to them. I feel the draft domestic abuse bill is a positive step in recognising the complex nature of these crimes which cause immense distress and as it stands can often amount to a continuation of abuse.