The Government has published the Domestic Abuse Bill, said to be the most comprehensive package ever created to tackle the issues around domestic abuse. The Bill was published on 21 January, following the consultation conducted between March and May 2018.
As a result, new laws will be created that set out a government definition of domestic abuse to include both economic abuse and non-physical abuse (such as controlling or abusive behaviour). This should make it easier for people to identify abuse and is designed to encourage more victims to come forward.
Domestic Abuse Protection Notices and Domestic Abuse Protection Orders will be introduced to help protect victims and restrict the abusers’ actions, there will be legislation that stops abusers cross-examining their victims in the family courts, and a new ‘Domestic Abuse Commissioner’ is to be appointed.
The new definition of domestic abuse will recognise that abuse goes beyond crimes of violence and includes people who are manipulated psychologically, or who have control of their finances taken from them by their abuser.
The legislation will also take into account “Clare’s Law” – measures that were introduced in 2014 which give police the ability to tell someone if they are worried that their partner may have been violent in the past.
Government research has shown that domestic abuse costs on average £34,000 per victim, or £66bn per year, an amount that was calculated by taking the costs of preventative measures, victim protection, the consequences of the abuse and the costs of any responses to abuse from police, health services, victim services and the justice system.
Other provisions in the draft bill include orders to force abusers to attend rehabilitation programmes if it’s found that substance abuse is a factor in the abuse, or behaviour change programmes. The draft bill also makes victims eligible for special protections if they have to give evidence in criminal trials.
Prime minister Theresa May said:
“We know, from the harrowing experiences of victims and their families, that there is still more to do to stamp out this life-shattering crime, and the domestic abuse bill will lead the way in bringing about the changes we need to achieve this.
“It represents a step-change in our approach, and I am grateful to the charities, victims, campaign groups and frontline agencies who have worked alongside us to ensure we get this right.”
For more information, see Government Publishes Landmark Domestic Abuse Bill