Government Publish Landmark New Domestic Abuse Bill

Published: 23rd January 2019

Government Publish Landmark New Domestic Abuse Bill

On the 21st January 2019, the Government published a new landmark draft Domestic Abuse Bill in order to combat domestic violence in the UK by pursuing offenders and supporting victims and their families in the aftermath.

The legislation, which is still subject to change, comes following a report into the economic and social cost of domestic abuse by the Home Office which ultimately revealed that such crimes cost England and Wales a whopping £66 billion in the years 2016 to 2017. The research found that from the £66 billion, £47 billion was spent as a result of the physical and emotional harm of domestic abuse, with a proportion of the overall cost accounting for health services, police services and victim services – £2.3 billion, £1.3 billion and £724 million respectively.

The draft bill has outlined five key changes to the current law and the Government plan to put these changes at the top of their agenda when tackling domestic violence in the UK. According to the consultation response and draft bill, those changes are as follows:

  • Prohibit the cross-examination of victims by their abusers in family courts
  • Appoint a Domestic Abuse Commissioner to drive the response to domestic abuse issues
  • Introduce the first ever statutory government definition of domestic abuse to specifically include economic abuse and controlling and non-physical abuse
  • Provide automatic eligibility for special measures to support more victims to give evidence in criminal courts
  • Introduce new Domestic Abuse Protection Notices and Domestic Abuse Protection Orders to further protect victims and place restrictions on the actions of offenders

Statistics show that around two million adults experience domestic abuse each year, with women twice as likely to be a victim of domestic abuse as men. The government have nevertheless pledged to support a wide range of individuals who are affected by domestic abuse including children, male victims, elderly victims, disabled victims and those in the LGBT+ community – meaning everyone, regardless of age, gender, sexuality or mobility, will be afforded the protection and the support they deserve and need following crimes of domestic violence.

The government also plans to introduce a series of non-legislative measures, which are as follows:

  • Additional £500,000 funding for provisions for male victims
  • £8 million of Home Office funding to support children who have been affected by domestic abuse
  • Additional funding and capacity building for services for disabled, elderly and LGBT+ victims
  • Additional training for police, social workers and probation staff to help them recognise and effectively tackle domestic abuse
  • Improved support for victims in the family court

Victoria Atkins, Minister for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability showed her support for the new legislation, stating that "the draft Domestic Abuse Bill recognises the complex nature of these horrific crimes and puts the needs of victims and their families at the forefront". She continued by saying "this government is absolutely committed to shining a light on domestic abuse to ensure this hidden crime does not remain in the shadows".

The government also plan to fund initiatives that will strengthen the frontline response, raise awareness of domestic abuse, educate on what constitutes as domestic abuse and deliver projects to support victims.

The draft bill, which aims to address coercive control and economic abuse alongside transforming the response to such crime in the justice system, is a major step forward that will help bolster the protection for victims and bring perpetrators to justice.

If you are concerned about the health or welfare of your child or if you have experienced any form of domestic abuse then K J Smith Solicitors can help. Our team of family law specialists have many years of experience in dealing with all matters relating to domestic violence with the utmost care and sensitivity.

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