In a landmark step for campaigners and victims alike, the Domestic Abuse Bill has recently been cemented into law. Although it was initially introduced in 2019, a number of significant amendments have been added that create greater protection against abuse.
What is the Domestic Abuse Bill?
The Domestic Abuse Bill was introduced in an attempt to transform the response to the crime of domestic abuse and create greater protection for victims. Overall, the measures in the bill seek to:
- Promote awareness – to put abuse at the top of everyone’s agenda, including by legislating for the first time for a statutory definition of domestic abuse
- Protect and support victims – this includes introducing a new Domestic Abuse Protection Notice and Order
- Transform the justice response – this includes helping victims to give their best evidence in the criminal courts through the use of video evidence, screens, and any other special measures
- Improve performance – the new Domestic Abuse Commissioner will help drive consistency and better performance in the response to domestic abuse across all local areas and agencies
The bill was first published in draft in January 2019 for pre-legislative scrutiny, but it has now been fully entered in UK law. The key changes that the new Act deliver include:
- A legal definition of domestic abuse which recognises children as victims in their own right;
- A Domestic Abuse Commissioner to stand up for survivors and life-saving domestic abuse services;
- A legal duty on councils to fund support for survivors and provide ‘safe accommodation’ for them
- New criminal offences – including post-separation coercive control, non-fatal strangulation, threats to disclose private sexual images;
- A ban on abuser using a defence of ‘rough sex’;
- A guarantee that all survivors will be given priority need for housing, and will keep a secure tenancy in social housing if they need to escape their abuser;
- A ban on GPS being able to charge for medical evidence of domestic abuse, including for legal aid;
- New protections in the family and civil courts for survivors – including a ban on abusers from cross-examining their victims, and a guarantee that survivors can access special measures (including separate waiting rooms, entrances and exits and screens)
- A duty on the government to issue a code of practice on how data is shared between the public services that survivor’s report to (such as the police) and immigration enforcement.
What does this mean for domestic abuse victims?
This new law will hopefully bring vast improvement to the lives of those experiencing abuse and give them more options for ways out of their predicament. However, there are still some issues with the bill, as not all women will be protected by the new law. Due to problems integrating immigration law with the protection of abused women, the government has failed to deliver equal protection and support for migrant women. For this reason, it is likely that campaigns for domestic abuse will continue to some extent.
If you have found yourself in any of the situations discussed in this article and feel that you need legal support, then our specialists can help you get the help that you need. They are trained to deal with sensitive situations and will ensure that your safety is at the forefront of all legal matters.
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