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Domestic Abuse Bill 2020 30/10/2020

Around 2.5 million adults per year experience domestic abuse, collectively costing its victims in England and Wales approximately £66 billion annually. Two-thirds of these victims are women. One in five children experience domestic abuse whilst growing up. COVID-19 has highlighted of the lack of protection and support for victims of domestic abuse, with 85% of domestic abuse agencies having reduced or cancelled one or more services during the pandemic.

In March 2020, the government honoured its 2019 election manifesto commitment to reintroduce the Domestic Abuse Bill in parliament. The original Bill had been subject to numerous delays due to Brexit and two surprise general elections, but had its first reading in the House of Lords in July 2020 with the date of the second reading still to be announced.

The Bill aims to:

  • Increase wider understanding of the impact that domestic abuse has on victims and their families.
  • Strengthen the support victims of domestic abuse receive from statutory agencies.
  • Improve the protection victims of domestic abuse receive from the justice system.
  • Increase the rate of perpetrators of domestic abuse being brought to justice.

Crucially, the Bill proposals a wider statutory definition of domestic abuse than the definition in current legislation, emphasising that domestic abuse can be financial, emotional or coercive as well as physical. It also underlines that a person is not able to provide consent to serious harm being inflicted upon them and, by extension, cannot consent to their own death.

The Bill places the onus on providing accommodation support to victims of domestic abuse on local authorities, with homeless victims of domestic abuse being prioritised for assistance. Perpetrators of domestic abuse will be prohibited from cross-examining their victims in civil and family courts. Those perpetrators released from custody will be subject to polygraph testing as a condition of their licence.

The government has also set out 123 commitments in relation to domestic abuse, the majority of which do not require legislation. These include an investment in domestic abuse training for responding agencies and professionals, the development of national guidance for police on serial and repeat perpetrators, and the introduction of domestic abuse related guidance to Relationship Education, Relationship and Sex Education and Health Education. It also commits to continue to collect, report and track domestic abuse data.

Whilst welcoming this review of legislation surrounding domestic abuse, a number of domestic abuse charities are calling for the legislation to place further requirements on local authorities to support victims.

For further information and advice on this issue, and other family law issues, please contact us for a free initial consultation on 01992 306 616 or 0207 956 2740 or email us.

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