Domestic Abuse Bill Receives First Reading
The Domestic Abuse Bill 2020 received its first reading in the House of Commons Today. Whilst the Bill was introduced last July, its progress was stalled following the government’s unlawful prorogation of parliament in September 2019, followed by the general election last December.
The government states the three major aims of the Bill are as follows:
- raise awareness and understanding about the devastating impact of domestic abuse on victims and their families;
- further improve the effectiveness of the justice system in providing protection for victims of domestic abuse and bringing perpetrators to justice; and
- strengthen the support for victims of abuse by statutory agencies.
By way of background, there are approximately 2.4 million victims of domestic abuse a year in England and Wales, with two thirds of victims being women. Police statistics show that approximately one in ten of all offences recorded are domestic abuse related.
As a measure to combat the prevalence of domestic abuse in England and Wales and provide further protection for victims, the Domestic Abuse Bill seeks to:
- create a statutory definition of domestic abuse, emphasising that domestic abuse is not just physical violence, but can also be emotional, coercive or controlling, and economic abuse;
- establish a Domestic Abuse Commissioner, to stand up for victims and survivors, raise public awareness, monitor the response of local authorities, the justice system and other statutory agencies and hold them to account in tackling domestic abuse;
- provide for a new Domestic Abuse Protection Notice and Domestic Abuse Protection Order;
- place a duty on local authorities in England to provide support to victims of domestic abuse and their children in refuges and other safe accommodation;
- prohibit perpetrators of abuse from cross-examining their victims in person in the family courts in England and Wales;
- create a statutory presumption that victims of domestic abuse are eligible for special measures in the criminal courts (for example, to enable them to give evidence via a video link);
- enable domestic abuse offenders to be subject to polygraph testing as a condition of their licence following their release from custody;
- place the guidance supporting the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (“Clare’s law”) on a statutory footing;
- ensure that where a local authority, for reasons connected with domestic abuse, grants a new secure tenancy to a social tenant who had or has a secure lifetime or assured tenancy (other than an assured shorthold tenancy) this must be a secure lifetime tenancy; and
- extend the extraterritorial jurisdiction of the criminal courts in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to further violent and sexual offences.
As the Bill is only in it’s early stages, it will remain seen as to whether all of the proposed amendments to the law remain, or if more changes are included. We will of course keep you updated on any developments as they progress.
If you or someone you know has been the victim of domestic abuse and you would like to speak about what your legal options are, please give the Maguire Family Law team a call today so we can assist you in any way possible.