Revised legislation that pledges to overhaul the laws around domestic abuse has finally made its way back to Parliament with the bill receiving its first reading in the House of Commons this month (March).
The proposals include changes to the rules around cross examination in family courts, the introduction of a Domestic Abuse Commissioner and, for the first time, a statutory definition of domestic abuse.
Rachel Bloxwich, a solicitor in our Family team, said changes to the laws surrounding domestic abuse are long overdue:
It’s good to see that this is back on track after being derailed by Brexit debates and then General Election.
With an estimated 2.4m victims of domestic abuse in the UK – two thirds are women - there are many people who are experiencing additional suffering due to an antiquated system that is in desperate need of revision.
For the first time, the bill is legislating for a statutory definition of domestic abuse and importantly recognises non-physical forms of abuse including economic and financial abuse and coercive control. Domestic abuse comes in many forms and this change is crucial if more victims are to be encouraged to come forward.
The bill also proposes the introduction of a new Domestic Abuse Commissioner to improve the response to domestic abuse across all local areas and agencies – something that could make organisations more accountable in the way they deal with domestic abuse.
One of the most necessary changes is the way victims of abuse are dealt with in courts. Previously it has been possible for perpetrators of abuse to be able to cross examine their victims in family courts but the new bill would put an end to that.
It would see victims able to use video evidence, screens and other special measures in criminal courts to protect themselves as well.
The Bill also places a duty on local authorities in England to provide support to victims of domestic abuse and their children in refuges and other safe accommodation.
We can only hope, for the 2.4m victims of domestic abuse, that this bill finally makes its way into law.
Click here to read more about the individual strands within the Domestic Abuse Bill. For more on the progress of the bill, click here.
Rachel Bloxwich deals with all aspects of family law. She can be contacted on the details below.