The Domestic Abuse bill was introduced to Parliament on the 16th July 2019. The Bill is being called the most comprehensive package ever presented to Parliament to tackle domestic abuse, both supporting victims and brining perpetrators to justice.
A draft bill called Transforming the Response to Domestic Abuse: Consultation Response and Draft Bill was published in January 2019 and included in the Bill is the introduction of the first every statutory government definition of domestic abuse, which will include economic abuse.
The bill is split into sections covering, ways to promote aware of domestic abuse and educating young people on relationships, protection and support for victims, including funding, accommodation, and supporting victims with specific or complex needs such as, female offenders or those with substance misuse. There is a section on transforming the justice process and the perpetrator response and how to improve performance.
The bill promises to be positive step. There is a promise that a Male Victims Position Statement will be published to recognise the neds of male victims and £500,000 funding to improve support to male victims of domestic abuse to take into account that all genders can be both perpetrators and victims of abuse.
For family lawyers there is a specific section that covers the Family justice system.
Domestic Abuse is an issue that we deal with a lot in the family Court. There have already been steps taken such as, improved guidance given to judges and improving the in-court protections that are given. There has also been revised guidance given to Practitioners in the form of Practice Direction12J which makes clear that the court should have full regard to the harm caused by domestic abuse when deciding child arrangements.
It is promising to hear, although we are waiting to hear how it will work, that it is recognised the importance of introducing new powers to the family court system to prohibit cross-examination of a victim by their abuser and a better and more consistent approach to information sharing across jurisdiction is needed which is particularly helpful as the number of litigant in persons remains high.
It is recognised that it is possible for perpetrators of domestic abuse to exercise coercive control over their spouse through divorce proceedings in the family court and that a victim may be compelled to remain in an abusive marriage until the requirement of the relevant separation fact could be met.
In 2018, there was a change in legislation aimed to make it easier for victims of domestic abuse to obtain and provide the evidence required to access legal aid.
The Bill is a positive step moving forward for all those involved with domestic abuse.