The Domestic Abuse Bill passed both Houses of Parliament and was signed into law on 29 April 2021. It will begin to be implemented across criminal justice systems and agencies later this year.
What will the Domestic Abuse Act do?
The Domestic Abuse Act will strengthen measures used to tackle perpetrators and provide additional protection to people who are subjected to domestic abuse?
How will the Act help survivors?
- create a statutory definition of domestic abuse, emphasising that it is not just physical violence, but can also be emotional, coercive or controlling, and economic abuse. Children will be explicitly recognised as victims if they see, hear or suffer due to the effects of abuse;
- create a new offence of non-fatal strangulation;
- extending the controlling or coercive behaviour offence to cover post-separation abuse;
- extend the ‘revenge porn’ offence to cover the threat to disclose intimate images with the intention to cause distress;
- clarify the law to further deter claims of “rough sex gone wrong” in cases involving death or serious injury;
- create a statutory presumption that survivors of domestic abuse are eligible for special measures in the criminal, civil and family courts (i.e the facility to give evidence via a video link);
- establish in law the 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;
- place a duty on local authorities in England to provide support to survivors and their children in refuges and other safe accommodation;
- An automatic ‘priority need’ for homelessness assistance for survivors;
- place the guidance supporting the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (“Clare’s law”) on a statutory footing;
- ensure that when local authorities rehouse victims of domestic abuse, they do not lose a secure lifetime or assured tenancy;
- stop vexatious family proceedings that can further traumatise by clarifying the circumstances in which a court may make a barring order under section 91(14) of the Children Act 1989;
- prohibit GPs and other health professionals from charging survivors for a letter to support an application for legal aid
- Anyone who has suffered domestic abuse must be treated as a victim first and foremost, regardless of immigration status. The Support for Migrant Victims Scheme will provide access to safe accommodation and specialist services for those, who have previously not been eligible for other support.
How will the Act strengthen measures to tackle perpetrators?
- prohibit perpetrators of abuse from cross-examining their victims in person in family and civil courts in England and Wales;
- bring the case of R vs Brown into legislation, invalidating any courtroom defence of consent where a victim suffers serious harm or is killed;
- enable domestic abuse offenders to be subject to polygraph testing as a condition of their licence following their release from custody;
- extend the extraterritorial jurisdiction of the criminal courts in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to further violent and sexual offences;
- provide for a new Domestic Abuse Protection Notice and Domestic Abuse Protection Order, which will prevent perpetrators from contacting their victims, as well as force them to take positive steps to change their behaviour, e.g. seeking mental health support;
- Extend the extraterritorial jurisdiction of the criminal courts in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to further violent and sexual offences;
- Introduce a statutory duty on the Secretary of State to publish a domestic abuse perpetrator
More information can be found at www.gov.uk/government/consultations/domestic-abuse-act-statutory-guidance