Domestic Abuse Laws Overhaul

New measures proposed to support Domestic Abuse victims and their families

In January 2019, the Government published the draft Domestic Abuse Bill in which new measures have been proposed to support Domestic Abuse victims and their families. Although there has been a delay of two years in the proposed developments and an estimated £66bn a year cost due to domestic abuse, the Bill has been welcomed on a wide scale and the change needs to be implemented urgently.

The new Law will introduce a statutory definition of what constitutes domestic abuse, as at present it remains ambiguous. Domestic Abuse will be defined beyond physical violence and include economic and controlling abuse. This will be of great support to a wide range of victims as it has been seen that many members of the population do not look beyond physical violence when considering domestic abuse.

The changes will include, but are not limited to, the following:

  1. Banning Perpetrators from cross-examining their victims in family courts.

Currently in the criminal courts, victims are protected from their abusers, however this practice has so far not been adopted in the family courts. Victims would often question whether their abuser will cross-examine them in court and unfortunately in the absence of a legal representative, they are currently able to do so. This is a terrifying experience for the victim and can also be perceived as another way of being subject to further abuse. The new proposal will no doubt be widely welcomed.

  1. Domestic Abuse Protection Orders to force offenders to attend rehab programs

Under domestic abuse protection orders, perpetrators will be required to attend rehabilitation programmes where alcohol and substance misuse was a factor in that abuse, or other behaviour change programmes.

  1. Clare’s Law

The Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (DVDS) is often known as ‘Clare’s Law’ in memory of Clare Wood, who was murdered by her former partner. Clare’s Law gives any member of the public the right to ask the police if their partner may pose a risk to them, however, currently the police have discretion on whether to disclose the information.

The new Law will give anyone a legal right to check their partner’s or potential partner’s history and the police will no longer have a choice on whether to provide the information or not.

  1. Domestic Abuse Commissioner

A national ‘domestic abuse commissioner’ will be tasked to oversee the changes, as well helping the Government to put the new legal changes in place.

In my role, I represent parents in care proceedings, and find that the majority of concerns and issues that a local authority may have stem from domestic abuse within the family home and the impact it has on the children who are being exposed to it, either directly or indirectly. It is hoped that the new Law will make a big difference in how these victims and families are supported.

To read the full official press release, please see the Government website.

If you, or someone you know, is a victim of domestic abuse, you can also seek help via the Government’s advice page for domestic abuse.

Rabia Butt