New Domestic Abuse Legislation

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The Domestic Abuse Bill, aimed at supporting victims of domestic abuse and bringing perpetrators to justice, was introduced in Parliament on 16th July 2019.

In the year ending March 2018 around 2 million adults aged 16 to 59 experienced domestic abuse in the previous year; about 2/3 of which were women.

Following consultation, the government made a commitment on 123 recommendations, some of which require legislation and many of which don’t. The new legislation will include the introduction of the following:-

  • a statutory definition of domestic abuse, which is likely to include economic abuse and controlling behaviour
  • a new Domestic Abuse Commissioner to champion victims and survivors of domestic abuse
  • new Domestic Abuse Protection Notices and Protection Orders to protect victims and place restrictions on the actions of offenders
  • a prohibition on the cross-examination of victims by abusers in the Family Court
  • automatic entitlement to special measures for victims who give evidence in criminal courts, for example by the use of separate entrances or video link

There will also be better education in schools regarding domestic abuse and better training for agencies likely to come into contact with survivors of domestic abuse.

Victims of domestic abuse currently have some protection by virtue of the Family Law Act 1996 and are able to apply for Non-Molestation Orders to protect them from assault, intimidation and molestation by a perpetrator and Occupation Orders which enable a court to exclude one partner from the family home. Whilst Non-Molestation Orders are granted quite readily as they do not infringe an individual’s rights, judges are often reluctant to grant Occupation Orders without evidence of previous physical violence because such orders prevent people from living in their own properties and are regarded as draconian. This defeats the object of the legislation as protection is not provided until it is too late. Non-Molestation Orders can often prove to be ineffective if not accompanied by an Occupation Order.

There is currently no family law based protection in cases other than those involving physical abuse.

The provisions of the Bill have generally been welcomed by interested charities and pressure groups, with Women’s Aid describing the Bill as a “once in a generation opportunity to deliver a step change in the response to domestic abuse and other forms of violence against women and girls.”

Please contact our Head of Family, Joanna Toloczko on 020 3861 5155 or at jtoloczko@meaby.co.uk for advice on all family law matters.