Welcome reform – The Domestic Abuse Bill

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An update on the journey of the long awaited Domestic Abuse Bill since my last blog in February. A number of amendments have been suggested to the Draft Bill to ensure there is far-reaching and swifter protection for victims. Suggested amendments also show that the law is endeavouring to come down hard on perpetrators of Domestic Abuse. The proposals include making non-fatal strangulation a specific criminal offence, punishable by up to five years in prison. This form of abuse is often used to intimidate and manipulate victims to stop them being able to breath for a time. However, it tends to not leave any physical marks on a victim allowing the perpetrator to get away with this.

The Government will also strengthen laws surrounding coercive and controlling behaviour. Couples will not have to live together for a perpetrator to be covered by the legislation and this will importantly also cover post-separation abuse which can go on for months even after a victim has finally fled the hands of their abuser.

The Government is also tabling a number of other amendments to the Domestic Abuse Bill which will provide special measures in civil courts similar to those available in family courts. This could include the use of protective screens in court or the ability to give evidence via video links to support vulnerable courts users. Victims who may prefer not to report abuse to avoid being cross-examined in person, by widening the list of evidence to prove abuse has occurred to include things such as a letter from a doctor or an employer.

These amendments to the landmark Domestic Abuse Bill are made with the support and help of campaign groups, victims and experts in this deeply distressing area of abuse. The Bill enters Report Stage next week, with Royal Assent expected in the Spring 2021.

This welcome news comes at the same time that Refuge reported in the media this week that the number of calls from victims has increased by 60% since the start of the Pandemic.

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