Domestic abuse affects far more people in today’s society than one may first think. There are some 2.3 million victims of domestic abuse aged between 16 – 74 (2/3 of whom are women) and more than one in ten of all offences reported to the police are domestic abuse-related. This is the figure for the women and men who actually report the abuse. The true figure could, in fact, (and is highly likely) to be much higher.
As a result of the ever increasing numbers of victims, and the real need to protect and support those victims and tighten the law on this area, the Government has responded with the Domestic Abuse Act 2021. Whilst a lot of the schedules in the Act have start dates yet to be determined, here is a helpful table of when some of the provisions come into force : https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/domestic-abuse-act-2021-commencement-schedule/domestic-abuse-act-2021-commencement-schedule
What will the Act do? (taken from the government website)
- It will create a statutory definition for domestic abuse, emphasising that abuse takes many forms, including emotional, economic abuse, controlling behaviour as well as physical abuse.
- Provide for a new Domestic Abuse Protection Notice and Domestic Abuse Protection Order. The police currently have powers to serve perpetrators with Domestic Violence Protection Notices (DVPN’s). However, it is believed that this new notice and order will be more far-reaching.
- Place a duty on local authorities in England to provide accommodation-based support to victims of domestic abuse and their children, in refuges or other safe accommodation.
- Prohibit perpetrators of abuse from cross-examining their victims in person in the civil and family courts in England and Wales. This is particularly important, to ensure victims feel comfortable in court. This can be a daunting experience in any event, but this protection will hopefully ensure victims feel as comfortable as they can in that situation.
- Create a statutory presumption that victims of domestic abuse are eligible for special measures in the criminal, civil and family courts. At the current time, a party seeking special measures must apply to the court for these to be used.
- Clarify the circumstances in which a court may make a barring order under section 91(14) of the Children Act 1989 to prevent family proceedings that can further traumatise victims. Section 91(14) is used to prevent an individual from making many applications to the court, without merit, which could cause the victim undue trauma. It is yet to be seen how this will actually work in practice.
- Extend the controlling or coercive behaviour offence to cover post-separation abuse. This is particularly important, as many victims sadly find that escaping the abuse isn’t always the end of it.
- Extend the offence of disclosing private sexual photographs and films with intent to cause distress (known as “revenge porn” offence) to cover threats to disclose such material.
- Create a new offence of non-fatal strangulation or suffocation of another person.
- Clarify by restating in statute law the general proposition that a person may not consent to the infliction of serious harm and, by extension, is unable to consent to their own death.
- Enable domestic abuse offenders to be subject to polygraph testing as a condition of their licence following their release from custody. This is quite controversial and again it is yet to be seen how it will be implemented.
- Place the guidance supporting the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (“Clare’s Law”) on a statutory footing.
- Provide that all eligible homeless victims of domestic abuse automatically have ‘priority need’ for assistance.
- Ensure that, where a local authority, for reasons connected with domestic abuse, grants a new secure tenancy to a social tenant who had or has a secure lifetime or assured tenancy (other than an assured shorthold tenancy). This must be a secure lifetime tenancy.
- Prohibit GPs and other health professionals in general practice from charging a victim of domestic abuse for a letter to support an application for legal aid.
- Provide for a statutory code of practice relating to the processing of domestic abuse data for immigration purposes.
How we can help
Whilst the list is lengthy, and it is yet to be seen how in practice the changes will be implemented, here at Bromleys we are committed to ensuring we are up-to-date with all of the new laws, especially those as important as this Act. It is important that we continue to fight against any form of abuse.
If anyone is suffering any form of abuse, our team is are able to assist and advise you on your options, the law and the best next steps for you. Do not hesitate in contacting our family experts by telephoning 0161 330 6821 for your free initial telephone discussion. If your call is an emergency and is outside our normal working hours, please contact our emergency helpline 07758 531221. If you prefer, you can fill in our online form or alternatively, you can email us on firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll call you back.
If you, or someone you know, is a victim of domestic abuse find out how to report domestic abuse.
If you are in immediate danger, call 999 and ask for the police.
If you are in danger and unable to talk on the phone, call 999 and listen to the questions from the operator and if possible, respond by coughing or tapping the head set.
Call 999 from a mobile
If prompted, press 55 to Make Yourself Heard and this will transfer your call to the police.
Stay safe and don’t suffer in silence.