15th Jul 2020

What does the proposed Domestic Abuse Bill cover?

Domestic Abuse is a serious issue. As the government’s Domestic Abuse Bill moves one step closer to becoming law, senior Family Lawyer, Stephen Root explores what it entails and how it will help victims.

The scale of the issue

Regrettably, family lawyers all too often come across domestic abuse in one form or another in their line of work. However, looking at the statistics that is, perhaps not surprising. The government estimates that there are 2.4 million victims of domestic abuse each year (two thirds of whom are women) and 10% of all offences that the police deal with are domestic abuse related. It is a sobering statistic that, on average, two women a week are killed by violent partners.

What is the Domestic Abuse Bill?

It was against this background the Domestic Abuse Bill was introduced by the government last summer with cross-party support. Due to the coronavirus pandemic this has been delayed somewhat but the Bill receives its third reading this week and is likely at some point in the future to become law. The aim of the government is to raise the profile of domestic abuse and awareness of the issues it causes and to make better provision for its victims.

For the first time a statutory definition of “domestic abuse” is introduced. This sets out five types of abuse:

  • violence and physical harm
  • emotional abuse
  • coercive control
  • controlling behaviour
  • economic abuse

This is shift away from only referencing violence – the factor which is most commonly associated with abuse in the public imagination – is welcome as it recognises the other forms of abuse that are often overlooked and this should improve the courts powers to deal with abuse in any form. Quite how the legislation will work we cannot yet say but it understood there will be Domestic Abuse Protection Notices and Domestic Abuse Protection Orders.

Will domestic abuse victims be cross examined in court?

The proposed act also contains provisions so that perpetrators of domestic abuse can no longer be allowed to cross-examine their victims. Again, we await the details of the legislation to see  exactly how this will work and it will be a difficult balance to get right for those who are accused of being responsible for domestic abuse but who are denying any allegations made against them.

What is a Domestic Abuse Commissioner?

The bill will also introduce a Domestic Abuse Commissioner. That person’s role will be to raise awareness, monitor how the act is implemented and monitor how local authorities respond in supporting victims of domestic abuse. Again, the devil will be in the detail as to exactly what powers the Commissioner will have and how they can be exercised. It is nevertheless a welcome raising of the profile of what is a scourge upon our society and is something that is completely unacceptable in any circumstances.

It is hoped that the proposed Bill will become law in the very near future without further Parliamentary delay.


Stephen Root is a top ranked Family Lawyer with 30 years’ legal experience. 

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