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Government publishes draft Domestic Abuse Bill

Victims of domestic abuse will not be cross examined by their abusers in family courts

Published on 21st January 2019

A draft Domestic Abuse Bill has been published by the government aimed at supporting victims and pursuing offenders.

The new legislation will introduce the first ever statutory government definition of domestic abuse, establish a Domestic Abuse Commissioner to drive the response to domestic abuse issues and prevent the cross-examination of victims by their abusers in the family courts.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid said: "Domestic abuse shatters lives and tears families apart. It can happen anywhere, to anyone.

"Protecting victims, as well as supporting survivors, is at the heart of our strengthened response to this horrific crime.

"Our draft Domestic Abuse Bill and wider package of measures, unveiled today, will bolster the protection for victims and will help expose and bring the vile abusers to justice," he added.

It is estimated that around two million adults experience domestic abuse each year, affecting almost 6% of all adults, with women being twice as likely to be victims than men.

The Draft Bill is published as the Home Office has published a report into the economic and social cost of domestic abuse, which reveals the crime cost England and Wales £66 billion in 2016 to 2017. The research says that £47 billion was a result of the physical and emotional harm of domestic abuse, however it also includes other factors such as cost to health services (£2.3 billion), police (£1.3 billion) and victim services (£724 million).

The government has pledged to:

- introduce the first ever statutory government definition of domestic abuse to specifically include economic abuse and controlling and manipulative non-physical abuse to enable everyone, including victims themselves, to understand what constitutes abuse and will encourage more victims to come forward.

- establish a Domestic Abuse Commissioner to drive the response to domestic abuse issues.

- introduce new Domestic Abuse Protection Notices and Domestic Abuse Protection Orders to further protect victims and place restrictions on the actions of offenders.

- prohibit the cross-examination of victims by their abusers in the family courts.

- provide automatic eligibility for special measures to support more victims to give evidence in the criminal courts.

Furthermore, between the draft bill and its consultation response, the government is making 120 commitments to tackle domestic abuse. Amongst these are a series of non-legislative measures which include £8 million of Home Office funding to support children affected by domestic abuse, a new crisis support system for those with no recourse to public funds and additional funding and capacity building for services for disabled, elderly and LGTB victims.

Social workers, job centre work coaches, police, and probation staff will receive new and additional training to help them recognise and effectively tackle abuse, there will be improved support for victims in the family court and the government is providing an additional £500,000 funding for provisions for male victims.

Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of Women’s Aid, said: "Domestic abuse costs lives and it costs money. It is happening at epidemic levels yet it has been largely hidden behind closed doors. Now is the time to bring it out into the spotlight and address the impact of domestic abuse properly once and for all.

"The Domestic Abuse Bill has the potential to create a step change in the national response and this must be backed up with sustainable funding for our life-saving network of specialist support services to make a real difference to survivors’ lives.

"We look forward to working with the government, our member services and survivors themselves to make sure survivors have the resources and support they need, as well as address the root causes of domestic abuse so that every woman and child can live free from fear and abuse," she added.

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