Family Law Hub

Draft Domestic Abuse Bill published

Draft Bill build on views sought from a consultation in 2018 and will introduce a statutory definition of domestic abuse for the first time

  • The Government has published a draft Domestic Abuse Bill alongside its response to a consultation on the issue last year. 

    The consultation received 3,200 responses from which the Government identified nine measures that would require primary legislation as follows: 

    • provide for a statutory definition of domestic abuse
    • establish the office of Domestic Abuse Commissioner and set out the Commissioner's functions and powers  
    • provide for a new Domestic Abuse Protection Notice and DAPO (Domestic Abuse Protection Order) 
    • prohibit perpetrators of domestic and other forms of abuse from cross-examining their victims in person in the family courts (and prevent victims from having to cross-examine their abusers) and give the court discretion to prevent cross-examination in person where it would diminish the quality of the witness's evidence or cause the witness significant distress
    • create a statutory presumption that complainants of an offence involving behaviour that amounts to domestic abuse are eligible for special measures in the criminal courts
    • enable domestic abuse offenders to be subject to polygraph testing as a condition of their licence following their release from custody  
    • place the guidance supporting the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme on a statutory footing 
    • 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  
    • extend the extra-territorial jurisdiction of the criminal courts in England and Wales to further violent and sexual offences  

    The slightly circular definition of domestic abuse set out in Part 1 of the draft Bill is as follows 

    "1 Definition of "domestic abuse" 

    (1) This section defines what is meant by "domestic abuse" in this Act.  

    (2) Behaviour by a person ("A") towards another person ("B") is "domestic abuse" if— 

    (a) A and B are each aged 16 or over and are personally connected, and  

    (b) the behaviour is abusive.  

    (3) Behaviour is "abusive" if it consists of any of the following—  

    (a) physical or sexual abuse;  

    (b) violent or threatening behaviour;  

    (c) controlling or coercive behaviour; 

    (d) economic abuse (see subsection (4));  

    (e) psychological, emotional or other abuse.  

    (4) "Economic abuse" means any behaviour that has a substantial adverse effect on B's ability to—  

    (a) acquire, use or maintain money or other property, or  

    (b) obtain goods or services.  

    (5) For the purposes of this Act A's behaviour may be behaviour "towards" B despite the fact that it consists of conduct directed at another person (for example, B's child)."

    Overall there are five part to the Bill 

    PART 1 DEFINITION OF "DOMESTIC ABUSE": largely concerned with the definition of domestic abuse and also the meaning of 'connected person' for this purpose

    PART 2 THE DOMESTIC ABUSE COMMISSIONER: setting out the parameters of the new Commissioner's role which, broadly, will be to promote good practice in the prevention and investigation of domestic abuse and in support of abuse victims. 

    PART 3 POWERS FOR DEALING WITH DOMESTIC ABUSE: this covers scope, practice and procedure governing the proposed new Domestic Abuse Protection Notices and related Orders 

    PART 4 PROTECTION FOR VICTIMS AND WITNESSES IN COURT: inserts a new Part 4B into the Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984 designed to protect witnesses from being cross-examined by their alleged abusers in court (see draft clause 31Q) 

    PART 5 MISCELLANEOUS AND GENERAL: dealing with powers of disclosure, territorial scope, consequential changes tom the Housing Acts and other matters 

    A helpful Annex E provides explanatory notes 

    The Government is also keen to emphasise that legislation is not the only route they are pursuing in tackling the problem of domestic abuse. Annex C sets out a 'Grid of Commitments' listing 123 initiatives and identifying which Government Department will be responsible for furthering that initiative over the next year.  

    As for next steps, the draft Bill will now be subject to pre-legislative scrutiny by a joint committee of both Houses of Parliament so any timetable for implementation is unlikely to emerge soon. 

    Read the full consultation response and the draft Bill on the MoJ website.

News, published: 21/01/2019

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Published: 21/01/2019

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