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Louisa Gothard
Louisa Gothard
Senior Solicitor, Head of Family Law
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Draft domestic abuse bill published
Date:21 JAN 2019
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The Government has published its draft Domestic Abuse Bill. The draft legislation follows last year's consultation.

Under the proposals, domestic abusers will no longer be able to cross-examine their former partners in family courts under a comprehensive government package of reforms to tackle the issue.


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The bill, which has been broadly welcomed by campaigners, comes as new analysis estimates that the social cost of domestic abuse in 2016-17 was around £66 billion, more than the amount caused by alcohol and drug misuse, cigarettes and obesity combined.

According to the research, the vast majority of this cost (£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 new legislation will:

  • introduce the first ever statutory government definition of domestic abuse to specifically include economic abuse and controlling and manipulative non-physical abuse - this will 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

Minister for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability, Victoria Atkins said that the proposed legislation 'recognises the complex nature of these horrific crimes and puts the needs of victims and their families at the forefront'.

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

Measures
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
  • additional funding and capacity building for services for disabled, elderly and LGTB victims
  • updated support, training and guidance on economic abuse
  • new and additional training for job centre work coaches, police, social workers and probation staff to help them recognise and effectively tackle abuse
  • improved support for victims in the family court
  • additional £500,000 funding for provisions for male victims

Sandra Horley CBE, Chief Executive of Refuge, welcomed the measures, saying 'the cost to women and children’s lives is devastating. But now the immense cost to the taxpayer has been laid bare, too. Domestic violence is truly everybody’s business.'


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