Briefing: The Domestic Abuse Bill 15/2/21

In light of the Domestic Abuse Bill, we will be publishing fortnightly briefings to provide survivors of domestic abuse, partner agencies, and individuals supporting Juno’s mission, with parliamentary and sector-wide updates.

The Bill has just completed the committee stage. The report stage of the Bill commences on the 8th of March, 2021.

If you have any questions, comments or concerns regarding these briefings, please contact [email protected]


Summary of the Bill

The Domestic Abuse Bill creates a new statutory definition of domestic abuse that considers abuse to not only be physical, but also emotional, controlling or coercive and economic. The Bill crucially also recognises children as victims/survivors of abuse. The Bill makes the presumption that all domestic abuse survivors are entitled to special measures in the criminal, civil and family courts such as enabling evidence to be given via a video link or behind a screen. It also abolishes consent to “rough sex” being used as a defence. Additionally, the Bill provides two new protection injunctions: A Domestic Abuse Protection Notice (DAPN), which provides immediate protection for survivors, and a Domestic Abuse Protection Order (DAPO), which provides longer-term protection. It also establishes the office of the Domestic Abuse Commissioner to help raise public awareness, represent survivors and improve the provision of support to those affected by domestic abuse.

 

Implications of the Bill on different sectors

 Local authorities

The Bill places legal duty on local authorities in England to support survivors of domestic abuse and their children, and commissions safe accommodation and refuge. This statutory duty will also ensure local authorities prioritise homeless survivors of domestic abuse when providing homelessness assistance.

The police and the courts

The new statutory definition of domestic abuse will have to be used by many frontline workers, such as legal professionals in the courts and the police. Children’s perspectives and experiences will have to be taken into account by all professionals working closely with their families. Police will be able to intervene earlier when there are reasonable grounds to believe that domestic abuse has occurred, or the person is at the risk of domestic abuse. For example, the police can issue a DAPN that can require a perpetrator to leave the survivor’s home or exclude them from coming within a specific distance of that premises. Police also have the power to apply for a DAPO to the courts.

The Bill improves the overall effectiveness and involvement of the justice system in providing protection for domestic abuse survivors and bringing perpetrators to justice. Legal professionals in the courts can vary the conditions of a DAPO over time. They can cover both positive and negative requirements such as prohibiting any form of contact with the survivor or requiring a perpetrator to attend an alcohol misuse programme. Additionally, the courts are provided with the express power to create a DAPO during existing court proceedings if they believe the order is necessary to protect someone from domestic abuse.

 

How the Bill will affect specialist domestic abuse organisations

 The Bill will support domestic abuse organisations in raising public awareness and understanding of domestic abuse nationally. The establishment of the Domestic Abuse Commissioner will work in collaboration with voluntary organisations and public authorities.

Local authorities’ legal duty to fund lifesaving provisions such as refuge and safe accommodation will drive better performance in response to domestic abuse across all local areas and agencies. This duty will support domestic abuse organisations in securing accommodation for victims and it will safeguard the existence of refuges, alleviating some of the pressures on these organisations’ services.

The Bill does not protect migrant survivors of domestic abuse as many have no recourse to public funds. Therefore, they are unable to finically support a stay in safe accommodation. With limited funding, this will continue to strain domestic abuse services in providing support for all migrant women and children affected by domestic abuse. Latin American Women’s Rights Services (LAWRS), Southall Black Sisters and Women’s Aid are just some of the organisations campaigning for migrant women to be recognised and protected by the Domestic Abuse Bill.

 

Recent headlines of the Bill

  • Press release: Councils across England allocated £125 million to support domestic abuse survivors and their children.
  • Many domestic abuse survivors can’t be safe in their homes if they share a tenancy with the perpetrator. Suggested Amendment 163 seeks to improve legal solutions for domestic abuse survivors on joint tenancies in social housing to enable survivors to remain in their homes. See the House of Lords debate here.
  • A call for an extension of the coercive control offense to include post-separation abuse. Read the letter from Baroness Williams to peers, here.
  • The Bill MUST provide housing security to all survivors “

 

Key resources and commentaries

Baroness Burt of Solihull’s amendment After Clause 72 (163)

Domestic Abuse Bill 2019-21

Domestic Abuse Bill 2020: overarching factsheet

Domestic Abuse Bill: children no longer the ‘invisible victims’

Domestic Abuse Protection Notices / Orders factsheet

Domestic Abuse Commissioner factsheet

Domestic Abuse Bill- Written evidence submitted by the Local Government Association (LGA)