The bill will for the first time create a legal definition of domestic abuse, specifically recognising that it goes beyond physical violence and includes victims who are economically abused and those who are subject to controlling and manipulative non-physical abuse. This definition may include things such as denying a partner access to their own or joint bank accounts or preventing them from going to work. It is hoped that this new definition will help people to understand what constitutes abuse and in turn encourage more victims to come forward to seek support and report crimes.
The draft legislation also honours a pledge to abolish the cross-examination of victims by their abusers in the family courts, something which has for too many years caused victims to endure continued abuse at the hands of their alleged abusers within the court environment.
The draft bill going before MPs will also:
- Introduce automatic eligibility and access to special measures for victims giving evidence in criminal courts (for example, giving evidence via video link rather than being in the same room as an alleged abuser).
- Establish the office of the Domestic Abuse Commissioner to regulate and oversee the response to domestic abuse issues.
- Provide for a new Domestic Abuse Protection Notice and Domestic Abuse Protection Order to further protect victims.
The draft Bill will now be subject to pre-legislative scrutiny.