New laws added to UK domestic abuse bill

Following the recent draft Domestic Abuse Bill presented to Parliament, the Home Office has confirmed that nearly 20 new amendments will be presented before Parliament. The raft of amendments will be voted on in the coming weeks and are designed to strengthen the bill even further than before.

Westminster is to strengthen its definition of domestic abuse to include non-fatal strangulation and expand protection orders for victims of coercive control, under new legislation. While the offence and protection orders were in the original draft Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill, they were not included in the final legislation through an amendment by Labour peer Lord Marks in 2015.

Non-fatal strangulation is increasingly being used by perpetrators of domestic abuse in an attempt to control their victims. And because current legislation doesn’t recognise this form of abuse, police are increasingly struggling to deal with the issue.

Justice minister Lucy Frazer said: ‘Strangulation is an extremely serious crime and can be fatal. It is all too easy for perpetrators to escape prosecution. This new offence will bring the protection of the law to victims of this terrible crime, allowing them to feel more confident about coming forward and reporting attacks.’

Perhaps the most significant aspect of the update to the domestic abuse bill, which will become law in spring, is that abusers who post revenge porn will be liable for prosecution whether the victim was in an abusive relationship with them at the time or not. The new law stops short of making it a criminal offence if the abuser and victim were previously in a relationship, but adds a defence if they split up and one of them threatens to share intimate pictures.

The Government will also look at how to ensure that victims of domestic abuse are supported during court processes, which can be difficult and emotionally draining. It will consider how the support provided to victims could be better tailored to their specific needs.

The new laws will make it easier for victims of domestic violence to avoid being cross-examined in court, by widening the list of evidence to prove abuse has occurred to include things such as a letter from a doctor, or an employer.

The Women’s Equality Party have welcomed new laws added to domestic abuse bill for clarification of the use of ‘barring orders’ in the family courts to prevent abusive ex-partners from repeatedly dragging their victims back to court which can be used as a form of continuing domestic abuse.

A new law requiring public authorities to share information about domestic homicides is part of the Government’s response to this year’s Independent Victims’ Commissioner Report.

The Home Office has also announced the successful organisations that will receive part of the £500k announced to fund research into domestic abuse perpetrators. The aim of the fund is to develop our understanding of domestic abuse perpetrators and to strengthen the evidence base for what works in addressing their behaviour. This builds on the work already underway through the £29m Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) Innovation Programme, the Transforming Rehabilitation programme and wider Government signalling a zero tolerance approach to domestic abuse.

If you need help with domestic abuse you can find useful resources below:

https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/getting-help-for-domestic-violence/

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/domestic-abuse-how-to-get-help

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