The Government produced its draft Domestic Abuse Bill in January 2019. The question is can the Government come up with the goods?
Well the Bill provides lots of promises. The four main objectives seem to hit the spot particularly as prevention and protection is at the core of it. The objectives being:-
- Promote awareness
- Protect and support
- Transform the justice process
- Improve performance in the response to domestic abuse across all agencies and sectors
There’s no denying that domestic abuse is complex. Often it goes undetected because victims are too frightened to ask for help or disclose the abuse.
The widening of the definition of domestic abuse is definitely a step in the right direction. In a modern society understanding that domestic abuse involves many acts and behaviours not just physical violence. That said, we do need to continue to educate.
We know that domestic abuse has a devastating and long-term impact on children so it’s sad to read that between an estimated one quarter and one third of children have been exposed to domestic abuse. If that’s not a reason to act, I don’t know what is. The good news on this front is that The Serious Crime Act 2015 made it explicit that cruelty to children which causes psychological suffering can be a crime. This includes when children are emotionally harmed by exposure to domestic abuse, holding perpetrators to account for the impact of their abuse on children. Under existing law, the definition of ‘harm’ to children recognises the impact of seeing or hearing the abuse of someone else, so local authorities may take action to protect children who witness domestic abuse. Domestic abuse is the most prevalent risk affecting children in need, who witness domestic abuse.
The interplay between domestic abuse and substance misuse is complex. Victims may misuse substances as a coping mechanism and perpetrators may use them as a form of coercion and control. Domestic abuse perpetration can arise from withdrawal from substances and disputes about buying substances.
It is pleasing to read that the Government now recognises that domestic abuse can also be economic in nature. Economic abuse goes beyond financial abuse and can involve behaviours that control a person’s ability to acquire, use and maintain economic resources. This may include money, food, transport and housing eg restricting the use of a car or ruining credit ratings.
It’s good to see the proposal to add £500,000 to support male victims of domestic abuse. Far less men report domestic abuse when compared to female counterparts.
Let’s not forget domestic abuse costs money and lives. It costs our society an estimated £66 billion per year and two lives a week. This really is a wakeup call.
So what next? Push the Bill through the Houses of Parliament and start to deliver what has been promised.
Our family law team at Taylor&Emmet are experienced at dealing with issues surrounding domestic abuse. Legal Aid is available depending on individual circumstances so get in touch to discuss your options.