In her latest blog Kirsty Richards, our Head of Family explains The Domestic Abuse Bill 2020/2021. She outlines what it is, along with its intended purpose and aims.
After fierce campaigning and a relentless movement to ensure there is better understanding as to what domestic abuse is, the Domestic Abuse Bill 2020/2021 has been cheered by family practitioners. Of course, there is scepticism as to whether it ‘does enough’ to help the victims of abuse but surely it demonstrates a continuing effort to address the much-needed safeguarding that arises from domestic abuse.
What is the purpose of the Bill?
Victoria Atkins MP, Minister for Safeguarding outlines:
“Domestic abuse is an abhorrent crime perpetrated on victims and their families by those who should love and care for them. This landmark Bill will help transform the response to domestic abuse, helping to prevent offending, protect victims and ensure they have the support they need.”
What will the Bill do?
The Domestic Abuse Bill 2020/2021 attempts to further develop awareness and understanding of domestic abuse by providing a wider definition of what domestic abuse actually is, with Victoria Atkins MP explaining:
“It is vital that in tackling domestic abuse, everyone, from statutory bodies to members of the public, has a proper understanding of it and how to support and protect victims. A statutory definition of domestic abuse will help to do this, emphasising that domestic abuse is not just physical violence, but can also be emotional, coercive or controlling, and economic abuse”.
In addition to a wider definition of what domestic abuse is, the Bill has reviewed the category of relationships that will be protected:
(1) Those aged over 16
(2) Connected persons
The Bill also introduces two new protective measures by way of:
(1) Domestic abuse protection notices (DAPN)
(2) Domestic abuse protection orders (DAPO)
Non molestation orders, Occupation Orders (applied for under the Family Law Act 1996, part IV); Prohibited Steps Orders (applied for under the Children Act 1989); Protection from Harassment orders (applied for under the Protection from Harassment Act); and restraining orders will not be replaced.
These orders will continue to be necessary for cases involving stalking and harassment. The intention behind bringing in DAPN and DAPO is to supplement the current protection available, although there is a vision that a DAPO will be the ‘go to’ protective order for domestic abuse.
What will DAPO’s do?
DAPO’s will impose restrictions on a perpetrator such as (1) not to contact a victim; (2) not to be in a property and may also direct a perpetrator to engage with domestic abuse programmes or to engage in mental health treatment.
Who can apply?
The police and victims can apply for DAPO’s (without the need for permission from the court). Relevant third parties (such as a local authority) can also apply for DAPO’s on a victim’s behalf, with permission from the court.
There will be no court fee for victims and the police making applications for DAPO’s. There will be a two-year regional trial as to the effectiveness, it will then be subject to review before a national roll out.
Will legal aid be available for DAPO protection?
Legal aid will be available for victims seeking protection and for representing the accused in the criminal courts.
DAPO’s will also stand as gateway evidence that will be accepted by the Legal Aid Agency in respect of private children law disputes (child arrangement orders).
If you are a victim of domestic abuse, contact our team of specialist lawyers for advice as to what protection is available to you.
What other measures does the bill set out?
The Bill also outlines processes designed to help agencies like the police, teachers, and health professionals deal with victims of domestic abuse consistently.
The Bill further provides for the role of a Domestic Abuse Commissioner and sets out strategies for how Domestic Abuse can be dealt with at a much earlier stage in the process to support the victim.
As part of this review, the Home Secretary has appointed the UK’s first Domestic Abuse Commissioner – Nicole Jacobs. Nicole was the former Chief Executive Officer at the charity Standing Together Against Domestic Violence. The role of The Commissioner is to lead on driving improvements on the response to domestic abuse in the UK, championing victims and making recommendations on what more should be done to better protect victims and bring more offenders to justice. The Commissioner’s team will also be looking to gain a better understanding of who carries out domestic abuse, who the victims are and how children are impacted by the abuse.
The Bill will also implement key changes to the Court process for victims in some circumstances.
What stage is the Bill at in Parliament?
Before achieving Royal Assent and becoming the Domestic Abuse Act, there are various stages it must pass through in the House of Commons and thereafter, the House of Lords. The Bill has already had its first and second reading in the House of Commons.
As at 18 June 2020, the Public Bill Committee completed its review of the Bill and reported its amendments to the House. The Bill will now move to its ‘report’ stage and ‘third reading’ (on a date to be announced).
After its third reading in the House of Commons, the Bill progresses to the House of Lords for its final stages of reporting and reading
National Legal Service is the largest provider of legal aid to victims of domestic abuse in England and with 19 national offices, we can provide you with advice as to the local support available to you in addition to securing any protective orders applicable to your circumstances.
Contact us now, for early advice and assistance, on 020 3601 5051.