UK Government To Launch Landmark Domestic Abuse Bill
The Government has published a landmark domestic abuse bill, with hopes that its 'most comprehensive package ever' will help promote domestic abuse awareness, support victims, tackle perpetrators and improve services.
The bill follows new Home Office research into the economic and social impact of domestic abuse, which found the crime cost England and Wales a total of £66 billion in 2016/17.
The vast majority (£47 billion) of this was a result of the physical and emotional harm of domestic abuse, but other factors include the cost to health services (£2.3 billion), police (£1.3 billion) and victim services (£724 million).
Published today (Monday 21 January), the draft Domestic Abuse Bill will introduce the first ever Government definition of domestic abuse so that it includes economic abuse, as well as controlling and manipulative non-physical abuse. Laying down this statutory definition aims to help everyone - including the victims themselves - to have more understanding of what actually constitutes abuse.
There will be an additional £500,000 funding specfically for male victims.
The historic legislation will also see the creation of a Domestic Abuse Commissioner, Domestic Abuse Protection Notices and Domestic Abuse Protection Orders to further protect victims, while also placing restrictions on the actions of offenders.
Victoria Atkins, Minister for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability, said: "I have heard absolutely heart-breaking accounts of victims whose lives have been ripped apart because of physical, emotional or economic abuse they have suffered by someone close to them.
"The draft Domestic Abuse Bill recognises the complex nature of these horrific crimes and puts the needs of victims and their families at the forefront.
"This Government is absolutely committed to shining a light on domestic abuse to ensure this hidden crime does not remain in the shadows."
The bill will also prohibit the cross-examination of victims by their abusers in the family courts, as well as provide automatic eligibility for special measures to support more victims to give evidence in the criminal courts.
Sandra Horley CBE, Chief Executive of domestic violence charity Refuge, said: "Refuge welcomes the draft Bill announced by the Government today. Refuge staff deal with the human misery of domestic violence every day. The cost to women and children's lives is devastating. But now the immense cost to the taxpayer has been laid bare, too. Domestic violence is truly everybody's business.
"This Bill represents a once in a generation opportunity to address domestic violence; but in order to do so, we must ensure its aspirations are matched by adequate resource. We will continue to work closely with the Government to ensure the final Bill meets the needs of the women and children we support."
Between the draft bill and its consultation response, the Government is making 120 commitments to tackle domestic abuse - including £8 million of Home Office funding to support children affected by domestic abuse and further training for police, social workers, probation staff and job centre work coaches.
You can speak to a member of the National Domestic Violence Helpline, run in partnership between Women's Aid and Refuge, by calling 0808 2000 247.
The helpline is available to use at any time, day or night, and the adviser will offer confidential, non-judgemental information and support. The helpline can also help you access refuge accommodation or other specialist domestic violence services, if you need them.
In an emergency, always call 999.
Featured Image Credit: PA