The Domestic Abuse Bill – What this means for family law?
Our home is a place where we should feel safe, a place where we close the door to the day and relax with our loved ones. Sadly, for some 2.4 million people each year, this could not be further from the truth, as this is the place where they have become victim to domestic violence. The 6th July 2020 marked a ground-breaking moment for these victims, however, as The Domestic Abuse Bill, which aims to protect victims, provide them with support and appropriately punish perpetrators was passed by the House of Commons.
What is the Bill? The Domestic Abuse Bill was initially published by the Government in January 2019, which we discussed here. The purpose of this Bill is multifaceted and includes raising awareness of the different types of domestic violence, to put measures in place to protect and support victims and ensure abusers are appropriately punished.
What will this mean for Family matters? The new definition of Domestic Abuse encompassing all forms of abuse will support family matters such as divorce petitions, providing greater emphasis on the physical, emotional and psychological injury inflicted. As children who witness domestic violence will now also be considered as victims in their own right, this will influence the perceived risk to the child and in turn contact and access arrangements.
The Domestic Abuse Bill is set to overhaul the current system in Family Courts in England and Wales, in which perpetrators of abuse are currently able to cross-examine their victims in person in the courtroom. Special measures that are currently in place in the criminal courts will become available to victims of domestic abuse in the family courts, such as providing evidence via video link. – This will prevent the victim from facing unnecessary risk by attending a hearing. In addition, separate waiting rooms and entrances to the court are set to be introduced to prevent victims coming face to face with their abuser.
Accessing help If you are the victim of domestic abuse, you do not need to wait for the Bill to be passed, the time to act is now. There are a number of organisations who can provide help, support and information – https://www.gov.uk/report-domestic-abuse. The free 24 hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline can also be contacted on 0808 2000 247.