Landmark Domestic Abuse Bill receives Royal Assent

Domestic Abuse Bill 2021

The Domestic Abuse Bill Passed Both Houses of Parliament.

It was signed into law on 29 April 2021.

What will the Domestic Abuse Act do?

The Domestic Abuse Act is set to provide further protections to the millions of people who experience domestic abuse. It will also strengthen measures to tackle perpetrators.

You can read detailed factsheets on each new measure on the government’s website.

How Will the Act Help Victims?

Among other things, the Domestic Abuse Act will:

  • Create a statutory definition of domestic abuse. The Act emphasises that domestic abuse is not just physical violence. It can also be emotional, coercive or controlling, and economic abuse. This definition explicitly recognises children as victims if they see, hear or otherwise experience the effects of abuse.
  • Create a new offence of non-fatal strangulation.
  • Extend the controlling or coercive behaviour offence to cover post-separation abuse.
  • Extend the ‘revenge porn’ offence. It now also covers the threat to disclose intimate images with the intention to cause distress.
  • Create a statutory presumption that victims of domestic abuse are eligible for special measures in the criminal, civil and family courts. For example, victims can now give evidence via a video link.
  • Establish in law the Domestic Abuse Commissioner. Their role is to stand up for victims and survivors, raise public awareness, and monitor the response of statutory agencies and hold them to account in tackling domestic abuse.
  • Place a duty on local authorities in England. They are now obliged to provide support to victims of domestic abuse and their children in refuges and other safe accommodation.
  • Provide that all eligible homeless victims of domestic abuse automatically have ‘priority need’ for homelessness assistance.
  • Place the guidance supporting the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (“Clare’s law”) on a statutory footing.

How will the Act strengthen measures to tackle perpetrators?

Among other things, The Domestic Abuse Act will:

  • Prohibit perpetrators of abuse from cross-examining their victims in person in family and civil courts in England and Wales.
  • Bring the case of R vs Brown into legislation. This will invalidate any courtroom defence of consent where a victim suffers serious harm.
  • Provide for a new Domestic Abuse Protection Notice and Domestic Abuse Protection Order. This will prevent perpetrators from contacting their victims. It may also force them to take positive steps to change their behaviour, such as seeking mental health support.
  • Introduce a statutory duty on the Secretary of State to publish a domestic abuse perpetrator strategy. 

Does the New Act Go Far Enough?

ACT CEO Deborah Kitson says:

We welcome the new Act and the new definition of domestic abuse. It strengthens the protections of victims and also ensures that they will be able to access the support they need.

But we also recognise the limitations of the Act as outlined by Jess Phillips in our recent podcast. So we will continue to campaign for their inclusion in future policy initiatives.

We recently spoke to Jess Phillips MP about the new Domestic Abuse Act.

Jess was instrumental in getting this bill through parliament. She recognises that it’s a huge step forward. Yet there are still some areas where the Bill falls short.

You can listen to our conversation with Jess here.