Since the start of the coronavirus crisis last year, there has unfortunately been a huge surge in people contacting domestic abuse helplines, with over 40,000 calls and contacts made to the National Domestic Abuse Helpline during the first three months of the first national lockdown and Domestic abuse charity, Refuge said they received 80 per cent more calls than usual in June last year. It is therefore welcome news that The Domestic Abuse Bill – which is currently making its last stages through Parliament – is at its last stages through parliament and is expected to come into force in April this year. This is a new landmark piece of legislation that is expected to help thousands of victims of domestic abuse and their children.
Once the Domestic Abuse Bill is passed, the new law will make it the legal duty of local authorities in England to assess and provide support and safe accommodation to domestic abuse victims and their children.
At the beginning of March 2021, a number of new amendments to the Domestic Abuse Bill were presented to the House of Lords that will provide greater protections for victims and further clamping down on perpetrators. Some of the amendments include:
- New offence of non-fatal strangulation to be introduced as part of ground-breaking legislation – making this a specific criminal offence, punishable by up to five years in prison.
- Controlling or coercive behaviour (CCB) offence extended to include abuse where perpetrators and victims no longer live together – The change follows a government review which highlighted that those who leave abusive ex-partners can often be subjected to sustained or increased controlling or coercive behaviour post-separation.
- ‘Revenge porn’ offence widened to cover threats to share intimate images – laws which were introduced by the government in 2015 will be widened to included threats to disclose intimate images with the intention to cause distress.
These new measures confirmed by the government earlier this month, have been developed closely with peers, advocates and victims who campaigned on these important issues. They form a series of amendments being tabled to the landmark Domestic Abuse Bill which has now entered the Report Stage, with Royal Assent expected in early April.
Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland QC MP said:
This Bill provides a once-in-a-generation opportunity to strengthen our response to domestic abuse and its many forms.
From outlawing non-fatal strangulation to giving better protections in court – we are delivering the support victims need to feel safer while ensuring perpetrators face justice for the torment they have inflicted.
Safeguarding Minister Victoria Atkins said:
The Domestic Abuse Bill is a game-changing piece of legislation that will help millions of people who are subjected to many different forms of abuse.
Controlling or coercive behaviour is an insidious form of domestic abuse that can destroy lives.
Since we introduced the offence within the Serious Crime Act 2015, controlling and coercive behaviour recorded offences and prosecutions have increased year on year, but we have listened to concerns and understand that perpetrators of CCB can continue to abuse their victims when they no longer live together.
I am pleased that the offence is being extended so we can protect more victims and send a clear message to perpetrators.
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