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The Bill introduced in 2019 is designed to tackle the problem of domestic abuse (DA) by broadening the scope of the legal definition of DA, making changes to judicial procedures and the better monitoring of abusers.

The main measures from the Bill will be:

  • Define DA in law, confirming that it is not only physical abuse but includes emotional, psychological and financial abuse and coercive and controlling behaviour.
  • Establish a DA Commissioner to raise public awareness, to support survivors and to hold statutory agencies to account in tackling DA.
  • Provide for a new Domestic Abuse Protection Notice (DAPN) and Domestic Abuse Protection Order (DAPO).
  • Prohibit perpetrators of abuse from cross-examining their victims directly in the family court. In such cases the court must consider whether there is an alternative means to cross-examine the witness or obtain the evidence.
  • Create a statutory presumption that victims of DA are eligible for special measures in criminal courts (e.g. providing evidence via video link).
  • Place the guidance supporting the domestic violence disclosure scheme (Clare's Law) on a statutory footing.
  • Ensuring that where a local authority for reasons connected with DA, grants a new secure tenancy to a social tenant who had or has a secure lifetime or assured tenancy (other than an assured shorthold tenancy) this must be a secure lifetime tenancy.
  • Although the Bill is of course welcome, many of those working in the field are concerned that it does not go far enough to protect survivors of DA. For instance, the protection from cross-examination in the family court will only be afforded in cases where there has already been an injunction, conviction, caution or where the perpetrator has been charged and the matter is ongoing. In other cases, where DA has been experienced but not reported, it is a matter of judicial discretion whether or not to protect the alleged victim from direct cross-examination. The fact that many victims of DA are reluctant to disclose or report the abuse means this measure is seen as not far-reaching enough.

Fitzhugh Gates work closely with domestic abuse charities, supporting staff and service users alike in understanding the law relating to protection from DA. If you are experiencing DA or you feel you are at risk of DA then please contact our family team who will be able to discuss your case in confidence and advise on the best course of action to protect you/any children. Legal aid is often available in DA cases and our family team can conduct a provisional legal aid assessment for you over the telephone.

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Articles published through this website contain only general advice and are not intended as professional counsel and should not be used as such.

If you require specific advice on a particular issue or problem highlighted by this article, then please contact Fitzhugh Gates, the Solicitors for Brighton and Hove and Shoreham-by-Sea. 

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