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Government launches domestic abuse consultation

The government has launched its expected consultation on proposed new domestic violence legislation.

Jointly launched by Justice Secretary David Gauke and Home Secretary Amber Rudd, the consultation seeks views from interested parties, including victims, on “measures to be included in the government’s draft Domestic Abuse Bill.”

The proposals include the possibility of special protections in court for alleged victims, such as the option of giving their evidence behind a screen, along with a legal status equivalent to victims of sexual abuse or slavery.

Also under consideration are new domestic abuse protection orders, which would allow the courts to impose a range of measures on abusers, including compulsory treatment for alcohol misuse or other addictions, along with electronic tagging.

A further proposal involves the presence of children. When the abuse directly affects them this will be considered an aggravating factor and attract stiffer sentences. In addition, ‘economic abuse’ would be recognised as a category of abuse– that is to say, bullying behaviour involving finances, such as withholding access to work or forcing someone to take out a loan.

Prime Minister Theresa May said:

“Domestic abuse takes many forms, from physical and sexual abuse, to controlling and coercive behaviour that isolates victims from their families and has long-term, shattering impacts on their children. The consultation we are launching today includes a number of proposals which have the potential to completely transform the way we tackle domestic abuse, providing better protection to victims and bringing more perpetrators to justice.”

But Sarah Jane Lenihan, a Senior Solicitor in Stowe Family Law’s London office, believes the eventual bill is unlikely to make a significant difference to the scourge of domestic violence.

“Theresa May tweeted today, on International Women’s Day that ‘Thousands of women endure unimaginable violence and other forms of abuse every single day.’  This is of course true but so do many men.”

Sarah Jane added:

“Theresa May goes on to say that she is determined to stop it.  It will be interesting to see if the new bill will bring about the change that is needed to reduce the abuse that is suffered, but stopping it I believe is an impossible task.  One thing it will certainly do, though, is raise awareness and understanding.  The bill will provide for a statutory definition which will make it clear that it does not have to be physical to be abusive which is a really important message for the public.”

The deadline for responses is 31 May.

You can participate in the consultation here.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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  1. Stuart says:

    So does that mean that, at last, that particularly nasty form of domestic abuse characterised by coercive control, which is a form of emotional and psychological abuse on both children and ex partners – and is known as Parental Alienation – will at last be criminalised? No I thought not! Silly me!

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