Almost three years after the Domestic Abuse Bill was promised, the return of the legislation to parliament has been widely welcomed and ‘urgently’ needed, as the Coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated domestic abuse across England.
What will the Bill do
The flagship Bill aims to improve the national response to domestic abuse across housing, health, social care and the court’s system to better tackle and prevent abuse. A new statutory definition of domestic abuse that doesn’t just consider physical abuse, but also emotional, coercive or controlling and economic abuse will be introduced.
More duties will be placed on English local authorities to provide support for domestic abuse survivors and their children in refuges and alternative safe housing.
Survivors of domestic abuse, including children, will be placed at the centre of the Bill as campaigners and MPs call for the new law to place the onus on perpetrators to stop the abuse.
The Bill is currently being ping-ponged between the two houses of parliament, disputing and agreeing on amendments to ensure the Bill is fit for purpose.
Anger at recent amendment shutdowns
The latest set of amendments have stirred anger towards the government as Tory MPs voted down the amendment, tabled by Labour peer Lady Royall, to add stalkers and domestic abusers to a register similarly modelled after the sex-offenders register.
Simultaneously MPs voted against House of Lords-supported amendments that would have given family court judges training on sexual abuse and provided securer protection to migrant victims of domestic abuse.
Rejection of the measures is salt to the wound for many campaigners and MPs as Home secretary, Priti Patel alluded to the government supporting them in the wake of Sarah Everard’s death last month, telling the House of Commons:
“There is something about perpetrators and their serial offending that has to be addressed. There is no question about that at all…I will be very candid: we will look at all measures”.
The amendment to add serial stalkers and domestic abusers to a national register was defeated 351 to 227. All but two Conservative MPs voted against it.
Campaigners and MPs anger
Shadow domestic abuse minister, and MP for Birmingham Yardley, Jess Phillips said the decision against the amendments highlighted the government’s commitment to “working with a clearly broken system that leaves violent criminals without management and has already left many women for dead”.
Lucy Hadley, the head of policy and campaigns at Women’s Aid, said the government’s rejection of amendments to give migrant women equal protection was “deeply disappointing”.
“All survivors must have the right to seek help and live a life free from abuse regardless of their immigration status.
She continued, “This law has been deemed a once-in-a-generation opportunity to protect all survivors, but there is much more to do.”
More amendments to come
Despite the government shutdowns, the landmark bill has included measures that will ban alleged domestic abusers from cross-examining their former partner in family court, introduced misogyny as a hate crime and outlawed revenge porn threats.
The bill has been batted back up to the House of Lords, where they will consider the Commons considerations on the 21st April 2021.