Domestic Abuse Bill Receives Royal Assent
7 May 2021 by Joel Tyson
On the 29th April 2021, a new landmark bill focusing on domestic abuse received Royal Assent, meaning it has now been signed into law. The Domestic Abuse Act aims to provide greater protection to victims of domestic abuse and to reinforce existing measures to tackle perpetrators.
What is the Domestic Abuse Act?
One of the most notable features of this legislation is that it provides a legal definition of domestic abuse. This incorporates a range of abuses beyond physical violence, such as emotional, coercive or controlling behaviour, and economic abuse. Moreover, the Act explicitly recognises children as victims if they see, hear or experience the effects of abuse.
Another key element of this legislation is new protections and support for victims to ensure that they are not directly questioned by their alleged abuser in family and civil courts. Victims will also have better access to special measures throughout court proceedings to help prevent intimidation. This includes protective screens and allowing victims to give evidence via video link.
The police have also been granted new powers under the Act which allow them to issue Domestic Abuse Protection Notices, the purpose of which is to protect victims from their abusers with immediate effect. The courts will also be granted new powers to issue Domestic Abuse Protection Orders which compel perpetrators of domestic violence to change their behaviour through mental health support and drug and alcohol rehabilitation.
The Act further aims to clamp down on rough or violent sexual acts and behaviour which result in death or serious injury. This includes offences such as ‘non-fatal strangulation’ and threats to disclose intimate images. The Act also removes consent as a defence to serious harm for sexual gratification.
Other measures which are implemented by the Act include;
- Extending the controlling or coercive behaviour offence to cover post-separation abuse;
- Establishing in law the office of Domestic Abuse Commissioner and setting out the Commissioner’s functions and powers;
- Placing a duty on local authorities in England 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; and
- Place the guidance supporting the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (“Clare’s law”) on a statutory footing.
In summary, the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 is a landmark piece of legislation that many campaigners, charities and individuals have worked incredibly hard to make as robust as possible to clamp down on domestic abuse. Although legislation won’t alter things overnight and there is still work to be done, it is nonetheless a step in the right direction for tackling domestic abuse.
A full copy of the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 which brings into force these changes can be found here. Further guidance on these amendments is expected to be published in due course.