Domestic Abuse Bill to become law, recognising children as victims for the first time

The Domestic Abuse Bill receives Royal Assent after peers decided against including a clause regarding the monitoring and management of serial domestic abuse and stalking perpetrators.

29/04/21

Domestic Abuse Bill to become law, recognising children as victims for the first time

The Domestic Abuse Bill is set to become law after receiving Royal Assent today (Thursday 29 April).

As a result of the Bill, children in homes where domestic abuse takes place will be recognised as victims rather than as witnesses.

Domestic Abuse Commissioner, Nicole Jacobs, said the passage was an historic moment for victims and survivors of domestic abuse.

“Legislation won’t transform things overnight and we know there is more to do, so and I will work with partners to advocate for further changes.”

The Bill, which takes effect in England and Wales, also places a duty on local authorities to provide support to victims of domestic abuse in refuges and support accommodation.

The British Association of Social Workers (BASW) and other campaigners had called on the Government to ensure community-based support services are be included within the bill.

Campaigners warned at the time that by only providing support to those in refuges and similar accommodation, the bill would create a ‘two-tier system’, with most victims who remain in the family home not qualifying for this protection, and potentially not receiving the support they need as a result. However, the amendment was not made.

Police will also be given new powers including Domestic Abuse Protection Notices providing victims with immediate protection from abusers, while courts will be able to hand out new Domestic Abuse Protection Orders to help prevent offending by forcing perpetrators to take steps to change their behaviour, including seeking mental health support or drug and alcohol rehabilitation.

The House of Lords approved the bill after peers withdrew a clause which would require stalkers to be put on a register of sexual and violent offenders.

Peers had argued that the violent and sex offender register (Visor) should cover the identification, monitoring and management of serial domestic abuse and stalking perpetrators, however the Home Office said it would strengthen Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA) guidance and committed to coming up with an alternate strategy for this within one year of the Bill’s passing.

A spokesperson for the Home Office said victims of domestic abuse and stalking deserves to have the “abhorrent crimes” taken seriously, adding that the Home Office agrees that high-harm domestic abuse perpetrators need to be effectively monitored and supervised so victims are protected.

“We have committed to strengthening the MAPPA Statutory Guidance to include sections on domestic abuse and stalking to ensure that all agencies involved take steps to identify domestic abuse perpetrators whose risk requires further management and monitoring.”

Conservative Peer Baroness Williams of Trafford, who sponsored the Bill, said the law would make a difference "to the lives of so many women and children".

The Bill was subject to a number of amendments in its passage through Parliament, including proposals which would strengthen legislation around controlling or coercive behaviour (CCB) – no longer making it a requirement for abusers and victims to live together.

There were efforts by Lords to ensure all child contact centres were accredited by the local authority, however despite defeating the Government multiple times over the issue, peers ultimately withdrew the amendment to ensure the Bill passed.

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff, the crossbench Peer who proposed the amendment, said she was disappointed the amendment was not included, but that she did not want to “jeopardise” the Bill.

Farah Nazeer, Chief Executive of Women’s Aid Federation of England, welcomed the passing of the Bill, but warned there were still “significant gaps”.

“The Domestic Abuse Bill has been long-awaited, and could not be more needed, following the impact of the pandemic on survivors and our national network of domestic abuse services.”

“We continue to urge for the law to address the significant gaps it leaves and protect every survivor, ensuring that all women and children are able to access support regardless of immigration status, and for us to see guaranteed long-term funding for specialist women’s domestic abuse services, including refuge services around the country that are saving lives every day.”

To get support or find resources to help with domestic abuse, visit: www.womensaid.org.uk

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