…A unified approach to tackling domestic abuse?
The Domestic Abuse Bill 2019-2021 was originally introduced in July 2019 but was postponed before the general election. The bill has now been reintroduced to parliament as a result of the surge in domestic violence cases during the coronavirus pandemic and current lockdown. It seems the pandemic and the terrible impact on domestic violence cases has had the effect of forcing this important issue to the fore.
The first reading in parliament was on 3 March 2020 and its second reading and debate took place on 28 April 2020. The next stage is for the committee to scrutinise and debate the Bill and we are awaiting that date to be announced.
One of the most important points to note is that the Bill gives a wide definition of domestic abuse, the first time that a government has done that, and this definition includes physical or sexual abuse, violent or threatening behaviour, controlling or coercive behaviour, economic abuse and psychological and emotional abuse.
Domestic Abuse Protection Notices
The Bill, if passed, will introduce Domestic Abuse Protection Notices. These notices can be given by a senior police officer to a perpetrator of domestic abuse if the officer has reasonable grounds for believing that they have been abusive to a person over 16 with whom they are ‘personally connected’. ‘Personally connected’ is also defined within the Bill and includes people who are or have been married or in a civil partnership, been in an intimate relationship or have a parental relationship to the same child.
The police officer must also have reasonable grounds for believing that it is necessary to give the Notice to protect the victim. If an officer has reasonable grounds for believing that the perpetrator is in breach of the Notice then they may arrest them without warrant.
Domestic Abuse Protection Order
Once a notice has been issued, an application for a Domestic Abuse Protection Order must be made to the magistrates court within 48 hours by the Chief of Police. If anyone else is applying for the order then they must make that application to the family court. The family court also has the power to make an order within ongoing family proceedings without the need for an application. This very much mirrors the current position with ‘Non-Molestation Orders’ and ‘Occupation Orders’ under the Family Law Act 1996.
Within the order, the court may impose any requirements they think are necessary to protect the person requiring protection. A new element introduced in the Bill is that the perpetrator may be required under the Domestic Abuse Protection Order to submit to electronic monitoring in England and Wales in order to track their compliance with all the requirements stated within the order.
Clients frequently feel frustrated by the lack of powers the police have in dealing with domestic abuse, but if passed, this bill will be a big step in the right direction in tackling it with a unified approach between the police, criminal courts and family courts.
Domestic abuse is against the law, if you require advice on any issues relating to this please contact our Family Team on 01733 882800 or email [email protected].
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