Domestic Abuse Factsheet

The Domestic Abuse Bill passed both Houses of Parliament and was signed into law on 29 April 2021. Here you can read about the new Act and how it will help victims of domestic abuse.

The Domestic Abuse Bill passed both Houses of Parliament and was signed into law on 29 April 2021. The following is information provided by the Home Office in their Domestic Abuse Act: Factsheet

What will the Domestic Abuse Act do?

The Domestic Abuse Act is set to provide further protections to the millions of people who experience domestic abuse, as well as strengthen measures to tackle perpetrators.

Detailed factsheets on each new measure are available on gov.uk

How will the Act help victims?

The Domestic Abuse Act will:

  • create a statutory definition of domestic abuse, emphasising that domestic abuse is not just physical violence, but can also be emotional, coercive or controlling, and economic abuse. As part of this definition, children will be explicitly recognised as victims if they see, hear or otherwise experience the effects of  abuse;
  • create a new offence of non-fatal strangulation;
  • extending the controlling or coercive behaviour offence to cover post-separation abuse;
  • extend the ‘revenge porn’ offence to cover the threat to disclose intimate images with the intention to cause distress;
  • clarify the law to further deter claims of “rough sex gone wrong” in cases involving death or serious injury;
  • create a statutory presumption that victims of domestic abuse are eligible for special measures in the criminal, civil and family courts (for example, to enable them to give evidence via a video link);
  • establish in law the Domestic Abuse Commissioner, to stand up for victims and survivors, raise public awareness, monitor the response of local authorities, the justice system and other statutory agencies and hold them to account in tackling domestic abuse;
  • place 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;
  • place the guidance supporting the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (“Clare’s law”) on a statutory footing;
  • ensure that when local authorities rehouse victims of domestic abuse, they do not lose a secure lifetime or assured tenancy;
  • provide that all eligible homeless victims of domestic abuse automatically have ‘priority need’ for homelessness assistance;
  • stop vexatious family proceedings that can further traumatise victims by clarifying the circumstances in which a court may make a barring order under section 91(14) of the Children Act 1989;
  • prohibit GPs and other health professionals from charging a victim of domestic abuse for a letter to support an application for legal aid.

How will the Act strengthen measures to tackle perpetrators?

The Domestic Abuse Act will:

  • prohibit perpetrators of abuse from cross-examining their victims in person in family and civil courts in England and Wales;
  • bring the case of R vs Brown into legislation, invalidating any courtroom defence of consent where a victim suffers serious harm or is killed;
  • enable domestic abuse offenders to be subject to polygraph testing as a condition of their licence following their release from custody;
  • extend the extraterritorial jurisdiction of the criminal courts in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to further violent and sexual offences;
  • provide for a new Domestic Abuse Protection Notice and Domestic Abuse Protection Order, which will prevent perpetrators from contacting their victims, as well as force them to take positive steps to change their behaviour, e.g. seeking mental health support;
  • Extend the extraterritorial jurisdiction of the criminal courts in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to further violent and sexual offences;
  • Introduce a statutory duty on the Secretary of State to publish a domestic abuse perpetrator strategy (to be published as part of a holistic domestic abuse strategy).

When does the Act come into force?

The Act is now law and will begin to be implemented across criminal justice systems and agencies later this year.

The provision restating in statute law the general proposition that a person may not consent to the infliction of serious harm and, by extension, is unable to consent to their own death comes into force on Royal Assent.

The extension of the extraterritorial jurisdiction of the criminal courts in England and Wales comes into force two months after Royal Assent.

Will these measures apply across the United Kingdom?

The majority of the provisions in the Act apply to England and Wales, or England, only.

The provisions in the Act relate to devolved matters in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

At the request of the Scottish Government and the Department of Justice in Northern Ireland, the Act includes analogous provisions for Scotland and Northern Ireland extending the extraterritorial jurisdiction of the criminal courts.

Why was the management of perpetrators amendment rejected?

Any victim of domestic abuse and stalking deserves to have these abhorrent crimes taken seriously, and we agree that high-harm domestic abuse perpetrators need to be effectively monitored and supervised so victims are protected. This is why serial and high harm domestic abuse offenders are already eligible for management under Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA).

The Lords Amendment and its proponents was not calling for a ‘stalking/perpetrator register’. What they were seeking is for serial abusers and stalkers to be effectively managed under MAPPA. That will be achieved through the existing framework.

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.

Further information on the government’s position on the amendments can be found in the WMS here and Commons Consideration of the Lords Amendments here.

Why was the migrant victims amendment rejected?

Anyone who has suffered domestic abuse must be treated as a victim first and foremost, regardless of immigration status.

Migrant victims of domestic abuse who live here on a spousal visa receive help and support through the Destitute Domestic Violence Concession scheme. For those victims who are on other types of visa, such as student, visitor or work visas, or who are here illegally, and who are not eligible for existing support schemes such as the National Referral Mechanism, we have announced a pilot support scheme.

The Support for Migrant Victims Scheme will provide access to safe accommodation and specialist services for these victims, who have previously not been eligible for other support.

Following a robust commercial competition we have now announced that the £1.5million Support for Migrant Victims Scheme will be delivered by Southall Black Sisters, providing specialist support to migrant victims and building a solid evidence base for the help they need, in a sustainable programme for the future.

Further information on the government’s position on the amendments can be found in the WMS here and Commons Consideration of the Lords Amendments here.