Government publishes landmark domestic abuse bill

Published 21 January 2019

The government has unveiled the most comprehensive package ever to tackle domestic abuse.

The landmark draft Domestic Abuse Bill has been published today (Monday 21 January), aimed at supporting victims and their families and pursuing offenders. It comes as it is revealed domestic abuse issues cost the country £66 billion a year. To help tackle the crime, new legislation will:

  • introduce the first ever statutory government definition of domestic abuse to specifically include economic abuse and controlling and manipulative non-physical abuse - this will enable everyone, including victims themselves, to understand what constitutes abuse and will encourage more victims to come forward

  • establish a Domestic Abuse Commissioner to drive the response to domestic abuse issues

  • introduce new Domestic Abuse Protection Notices and Domestic Abuse Protection Orders to further protect victims and place restrictions on the actions of offenders

  • prohibit the cross-examination of victims by their abusers in the family courts

  • provide automatic eligibility for special measures to support more victims to give evidence in the criminal courts

The Home Office has published a report into the economic and social cost of domestic abuse, which reveals the crime cost England and Wales £66 billion in 2016 to 2017. According to the research, the vast majority of this cost (£47 billion) was a result of the physical and emotional harm of domestic abuse, however it also includes other factors such as cost to health services (£2.3 billion), police (£1.3 billion) and victim services (£724 million).

Minister for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability, Victoria Atkins said:

“I have heard absolutely heartbreaking accounts of victims whose lives have been ripped apart because of physical, emotional or economic abuse they have suffered by someone close to them.

“The draft Domestic Abuse Bill recognises the complex nature of these horrific crimes and puts the needs of victims and their families at the forefront.

“This government is absolutely committed to shining a light on domestic abuse to ensure this hidden crime does not remain in the shadows.”

It is estimated that around two million adults experience domestic abuse each year, affecting almost 6% of all adults. Women are twice as likely to be victims than men. The draft bill will introduce measures:

  • to address coercive control and economic abuse, and how domestic abuse affects children

  • to transform the response in the justice system

The bill will also ban the distressing practice of domestic abuse victims being cross-examined by perpetrators in the family courts.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid said:

“Domestic abuse shatters lives and tears families apart. It can happen anywhere, to anyone.

“Protecting victims, as well as supporting survivors, is at the heart of our strengthened response to this horrific crime.

“Our draft Domestic Abuse Bill and wider package of measures, unveiled today, will bolster the protection for victims and will help expose and bring the vile abusers to justice.”

Justice Secretary David Gauke said:

“Domestic abuse destroys lives and warrants some of the strongest measures at our disposal to deter offenders and protect victims.

“That is why we are barring abusers from cross-examining their victims in the family courts - a practice which can cause immense distress and amount to a continuation of abuse - and giving courts greater powers, including new protection orders, to tackle this hideous crime.

“By pursuing every option available, to better support victims and bring more offenders to justice, we are driving the change necessary to ensure families never have to endure the pain of domestic abuse in silence.”

Between the draft bill and its consultation response, the government is making 120 commitments to tackle domestic abuse. Amongst these are a series of non-legislative measures which include:

  • £8 million of Home Office funding to support children affected by domestic abuse

  • a new crisis support system for those with no recourse to public funds

  • additional funding and capacity building for services for disabled, elderly and LGTB victims

  • updated support, training and guidance on economic abuse

  • new and additional training for job centre work coaches, police, social workers and probation staff to help them recognise and effectively tackle abuse

  • improved support for victims in the family court

  • additional £500,000 funding for provisions for male victims

Reporting concerns

If you have a concern about someone you know, or someone you are in a relationship with you should contact your police force on 101. You should always dial 999 in an emergency.

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