Perpetrators of domestic abuse will no longer be able to cross-examine their former partners in the family courts under a comprehensive set of new legal reforms tabled by the government, designed to tackle the issue. The new set of measures will also create a legal definition of domestic abuse, which will include economic abuse and controlling behaviour.
The bill to be considered by MPs will also:
- Create new powers to force domestic abuse perpetrators into behaviour-changing rehabilitation programmes
- Make domestic abuse victims automatically eligible for special protections when they giving evidence in criminal trials
- Set up a national “domestic abuse commissioner” tasked with improving the response and support for victims across public services, e.g. NHS and social services
The government’s proposed developments have been widely praised by campaigners, despite being delivered 18 months beyond their original deadline, with the news coming swiftly after Whitehall mandarins’ estimate that cost of domestic abuse in 2016/17 was some £66bn – more than the amount caused by alcohol and drug misuse, cigarettes and obesity combined.
Sarah Green, co-director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, said: “The ambition and determination in the government’s announcement of the new bill is very welcome, given the devastation this abuse causes. However, if law, policy and spending really are to be radically changed in this area, it is absolutely critical that there is clear recognition that domestic violence very disproportionately affects women. This is not to say that men are not also sometimes victimised, but women’s inequality is part of what drives some men’s sense that they are entitled to bully and control in their relationships.”
According to the Office of National Statistics, in the year to March 2018, it is estimated that there were some 2,000,000 domestic abuse victims, with one in three victims being male. However, for every 100 recorded domestic abuse crimes, there were only 38 arrests, resulting in less than 90,000 cases being prosecuted. Of the prosecutions that fail, 1 in 8 do so as a result of the domestic abuse victim changing their mind about giving evidence against their abuser.
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