With everything going on in parliament recently, the second reading of the domestic abuse bill on Wednesday 2 October received little attention.
Attempts to improve the laws relating to domestic abuse have suffered numerous setbacks in recent years, with proposed changes in legislation made and then subsequently abandoned
The domestic abuse bill was finally introduced to parliament in July this year and will now proceed to the committee stage where detailed examination of the bill takes place.
The landmark new law will define domestic abuse in law for the first time and also contains a number of critical legal protections. Perhaps the most important among those is the ban on abusers directly cross-examining victims in the family courts, where decisions on child arrangements, divorce and financial orders are made.
The Nineteen Child Homicides report tells the stories of the cases of nineteen children who were intentionally killed by a parent who was also a perpetrator of domestic abuse. The report highlighted a survey, in 2015, showing that 25% of domestic abuse survivors, who had been through the family courts, had been cross-examined by their former partner/abuser during family court proceedings. Women’s Aid, amongst others, have been campaigning for change for years and have emphasised that in allowing a perpetrator of domestic abuse ‘who is controlling, bullying and intimidating to question their victim when in the family court regarding child arrangement orders (for example) is a clear disregard for the impact of domestic abuse, and offers perpetrators of abuse another opportunity to wield power and control’.
The new measures, although only a start, will make a real difference to the lives of victims of domestic abuse. Current statistics indicate that one in four women and one in six men will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime. Tragically, on average two women are killed every week by a current or former partner. Last year, the Crime Survey for England & Wales found two million people suffered from domestic abuse with women four times more likely to be victims as men.
This long overdue and much-needed legislation is critical to tackling domestic abuse and has been largely welcomed by prominent charities and campaigners.
Incidents of domestic abuse, especially ongoing abuse, require urgent, emergency steps to provide protection from harm. If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247.
Our team can also help you arrange protection against violence through the family court by seeking a non-molestation order and/or occupation order to ensure that the violent partner or family member is restricted from coming near your home. We also work closely with our local Citizens Advice who can direct you to other support services.
At Neale Turk LLP our family law team has a wide range of experience in family law and relationship issues and can efficiently guide you through all areas of family difficulties, including complex maintenance issues. We are members of Resolution, an organisation of 6,500 family lawyers and other professionals in England and Wales, who subscribe to a Code of Practice which is geared towards encouraging a constructive and non-confrontational approach in all family matters.
Please feel free to contact us for a free initial appointment.