The general election held at the end of 2019 meant that progress on the Domestic Abuse Bill stalled, but the government have announced that it is being reintroduced to parliament imminently.
In their official announcement, the government said they had “…set out an enhanced version of the landmark Domestic Abuse Bill to Parliament, which will go even further to support and protect victims and punish perpetrators.”
Progress So Far
The Bill was first proposed as part of the 2017 Conservative manifesto and was introduced in draft format at the start of 2019. Last year was dominated by Brexit, meaning that the first reading of the Domestic Abuse Bill did not happen until July. A second reading was held in the autumn, but the general election meant that this was not debated any further.
The formation of a new parliament now means that the Bill will have to go through the various stages again, with a first reading expected to happen soon. It will give new MPs a chance to discuss the contents of the Bill, as well as looking at some of the new additions since its last reading.
The latest version of the Bill includes the legal duty placed on local authorities to fund refuge services in their area, whilst also strengthening a previous pledge to ban abusers from cross-examining their victims in the family courts. This will now apply to all family proceedings where there is evidence of domestic abuse.
Addressing the issue of refuge funding will hopefully provide long-term security for these services, ensuring they are accessible to everyone regardless of the area they live in. We discussed the importance of this in our recent blog post looking at the current lack of refuge provisions.
Prohibiting cross-examination where there is evidence of domestic abuse will enable victims to have their voice heard in the family courts without being intimidated by a perpetrator of abuse.
Work to Be Done
There are still a few things that we hope to see included to the Bill as it progresses through parliament. In its current form, it lacks provisions to support children and does not recognise the impact that domestic abuse has on them in the short and long term. Services for children and young people must receive funding.
Community-based projects and programmes provide valuable support to many people and these also require funding to continue to do this essential work.
We will continue to share our thoughts on the Bill and campaign alongside national organisations, such as Women’s Aid, to ensure that the Bill supports everyone.
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