Thank you for contacting me about the Domestic Abuse Bill and domestic and sexual violence more generally.
I very much welcome the progress of the Domestic Abuse Bill in Parliament. The Bill will create a legal definition of domestic abuse to provide clarity that domestic abuse can be financial, verbal and emotional as well as physical and sexual and that critically it is about patterns of abuse over time. As part of this definition, children will be explicitly recognised as victims if they witness abuse. It is good news that the controlling or coercive behaviour offence will be extended to include abuse where perpetrators and victims no longer live together. This change follows a review which highlighted that those who leave abusive ex-partners can often be subjected to sustained or increased controlling or coercive behaviour post-separation.
Measures in the Bill also include the introduction of new Domestic Abuse Protection Notices and Domestic Abuse Protection Orders to further protect victims and place restrictions on the actions of offenders. I particularly welcome the fact that the Bill will invalidate any courtroom defence of consent where a victim suffers serious harm or is killed.
A Domestic Abuse Commissioner has also been appointed 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.
I note the Government has continued to take action to combat these abhorrent crimes by significantly strengthening our laws and introducing new tools to protect victims. This includes the criminalisation of forced marriage, new stalking offences, an offence for failing to protect a girl from Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), lifelong anonymity for victims of forced marriage and FGM, a mandatory reporting duty on FGM, the national roll-out of the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (also known as ‘Clare’s Law’), making Domestic Homicide Reviews mandatory and a new offence of domestic abuse covering controlling and coercive behaviour.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me about this very important Bill and issue.
Sally-Ann Hart MP