The Act, for the first time, provides a legal definition of domestic abuse. It also provides a number of protections to the millions of people who experience abuse.
The Act states that domestic abuse is:
- Behaviour of a person (“A”) towards another person (“B”) is “domestic abuse” if;
- A and B are each aged 16 or over and are personally connected to each other, and
- the behaviour is abusive.
- Behaviour is “abusive” if it consists of any of the following;
- physical or sexual abuse;
- violent or threatening behaviour;
- controlling or coercive behaviour;
- economic abuse (see subsection (4));
- psychological, emotional or other abuse;
and it does not matter whether the behaviour consists of a single incident or a course of conduct.
Some monumental measures include that abusers will no longer be allowed to directly cross-examine their victims in the family and civil courts and the extension of the offence of threatening to disclose intimate images.
The Act also provides the new offence, as discussed in a previous podcast, of Non-fatal strangulation.
Other measures include:
- Victims will have better access to special measures in the courtroom to help prevent intimidation – such as protective screens and giving evidence via video link.
- new police powers, including Domestic Abuse Protection Notices
- extending the controlling or coercive behaviour offence to cover post-separation abuse
- explicitly recognise children as victims if they see, hear or experience the effects of abuse
- establish in law the office of Domestic Abuse Commissioner and set out the Commissioner’s functions and powers
- placing a duty on local authorities in England to provide support to victims of domestic abuse and their children in refuges and other safe accommodation
- provide that all eligible homeless victims of domestic abuse automatically have ‘priority need’ for homelessness assistance
- place the guidance supporting the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (“Clare’s law”) on a statutory footing