Three Key Points Of The Domestic Abuse Act 2021
Three Key Points Of The Domestic Abuse Act 2021
If you or your children are in immediate danger, please call 999 and ask for the police. You can also call the 24-Hour National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247.
The long-awaited Domestic Abuse Bill received Royal Assent at the end of April 2021. For the first time in the history of English law, domestic abuse has a statutory definition and children who see, hear or witness the effects of domestic abuse are now classed as victims in their own right.
Commenting on the Bill becoming law, Farah Nazeer, Chief Executive of Women’s Aid Federation of England, said:
“The Domestic Abuse Bill has been long-awaited, and could not be more needed, following the impact of the pandemic on survivors and our national network of domestic abuse services.
Thanks to the bravery of survivors in campaigning for change, we now have an act that will strengthen protection in the family courts, improve housing law in cases of domestic abuse, and require councils to fund support in safe accommodation.
We continue to urge for the law to address the significant gaps it leaves and protect every survivor, ensuring that all women and children are able to access support regardless of immigration status, and for us to see guaranteed long-term funding for specialist women’s domestic abuse services, including refuge services around the country that are saving lives every day.”
In this article, we will examine the top three key points in the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 (the Act) and how they protect victims and their families.
One – Abusers will be prohibited from cross-examining victims in family proceedings
The Act amends the Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984 so that anyone convicted of, given a caution for, or charged with a domestic abuse offence is prohibited from cross-examining in person a witness who is the victim or alleged victim of the abuse, and vice versa. This change will ensure that victims do not have to face intimidation or personal questions from someone who has physically, mentally, emotionally, sexually, or economically abused them.
The importance of this change cannot be overstated. In 2018, the charity Women’s Aid, in association with Queen Mary University London published a report on how the Family Court related to and supported victims of domestic abuse. The findings revealed a:
“…horrifying and deep-seated discrimination against women and mothers. In the worst cases, this discrimination allows perpetrators to continue their abuse…”
Regarding being cross-examined by her abuser, one interviewee told the charity:
‘It was horrible, I mean it was the worst thing I’ve ever had to do in my life, I mean the cross-examination was just disgusting, and you know, the judge twice stepped in and stopped him. The questions were about my sex life and previous boyfriends and who was going in my house, and it was ridiculous.’
Under the Act, if alternatives to cross-examination are not suitable, the Court can appoint a Solicitor to cross-examine the victim on the perpetrator’s behalf.
Further protection from intimidation will be provided in the form of victims having access to special measures; for example, being able to give evidence via video link or behind protective screens.
Two – The Courts and the police will have greater powers to fight domestic abuse and protect victims
The Act provides the police and the Courts with greater power to immediately protect victims of domestic abuse. Police can issue Domestic Abuse Protection Notices (DAPN) which can provide immediate safety measures; for example, the DAPN can state the perpetrator must leave the victim’s home for up to 48 hours.
Upon application, the Courts can make a Domestic Abuse Protection Order (DAPO). Breach of a DAPO is a criminal offence, carrying a maximum penalty of up to five years’ imprisonment, or a fine, or both. To help the Courts monitor DAPO compliance, they can order the perpetrator to wear an electronic tag. Furthermore, as part of the DAPO conditions, the Court can demand that the perpetrator seek mental health or drug and alcohol abuse support.
Three – Local authorities to give victims housing priority
Local authorities have a duty under the Act to give people who have been made homeless due to domestic abuse priority when it comes to housing. Councils in England will also have a legal duty to provide life-saving support such as therapy, advocacy, and counselling in safe accommodation to victims of abuse.
The Domestic Abuse Act 2021 provides for many other changes, for example:
- Non-fatal strangulation is now an offence.
- The offence of ‘revenge porn’ has been extended.
- Controlling and coercive behaviour has been broadened to cover post-separation abuse.
- A definition of economic abuse has been provided.
- An Office of the Domestic Abuse Commissioner has been established.
Our Family Law Solicitors can advise you on all aspects of domestic abuse and explain your rights under the new Act. Please call us on 02476 231000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Further help and support are available from the below organisations.
National Centre for Domestic Violence (NCDV) – 0800 970 20 70
Refuge – 0808 2000 247 (24 hours)
Women’s Aid 0808 200 0247 (24 hours)
ManKind – 01823 334 244