Parliament are in the report stage of a new Domestic Abuse Bill

Parliament are in the report stage of a new Domestic Abuse Bill. This new Bill, described as an ‘over-haul of past precedent’, will give the family courts greater scope to offer protection to victims of domestic abuse.

The new Bill will, in certain circumstances, prohibit the alleged perpetrator from cross-examining the victim in person in order to stop victims re-living their trauma. Victims will be entitled to separate courtroom entrances, waiting rooms and protective screens. These new formalities have been introduced to protect vulnerable witnesses from their alleged abuser.

The Bill was introduced after a government review led by experts from academia, the legal profession, charities and the judiciary. Concerns were raised about the family courts being too quick to ensure contact between children and the non-resident parent who had committed domestic violence, resulting in the minimisation of that violence and where that “pro-contact” culture has, sadly, led to the death of 4 children in the last 5 years.

The reforms that the new Bill proposes include:

  • Providing a statutory definition of domestic abuse to include coercive control and economic abuse;
  • Establishing a Domestic Abuse Commissioner;
  • Giving more powers to judges in the form of "barring orders" to prevent abusers repeatedly dragging ex-partners back to court and re-traumatising victims;
  • Prohibiting perpetrators of abuse from cross-examining their victims in person in the family courts in England and Wales;
  • Creating a statutory presumption that victims of domestic abuse are eligible for special measures in the criminal courts (for example, to enable them to give evidence via a video link);
  • A review of the presumption of "parental involvement" and the balance between risk of harm to children and victims, and the right of the child to have a relationship with both parents;
  • A commitment to improved training for professionals in the family justice system.

The date for the report stage of the bill to take place is yet to be announced but is expected to make its way through Parliament in the near future.