Publication of Landmark Draft Domestic Abuse Bill

Today is the publication of the government’s Draft Domestic Abuse Bill, a landmark bill that would see the first statutory definition of domestic abuse, inclusive of economic and non-physical abuse. It is a flagship piece of legislation that will be a defining moment of Theresa May’s domestic agenda, with a cause that she has carried over from her tenure at the Home Office.

Almost two million people live with domestic abuse, and in 2016/17 95 people were killed by their partner or former partner. In an article for The Guardian in 2018, May said “I have heard many heart-rending stories, and I am determined to stop others suffering”.

The publication of the draft bill follows a two month long consultation period last year which sought to address the government’s approach to tackling domestic abuse from prevention to rehabilitation. It was launched by the Prime Minister on International Women’s Day, where she set out the ambition of “bringing an end to abhorrent and life-shattering domestic abuse” and that “we need nothing short of a complete change across the whole of society in the way we think about and tackle domestic abuse”.

Along with the statutory definition, the bill would bring an end to allowing the cross examination of domestic abuse victims by their alleged abusers in court.

Other key policies in the draft bill include:

  • Additional funding for disabled, elderly and LGBT+ victims
  • Potential victims will have a legal “right to ask” about their partners past by having greater access to the provisions within Claire’s Law.
  • New protection order to attend rehabilitation programmes if substance abuse was found to be a factor in their crime
  • The establishment of a Domestic Abuse Commissioner

On Pienaar’s Politics, Victoria Atkins, the Home Office and Womens Minister, said it was about “opening up a conversation nationally about what domestic abuse is and how we can tackle it” and “about changing attitudes and society”.

A draft bill of a similar nature has been prepared for Northern Ireland but its publication is indefinitely postponed during the collapse of power-sharing in Stormont.

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