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Domestic Abuse Bill gets first reading again


Domestic Abuse Bill 2020, First Reading, EVAW Coalition, children's rights, migrants women, Istanbul ConventionFurther improvements must be made in order to address the needs of all survivors.

This week saw the return of a Domestic Abuse Bill to Parliament for its First Reading. It failed to complete its legislative passage when the General Election was called late last year.

A series of factsheets published by the government, and available to view here, contain details of the measures in what is now the ‘Domestic Abuse Bill 2020’ and explain why they are needed and what impact they will have.

The Bill retains commitments which include:

a statutory definition of domestic abuse, which will recognise economic abuse;

the creation of a new Domestic Abuse Commissioner role;

a new Domestic Abuse Protection Notice and Domestic Abuse Protection Order which could prohibit contact with the victim or force a perpetrator into alcohol or drug treatment programmes and that the government will fund the police costs of applying for these orders;

the extension of the extraterritorial jurisdiction of criminal courts in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to further violent and sexual offences;

a statutory presumption that victims of domestic abuse are eligible for special measures in the criminal courts;

putting the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme, more widely known as ‘Clare’s law‘, on a statutory footing; and

ensuring secure lifetime tenancies are offered to some social housing tenants.

Some new measures have also been added to the Bill since its 2019 reading:

perpetrators of abuse are to be prohibited from cross-examining their victims in person in the family courts in England and Wales; and

a new duty on local authorities in England will be created to provide accommodation based support to victims of domestic abuse and their children.

In addition, the government have said they will “look at what more can done to stop the so-called ‘rough sex’ defence being used in court by perpetrators”.

And the government has, it seems, begun a review into what support can be provided to migrant victims of domestic abuse.

Commenting on this version of this Bill, the Head of Public Affairs at the End Violence Against Women Coalition, (EVAW), Andrea Simon, said: “Whilst we are glad to see the Domestic Abuse Bill back before Parliament, and acknowledge that it contains some important measures, we are disappointed that the disproportionate impact on women and girls is not recognised on the face of the Bill, and the issue of support and safe reporting for migrant women remains neglected.

“It also lacks specific measures to ensure children can access essential support, and any commitment to ring-fenced funding for specialist services run ‘by and for’ BME women.

“Women’s organisations and survivors of domestic abuse,” she continued, “have presented a huge amount of evidence already to the government on what needs to be done to address the barriers to accessing refuge and other specialist support faced by women, whose insecure immigration status means they have no recourse to public funds.

“This includes ensuring all migrant women experiencing abuse have access to the Destitute and Domestic Violence Concession, which is currently limited to women with spousal visas, and can regularise their immigration status independent of their perpetrator.

“A Joint Committee of MPs and Peers carried out pre-legislative scrutiny of the bill in the last parliamentary session, and supported calls by the Step Up Migrant Women Coalition to end the practise of police sharing details of women reporting abuse with the Home Office; it also urged a new statutory definition which recognised that perpetrators use insecure immigration status as a form of coercive control; and it recommended the strengthening of protection against discrimination through a duty on public authorities to provide equal protection and support to all victims of domestic abuse, regardless of immigration status.

“If the government’s intention is to use the Bill to ratify the Istanbul Convention, which is clear that protection and support should be provided regardless of immigration status, there must be further improvements made, or it will remain a ‘missed opportunity’ to address the needs of all survivors.”

If you need information about or support because of domestic abuse, please click here.

In an emergency, or if you feel threatened, phone 999 and ask for the police.

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