Transforming the Response to Domestic Abuse: Consultation Response and Draft Bill
In February 2017, the Prime Minister announced plans for work to transform the way we think about and tackle domestic abuse, leading to the introduction of a new Domestic Abuse Bill. The commitment to introduce this bill was re-affirmed in the Queen’s Speech at the opening of Parliament in June 2017.
On International Women’s Day 8 March 2018 the government launched a nationwide consultation to seek views on how this transformation can be achieved. The consultation – Transforming the Response to Domestic Abuse – ran for 12 weeks and closed on 31 May. The aim of the consultation was to harness the knowledge and expertise of victims and survivors, as well as charities, specialist organisations, and experts across policing, criminal justice, health, welfare, education, social services, employment and local authorities who deal with the effects of domestic abuse every day. The consultation was launched in two versions, one with 65 questions, and a shorter version with 12 questions that were focused on the experience of victims.
The consultation received over 3,200 responses from across the UK. During the consultation period, a large number of events were held across England and Wales, engaging over 1,000 people including victims, charities, local authorities and professionals from other organisations. We want to extend our thanks to all those who shared their personal experiences through the consultation process and to all the organisations who hosted events and made sure as many victims voices were heard and amplified as possible. We have put these victim testimonies and experiences at the centre of our response.
The majority of those who responded to the consultation agreed with the proposals within it. The response also provided important insight into the lived experience of domestic abuse as well as useful examples of what can be effective in tackling it.
The response to the consultation identifies nine measures that require primary legislation to implement. These will now be taken forward in a draft Domestic Abuse Bill, which is annexed to this document (Annex D), together with the explanatory notes for the draft Bill (Annex E). These nine measures are:
- provide for a statutory definition of domestic abuse
- establish the office of Domestic Abuse Commissioner and set out the Commissioner’s functions and powers
- provide for a new Domestic Abuse Protection Notice and DAPO
- prohibit perpetrators of domestic and other forms of abuse from cross-examining their victims in person in the family courts (and prevent victims from having to cross-examine their abusers) and give the court discretion to prevent cross-examination in person where it would diminish the quality of the witness’s evidence or cause the witness significant distress
- create a statutory presumption that complainants of an offence involving behaviour that amounts to domestic abuse are eligible for special measures in the criminal courts
- enable domestic abuse offenders to be subject to polygraph testing as a condition of their licence following their release from custody
- place the guidance supporting the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme on a statutory footing
- ensure that, where a local authority, for reasons connected with domestic abuse, grants a new secure tenancy to a social tenant who had or has a secure lifetime or assured tenancy (other than an assured shorthold tenancy), this must be a secure lifetime tenancy
- extend the extra-territorial jurisdiction of the criminal courts in England and Wales to further violent and sexual offences
The draft Bill will now be subject to pre-legislative scrutiny by a joint committee of both Houses of Parliament.
We recognise that this issue cannot be addressed through legislation alone and therefore we have also proposed a package of measures to sit alongside the legislation. This programme of work includes a wide range of cross-government commitments which will be taken forward over the coming year.
Through the measures set out in both the draft Domestic Abuse Bill and the practical package of action outlined in this document, we seek to transform the government’s response to domestic abuse.