Domestic abuse can affect anyone, it is cruel and can leave survivors with physical and emotional scars. The Crime Survey estimated that 2.3 million adults aged between 16 to 74 experienced domestic abuse in England and Wales in 2019 – 2020.
The Domestic Abuse Act 2021 (“the Act”) was passed by Parliament on 29th April 2021. Last month, there was statutory guidance released regarding the Act, which can be found here https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1089015/Domestic_Abuse_Act_2021_Statutory_Guidance.pdf.
The guidance discusses several key objectives of the Act, which includes promoting awareness, protecting, and supporting victims, and transforming the justice response.
There is now a statutory definition of domestic abuse. The definition reflects the complex nature of domestic abuse and recognises abuse beyond physical violence, including emotional, economic, and controlling or coercive abuse.
The Act provides that perpetrators behaviour can be “towards” the victim even if it consists of conduct directed at another, including a family member, friend, or colleague. Children are now also recognised as victims in their own right. Children will be considered victims if they have seen, heard, or experienced the effects of abuse, and are related to either the victim or the perpetrator.
Protecting and supporting victims
The Act has placed a duty on local authorities to provide support to victims of domestic abuse. This support includes providing refuges or other safe accommodation. Local authorities will also have a duty to ensure that those fleeing abuse do not lose a right to lifetime or assured tenancies.
Transforming the justice response
To avoid unnecessary trauma, the Act has reformed family court proceedings to ensure that victims are not cross-examined by perpetrators.
Furthermore, a new pilot scheme has been launched in the family courts in North Wales and Dorset which aims to improve sharing information between different public agencies to spare survivors of abuse having to unnecessarily repeat their experiences in the courtroom. It is hoped that this will also reduce conflict within the courtroom.
If you seek further information about the issues raised above, please contact our offices on 029020 197203.
If you are experiencing domestic abuse, contact the Live Fear Free Helpline on 080880 10800.
If you fear for your safety, contact the emergency services immediately.