26 March, 2021
According to the Crime Survey for England and Wales, in the year ending March 2020, an estimated 5.5% of adults who were aged 16 to 74 years experienced domestic abuse in the last year. This number equates to 2.3 million people who were affected by domestic abuse in one year alone.
At the beginning of March, the Domestic Abuse Bill has received some amendments to further protect the victims of domestic abuse after recent review. There have been some very important changes to the bill including the introduction of making non-fatal strangulation a specific criminal offence, punishable by up to five years in prison. This comes after concerns that the perpetrators were often not being prosecuted successfully under Actual Bodily Harm as there is often no physical evidence on the victim. A further proposed amendment to the bill is the controlling or coercive behaviour offence is to be extended to include abuse where perpetrators and victims no longer live together. This change is due to a recent government review whereby they found that when the victim left the home to flee from the abuser, the perpetrator often increases their level of control or maintains the same level prior to the victim fleeing the property. The Serious Crime Act 2015 introduced controlling and coercive behaviour and has been very effective, each year there has been an increase in case. However, the Act did not provide any protection for victims when they no longer cohabited with the perpetrator. This amendment will provide that needed protection for the victims.
Moreover, the 'Revenge porn' offence is proposed to be widened to cover threats to share intimate images of a person if the perpetrator has intention to cause distress with their threat. The charity Refuge state that in their research 1 in 7 young women have experienced these threats to share images. This behaviour will be a minimum of a 2-year prison sentence.
The government are also proposing to amend the bill to include special measures being provided in civil courts similar to those available in family courts. For example, the use of protective screens in court or have separate waiting rooms and entrances. Moreover, the ability to give evidence via video links to support vulnerable courts users. This protects victims in not only family courts, but civil courts as well. This legislation is hopeful to help millions of people who are victims of all different types of abuse and safeguard them from their abuser. On 24th March the Third Reading in the House of Lords was complete, and the bill was passed back to the House of Commons for consideration of their amendments. If these amendments are approved, the bill will then be sent to the monarch for Royal Asset.