05 October, 2021
On 23 April 2021 the Domestic Abuse Bill 2019/21 received royal assent. Within that, the definition of domestic abuse has been defined to go beyond physical and sexual abuse to include economic abuse and coercive and controlling behaviour. The Act also recognises children as victims if they see, hear or experience the effects of domestic abuse. There will be new duties on the Local Authority to provide support to victims of domestic abuse, including giving those who are homeless due to domestic abuse priority for accommodation and providing support such as therapy, advocacy and counselling in safe accommodation.
There will also be amendments to the Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984 prohibiting a party to family proceedings who has been convicted of, given a caution for or is charged with a specified offence from cross-examining in person a witness who is the victim or alleged victim of that offence and vice versa. This is highly relevant now, given that there are restrictions in those that can apply for legal aid, meaning that there are many more litigants in person and protection needs to be afforded to victims of domestic abuse. Standing on the trial date in a witness box, being cross-examined by your abuser has now been recognised as further abuse and a very traumatic event.
Finally, there will be amendments to the Children Act 1989 introducing a new section allowing the court to make a Section 91(14) order if the court is satisfied that an application for an order under the Children Act would place the child or another individual at risk of harm. In essence, the person named in this order would have to apply for permission to make an application and the court would need to consider if there has been a material change of circumstances since the making of the original Section 91(14) order.
Litigation abuse is also a method in which to abuse a victim, causing stress, incurrence of legal fees and forcing a victim to come face-to-face with the abuser again. These welcomed changes that are coming are part of the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 and will hopefully bring better protection for those that need it.
For more information contact Rubina Vohra in our Family/Divorce department via email or phone on 01254 580 000. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.