The Domestic Abuse Bill has passed both Houses of Parliament and been signed into law. What does it mean for victims?
The Government says the Domestic Abuse Act will provide further protections to the millions of people who experience domestic abuse and strengthen measures to tackle perpetrators.
For the first time in history there will be a wide-ranging legal definition of domestic abuse which incorporates a range of abuses beyond physical violence, including emotional, coercive or controlling behaviour, and economic abuse.
The measures include new protections and support for victims ensuring that abusers will no longer be allowed to directly cross-examine their victims in the family and civil courts, and giving victims better access to special measures in the courtroom to help prevent intimidation – such as protective screens and giving evidence via video link.
Police will also be given new powers including Domestic Abuse Protection Notices providing victims with immediate protection from abusers, while courts will be able to hand out new Domestic Abuse Protection Orders to help prevent offending by forcing perpetrators to take steps to change their behaviour, including seeking mental health support or drug and alcohol rehabilitation.
In recent weeks, the government has added new measures to the bill to further strengthen the law, including creating a new offence of non-fatal strangulation, extending an offence to cover the threat to disclose intimate images, and clarifying the law to further clamp down on claims of “rough sex gone wrong” in cases involving death or serious injury.
Safeguarding Minister Victoria Atkins said: “This law will fundamentally transform our response to tackling domestic abuse by providing much greater protections from all forms of abuse.
“I’m grateful for the brave victims and survivors who have inspired this strengthened action and have helped inform this legislation throughout.
The Domestic Abuse Commissioner, Nicole Jacobs, said: “The act sets out my legal powers which I will use to support all victims across England and Wales by first tackling the ‘postcode lottery’ of services.
“So many campaigners, charities and individuals have worked incredibly hard to make the bill as robust as possible and there is no doubt that the legislation, which now includes non-fatal strangulation as a standalone offence, is much stronger as a result. ”