Zenith Family Current Awareness

​Draft Domestic Abuse Bill

11 February 2019

Pupil Barrister Eleanor Irons

“We know, from the harrowing experiences of victims and their families, that there is still more to do to stamp out this life-shattering crime, and the domestic abuse bill will lead the way in bringing about the changes we need to achieve this.” Prime Minister Theresa May

The introduction of a new domestic abuse bill to protect victims was part of the Conservative Party’s 2017 manifesto. Nearly 2 years later on the 21st January 2019 the government published its landmark Draft Domestic Abuse Bill in response to the 3 month consultation it conducted last year.

The draft bill contains a number of provisions, which will hopefully if passed, be of use to family lawyers.

The new bill will introduce the first ever statutory definition of domestic abuse, to include controlling and manipulative non-physical abuse in addition to economic abuse.

Perhaps the most awaited provision for family lawyers is the end of cross examination of alleged victims of domestic abuse by their alleged perpetrators.

In family proceedings, currently judges can use their general case management powers to prevent a victim from being cross-examined in person by the alleged perpetrator, but the family court currently cannot appoint a legal representative to represent the victim.

If the bill is passed, not only will this prohibit alleged perpetrators of domestic and other forms of abuse from cross-examining their victims in person in the family courts but it will also prevent victims from having to cross-examine their alleged abusers. Further, it will give the court the discretion to prevent cross-examination in person where it would diminish the quality of the witness's evidence or cause the witness significant distress.  

The new bill will also:

  • Establish a Domestic Abuse Commissioner to drive the response to domestic abuse issues; 
  • Introduce new Domestic Abuse Protection Notices and Domestic Abuse Protection Orders to further protect victims and place restrictions on the actions of offenders;

The Draft Bill has received a mixed response from campaigners and lawyers alike; however there seems to be a unanimous view that the bill is definitely a step in the right direction.

The bill is only in draft form and will now be subjected to pre-legislative scrutiny by a joint committee of the House of Commons and House of Lords.

For the full bill please see: Transforming the Response to Domestic Abuse: Consultation Response and Draft Bill

Eleanor IronsGerald Browne

Current Awareness

By the Family team