‘Enhanced’ domestic abuse bill returns to parliament

On Monday 3 March an ‘enhanced’ version of the Domestic Abuse Bill had its first reading in the House of Commons. The bill was originally introduced last July but progress was halted by September’s unlawful prorogation of parliament and December’s general election. Its main aim is to end the cross-examination of domestic abuse victims by their alleged perpetrators in Court, something which the government pledged to do over 30 years ago.

The government said the bill improves on the previous cross-examination pledge and this will now apply to all family proceedings where there is evidence of domestic abuse. Under a pilot, the government will fund any court costs for police applying for domestic abuse protection orders and notices. County councils and unitary authorities in England will be required to provide support and safe accommodation for victims and their children.

Law Society president Simon Davis said many of the bill’s proposals, such as expanding the definition of domestic abuse and banning alleged abusers cross-examining victims in court, are long overdue. However, he said: “As the bill finally progresses through parliament, we urge the government to put the necessary funding into legal aid, support services, education and wider government policy – giving victims the access to justice they so deserve.”

The bill must pass through 3 readings in the House of Commons, 3 readings in the House of Lords and two committee stages before it will be given Royal Assent, so we are still some way off seeing this bill pass into law.

(To read more about the Domestic Abuse Bill visit the Law Gazette here)

Amanda Erskine is a solicitor in the Family department at Barker Gotelee Solicitors in Ipswich.

Suffolk Family Solicitors – for more information on our range of legal services, please call the team on 01473 611211 or email bg@barkergotelee.co.uk