Almost 6% Of All Adults Experience Domestic Abuse

22nd January 2019 Criminal Defence

The Government’s draft Domestic Abuse Bill was published on Monday 21 January 2019.

In 2017 a staggering 2 million adults in England and Wales were known by police to have experienced domestic abuse, this is almost 6% of all adults. This does not include all the victims who do not come forward. According to statistics there is not enough help or support for women who come forward. In 2017/2018 there were 21,084 rejected referrals to refuges in England.

The draft bill will now be debated in Parliament. The key proposals in the bill are:

1. Survivors of domestic abuse can no longer be cross examined by their abuser in court.

This means that victims of domestic abuse currently can be interrogated by the person who has abused them. If the abuser does not have legal representation and is in fact representing themselves, they can interrogate their victim. MP Victoria Atkins has said that this ‘is another form of abuse. It’s another way of exerting control and fear over their ex-partners.’ The new bill intends to make it impossible for an abuser to cross examine and therefore the court will appoint a barrister to represent the defendant.

2. A new right will be given to check your partner’s past for domestic abuse.

In 2009, George Appleton murdered his partner Clare Wood. After her murder, her family discovered that George had a string of offences relating to violence against women and that Clare never knew of his violent past. This lead to the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (Clare’s Law) being introduced in 2014 which allows people the opportunity to check with the police whether their partner has a criminal record of violence. This right will also allow other persons to make checks such as a family member or a close friend.

3. Polygraph tests will be used on high risk domestic abuse offenders.

Whilst this does not mean lie detector tests can be used as evidence as someone’s guilt during a trial, what it actually intends to do is test offenders once they are released from prison to find out their intentions of reoffending. If the results were to come back suggesting they may re-offend measures will be implemented to try and stop them offending again such as, increased supervision.

4. Economic abuse will become a recognised form of abuse in its own right

The government plans to redefine domestic abuse to include economic abuse. Economic/financial abuse may include things like hiding car keys, controlling time spent on mobile phone to limit contact with her friends and limiting the money she spends.

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Peter Grogan is a Partner and Head of Department located in Manchester in our Business Crime, Regulation & Driving Offences department

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