Domestic Abuse Bill 2020

4th January ‘21

The second reading of the Domestic Abuse Bill – the general debate on all aspects of the Bill – is scheduled for 5 January.

The Bill aims to raise awareness and understanding about the devastating impact of domestic abuse on victims and their families, emphasising that domestic abuse is not just physical violence, but can also be emotional, coercive or controlling, and economic abuse.  The bill also introduces protections for victims of abuse being cross examined by their abuser, and puts local authorities under a duty to prioritise housing for victims of abuse who have been made homeless.

In the year ending March 2019, an estimated 2.4 million adults aged 16 to 74 years experienced domestic abuse in the last year (1.6 million women and 786,000 men). But with little focus on the impact on children, an obvious omission in the Bill is the lack of child-centred protection for abuse and recognition of the devastating impact of Parental Alienation.

The legislation whilst providing definitions for behaviour which is deemed abusive, and spells out the long awaited concept of economic abuse, the bill is not without criticism: there are a number of flaws regarding the procedural application of the bill, and whether financial and economic abuse will be criminal offences.  Migrant victims will also be in difficulty seeking support from Local Authorities, particularly in cases where cultural norms place pressure on victims not to report or seek assistance from other communities.

There also seems considerable overlap with what is already in place, evidenced most easily with the proposed introduction of the new “Domestic Abuse Protection Orders”: one must question what role they will play taking into account Non-Molestation and Occupation Orders, which can be supported with powers of arrest, as well as the numerous criminal offences already in place.

It would seem however that the bill also fails to consider Parental Alienation, either by way of protections or support.  Whilst it is accepted that children who have been alienated from a parent are a victim of abuse, the lack of statutory frameworks to prevent such abuse will impede how the courts are able to examine allegations of alienation and ensure that children are given the protection they so desperately need.

The inclusion of Parental Alienation as a form of domestic violence and a statutory definition of Parental Alienation have subsequently been proposed by Philip Davies and Bob Stewart as amendments to the Bill, and it is hoped that there input will be heeded.

Parental Alienation currently plagues the courts and professionals in high conflict separation cases. Greater understanding and further training are desperately needed in addition to the court’s ability to identify alienating behaviours; inclusion within the Domestic Abuse Bill will hopefully go some way to help resolve this, with sufficient supplementary support to help parents and children work through this often overlooked form of abuse.

The full Bill can be read here

If you would like more information or advice on the issues raised in this post, please contact Ben Castle, Senior Associate at Calibrate Law – bc@calibrate-law.com

This post is intended to be a guide for clients and other interested parties. The information is believed to be correct at the date of publication but should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional advice. No responsibility can be accepted by us for loss occasioned to any person acting or refraining from acting as a result of any material in these publications.

 

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