Have your say on the Domestic Abuse Bill

15 October 2019

Do you have relevant expertise and experience or a special interest in the Domestic Abuse Bill, which is currently passing through Parliament?

If so, you can submit your views in writing to the House of Commons Public Bill Committee which is going to consider this Bill.

The Public Bill Committee is now able to receive written evidence. The sooner you send in your submission, the more time the Committee will have to take it into consideration.

The Committee is expected to meet for the first time on Tuesday 29 October 2019; it will stop receiving written evidence at the end of the Committee stage, which is expected to be not later than 5.00pm on Thursday 21 November 2019. However, please note that when the Committee concludes its consideration of the Bill it is no longer able to receive written evidence and it can conclude earlier than the expected deadline of 5.00pm on Thursday 21 November.*

* n the last Parliamentary Session, the following Public Bill Committees concluded their consideration of the Bill earlier than scheduled: Armed Forces (Flexible Working), Civil Liability, Counter-Terrorism and Border Security, Courts and Tribunals (Judiciary and Functions of Staff), Courts and Tribunals (Online Procedure), Crime (Overseas Production Orders), Divorce, Dissolution and Separation, Domestic Gas and Electricity (Tariff Cap), Fisheries, Healthcare (International Arrangements), Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal), Ivory, Mental Capacity (Amendment), National Insurance Contributions (Termination Awards and Sporting Testimonials), Nuclear Safeguards, Offensive Weapons, Parliamentary Buildings (Restoration and Renewal), Rating (Property in Common Occupation) and Council Tax (Empty Dwellings), Secure Tenancies (Victims of Domestic Abuse), Smart Meters, Space Industry, Tenant Fees, Voyeurism (Offences), Wild Animals in Circuses.

Aims of the Bill

The Domestic Abuse Bill 207-19 (HC Bill 422) was introduced in the House of Commons on 16 July 2019. The Bill, together with its Explanatory Notes, is available on the Parliament website, where one can follow its progress.

The Bill was announced during the Queen’s Speech on 21 June 2017, following a commitment in the Conservative Party manifesto 2017 to deliver “Protections for victims of domestic abuse in law through a new landmark Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill. The Government has described the Bill as a ”once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform the response to” domestic abuse.

A draft version of the Bill was published on 21 January 2019 as part of the Government’s response to the ‘Transforming the response to domestic abuse’ consultation, which ran from 8 March 2018 to 31 May 2018. The draft Bill was scrutinised by the Joint Committee on the Draft Domestic Abuse Bill, which reported on 11 June 2019. The Government responded to the Committee on 16 July 2019.

Alongside the Bill, the Home Office and Ministry of Justice have published a collection of factsheets and supporting documents, available on Gov.uk.

The main provisions of the Bill are as follows.

Part 1, Chapter 1 (clauses 1 and 2) of the Bill would introduce a new definition of domestic abuse to the law of England and Wales. The definition would provide the foundation for the remaining provisions in Part 1 (clauses 3-56), including the functions of the Domestic Abuse Commissioner and the new powers for dealing with domestic abuse.

Part 1, Chapter 2 (clauses 3 to 18) of the Bill would provide the framework for a new Domestic Abuse Commissioner. The Government intends for the Commissioner to “provide strategic oversight of the national response to domestic abuse and hold public authorities to account.” The general functions of the Commissioner would include encouraging good practice in the prevention, detection and investigation of domestic abuse, and the provision of protection and support for victims. The Commissioner would have the power to issue reports and would be required to prepare strategic plans. Specific public authorities would have a statutory duty to co-operate with the Commissioner.

Part 1, Chapter 3 of the Bill (clauses 19-52) would provide the detailed framework for two new civil protection orders:

  • Domestic Abuse Protection Notices (DAPN), which could be given by the police to “secure the immediate protection of a victim from future domestic abuse carried out by a suspected perpetrator”. Where a DAPN has been given, the chief officer of police of the relevant force must apply within a 48-hour period to a magistrates’ court for a Domestic Abuse Protection Order.
  • Domestic Abuse Protection Orders (DAPO), which can be granted by a court on application by certain categories of person (including the police, where a DAPN has been given) and may contain “prohibitions or requirements for the purpose of preventing the perpetrator from being abusive towards his or her victim”.

Clause 53 would extend the availability of “special measures” for complainants in criminal cases involving domestic abuse. Special measures apply to intimidated witnesses and are intended to improve the quality of their evidence. They include, for example, screening the witness from the accused; giving evidence via live link; and giving evidence in private.

Clause 54 would permit the inclusion of a polygraph condition in the licence of a person who has committed a domestic abuse-related offence. Offenders released from custody on licence (i.e. conditionally released from prison) subject to such a condition would be required to undertake polygraph tests.

Clause 55 would put the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme on a statutory footing. The Scheme provides a mechanism for the police to disclose information about partners or ex-partners of individuals at risk of domestic abuse.

Clause 56 would ensure that where an English housing authority is operating a discretionary scheme of flexible fixed-term tenancies, certain victims of domestic abuse will be entitled to the grant of a new secure ‘lifetime’ tenancy. The aim is to remove barriers which might prevent a victim from leaving their existing social housing tenancy and to support them to remain in their homes where the perpetrator has left.

Part 2 (clauses 57-74) would create a new domestic abuse offence in Northern Ireland, which would be analogous to existing offences in the laws of Scotland and England & Wales.

Part 3 (clause 75) would make provision for prohibiting perpetrators of abuse from cross-examining their victims in the family courts (and vice versa), in certain circumstances. To support this, the clause would provide family courts with the power to appoint qualified legal representatives, to undertake cross-examination on a party’s behalf where that party is prohibited by clause 75 from cross-examining in person.

Part 4 (clauses 76-78) provides for extra-territorial jurisdiction over certain types of offences against the person committed by UK nationals (or those habitually resident in the UK) outside the UK. Such extra-territorial jurisdiction is required by Article 44 of the Istanbul Convention, which the United Kingdom has yet to ratify.

Clause 79 would provide a power for the Home Secretary to issue guidance about domestic abuse.

Follow the progress of the Domestic Abuse Bill

The Domestic Abuse Bill  was published on 16 July 2019. The Second reading of the Bill in the House of Commons was held on Wednesday 2 October 2019. The Bill was carried over to the next session, following a decision on 2 October 2019. This means the Bill can continue its progress through Parliament from the start of the next Parliamentary Session.

This Bill has now been committed to a Public Bill Committee and is expected to hold oral evidence sessions on Tuesday 29 and Thursday 31 October 2019. The Public Bill Committee must conclude by Thursday 21 November.

Guidance on submitting written evidence

Deadline for written evidence submissions

The Public Bill Committee is now able to receive written evidence. The sooner you send in your submission, the more time the Committee will have to take it into consideration, and possibly reflect it in an amendment. The order in which amendments are taken in Committee will be available in due course under Selection of Amendments on the Bill documents pages. Once the Committee has dealt with an amendment it will not revisit it.

The Committee is expected to meet for the first time on Tuesday 29 October 2019; it will stop receiving written evidence at the end of the Committee stage on Thursday 21 November 2019. Please note that when the Committee concludes its consideration of the Bill it is no longer able to receive written evidence and it can conclude earlier than the expected deadline of 5.00pm on Thursday 21 November 2019.

Your submission should be emailed to scrutiny@parliament.uk.

Further guidance on submitting written evidence can be found here.

Image: iStockphoto

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