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Domestic Abuse Bill becomes law

On 29 April 2021, four years after it was included in the Queen's Speech, the Domestic Abuse Bill received Royal Assent and was signed into law.

For the first time there will be a wide-ranging legal definition of domestic abuse which incorporates a range of abuses beyond physical violence, including emotional, coercive or controlling behaviour, and economic abuse.

The measures include new protections and support for victims ensuring that abusers will no longer be allowed to directly cross-examine their victims in the family and civil courts, and giving victims better access to special measures in the courtroom to help prevent intimidation, such as protective screens and giving evidence via video link.

Police will also be given new powers including Domestic Abuse Protection Notices providing victims with immediate protection from abusers, while courts will be able to hand out new Domestic Abuse Protection Orders to help prevent offending by forcing perpetrators to take steps to change their behaviour, including seeking mental health support or drug and alcohol rehabilitation.

In recent weeks, new measures have been added to the bill to strengthen the law, including creating a new offence of non-fatal strangulation, extending an offence to cover the threat to disclose intimate images, and clarifying the law to further clamp down on claims of "rough sex gone wrong" in cases involving death or serious injury.

Other measures included in the Act include:

However, the Act does not include a specific stalkers' register, despite briefings from the government after the death of Sarah Everard that it was likely to support such a measure.

Farah Nazeer, Chief Executive of Women's Aid Federation of England, said:

"The Domestic Abuse Bill has been long-awaited, and could not be more needed, following the impact of the pandemic on survivors and our national network of domestic abuse services.

"Thanks to the bravery of survivors in campaigning for change, we now have an act that will strengthen protection in the family courts, improve housing law in cases of domestic abuse, and require councils to fund support in safe accommodation.

"We continue to urge for the law to address the significant gaps it leaves and?protect every survivor, ensuring that all women and children are able to access support regardless of immigration status, and for us to see guaranteed long-term funding for specialist women's domestic abuse services, including refuge services around the country that are saving lives every day."

For the Act, click here.