The Domestic Abuse (DA) Act received royal assent on 29th April 2021. This Act will provide further protections to the millions of people who experience domestic abuse and strengthen measures to tackle perpetrators.
In Warwickshire, training was provided to professionals to embed a holistic approach to domestic abuse across the county and send a message that domestic abuse is everyone’s business.
Frequently Asked Questions
From these sessions, a Frequently Asked Questions document has been created to answer queries from attendees.
To support your way through this document, you can press the ‘F3’ button to search the document for specific words and phrases [e.g. ‘housing’ or ‘support’] to see the answers you may be looking for.
What does the Act do?
For the first time in history 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 Legal Definition of Domestic Abuse
Behaviour of a person (“A”) towards another person (“B”) is “domestic abuse” if
(a) A and B are each aged 16 or over and are personally connected to each other, and
(b) the behaviour is abusive.
Behaviour is “abusive” if it consists of any of the following
- physical or sexual abuse
- violent or threatening behaviour
- controlling or coercive behaviour
- economic abuse (see subsection (4))
- psychological, emotional or other abuse
and it does not matter whether the behaviour consists of a single incident or a course of conduct.
The Domestic Abuse Act 2021
The measures include important 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, the government has added new measures to the bill to further 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.
The full text of the DA Act can be accessed here. The main elements of the Act are:
- Create a statutory definition of domestic abuse, emphasising that domestic abuse is not just physical violence, but can also be emotional, coercive or controlling, and economic abuse
- Establish in law the office of Domestic Abuse Commissioner and set out the Commissioner’s functions and powers
- Provide for a new Domestic Abuse Protection Notice and Domestic Abuse Protection Order
- Place a duty on local authorities in England to provide support to victims of domestic abuse and their children in refuges and other safe accommodation
- Prohibit perpetrators of abuse from cross-examining their victims in person in the civil and family courts in England and Wales
- Create a statutory presumption that victims of domestic abuse are eligible for special measures in the criminal, civil and family courts
- Clarify by restating in statute law the general proposition that a person may not consent to the infliction of serious harm and, by extension, is unable to consent to their own death
- Make the threat of sharing intimate images without consent a criminal offence
- Extend the offence of controlling or coercive behaviour to post-separation abuse
- Extend the extraterritorial jurisdiction of the criminal courts in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to further violent and sexual offences.
- Enable domestic abuse offenders to be subject to polygraph testing as a condition of their licence following their release from custody.
- Place the guidance supporting the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (“Clare’s Law”) on a statutory footing.
- Provide that all eligible homeless victims of domestic abuse automatically have ‘priority need’ for homelessness assistance.
- Ensure that where a local authority, for reasons connected with domestic abuse, grants a new secure tenancy to a social tenant who had or has a secure lifetime or assured tenancy (other than an assured shorthold tenancy) this must be a secure lifetime tenancy.”
- A new criminal offence of ‘non-fatal strangulation’ was added to the Act as an amendment to the Serious Crime Act 2015. This covers intentional strangulation, or any action that affects a person’s ability to breathe and causes serious harm.
The Government has published fact sheets, which explain each of these measures in further detail.
Who does the Act cover?
The Act covers domestic abuse of men and women. It also specifically highlights the fact that children can be victims of domestic abuse in their own right, if they see, hear or experience the effects of domestic abuse. The (draft) Statutory Guidance that accompanies the Act makes it clear that domestic abuse is a gendered issue that is a cause and consequence of gender inequality.
When Will the Act Come into Force?
Some parts of the Act are already in force, for example the definition of domestic abuse and banning the ‘rough sex defence’. The other provisions will be implemented on a rolling basis over the coming months. There will be consultations launched on the Act overall, on the legal duty for domestic abuse safe accommodation, and Domestic Abuse Protection Orders. The updated homelessness code of practice may also go out for consultation too. The new criminal offences of threats to share intimate images, non-fatal strangulation, and post-separation abuse will be implemented over the coming months.
The implementation timetable for the act is given here.