EHRC briefing on Domestic Abuse Bill 2nd reading in HoL
EHRC have released a briefing on proposed amendments to the Domestic Abuse Bill.
The Bill is intended to be a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform the response to this crime, which disproportionately impacts women and girls. We welcome the opportunity the Bill presents to ensure better support and protection for survivors of domestic abuse in England and Wales. A number of constructive improvements to the Bill have been made by Government since the Bill began its passage.
However, we consider that substantive changes to the Bill are still required for it to be the transformative legislation the Government aims it to be, to support all survivors and to ensure UK compliance with the Convention on Preventing and Combatting Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (the Istanbul Convention) and with the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).
We recommend changes to the Bill in five priority areas to ensure:
- Sufficient specialist support services, provided in the community as well as in refuges, and available to all without discrimination. This should include a duty to provide: community-based services (as well as refuge-based services which are covered in Part 4 of the Bill); sufficient specialist services for groups with protected characteristics, and those with migrant status; services for children and young people; and perpetrator programmes.
- Equal protection and support for migrant survivors, including: a non-discrimination principle in the Bill; extension to the Domestic Violence Rule to provide a route for all survivors to regularise their immigration status (preventing immigration status from being used as a tool of coercive control); and a prohibition on sharing survivors’ personal data for immigration purposes, where that data is given by a survivor seeking support for domestic abuse.
- Improved protections for survivors in the courts, with special measures and a prohibition on cross-examination in person available automatically in all cases where domestic abuse is declared to be an issue, and consistency of protection across all court jurisdictions.
- Improved protections for disabled survivors subject to coercive control, through repealing the ‘best interests’ defence to the crime of coercive control, introduced in the Serious Crime Act 2015 (section 76).This would help ensure disabled survivors receive equal protection from the crime of coercive control.
- Guidance issued under the Bill to take into account the cross-government violence against women and girls (VAWG) strategy, to ensure consistency of approach towards domestic abuse as a form of VAWG, and that the gendered nature of domestic abuse is taken into account in responding to this crime.”
You can read the full briefing here.