Domestic abusers to face tougher punishments under fresh government crackdown
Domestic abusers are set to face tough new punishments as part of landmark legislation due to be set out by ministers later today.
Under the plans proposed in a long-delayed new bill, abusers will be hit with protection orders on release from prison, forcing them to attend rehabilitation for substance misuse and behavioural issues.
The Draft Domestic Abuse Bill will also hand courts the power to electronically tag domestic abusers, allowing them to be tracked and arrested if they enter specially designed “exclusion zones” set up around their victims.
Last year, two million people aged between 15-69 told the Crime Survey for England and Wales that they had been a victim of domestic abuse.
Home Office figures estimate the social cost of domestic abuse totalled £66bn in 2016-17, more than the amount of obesity, drug and alcohol misuse and smoking combined.
The bill will for the first time provide a statutory definition of domestic abuse to include “economic abuse”, allowing convictions against abusers who control their partner’s finances.
Announcing the draft bill, Prime Minister Theresa May said: “We know, from the harrowing experiences of victims and their families, that there is still more to do to stamp out this life-shattering crime, and the domestic abuse bill will lead the way in bringing about the changes we need to achieve this.
“It represents a step-change in our approach, and I am grateful to the charities, victims, campaign groups and frontline agencies who have worked alongside us to ensure we get this right.”
Among the new measures will also be a ban on men or women accused of domestic abuse from cross-examining their victims in court - a practice that has been branded “abhorrent” by campaigners.
The shake-up will also extend provisions under the existing Clare’s law to give more potential domestic abuse victims the right to conduct background checks on new partners.
It will give police a new legal duty to provide men and women with information on their partner if they have a criminal history of abuse and violence, after some forces were accused of ignoring requests.
But Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott hit out at the Government for taking almost two years to produce the legislation following an initial promise.
“If the Tories are serious about combating domestic violence, then there should be long-term funding commitments to ensure sufficient resources are available for abuse survivors,” she said.
Victoria Atkins, Minister for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability, said: "I have heard absolutely heart-breaking accounts of victims whose lives have been ripped apart because of the physical, emotional or economic abuse they have suffered by someone close to them.
"The draft domestic abuse bill recognises the complex nature of these horrific crimes and puts the need of victims and their families at the forefront."
Domestic abuse charities have meanwhile welcomed the plans - but called on ministers to ensure enough funding goes into the system to make the proposals a reality.
Katie Ghose, the chief executive of women’s aid, said: “Domestic abuse costs lives and it costs money. It is happening at epidemic levels yet it has been largely hidden behind closed doors. Now is the time to bring it out into the spotlight and address the impact of domestic abuse properly once and for all.
“The domestic abuse bill has the potential to create a step-change in the national response and this must be backed up with sustainable funding for our lifesaving network of specialist support services to make a real difference to survivor’s lives.”