To coincide with International Women’s Day (8 March), proposals have been announced for new measures to protect victims of domestic abuse.
Prime Minister Theresa May says a draft Domestic Abuse Bill could “completely transform the way we tackle domestic abuse”.
The bill would allow earlier intervention in cases of suspected domestic abuse and harsher measures for those accused of domestic violence, such as electronic tagging and a ban on drinking alcohol.
The introduction of Proposed Domestic Abuse Protection Orders would also mean that police and courts are able to intervene and investigate much earlier than is currently allowed in cases of suspected domestic abuse, as well as electronically tag suspects to monitor their whereabouts while they’re being investigated. They could also be forced to comply with a prohibition on drinking alcohol and an exclusion zone.
Proposed Domestic Abuse Protection Orders would also give courts the ability to stop suspects perpetrating further by having the power to enforce a wider range restrictions on them, and for a longer amount of time than the current 28 days.
Similarly, it could see criminals who harass their partners or children forced to attend parenting programmes or drug and alcohol treatment, in an attempt to reduce risk to their families.
Speaking of the proposed bill, May said: “While we have made great strides towards equality and opportunities for women, the fact there are still thousands of people suffering from domestic abuse shows how much work we still have to do.
“We know that domestic abuse affects those from all walks of life. Victims can be young and old, male and female, and I hope as many people as possible will come forward to give us their views and share their experiences, as we seek to put an end to this abhorrent crime for good.”
Other encouraging steps being discussed to protect victims of abuse include the recognition of the term “economic abuse”, which describes taking control of a victim’s money, denying them access to money or a job or forcing them to take a loan. They are also considering tougher sentences for domestic abuse that affects children.
The possibility of the creation of an independent domestic abuse commissioner has also been discussed, as has giving domestic abuse victims the same status in court as those who have suffered modern slavery or sex offences.
The Independent reports that Katie Ghose, chief executive of Women’s Aid, says the Domestic Abuse Bill was a “unique opportunity” to support victims of domestic abuse but that crucial funding is needed for women’s refuges to stop these ” life-saving services” being closed.
“We are calling on the Government to give survivors a cast-iron guarantee that they will not go ahead with planned changes to how refuges will be funded, which threaten these life-saving services with closure,” says Ghose.
“That’s why we want to see a Domestic Abuse Bill that encompasses and goes beyond changes to the criminal justice system. We know that many women do not feel able to report abuse to the police, so we need a bill that makes domestic abuse everyone’s business.
“It must reach beyond a criminal justice response to include policies on housing, education, health, immigration and the welfare system to name but a few, so that all survivors and their children get the support they need, when and where they need it.”
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