With the recent news that the domestic violence death rate is the highest it’s been in five years, the appointment of England and Wales’ first domestic abuse commissioner is long overdue.
Nicole Jacobs has been appointed the first domestic abuse commissioner for England and Wales. Speaking to BBC News, Jacobs said she expects to see the domestic violence bill included in the new Queen’s speech when parliament returns after its prorogation.
MP Jess Phillips was one of the bill’s supporters who recently vocalised her concerns over its future. But Jacobs commented that she is “relieved” that Prime Minister Boris Johnson has now said he is “fully committed” to reintroducing the bill.
Speaking about concerns over the bill’s progress, Jacobs said: “Everyone was [concerned], and now that we have the commitment, we can be a bit relieved.
“It was heartening how quickly politicians from all parties were asserting how much they wanted to see the bill in the Queen’s speech and back on track, as well as from the public and people in the court system.
“It is very good for the government to respond and give some assurance, and I know that everyone will be watching and listening to see it in there.”
Jacobs has worked for domestic abuse charities for over two decades and she was previously the chief executive of the domestic abuse charity Standing Together. This new role is part of the bill, which means she has no formal powers until it passes through parliament and becomes law.
Before stepping down as Prime Minister in July, Theresa May heralded the introduction of the long-awaited, landmark domestic abuse bill to parliament. It has now been in the works for over two years.
It contains measures that are all but certain to improve the lives of some domestic abuse survivors in the UK.
The traumatic, dangerous practice of allowing abusers to cross-examine their victims in family courts will finally be banned. A statutory government definition of domestic abuse will also be introduced for the first time, one that includes economic abuse – a devastating but under-discussed form of coercive control.
The bill will also boost the powers available to courts to block perpetrators from contacting those they abused, place a legal duty on councils to provide victims and their children with a secure home, and see high-risk offenders forced to take lie detector tests when released from prison.
Although Jacobs’ appoinment is a step in the right direction, it is only a part time role.
With cuts continuing to be made to refuges and services, this is a concern for charities. Women’s Aid’s Adina Claire told the BBC: “[The charity is] concerned that this crucial role is a part-time position, given the extent of its remit”.
Images: Getty, Nicole Jacobs