*Update 29th April* This Bill has now received Royal Assent and is now an Act of Parliament
Last week, the Domestic Abuse Bill returned to the House of Commons for MPs to make considerations of amendments the House of Lords had put forward.
The pleasing outcome of this crucial debate was that the majority of the Lord’s amendments were agreed upon by the House. However, the Commons disagreed with the Lords on a small minority of amendments put forward and as a result, which were sent back to the House of Lords for further scrutiny.
Outside of the workings of Parliament, correspondence with constituents over the last year on this issue has demonstrated to me how important this Bill is to so many, and it is also one which has been close to my heart from the very beginning, which I why I wanted to share my thoughts on the latest proceedings in Parliament.
This important piece of legislation was introduced in Parliament in March last year and since then, many hours have been spent scrutinising its many clauses, both in the Commons and Lords. In essence, the Bill aims to introduce:
- The establishment of a Domestic Abuse Commissioner
- To prohibit cross-examination in person in family proceedings in certain circumstances
- To make provision about certain violent or sexual offences, and offences involving other abusive behaviour, committed outside the United Kingdom
- In addition, and as part of the above during the scrutiny process, many amendments have also been introduced.
Amendments introduced to the House of Commons 15th April, 2021 which I supported and were passed are as follows:
- Creating a new offence of non-fatal strangulation (Lords amendment 36)
- Extending the offence of disclosing private sexual photographs and films with intent to cause distress (known as the “revenge porn” offence) to cover threats to disclose intimate images (Lords amendment 35);
- Extending the controlling or coercive behaviour offence to cover postseparation abuse (Lords amendment 34)
- Stopping vexatious family proceedings that can further traumatise victims by clarifying the circumstances in which a court may make a barring order under section 91(14) of the Children Act 1989 (Lords amendment 32)
- Prohibiting GPs and other health professionals from charging a victim of domestic abuse for a letter to support an application for legal aid (Lords amendment 39).
In addition, I supported two more clauses the Government introduced in this debate which received a majority, namely:
- to consult on the provision of community-based domestic abuse services in the upcoming Victims’ Law consultation to be launched this summer
- Police forces in England and Wales to record, on an experimental basis, any crimes of violence against the person, including stalking and harassment, and sexual offences where the victim perceives it to have been motivated by a hostility based on their sex.
My colleague, the Minister for Safeguarding at the Home Office, Victoria Atkins MP, said the following at the Despatch Box in the House of Commons last Thursday, during the debate on the various, proposed amendments to the Domestic Abuse Bill:
“We support the vast majority of the 86 amendments that the Lords have sent to us. Indeed, we have worked with peers in many instances to bring those amendments forward.
“This Bill will help millions of women and girls who are living with abuse, whose emotions are manipulated by their abusers for their own disgusting gratification and control, and who want happier, healthier lives free from abuse. However, thanks to amendments made in this place and the other place, the Bill will reach even more women than that.
“Progress on the Bill has been characterised by a determination on both sides of the House to work constructively and collegiately. At every stage, we have endeavoured to focus on what can be done to help victims of domestic abuse and to ensure that the abuse can stop. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke put it, these are not our issues—these are not party political issues—but the issues of our constituents who are victims and of their children, and I know that each and every one of us has had that very much in mind in all our deliberations on the Bill.”
To read more about this debate, including the reasons why my colleagues and I voted as we did on the various amendments, click on the following link: Domestic Abuse Bill - Thursday 15 April 2021 - Hansard - UK Parliament
I truly believe this Bill will be a ground-breaking piece of legislation helping families and communities, and is paramount in helping to better protect and support victims and their children, as well as bringing perpetrators to justice. Over the past year, I have spoken about the tragic rise in domestic abuse during the pandemic, something which is extremely sobering and proves now more than ever that this represents a stain on our society which must be removed. That said, I remain optimistic the measures laid out by the Government in this crucial Bill will do a great deal in achieving this and I therefore greatly look forward to this Bill becoming law in the very near future.
I hope the above is helpful and informative to constituents. I will keep you updated on its progress.
For further detail, please visit HL Bill 190 Commons disagreement, amendments in lieu and reasons