Domestic Abuse Bill: A list of passed and shutdown amendments
The Domestic Abuse Bill has been dubbed a “once-in-a-generation” opportunity to improve the national response to domestic abuse across housing, health, social care and the court’s system to better prevent and tackle abuse.
The Bill includes measures to create a new statutory definition of domestic abuse, establish a domestic abuse commissioner and place a duty on English local authorities to provide support for domestic abuse survivors and their children in refuges and alternative safe housing.
Amendments are currently being ping-ponged between each House until a consensus on the wording and policies is met.
Monumental amendments have been but not everything has passed through parliament and made it on the Bill.
✔️Ban on victim cross-examination
Domestic abusers will no longer be allowed to cross-examine their former partners in family courts.
The automatic ban ensures perpetrators who have been convicted, received a caution for or charged with certain offences against the witness can’t cross-examine their victims.
The Bill also introduces an automatic ban on cross-examination in person where an on-notice protective injunction is in place or when there is other evidence of domestic abuse.
Under the current system, imposed bans are at the court’s discretion but the Bill will empower the court to appoint a legal representative to conduct the cross-examination on behalf of the exempt party. This practice is similar to the one already in place in the criminal court’s system.
The Law Society says the Domestic Abuse Bill must go further to protect victims and ban abusers from cross-examining the coupes children in family court.
The amendment by Labour peer Lady Royall would add serial stalkers and domestic abusers to a register, similarly modelled after the sex offenders register.
In the wake of Sarah Everard’s death ministers supported the measure including Home secretary, Priti Patel.
The proposed register would log the details of perpetrators who have been convicted of offences such as harassment, stalking and coercive control. If approved the register would’ve been accessible to police, social services, parents and carers.
The amendment was defeated 351 to 227. All but two Conservative MPs voted against it.
✔️Revenge porn threats
The flagship Bill has outlawed threatening to share intimate videos or images of someone without their consent for the first time, punishable with up to two years in prison.
England and Wales criminalised revenge porn in 2015 however this amendment will formally outlaw the act for the first time.
1 in 7 young women have experienced these threats and Refuge chair, Hetti Barkworth-Nanton described the move as ‘delightful’.
❌Migrant victim protection
MPs also voted down the House of Lords amendment that would provide more protection to migrant victims of domestic abuse.
Amendment 40 sought to ringfence personal data of domestic abuse survivors given to seek or receive support, to ensure it would not be used for immigration control purposes.
Lucy Hadley, the head of policy and campaigns at Women’s Aid, said the decision was “deeply disappointing” and adding that currently, 4% of refuges in England could accept a woman with no recourse to public funds due to immigration status.
Non-fatal strangulation will become a criminal offence punishable by five years of imprisonment.
The amendment will aim to address concerns that abusers can avoid punishment because strangulation and suffocation can at times leave no visible injury.
Under the current laws and according to campaigners, perpetrators are often charged with common assault meaning up to six months jail time.
Victims’ commissioner for England and Wales, Dame Vera Baird QC, called non-strangulation an “ultimate domestic terrorist tactic”. MPs and campaigners welcome the extra protection.
Despite monumental amendments, not everything has passed through parliament and made it on the Bill.
❌Judicial sexual abuse training
An amendment that would have given family court judges training on sexual abuse was voted down by MPs.
The government’s decision to vote against family court training was “unbelievable”, said Dr Charlotte Proudman, an expert on gender-based violence.
Despite the government shutdowns, the landmark bill has included other measures that introduce misogyny as a hate crime and outlawed revenge porn threats.
The bill has been batted back up to the House of Lords, where they will consider the Commons considerations on the 21st April 2021.