The Domestic Abuse Bill

The latest version of the Domestic Abuse Bill has had its first reading in the House of Commons. Domestic abuse accounts for a third of all violent crime; in this latest version of the Domestic Abuse Bill, proposals include banning perpetrators from cross-examining their victims during family court proceedings and requiring councils to find safe accommodation for victims and their children.

“From giving courts greater powers through new prevention orders, to barring abusers from cross-examining their victim in the family courts, we are delivering a justice system more resilient than ever to the tackle this horrific crime.”

*Polygraph tests do not measure lying, rather they measure physical responses to questions, responses such as a change in blood pressure or breathing rate, or an increase in perspiration – believed to be signs that the subject might be trying to deceive the interviewer.

Domestic violence affects one woman in four at some point in her life in England and Wales alone, and kills two women every week.

Somewhat controversially, this bill still include plans for forcing domestic abusers to take polygraph* tests.  Should the legislation pass, there are plans for a three-year trial involving 300 abusers deemed at high-risk of causing serious harm to be conducted. They will have to take a lie detector test three months after release from prison and then every subsequent six months.

Court protection orders which prohibit perpetrators from contacting a victim or forcing them to take part in alcohol or drug treatment programmes may also be introduced.

Economic abuse, when a perpetrator controls a victim’s finances, will also be defined in the bill as a specific offence, and using smart technology to spy on or abuse a partner, known as “tech abuse”, will become illegal. According to the charity  Refuge, abusers are increasingly using new technologies such as fitness trackers and “smart” home devices attached to heating, lights and video doorbells to stalk, isolate and control present and former partners.

Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice Robert Buckland QC said: “This bill will bolster our response to domestic abuse on every level – strengthening protections for victims, whilst ensuring perpetrators feel the full force of the law.

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