News | April 28, 2020

Domestic abuse – Coronavirus – Domestic Abuse Bill 2019-21 : Second Reading in the House of Commons on 28 April 2020

The intention of the Domestic Abuse Bill 2019-21 was said to be to:

– make provision in relation to domestic abuse;

– make provision for and in connection with the establishment of a Domestic Abuse Commissioner;

– prohibit cross-examination in person in family proceedings in certain circumstances;  and

– make provision about certain violent or sexual offences, and offences involving other abusive behaviour, committed outside the United Kingdom; and for connected purposes.

The Bill had its First Reading in the House of Commons on 3 March 2020 and it is due to have its Second Reading and to be debated on Tuesday 28 April 2020.

The Bill (whilst it commenced on its journey through the legislative process some time ago) is receiving a lot of attention at the moment as rates of reported domestic abuse have significantly increased during the coronavirus lockdown period.

The Chair of the Committee for the Bill has explained that:

“Staying at home is an important part of the strategy to prevent coronavirus from spreading and save lives, but for some people home isn’t safe. Urgent action is needed to protect victims and prevent perpetrators from exploiting the lockdown to increase abuse.

There are already alarming signs of the rise in domestic abuse. Our cross-party committee is calling for an urgent action plan from government setting out practical measures to tackle domestic abuse as an integrated part of the fight against Covid-19.

We are calling for new emergency funding for support services, new ways for victims to access help through supermarkets and pharmacies, outreach visits to known vulnerable households, support for children, and a new guarantee of safe housing for anyone needing to leave their home during lockdown because of abuse.

Things are particularly hard for vulnerable children. We can’t abandon them in the middle of this crisis. Local authorities, schools, the police and other professionals involved in child welfare need to ensure they are working together to contact and visit homes where children are at risk.

This isn’t just about supporting victims in periods of lockdown. When restrictions are eased and victims try to leave or to return to normal life, the threat to them could be even greater and the need for support will be acute. The emotional, physical and social scars from domestic abuse can last a lifetime. If we don’t act to tackle it now, we will feel the consequences of rising abuse during the coronavirus crisis for many years to come”.

The Government has already made it clear that it is looking at how best to support victims of domestic abuse, particularly now during the lockdown, and we therefore await the outcome of the Second Reading of the Bill on 28 April 2020 to find out what provisions may be put in place.