Updates to domestic abuse law

Over two million adults, around four times the population of Leicestershire, are estimated to be affected by domestic abuse every year in England and Wales. Two-thirds of victims are women.

Some of the laws that cover this area are found in the Domestic Abuse Act 2021, which received Royal Ascent and became law throughout 2021-22. The Minister for Safeguarding at the time the Act was passed, Victoria Atkins MP, said: “Domestic abuse is an abhorrent crime perpetrated on victims and their families by those who should love and care for them. This landmark Bill will help transform the response to domestic abuse, helping to prevent offending, protect victims and ensure they have the support they need.”

The Act was a significant step forward for victims as it was the first to legally define domestic abuse and it emphasised that it is not just physical or sexual violence, but also emotional abuse, controlling and coercive behaviour, violent and threatening behaviour, and economic abuse.

The Act covered many issues that have previously prevented victims from getting the justice and future they deserve. Some of the changes were related to:

  • Separated partners and family members who do not live together
  • The law regarding revenge porn – this was extended to include threats to share images and videos
  • New Protection Notices and Protection Orders – they will now prevent perpetrators from contacting their victims and force them to change their behaviour by, for example, seeking help with their mental health

Clare’s Law (or the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme) has been put on a statutory foundation, meaning it is now a law. As a result, anyone can contact the police to ask if they (or someone they know) are in a relationship with a person with a record of abusive offences who may pose a risk to them. Despite its name, it was previously a policy document issued as guidance.

Clare’s Law is named after Clare Wood, who was murdered by a man who had served prison sentences before his relationship with her. His offences included holding a woman at knifepoint, harassment, and failure to comply with a restraining order. Clare’s family said that she would never have entered a relationship with him had she been aware of his violent past.

The law, fought for by Clare’s dad, has two ways in which police can disclose information about individuals with a history of abusive or violent behaviour: ‘right to ask’ and ‘right to know.’

  • Right to ask – an individual can apply for disclosure
  • Right to know – the police can make a proactive disclosure to a potential victim

At AGR Law, we’re passionate about protecting children who are affected by issues such as divorce, separation, childcare arrangements, or domestic abuse. The Domestic Abuse Act 2021 recognises children who live in a home where abuse takes place as victims, not witnesses. This means if a child sees, hears or experiences the effects of domestic abuse, and is related to or has a parental relationship with the victim or the perpetrator, they will receive protection and support.

The most recent updates to the Act came into force earlier this year.

It now has a new Section 70 that makes non-fatal strangulation a specific offence in its own right. It includes a perpetrator affecting a victim’s ability to breathe to control or intimidate them.

Previously, abusers avoided punishment if their act left no visible injury, making it difficult to prosecute under existing offences. Studies have shown that victims are seven times more likely to be murdered by their partner if they have suffered non-fatal strangulation previously, so this is a welcome inclusion. Those found guilty can face up to five years in prison.

Another significant change prohibits cross-examination during live trials in civil and family courts. Instead, victims can pre-record their evidence before their case gets to trial, meaning that the video can be played in court and the victim will not have to relive the trauma they suffered. Videos can be recorded shortly after the offence, so will likely contain details which may be accidentally omitted under the pressure of giving evidence in person.

We’re hopeful that the government will continue to seek to improve the lives of those affected by domestic abuse by implementing new laws to protect victims and their families, and help them build a safe, empowered life, free from fear.

If you’d like to speak in confidence to a member of our team about domestic abuse, please contact hello@agrlaw.co.uk or call 0116 340 0094. Remember, if you or someone you know is in immediate danger, you must contact the police on 999.