Covid-19 has been a global pandemic many thought they would never live to see, the impact of it has been earth shattering across the world. Since the pandemic began, domestic violence has increased dramatically, and the United Nations is describing it as a ‘shadow pandemic’.
Domestic abuse covers physical violence, sexual, emotional, and psychological harm. During the pandemic, the lockdown measures and the effects increased the vulnerabilities of domestic abuse victims when they had been faced with abusive partners.
A recent report revealed that in the year up to March 2020, 54.8% of domestic violence cases were dropped after the victim did not support the prosecution of a suspect, and 20% of cases did not proceed due to evidential difficulties.
Is that about to change in the future?
Going forward, the Domestic Abuse Act which will come into force later this year will bring important and welcomed changes.
In short, the Act will bring about some of the following changes;
1. Create a statutory definition of domestic abuse. Stressing that domestic abuse is not just physical violence but can include emotional, controlling, or coercive behaviour and economic abuse.
2. Extend the controlling or coercive behaviour offence to cover post-separation abuse.
3. Provide for a new Domestic Abuse Protection Notice and Domestic Abuse Protection Order.
4. Highlight in law the office of Domestic Abuse Commissioner and the functions and powers of the Commissioner.
5. It will place a duty on all local authorities to provide safe accommodation for domestic abuse victims and their children.
6. It will bring about similar measures already laid out in the criminal court, prohibiting perpetrators of abuse from cross-examining their victims in person in the family and civil courts.
7. There will be a presumption that victims of domestic abuse are eligible for special measures in all courts.
8. Prohibit GPs and other health professionals in general practice from charging a victim of domestic abuse for a letter to support an application for legal aid.
9. It will clarify the circumstances in which a court may make a barring order under section 91(14) of the Children Act 1989 to prevent family proceedings that can further traumatise victims.
10. Extend 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 such material.
11. Create a new offence of non-fatal strangulation or suffocation of another person.
12. Clarify by restating in statute law the general proposition that a person may not consent to the infliction of serious harm and, by extension, is unable to consent to their own death.
13. Extend the extraterritorial jurisdiction of the criminal courts in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to further violent and sexual offences.
14. Provide for a statutory domestic abuse perpetrator strategy.
15. Enable domestic abuse offenders to be subject to polygraph testing as a condition of their licence following their release from custody.
16. Place the guidance supporting the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (“Clare’s law”) on a statutory footing.
17. Provide that all eligible homeless victims of domestic abuse automatically have ‘priority need’ for homelessness assistance.
18. Ensure that where a local authority, for reasons connected with domestic abuse, grants a new secure tenancy to a social tenant who had or has a secure lifetime or assured tenancy (other than an assured shorthold tenancy). This must be a secure lifetime tenancy.
19. Provide for a statutory code of practice relating to the processing of domestic abuse data for immigration purposes.
It is not yet known the real impact COVID-19 has had on domestic abuse cases, but legal professionals have certainly seen a dramatic rise in the number of Non-Molestation Order applications being lodged at Court and we are unlikely to see a decrease of applications anytime soon.
For confidential advice on Non-Molestation orders, get in touch with Farleys family law experts on 0845 287 0939 or contact us by email or through the online chat below.