The Domestic Abuse Bill completed its stages in the House of Commons on 6 July 2020. It was introduced in the House of Lords on 7 July 2020. This briefing provides summary information about the bill in advance of its second reading in the House of Lords on Tuesday 5 January 2021.
The bill includes provisions on several areas. It includes a new definition of domestic abuse, extra protection for victims and witnesses in court, and codifies the principle that consent to offences involving violent or abusive behaviour is not a defence.
The bill received cross-party support in the House of Commons. However, MPs raised concerns about certain matters, including:
- whether carers of persons with disabilities should come under the definition of ‘personally connected’ for the purposes of domestic abuse;
- the duty on local authorities to support victims of domestic abuse;
- whether the ‘carer’s defence’, available for the offence of controlling or coercive behaviour, should be repealed; and
- recourse to public funds for domestic abuse survivors.
The Government defended its position on these issues. It said that carers should not be included within the ambit of ‘personally connected’ as it did not want to dilute the understanding of domestic abuse. In reference to local authorities’ duties, the Government said it aims to publish draft guidance for local authorities, as required in the bill, in time for the Lords committee stage. The Government also said it did not want to make changes to policies on recourse to public funds until further evidence has been gathered.
No opposition amendments were made to the bill during the House of Commons stages. Several government amendments were made, including one new clause on homelessness during committee, and five new clauses at report stage. These covered: including children in the definition of victims of domestic abuse; allowing victims to be protected by special measures in family and civil proceedings; prohibiting cross-examination in person in certain circumstances; and banning the so-called ‘rough sex’ defence. The House agreed to each of these without a vote.