Domestic Abuse – Proposed Tougher Measures
In this blog, FLiP Director Helen Greenfield summarises and comments on the latest government announcement and BBC article suggesting proposed changes to the law to introduce tougher measures for domestic abusers.
Some 2.4 million adults in England and Wales experienced domestic abuse in 2021, almost ¾ of whom were women. Early last week, the government announced new measures to try and ensure that domestic abusers will face tags and tougher management with a view to further protecting women and girls.
These measures were described as focusing on “stopping domestic abuse before it takes place”, ensuring “the most dangerous domestic abusers will be watched more closely”.
The new measures involve putting controlling or coercive behaviour on a par with physical violence, meaning that offenders sentenced to a year or more imprisonment or a suspended sentence will automatically be “actively managed” by the police, prison and probation service. It is hoped that this will provide a “joined up approach” to protect the public.
This policy is yet to be made law but the government have said that the police and probation service will immediately start working to ensure that offenders sentenced for a year or more for controlling and coercive behaviour are recorded on the violent and sex offender register, so they “don’t fall through the cracks”.
Abusers can also be fitted with a tag, to prevent them from going within a certain distance of a victim’s home. They could also be made to attend a behaviour change programme, all measures being part of trialing the new domestic abuse protection notices, and domestic abuse protection orders and civil orders introduced by the Domestic Abuse Act 2021. A digital tool to help police officers identify likely perpetrators, even those without convictions, will also be developed.
Other schemes are also being introduced. The Ask for ANI (Action Needed immediately) is already in operation in over 5,000 pharmacies across the UK. Anyone who is suffering from or fearful of domestic abuse can ask for ANI and they will be guided to a safe and private space and offered support to call the police or specialist domestic abuse services. Victims will now also be able to “Ask for ANI” in 18 jobcentre and jobs and benefit offices across the UK. Up to £8.4million will be allocated over 2 years to fund projects run by specialist organisations to provide support to victims.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said “…were making it a priority for the police to tackle violence against women and girls and toughening up the way offenders are managed – preventing more of these crimes from happening in the first place. And bringing more perpetrators to justice.” The Home Secretary, Suella Braverman was clear that police forces should treat violence against women and girls as a “national threat” and that “tackling these crimes will be as important as tackling threats like terrorism, serious and organised crime and child sexual abuse”.
Whilst such changes are clearly welcome, as Jess Philips, Labour MP, has suggested, the devil will be in the detail. As always, the lack of resources available to support this scheme is clear and the institutions being asked to introduce the new measures (police and probation teams) are already overstretched and understaffed. Nicole Jacobs, the domestic abuse commissioner for England and Wales, said “we need to make sure that this is properly resourced”. Whilst any discussion or change in this area must be a positive move, only time will tell if the government is able to follow through on the commitments made.
For more information on how Family Law in Partnership can help you if you are faced with domestic abuse, please visit our website page Abuse in Relationships below or contact director Helen Greenfield who focuses on this area of law on T: 020 7420 5000 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org