Statistics on domestic violenceAccording to figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), 2 million adults reported having experienced domestic abuse between 2011 and 2012. Of these, 7.3 per cent were women and 5 per cent were men, equivalent to 1.2 million female victims and 800,000 male victims.
Legislative developments to improve protection A Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (DVDS), Domestic Violence Protection Notices (DVPNs) and Domestic Violence Protection Orders (DVPOs) came into force across England and Wales in March 2014. This follows the conclusion of a one-year pilot in the Greater Manchester, Nottinghamshire, West Mercia and Wiltshire police force areas. The DVDS – otherwise known as Clare’s Law – gives a member of the public the right to ask the police to check whether a new or existing partner has a violent past (the ‘right to ask’). If police checks show that a person may be at risk of domestic violence from his or her partner, then the police may disclose the information in order to protect a potential victim if it is lawful, necessary and proportionate to do so (the ‘right to know’).
DVPNs and DVPOs – otherwise known as ‘Go Orders’ - are new powers introduced by the Crime and Security Act 2010 which enable the police and magistrates, in the immediate aftermath of a domestic violence incident, to ban a perpetrator from returning to his or her home and from having contact, for up to 28 days, with the victim. Breach of a DVPN or a DVPO is punishable with a maximum fine of up to £5,000 or up to two months’ imprisonment (Magistrates’ Courts Act 1980, s 63). These new remedies purport to fill a protection gap between the civil and the criminal law, although some commentators suggest that the real reason for their introduction is to reduce the burden on the public purse while appealing to public opinion by being seen to be tough on domestic violence (see, for example, Crompton L, ‘DVP notices and orders: protecting victims of the public purse?’  Fam Law 62).
Further reading and referencesCrompton L, ‘DVP notices and orders: vulnerable to human rights challenge?’  Fam Law 1588.
Crompton L, ‘DVP notices and orders: protecting victims of the public purse?’  Fam Law 62.
January 2014 update
The extended definition of domestic violenceThe new cross-party extended definition of domestic violence, to include young persons aged 16-17 (currently only those over 18 are included) and also coercive control, came into force in March 2013.
Domestic violence protection orders (‘go orders’)In November 2013 the Government announced that this new order, whereby a suspected perpetrator will be forced to leave the home, will be brought into force. The order had been piloted in three areas but they will be extended throughout England and Wales from March 2014.
There are also proposals to strengthen the criminal law (see 5.2 below) and the law of stalking (see 5.7) in order to improve protection for victims and to reduce the number of domestic violence cases.
5.2 Domestic violence – the criminal law
A new criminal offence of domestic abuseA proposed draft bill which would make domestic abuse a specific criminal offence has attracted widespread support from MPs. The proposed new law drafted by Napo (the probation and family court union) is sponsored by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Stalking and Harassment and the Justice Unions’ Group. The law would adopt a broad definition of domestic abuse as ‘intentionally, wilfully or recklessly causing, or attempting to cause, physical injury or psychological harm to a person’. As the definition will also include coercive behaviour, the proposed new offence would also include abuse involving emotional blackmail and also attempts to exert financial control over a spouse or partner. Those convicted for the offence would face a prison sentence of up to 14 years. The legislation is expected to be introduced as a private member’s Bill in early 2014 and has already attracted cross party support.
5.7 The Protection from Harassment Act 1997 (‘Stalking’)In November 2012 two new specific offences of stalking were introduced by way of an amendment to the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 by the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012. The reason for this was that, although the 1997 Act was originally introduced to deal with stalking, it did not specifically name the offence as that. Instead, it introduced the two criminal offences of harassment: pursuing a course of conduct amounting to harassment; and putting a person in fear of violence.
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