Landmark Domestic Abuse Bill will be ‘a game changer’ - MP

Victoria Atkins - Minister for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability and MP for Louth and Horncastle. ANL-190121-171710001
Victoria Atkins - Minister for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability and MP for Louth and Horncastle. ANL-190121-171710001

A landmark draft Domestic Abuse Bill, which for the first time covers more than just violence. has been welcomed by a Lincolnshire Police department which supports victims.

The Bill - which for the first time includes emotional, sexual and economic abuse - comes as it is revealed domestic abuse issues cost the country £66 billion a year.

This government is absolutely committed to shining a light on domestic abuse to ensure this hidden crime does not remain in the shadows

Minister for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability and Louth and Horncastle MP Victoria Atkins

It has been described as a “game changer” by the leading force behind it - Minister for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability and Louth and Horncastle MP Victoria Atkins.

Around two million adults experience domestic abuse each year, affecting almost six per cent of all adults. Cases in Lincolnshire are rising nine per cent in a 12-month rolling period, with women twice as likely to be victims than men.

According to Ms Atkins, the new legislation which was published today (Monday) aims to encourage victims that “they can and should seek help”.

The Bill includes 120 measures to end the “stigma and shame” associated with domestic abuse and will:

- introduce the first ever statutory government definition of domestic abuse to specifically include economic abuse and controlling and manipulative non-physical abuse

- establish a national Domestic Abuse Commissioner to drive the response to domestic abuse issues

- introduce new Domestic Abuse Protection Notices and Domestic Abuse Protection Orders to further protect victims and place restrictions on the actions of offenders

- prohibit the cross-examination of victims by their abusers in the family courts

- provide automatic eligibility for special measures to support more victims to give evidence in the criminal courts

Ms Atkins took time out tonight from addressing the national press to speak with our local reporter. She told us she had “heard absolutely heartbreaking accounts of victims whose lives have been ripped apart” because of physical, emotional or economic abuse they have suffered by someone close to them.

“Before going into politics I used to prosecute criminals when they appeared in court and saw victims withdraw their statements because they were being threatened and there was nothing I could do to help - so I have been so pleased to be leading this work,” she said.

“This Bill and non legislative measures being put in place will help victims identify when they are being abused and show that there is help when they report it.

“Domestic abuse is a crime that is hidden behind doors leaving victims feeling isolated and alone.

“This is especially evident when speaking to constituents at my surgeries in Lincolnshire where it is so rural.

“The draft Domestic Abuse Bill recognises the complex nature of these horrific crimes and puts the needs of victims and their families at the forefront.

“This government is absolutely committed to shining a light on domestic abuse to ensure this hidden crime does not remain in the shadows.

”There is a great deal of work to do before the Bill becomes law but it is a government priority for the start of the next session. We want to say to victims please ask for help - it is out there.”

Lincolnshire Police said domestic abuse remains a serious issue for the county, with incidents reported daily. Sarah Norburn, Domestic Abuse Coordinator for Lincolnshire Police, said: “We welcome the government’s draft Domestic Abuse Bill published today, and will continue to work with a wide range of partner agencies, both statutory and voluntary, to implement the changes required locally.

“Domestic abuse remains a serious issue for our county, with incidents reported daily to the Police, as well as other professionals, but also recognised by family and friends.

“There is a range of help and support available. Please visit www.domesticabuselincolnshire.com, or if you need help in the county now please call EDAN Lincs specialist Domestic Abuse Service 01522 510041 or the police on 999 in an emergency or 101 non-emergency.”