Government's Domestic Abuse Bill amendments welcomed by Victims’ Commissioner

A series of amendments which will better protect victims, championed by the Victims’ Commissioner and Domestic Abuse campaigners, will be included in the Domestic Abuse Bill the Government has announced.

The new clauses include:

• Provide that a child who sees or hears, or experiences the effects of, domestic abuse and is related to the person being abused or the perpetrator is also to be regarded as a victim of domestic abuse;

• Prohibition of domestic abuse perpetrators cross examining their victims in person in family proceedings in England and Wales; and

• Automatic provision of special measures in civil and family proceedings.

Reacting to the news, the Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales, Dame Vera Baird QC said: “I am very pleased that the Government have taken these steps. These amendments are something I, and others from the victims’ sector, have been arguing hard for.

“It is essential that children are recognised as not mere bystanders when it could not be clearer that they are victims in their own right, who can be profoundly affected by domestic abuse in their childhood.

“My report “Sowing the Seeds” called for this and summarised much of the evidence. And the family law harms panel obviously agreed.

“Although the law will take another few months to implement, it is imperative that this treatment of children as victims starts now in every court and among all professionals and practitioners who deal with domestic abuse. There must not be a day longer when the rights of children are ignored,” she said.

Referencing the specific civil court changes Dame Vera continued: “These are also important protections which need to be implemented urgently if we are to stop family courts being used as yet another method by which domestic abuse perpetrators can harm their victims,” she concluded.

The amendments announced today are described as the first tranche with further changes expected to be announced in the coming weeks.