UK Politics

Johnson promises new domestic abuse bill

A woman moving a curtain to look out of the window from her home Image copyright Getty Images

Boris Johnson has confirmed the government will introduce a new bill aimed tackling the "horrific crime" of domestic abuse when Parliament returns.

Previous legislation, forcing councils to provide shelter for victims, was dropped after the prime minister suspended proceedings at Westminster.

Several charities wrote to him, asking for a "clear" pledge to reintroduce it in the Queen's Speech on 14 October.

Mr Johnson said he was "fully committed" to such a move.

The Domestic Abuse Bill, introduced with cross-party support by Theresa May's government in July, would place a legal duty on councils to offer secure homes for those fleeing violence, and their children.

Applying to England and Wales, it proposed the first government definition of domestic abuse, including financial abuse and controlling and manipulative non-physical behaviour.

It would also:

  • Create a Domestic Abuse Commissioner, to champion survivors and hold local and national government to account.
  • Set up Domestic Abuse Protection Notices and Domestic Abuse Protection Orders, allowing police and courts to intervene earlier where abuse is suspected
  • Prohibit the cross-examination of victims by their abusers in the family courts

The government confirmed in July that it would also be extended to Northern Ireland, which has been without a devolved administration since January 2017.

When the bill was introduced in July, then Victims Minister Victoria Atkins said it addressed "an injustice that has long needed to be tackled".

It is estimated that almost two million adults in England and Wales are victims of domestic abuse every year.

Local authority spending on refuges for victims fell from £31m in 2010 to £23m in 2017.

Charities say there is a severe lack of services in many areas, and victims are being turned away when they seek help because refuges with diminished budgets cannot cope with demand.

Women's Aid said victims' services were operating "on a shoestring".

The suspension - prorogation - of Parliament means all bills currently passing through the Commons and Lords are lost, unless the government decides to carry them over to the next session. The Domestic Abuse Bill was one of those lost when Parliament closed in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

Lost bills can be reintroduced in the Queen's Speech, setting out the government's agenda, but all progress made so far in Parliament is undone.

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