TOUGHER laws to prevent domestic abuse have come into force today after a surge in home violence during lockdown.
The new crackdown, which hands police a raft of new powers to target abusers, was green lighted by Parliament last night.
It widens the definition beyond physical violence to other forms like emotional, coercive or controlling behaviour, and economic abuse.
And it brings in new laws making it illegal to threaten to use revenge porn.
Ministers have also moved to stop use of the so-called "rough sex defence" in cases involving death or serious injury.
The new legislation in particular prohibits the use of "non fatal strangulation".
And for the first time it prevents people accused of abuse from cross-examining their victims in family and civil courts.
There will be a new Domestic Abuse Commissioner, Nicole Jacobs, to oversee the application of the law.
Home office minister Victoria Atkins said the legislation, which enjoyed cross-party support, has "really put some markers in the sand".
She said: "This bill will help the 2.3 million adult victims and their children who live with domestic abuse.
"It will help to protect victims but also importantly to stop perpetrators. It's a huge piece of legislation.
"But I'm very conscious the hard work starts now because we've got to implement this act, and really get to the people that we're trying to help.
"We've really put some markers in the sand, the sorts of behaviours that we don't believe to be healthy in sexual relationships."
Police have been given powers to issue new Domestic Abuse Protection Notices which will provide victims with immediate help.
And judges can order abusers to take steps to change their behaviour like seeking mental health support or drugs and alcohol rehab.
There is also a "revolutionary" duty for local councils to provide safe accommodation to help sufferers recover from their experiences.
And for the first time children will also be recognised as victims if they see, hear, or experience the effects of domestic abuse.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said the crackdown on abusers was "long overdue".
She said: "Domestic abuse and violence against women and girls are utterly shameful.
"I am determined to work tirelessly to keep vulnerable people safe and bring crime down.
"This landmark act will transform the support we offer across society."
A Home Office statement added: "This game-changing piece of legislation will help millions of people who have suffered domestic abuse and ensure abusers face the full force of the law."
Commissioner Louisa Rolfe, the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for Domestic Abuse, said the new bill will help officers tackle violence.
She said: "Supporting victims of this cruel crime and bringing offenders to justice remains a priority.
"Police attend more than one million incidents of domestic abuse each year, yet we know many victims will still not come forward.
"We welcome the measures, including the new tools available to officers to better support victims and their families."
Claire Throssell, an ambassador for Women’s Aid said, said the new law is "a chance to make sure survivors are safe, protected and loved".
She said: "It is high time the family courts are safe and supportive, protecting victims and survivors instead of shielding perpetrators."
Domestic violence has surged while families have been trapped at home during the lockdown, according to charities and campaigners.
The charity Refuge reported a 61% increase in calls to its helpline in the past year – many of them coming from women aged 30-39.
HOW YOU CAN GET HELP:
Women’s Aid has this advice for victims and their families:
- Always keep your phone nearby.
- Get in touch with charities for help, including the Women’s Aid live chat helpline and services such as SupportLine.
- If you are in danger, call 999.
- Familiarise yourself with the Silent Solution, reporting abuse without speaking down the phone, instead dialing “55”.
- Always keep some money on you, including change for a pay phone or bus fare.
- If you suspect your partner is about to attack you, try to go to a lower-risk area of the house – for example, where there is a way out and access to a telephone.
- Avoid the kitchen and garage, where there are likely to be knives or other weapons. Avoid rooms where you might become trapped, such as the bathroom, or where you might be shut into a cupboard or other small space.
If you are a victim of domestic abuse, SupportLine is open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 6pm to 8pm on 01708 765200. The charity’s email support service is open weekdays and weekends during the crisis – [email protected]
Women’s Aid provides a live chat service available. from 10am to noon.
You can also call the freephone 24-hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247.
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