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The Domestic Abuse Bill, a step in the right direction?

Monday 1 March 2021

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The Domestic Abuse Bill received its second reading stage in the House of Lords on 5 January 2021. The government has indicated a commitment to improving the justice system's effectiveness in providing protection for victims of domestic abuse and bringing perpetrators to justice. In addition to creating a statutory definition of domestic abuse which includes emotional, coercive, controlling, or economic abuse, the bill proposes for a new Domestic Abuse Protection Notice (DAPN) and Domestic Abuse Protection Order (DAPO).

Domestic abuse protection notice

The bill introduces DAPN’s which a senior officer can issue if the officer has reasonable grounds for believing that P has been abusive towards a person aged 16 and over or to whom P is personally connected and that officer has reasonable grounds to believe it is necessary to give the notice to protect that person from domestic abuse, or risk of domestic abuse. The DAPN may provide for non-contact or not to come within a specified distance from the victim's premises. 

What the DAPN essentially does is it gives victims immediate protection before applying to the court for a non-molestation order, before any criminal charges are brought, subsequent restraining orders made or before any DAPO is made.

The DAPN will trigger a 48-hour time-limit from the point the DAPN was given for an application for DAPO to be heard by the magistrates’ court. This removes any unnecessary delay, again offering the victim immediate protection. If a constable has reasonable grounds to believe a person is in breach of the DAPN, a constable may arrest that person without a warrant and that person must be brought before the magistrates’ court within 24 hours of arrest.

Domestic abuse protection order

Within 48 hours, a person subject to a DAPN must be brought before the magistrates’ court where an application for DAPO will be heard. 

Generally, there will be four ways a DAPO can be made:

  1. by application;
  2. during the course of family proceedings;
  3. after the conclusion of criminal proceedings and;
  4. in civil proceedings. 

The court must be satisfied on the balance of probabilities that P has been abusive towards a person aged 16 or over or to whom P is personally connected and that the order is necessary to protect that person from domestic abuse, or risk of domestic abuse carried out by P. P would then be subject to certain restrictions depending on what the court deems fit. Any breach of the order is an offence.

The key difference between the new proposal and the current non-molestation order is that the DAPN can be applied for by the police, thus offering immediate interim protection compared to the NMO. Furthermore, various other persons or bodies will be able to make an application for DAPO, which is another strength of the new proposals.

Conclusion

When viewing the provisions holistically, it seems the government's key aim in relation to the provisions was making protection easily accessible which is reflected by allowing DAPO's to be dealt with not only by family courts but both civil and criminal courts, in addition to enabling more persons to make that application on behalf of the victim.

View the bill here.

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