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Domestic abuse bill requires significant cash investment says Exeter lawyer

By August 2, 2019January 26th, 2021Member News & Updates

Exeter lawyer Penny Scott, who has contributed to the consultation on the Domestic Abuse Bill which is now being debated in Parliament, says more investment is needed if the Bill is to be effective.

Penny, who is a partner at Cartridges Law and chair of the Family Law Committee of the Law Society, said it was part of the business of the Committee to respond to bills of this nature with recommendations.

The bill had its first reading this month in the House of Commons and will be debated following its second reading on a date due to be announced.

And Penny said although many of the measures are welcome, the bill still does not go far enough and needs considerable investment to be effective.

The draft bill contains several key measures against domestic abuse such as:

  • the inclusion of children aged 16 and 17 in the statutory definition of domestic abuse
  • for the first time, a statutory definition of coercive control
  • the recognition of economic abuse as a form of domestic abuse
  • prohibiting the cross-examination in family courts of domestic abuse victims by their alleged abuser, and
  • the appointment of a domestic abuse commissioner.

Penny added: ‘The bill requires local authorities to establish safe houses for victims of domestic abuse which is to be welcomed, however funds will be needed to back this up. It’s a shame that cuts to government and local authority funding have resulted in the closure of so many existing refuges across the country, including our refuge here in Exeter.

‘There are many aspects of the bill which we welcome, such as the creation of a domestic abuse commissioner, and the bill does have the power to change people’s lives. However, it does require a significant cash investment to be effective.’

Penny also welcomed the proposal to end the cross examination of victims by their alleged abuser in family courts (as is already the position in criminal courts) and added: ‘The Law Society is campaigning for the restoration of legal aid in such family cases, so that both parties can be represented until the facts about the alleged abuse have been established by the court. We think this is particularly important where children are involved following family breakdown.’

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