Bedfordshire Police has heralded the much-awaited Domestic Abuse Bill, which passed both Houses of Parliament and received Royal Assent and was signed into law on Thursday (29 April 2021) afternoon.
This new Bill provides further protections for those who experience domestic abuse, and strengthens measures to tackle perpetrators.
For the first time in history, there will be a wide-ranging legal definition of domestic abuse which incorporates a range of abuses beyond physical violence, to include emotional abuse, coercive or controlling behaviour, and financial or economic abuse.
The measures include important new protections and support for victims, ensuring that abusers will no longer be permitted to directly cross-examine victims in family and civil courts.
This, the Force said, will give victims better access to special measures in the courtroom to help prevent intimidation. Such as protective screens and providing their evidence via video link.
Detective Chief Inspector Craig Laws, head of Bedfordshire Police’s Emerald team, dedicated to the investigation of domestic abuse, said:
“We welcome this landmark legislation which enhances the police response to domestic abuse at every step, giving victims more support than before, while ensuring perpetrators feel the full weight of the law.
“We look forward to implementing the changes the Bill brings and continuing our drive and commitment to combat domestic abuse in all its forms, and protect those who so desperately need our help.”
New powers are also afforded to police to provide immediate protection from abusers. Courts will be able to help prevent offending by forcing perpetrators to take steps to change their behaviour, including seeking mental health support or drug and alcohol rehabilitation.
It will also place the guidance supporting the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme, also known as “Clare’s Law“, on a statutory footing.
In recent weeks, the Government also added new measures to the Bill to further strengthen existing laws around so-called “revenge porn”, amongst others.
Detective Superintendent Will Hodgkinson, head of crime and domestic abuse, said:
“In recent weeks, we have tracked down and apprehended some of the county’s highest-risk domestic abuse offenders, and our message to those who perpetrate abuse is that we are after you, and now with even more effective tools at our disposal.
“If you are experiencing domestic abuse, we are ready to listen, to believe you and to do whatever we can to investigate and provide help and support, and we urge you to get in touch.”
Jenny Bull, domestic abuse project manager at Victim Support, said:
“The new Domestic Abuse Act will deliver greater recognition, more support and better protection for victims and their children.
“It is a milestone moment for us all and I hope that it will empower those affected by domestic abuse and unhealthy control in their relationships to speak out and ask for help.”
To report domestic abuse, call police on 101, or visit a participating pharmacy and ask for “ANI”.
Alternatively, call independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
If someone is in immediate danger, call 999.
To find out more information and advice about domestic abuse please visit Bedfordshire Police’s information pages.
Victims of domestic abuse can also contact Signpost for free and confidential support, whether the abuse has been reported or not.
Signpost’s staff and volunteers know what emotions and challenges victims may be going through. They are specially trained to listen and give help and advice.
Often just talking to someone, especially one who is not family or a friend, can help victims, or those affected, make sense of what has happened and find a way to help cope and recover.
They can provide a safe, neutral place for victims to voice their fears, worries and emotions. Their emotional support is confidential and non-judgemental. They also work with a range of specialist organisations and community support groups and can make referrals to help victims on their journey.
For further information or to get in contact visit www.signpostforbedfordshire.com.