Tackling domestic abuse at home and abroad
Where are we now?
The 25 November 2019 was the UN day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and Girls. Globally one in three women and girls experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, most frequently caused by an intimate partner. Only 52% of women married or in a union are able to freely make their own decisions about sexual relations, contraceptive and healthcare and 71% of all human trafficking victims world wide are women and girls.
Closer to home statistics released by the ONS this week showed that almost 2.5 million people in England and Wales experienced domestic abuse last year. Anyone can experience domestic abuse regardless of age, race, gender, sexual orientation and socioeconomic status. However, statistics show that women are more likely than men to experience multiple incidents of abuse and the most severe incidents. Each year over 65,000 victims at a high risk of serious harm or murder are discussed at Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC) meetings across the UK. 95% of those victims are women according to figures from the charities Women's Aid and Safer Lives.
Unfortunately the Domestic Abuse Bill, which had wide cross party support, failed at its second reading because of the dissolution of Parliament related to the forthcoming general election. This Bill sets out for the first time a statutory definition of domestic abuse, establishes a Domestic Abuse Commissioner to stand up for victims and survivors, introduces new Domestic Abuse Protection Notices and Orders, prohibits perpetrators of abuse from cross examining their victims in person in the Family Courts and places the guidance supporting what is commonly known as Clare's Law (which gives members of the public and concerned relatives and friends the right to ask the police if their partner may pose a risk to them) on a statutory footing, amongst other measures.
Resolution, a national organisation of family lawyers and other professionals is calling on all political parties to support the reintroduction of the Bill in the next Parliament in it's manifesto #fairnessforfamilies are calling https://resolution.org.uk/campaigning-for-change/join-the-fairness-for-families-campaign/manifesto/.
Earlier this year the Government also launched a consultation to look at how the Family Court manages the safety and wellbeing of children where there is a risk of domestic abuse or this has been a feature in the relationship between the parties, including the use of powers the court already has to prevent repeated applications that in some cases may be made to deliberately traumatise a victim.
In addition there are a number of local initiatives to improve the workings of the Family Courts for victims of domestic abuse and their families. Emma Hopkins Jones a specialist family law solicitor at our York office is an active member of a Domestic Abuse Family Court working group established by local charity IDAS (Independent Domestic Abuse Support Services) to enable police, solicitors, CAFCASS, social care, court staff and citizens advice to share information and discuss initiatives to improve the experience of those who have to access the Family Court.
The Family Team at Rollits has a wealth of experience dealing with the complex safeguarding issues that arise in cases of this nature, whether acting for the victim or the alleged perpetrator. For further information contact a member of the team.
This article is for general guidance only. It provides useful information in a concise form. Action should not be taken without obtaining specific legal advice.