The MA has responded to the Transforming the response to domestic abuse consultation paper.
The MA welcomed the government's ambitions to develop a new statutory definition of domestic abuse, although we noted some concerns over its wording and called for clarification on the types of behaviour that it is intended to capture. Notably, we questioned whether the proposed inclusion of 'economic abuse' would broaden the offences already covered by controlling and coercive behaviour.
The MA also welcomed the paper's focus on supporting domestic abuse victims to give evidence in court, including proposals for a new legislative assumption that all victims should be treated as eligible for assistance. However, we used the response to highlight our disappointment that the recently published Courts and Tribunals Bill did not include provisions to restrict the cross-examination of victims by alleged abusers within family proceedings, and called on the government to take this forward as soon as parliamentary time allows.
A significant part of our response highlighted concerns with the proposal to create a new cross-jurisdictional Domestic Abuse Protection Order (DAPO), which could place positive requirements on a perpetrator without a timeframe, resulting in criminal sanctions upon breach. We stressed that if taken forward as envisaged, the orders should only be given with a specific purpose and timeframe, and that guidance would be needed to ensure coordination and proportionality in their use.
The response also set out our concerns around the availability of domestic abuse perpetrator programmes, such as the Building Better Relationships programme (BBR). In particular, we called for greater multi-agency planning around the provision of programmes, to ensure that court orders that are given in different jurisdictions are not obstructed or delayed.