Cheltenham MP driving domestic abuse legislation
By Rob Freeman | 30th June 2020
Domestic abuse legislation is being introduced by Cheltenham MP Alex Chalk to give victims greater protection and provide courts with greater power.
For the first time, the Domestic Abuse Bill will create a legal definition of domestic abuse.
And the Bill will introduce measures to prevent tragedies committed by repeat domestic abusers and stalkers such as Asher Maslin who killed Hollie Gazzard in Gloucester after being involved in 24 previous violent offences.
Mr Chalk, a junior minister at the Ministry of Justice, said: "Every day the family courts see some of the most vulnerable in society and we have a duty to ensure they are protected and not put in danger.
"Our landmark Domestic Abuse Bill will transform society's response to this destructive crime - protecting victims and pursuing perpetrators more than ever before."
Victims of domestic abuse will be given separate entrances, waiting rooms and protective screens to shield them from their alleged abuser in court.
Ministers will make it easier for judges to issue barring orders which prevent abusive ex-partners from repeatedly dragging their victims back to court.
The move comes after an expert-led review into how the family courts handle domestic abuse and other serious offences raised concerns that victims and children were being put at unnecessary risk.
"This report lays bare many hard truths about long-standing failings, but we are determined to drive the fundamental change necessary to keep victims and their children safe," said Mr Chalk.
The expert panel was made up of representatives from charities, the judiciary, family law practitioners and academia, and took the views of more than 1,200 individuals and organisations.
Women's Aid acting chief executive Nicki Norman said: "This report marks a major step forward in exposing what women and children experiencing domestic abuse have been telling us for decades.
"The culture of disbelief identified by the panel is a barrier to courts making safe child contact arrangements in cases of domestic abuse. The result is that, all too often, survivors and their children experience the family courts as failing to effectively protect them.
"This welcome report must now deliver change. Guaranteeing special measures in the family courts is a critical protection which survivors have long called for."
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