I was delighted to introduce to Parliament this week the Domestic Abuse Bill. This is a landmark piece of legislation which will significantly enhance protection for victims domestic abuse. In the coming weeks, together with Home Office ministers, I will be piloting it through the House of Commons.
An astonishing 2.4 million people in England and Wales are estimated to have suffered some form of domestic abuse. The Bill does a huge amount to address this challenge. First, it creates new Domestic Abuse Protection Orders (DAPOs) to tackle controlling and coercive behaviour. These orders can include positive requirements such as notification requirements or a requirement to participate in alcohol or drug treatment programmes.
Second, the Bill will ban abusers from cross-examining their victims in family courts, to stop victims being coerced or re-traumatised, and responds to worrying new trends such as ‘tech abuse’ – where abusers use smart gadgets to control their victim. And on the key issue of accommodation, local authorities will also be required to provide support to victims of domestic abuse and their children.
Victim protection is an area of public policy that Cheltenham has been closely involved in over the years. In 2017, together with local stakeholders I led a campaign, alongside Gloucester MP Richard Graham, to double the maximum sentence for stalking from five to ten years. This followed the ordeal of Cheltenham GP Ellie Aston, who was stalked by a patient, and the tragedy of Hollie Gazzard’s murder at the hands of an abusive partner.
It is simply wrong that people have to live in fear of abuse – whether it be physical, emotional or economic - from those who should make them feel safe and loved. Through this Bill we will be able to keep millions of victims safe and ensure perpetrators are brought to justice.