New laws to protect survivors of domestic abuse in England and Wales have been introduced in Parliament.
The Domestic Abuse Bill would place a legal duty on councils to offer secure homes for those fleeing violence and their children and proposes creating a dedicated domestic abuse commissioner.
Victims Minister Victoria Atkins said it addressed “an injustice that has long needed to be tackled”.
But Women’s Aid said victims’ services were operating “on a shoestring”.
It is estimated that almost two million adults in England and Wales are victims of domestic abuse every year.
Measures in the bill, seen as a key part of Theresa May’s legacy, include:
- The first government definition of domestic abuse, which will include financial abuse and controlling and manipulative non-physical behaviour
- Proposals for a Domestic Abuse Commissioner to champion survivors and hold local and national government to account on their actions
- Domestic Abuse Protection Notices and Domestic Abuse Protection Orders, which would allow police and courts to intervene earlier where abuse is suspected
- Prohibiting the cross-examination of victims by their abusers in the family courts
- Automatic eligibility for special measures to support more victims to give evidence in the criminal courts
Introducing the bill in the Commons, Ms Atkins the government recognised the “importance of building trust with victims to tackle this hidden crime”.
Labour’s Harriet Harman, former minister for women, said the bill was “an important step” in a “long struggle to tackle the scourge of domestic violence”.
“I hope the next prime minister recognises this bill is the will of the house,” she continued, suggesting that neither Boris Johnson nor Jeremy Hunt were “what you might call champions of the cause of tackling domestic violence”.
In response, Ms Atkins said the bill was not “just a commitment of this prime minister”.
“This is a commitment of the government. And we have the extra confirmation… that both leadership teams have confirmed to me that not only do the candidates support this bill they will also progress with this bill in the autumn.”