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21 October, 2019

Call for written evidence: Domestic Abuse Bill – DEADLINE 21 November 2019

 Call for written evidence: Domestic Abuse Bill

Do you have relevant expertise and experience or a special interest in the Domestic Abuse Bill, which is currently passing through Parliament?

If so, you can submit your views in writing to the House of Commons Public Bill Committee which is going to consider this Bill.

The Public Bill Committee is now able to receive written evidence. The sooner you send in your submission, the more time the Committee will have to take it into consideration.

The Committee is expected to meet for the first time on Tuesday 29 October 2019; it will stop receiving written evidence at the end of the Committee stage, which is expected to be not later than 5.00pm on Thursday 21 November 2019. However, please note that when the Committee concludes its consideration of the Bill it is no longer able to receive written evidence and it can conclude earlier than the expected deadline of 5.00pm on Thursday 21 November.[1]

Aims of the Bill

The Domestic Abuse Bill 207-19 (HC Bill 422) was introduced in the House of Commons on 16 July 2019. The Bill, together with its Explanatory Notes, is available on the Parliament website, where one can follow its progress.

The Bill was announced during the Queen’s Speech on 21 June 2017, following a commitment in the Conservative Party manifesto 2017 to deliver “Protections for victims of domestic abuse in law through a new landmark Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill.”[2] The Government has described the Bill as a ”once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform the response to” domestic abuse.[3]

A draft version of the Bill was published on 21 January 2019 as part of the Government’s response to the ‘Transforming the response to domestic abuse’ consultation, which ran from 8 March 2018 to 31 May 2018. The draft Bill was scrutinised by the Joint Committee on the Draft Domestic Abuse Bill, which reported on 11 June 2019. The Government responded to the Committee on 16 July 2019.

Alongside the Bill, the Home Office and Ministry of Justice have published a collection of factsheets and supporting documents, available on Gov.uk.

The main provisions of the Bill are as follows.

Part 1, Chapter 1 (clauses 1 and 2) of the Bill would introduce a new definition of domestic abuse to the law of England and Wales. The definition would provide the foundation for the remaining provisions in Part 1 (clauses 3-56), including the functions of the Domestic Abuse Commissioner and the new powers for dealing with domestic abuse.

Part 1, Chapter 2 (clauses 3 to 18) of the Bill would provide the framework for a new Domestic Abuse Commissioner. The Government intends for the Commissioner to “provide strategic oversight of the national response to domestic abuse and hold public authorities to account.” The general functions of the Commissioner would include encouraging good practice in the prevention, detection and investigation of domestic abuse, and the provision of protection and support for victims. The Commissioner would have the power to issue reports and would be required to prepare strategic plans. Specific public authorities would have a statutory duty to co-operate with the Commissioner.

Part 1, Chapter 3 of the Bill (clauses 19-52) would provide the detailed framework for two new civil protection orders:

  • Domestic Abuse Protection Notices (DAPN), which could be given by the police to “secure the immediate protection of a victim from future domestic abuse carried out by a suspected perpetrator”. Where a DAPN has been given, the chief officer of police of the relevant force must apply within a 48-hour period to a magistrates’ court for a Domestic Abuse Protection Order.
  • Domestic Abuse Protection Orders (DAPO), which can be granted by a court on application by certain categories of person (including the police, where a DAPN has been given) and may contain “prohibitions or requirements for the purpose of preventing the perpetrator from being abusive towards his or her victim”.

Clause 53 would extend the availability of “special measures” for complainants in criminal cases involving domestic abuse. Special measures apply to intimidated witnesses and are intended to improve the quality of their evidence. They include, for example, screening the witness from the accused; giving evidence via live link; and giving evidence in private.

Clause 54 would permit the inclusion of a polygraph condition in the licence of a person who has committed a domestic abuse-related offence. Offenders released from custody on licence (i.e. conditionally released from prison) subject to such a condition would be required to undertake polygraph tests.

Clause 55 would put the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme on a statutory footing. The Scheme provides a mechanism for the police to disclose information about partners or ex-partners of individuals at risk of domestic abuse.

Clause 56 would ensure that where an English housing authority is operating a discretionary scheme of flexible fixed-term tenancies, certain victims of domestic abuse will be entitled to the grant of a new secure ‘lifetime’ tenancy. The aim is to remove barriers which might prevent a victim from leaving their existing social housing tenancy and to support them to remain in their homes where the perpetrator has left.

Part 2 (clauses 57-74) would create a new domestic abuse offence in Northern Ireland, which would be analogous to existing offences in the laws of Scotland and England & Wales.

Part 3 (clause 75) would make provision for prohibiting perpetrators of abuse from cross-examining their victims in the family courts (and vice versa), in certain circumstances. To support this, the clause would provide family courts with the power to appoint qualified legal representatives, to undertake cross-examination on a party’s behalf where that party is prohibited by clause 75 from cross-examining in person.

Part 4 (clauses 76-78) provides for extra-territorial jurisdiction over certain types of offences against the person committed by UK nationals (or those habitually resident in the UK) outside the UK. Such extra-territorial jurisdiction is required by Article 44 of the Istanbul Convention, which the United Kingdom has yet to ratify.

Clause 79 would provide a power for the Home Secretary to issue guidance about domestic abuse.

Follow the progress of the Domestic Abuse Bill

The Domestic Abuse Bill  was published on 16 July 2019. The Second reading of the Bill in the House of Commons was held on Wednesday 2 October 2019. The Bill was carried over to the next session, following a decision on 2 October 2019. This means the Bill can continue its progress through Parliament from the start of the next Parliamentary Session.

This Bill has now been committed to a Public Bill Committee and is expected to hold oral evidence sessions on Tuesday 29 and Thursday 31 October 2019. The Public Bill Committee must conclude by Thursday 21 November.

Guidance on submitting written evidence

Deadline for written evidence submissions

The Public Bill Committee is now able to receive written evidence. The sooner you send in your submission, the more time the Committee will have to take it into consideration and possibly reflect it in an amendment. The order in which amendments are taken in Committee will be available in due course under Selection of Amendments on the Bill documents pages. Once the Committee has dealt with an amendment it will not revisit it.

The Committee is expected to meet for the first time on Tuesday 29 October 2019; it will stop receiving written evidence at the end of the Committee stage on Thursday 21 November 2019. Please note that when the Committee concludes its consideration of the Bill it is no longer able to receive written evidence and it can conclude earlier than the expected deadline of 5.00pm on Thursday 21 November 2019.

What should written evidence cover?

Your submission should address matters contained within the Bill and concentrate on issues where you have a special interest or expertise, and factual information of which you would like the Committee to be aware.

Your submission could most usefully:

  • suggest amendments to the Bill, with supporting explanation; and
  • (when amendments are published) support or oppose amendments tabled to the Bill by Members of Parliament, with supporting explanation.

It is helpful if the submission includes a brief introduction about you or your organisation. The submission should not have been previously published or circulated elsewhere.

If you have any concerns about your submission, please contact the Scrutiny Unit (details below).

How should written evidence be submitted?

Your submission should be emailed to [email protected]. Please note that submissions sent to the Government department in charge of the Bill will not be treated as evidence to the Public Bill Committee.

Submissions should be in the form of a Word document. A summary should be provided. Paragraphs should be numbered, but there should be no page numbering. Essential statistics or further details can be added as annexes, which should also be numbered.

As a guideline, submissions should not exceed 3,000 words.

Please include in the covering email the name, address, telephone number and email address of the person responsible for the submission. The submission should be dated.

What will happen to my evidence?

The written evidence will be circulated to all Committee Members to inform their consideration of the Bill.

Most submissions will also be published on the internet as soon as possible after the Committee has started sitting.

Those making a submission to a Committee inquiry should note the following:

  • Committees publish most of the written evidence they receive on the internet (where it will be accessible to search engines).
  • If you do not wish your submission to be published, you must clearly say so and explain your reasons for not wishing its disclosure. The Committee will take this into account in deciding whether to publish. If you wish to include private or confidential information in your submission to the Committee, please contact the Clerk of the Committee to discuss this. The Scrutiny Unit (details below) will be able to provide you with contact details for the clerk.
  • A Committee is not obliged to accept your submission as evidence, nor to publish any or all of the submission even if it has been accepted as evidence. This may occur where a submission is very long or contains material to which it is inappropriate to give parliamentary privilege (see Guide for Witnesses for further information on parliamentary privilege).
  • Material already published elsewhere should not form the basis of a submission, but may be referred to within a submission, in which case it should be clearly referenced, preferably with a hyperlink.
  • You should be careful not to comment on matters currently before a court of law, or matters in respect of which court proceedings are imminent. If you anticipate such issues arising, you should discuss with the Clerk of the Committee how this might affect your submission.
  • Once submitted, no public use should be made of any submission prepared specifically for the Committee unless you have first obtained permission from the Clerk of the Committee. If you are given permission by the Committee to publish your evidence separately, you should be aware that you will be legally responsible for its content.
  • Evidence which is accepted by the Committee may be published online at any stage; when it is so published it becomes subject to parliamentary copyright and is protected by parliamentary privilege.
  • Once you have received acknowledgement that the evidence has been published you may publicise or publish your evidence yourself. In doing so you must indicate that it was prepared for the Committee, and you should be aware that your publication or re-publication of your evidence may not be protected by parliamentary privilege.
  • Public Bill Committees do not investigate individual cases of complaint or allegations of maladministration.

Data protection

  • The personal information you supply will be processed in accordance with the provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998 for the purposes of attributing the evidence you submit and contacting you as necessary in connection with its processing.
  • The Clerk of the House of Commons is the data controller for the purposes of the Act.
  • If you have any queries or concerns about the collection and use of this information please advise the committee team providing your full contact details.

Scrutiny Unit contact details

Email: [email protected]
Scrutiny Unit
House of Commons
London SW1A OAA

[1] In the last Parliamentary Session, the following Public Bill Committees concluded their consideration of the Bill earlier than scheduled: Armed Forces (Flexible Working), Civil Liability, Counter-Terrorism and Border Security, Courts and Tribunals (Judiciary and Functions of Staff), Courts and Tribunals (Online Procedure), Crime (Overseas Production Orders), Divorce, Dissolution and Separation, Domestic Gas and Electricity (Tariff Cap), Fisheries, Healthcare (International Arrangements), Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal), Ivory, Mental Capacity (Amendment), National Insurance Contributions (Termination Awards and Sporting Testimonials), Nuclear Safeguards, Offensive Weapons, Parliamentary Buildings (Restoration and Renewal), Rating (Property in Common Occupation) and Council Tax (Empty Dwellings), Secure Tenancies (Victims of Domestic Abuse), Smart Meters, Space Industry, Tenant Fees, Voyeurism (Offences), Wild Animals in Circuses.

[2] Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p48

[3] HM Government, Transforming the Response to Domestic Abuse Consultation Response and Draft Bill, January 2019, CP15, p1

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