House of Commons Library

Domestic violence in England and Wales

Published Wednesday, November 21, 2018

The Queen's Speech 2017 promises a draft Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill, and measures in the Courts Bill to deal with suspects cross examining victims. This Briefing Paper looks at the background.

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How big is the problem?

The Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) estimates of domestic abuse are based on a relatively broad definition covering male and female victims of partner or family non-physical abuse, threats, force, sexual assault or stalking. The latest statistics show that:

  • Some 7.5% of women and 4.4% of men were estimated to have experienced domestic abuse in 2016/17, equivalent to an estimated 1.2 million female and 713,000 male victims.
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  • Overall, 26% of women and 15% of men aged 16 to 59 had experienced some form of domestic abuse since the age of 16. These figures were equivalent to an estimated 4.3 million female and 2.4 million male victims.

What legal remedies are there?

There are both civil and criminal remedies for victims of domestic violence.

Section 76 of the Serious Crime Act 2015 came into force in December 2015 and criminalises patterns of coercive or controlling behaviour where they are perpetrated against an intimate partner or family member. Several other criminal offences can apply to cases of domestic violence. These can range from murder, rape and manslaughter through to assault and threatening behaviour.

Civil measures include non-molestation orders, occupation orders and domestic violence protection orders (which can mean that suspected perpetrators have to leave their houses). The Protection from Harassment Act 1997 (as amended) provides both civil and criminal remedies. These include non-harassment and restraining orders. A Library briefing paper on the 1997 Act discusses these in more detail.

What is the Government doing?

In March 2016, the Home Office published its 2016-20 strategy to end violence against women and girls. This included £80 million of dedicated funding to provide core support for refuges and other accommodation-based services, rape support centres and national helplines. A further £20 million was announced in the 2017 Spring Budget. Included within this £100 million total is a £17 million new Violence Against Women and Girls Service Transformation Fund to support local domestic abuse service provision.

In March 2018, the Government launched a consultation ‘seeking views on both legislative proposals for a landmark draft Domestic Abuse Bill and a package of practical action.’ Proposals include:

  • the introduction of a statutory definition of domestic abuse;
  • the creation of a new Domestic Abuse Protection Notice (DAPN), to be made by the police and a new Domestic Abuse Protection Order (DAPO) to be available to the courts in a wide range of circumstances
  • a Domestic Abuse Commissioner
  • Putting the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme into law
  • The Government has said it will publish a response later in 2018. The Home Affairs Committee published a report in October 2018 which the Committee hoped would inform the draft bill. Key recommendations included that the Bill and the Commissioner should cover violence against women and girls more widely to recognise the “gendered nature of domestic abuse”; that local authorities should have a statutory duty to provide refuge funding; and that the new Commissioner should conduct a comprehensive review of funding across all aspects of support for survivors of domestic abuse and sexual violence.

Related Library briefing papers

The Library has published Domestic violence: a select bibliography and Labour policy on Domestic Violence - 1999-2010.

Commons Briefing papers SN06337

Authors: Pat Strickland; Grahame Allen

Topic: Crimes of violence

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