House of Commons Library

Domestic violence in England and Wales

Published Wednesday, June 21, 2017

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 7.0% of women and 4.4% of men were estimated to have experienced domestic abuse in 2015/16, equivalent to an estimated 1.2 million female and 651,000 male victims.
  • Overall, 26.3% of women and 13.6% of men had experienced any domestic abuse since the age of 16. These figures were equivalent to an estimated 4.3 million female victims of domestic abuse and 2.2 million male victims between the ages of 16 and 59.

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.

A number of 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 £15 million new Violence Against Women and Girls Service Transformation Fund to support local domestic abuse service provision.

On 17 February 2017, the Prime Minister announced “a major programme of work leading towards bringing forward a Domestic Violence and Abuse Act”.  The Queen’s Speech 2017 confirmed that there would be a draft Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill this session.  It will:

  • Establish a Domestic Violence and Abuse Commissioner;
  • Definition of domestic abuse and bring in consolidated protection orders;
  • Allow aggravated sentences where abusive behaviour involves a child.

The Courts Bill will re-introduce measures to prevent alleged abusers cross-examining victims directly in family courts.  These were originally included in the Prisons and Courts Bill 2016-17, which fell at the General Election.

Related Library briefing papers

The Library has also published:



Commons Briefing papers SN06337

Authors: Pat Strickland; Grahame Allen

Topic: Crimes of violence

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