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Domestic Abuse – Does proposed new legislation go far enough to finally solve the problem?

General public perception is that a sleepy village is a much safer environment than a big city – but a recent report by the National Rural crime Network suggests this is not necessarily true.

The report concluded that domestic abuse can be a much more long-lasting and serious problem within rural communities when compared to urban areas. Whilst there are instances where the victim is a man, the vast majority of victims are still women. In the countryside it seems there is often still an old-fashioned view that the man of the house is in charge and can rule his household (including his wife or partner) as he wishes. The statistics highlighted the following specific concerns:-

  • the abuse within a rural setting can last around 25% longer than in a town or city setting, as loyal local family and friends facilitate keeping it under the radar and unreported
  • the victims in a village community are half as likely to report their suffering and when they have the courage to do so are sometimes facing issues with their perpetrators being protected by the local traditional culture and beliefs
  • the isolation of a rural life can be used as a weapon by the perpetrator – making it easier for them to maintain control over their victim and remove them from other family and friends
  • perpetrators appear to already recognise the benefit to them of isolating their victim and often move the family to a more rural and countryside setting to avoid detection

There is no easy solution, but leaving taking action to the discretion of the local police force is clearly not working. For a victim to take matters in their own hand and seek private court orders under family law requires them to have access to the correct information and advice, and the ability to actually attend court with the appropriate paperwork duly completed. There are free helplines and local charities who can assist, but the Government has recognised this is simply not enough. After carrying out extensive investigations with the relevant bodies dealing with the effects of domestic abuse plus a public consultation the draft Domestic Abuse Bill was finally put before Parliament for the first time last month. It proposes, amongst other measures:-

  • a dedicated domestic abuse commissioner
  • a duty on local councils to offer secure homes for victims of domestic violence
  • the first statutory definition of “domestic abuse”, which would include financial control
  • the introduction of Domestic Abuse Protection Notices and Domestic Abuse Protection Orders to provide further options for protecting victims and restricting the actions of perpetrators
  • finally prohibiting the cross-examination in court of a victim by their perpetrator (who can act in person specifically to be able to do this)

There is still a long road to getting enforceable legislation, but at least we are taking a step in the right direction.

If you need more advice on domestic abuse or any related topics please contact claire.weeks@curwens.co.uk

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