POLICE and crime commissioner David Keane has welcomed the passing of a “landmark” bill to bring greater protection for survivors of domestic abuse
But the Warrington-based commissioner has warned of the need for a broader focus to protect community-based services.
The Domestic Abuse Bill is intended to further improve the effectiveness of the justice system in providing protection for victims of the crime and bringing perpetrators to justice. It will also strengthen the support for victims of abuse and their children.
The bill has now passed through the House of Commons and is now making its way through the House of Lords before it is enshrined into law.
The new legislation will ensure that for the first time, children who see, hear or experience the effects of domestic abuse will be treated as victims under law.
It will also introduce the first legal government definition of domestic abuse which will include economic abuse and coercive or controlling behaviour. The bill also includes an amendment to ban killers using the “rough sex defence”.
An amendment to the bill was also tabled to broaden the statutory duty on public authorities, including police and crime commissioners, to commission specialist support for all those affected by domestic abuse. This would have included community-based services, as well as accommodation-based services.
PCC Keane said: “There is broad consensus across the political spectrum that this landmark bill will have a huge impact on the way domestic abuse is treated within our justice system, bringing increased protection for survivors and their children whilst also bringing more perpetrators of his heinous crime to justice.
“I hope that the government continues to engage on the issue of protecting community-based services and listens carefully to those in sector who have raised this issue, such as the Domestic Abuse Commissioner.
“It is important that we have community-based services that survivors can easily access. In Cheshire, I prioritise both accommodation and community-based services for all survivors of domestic abuse – whether they have reported the crime or not.
“This includes RASASC, the county’s flagship aftercare service for anyone affected by domestic abuse, and a number of women’s centres and refuges which help women escape their household when they are in danger.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic we have seen unprecedented demand on our domestic abuse support services. I have established a domestic abuse and vulnerability group with key partners to ensure we are offering as much support to victims as possible and that support services have access to adequate funding.
“This has resulted in my office securing more than £300,000 in central funding for local support services to meet the additional costs occurred during the pandemic.
“I will continue to stand up for survivors and provide them with the help and support they need to escape abuse and recover.”