New domestic abuse guidelines issued by governmentCurrent affairs
The government has unveiled a new and broader definition of domestic abuse to cover psychological intimidation and controlling behaviour.
This new definition, announced yesterday by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, will include: “any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality”.
As a result, actions such as preventing partners from leaving the house or having access to a phone could lead to prosecution. The general hope is that this broadened definition will help raise awareness of different kinds of domestic violence.
Deborah McIlveen, of Women’s Aid, welcomed the new definition of domestic violence, which also considers the domestic abuses suffered by young people aged 16 to 18, and recognises the enormous impact of coercive control.
Domestic violence is not a specific criminal offence and has often been prosecuted in reference to “incidents of threatening behaviour, violence and abuse”, according to a definition adopted in 2004.
However, with one incident of domestic violence reported to the police every minute and with an average of 35 assaults before the police are called, according to Women’s Aid figures, this new definition would be key in raising awareness and enabling prevention.
Minister for crime prevention Jeremy Browne said: “We want to raise the profile of domestic violence as an issue.”
Nick Clegg echoed this, saying: “When you say domestic violence, people think that’s one act of physical violence, but actually psychological and emotional coercion, abuse over a long period of time is just as unacceptable.”
Yvette Cooper, shadow home secretary and Labour’s spokeswoman for women and equalities, said: “Action on domestic abuse should recognise wider abuse and control and the impact on younger people too”. However, she also expressed her concerns over access to legal aid and support as a result of the cumulative cuts to domestic violence services perpetrated by the Coalition Government.
The changes into the definition of domestic violence will come into force in March 2013 following the advice of police, local authorities and charities.