My Lords, I fully support the Bill and welcome the Government’s commitment to tackling domestic abuse. This issue causes me a great deal of concern and I have previously spoken on the subject in your Lordships’ House and elsewhere. Domestic abuse affects all communities, irrespective of the class, race, religion or status of the people involved. We must not confuse this worldwide problem. I have travelled to a number of countries overseas where I know it takes place, and I hope that other countries will follow our example and think of implementing similar legislation. The Bill is timely, as during the pandemic the problem has been aggravated due to long periods of isolation.
I have studied all seven parts of the Bill and am of the view that it is a very good Bill but that we need to look at how we can strengthen it. I welcome the wide definition of “domestic abuse”. I am also pleased that the Bill recognises that children can be victims of domestic abuse through witnessing and suffering. Unfortunately, children who experience domestic abuse can be affected throughout their lives. I was recently talking to a middle-aged professional person who made me aware that this is what happened to him.
The Bill places a statutory duty on local authorities to provide support to victims. I feel, however, that a number of victims are often supported by community-based support services which need additional financial support. In addition, the Bill could be strengthened further by requiring public bodies to deliver community-based services within a statutory duty. I feel that this needs to be looked into.
I am concerned about strangulation, which frequently results in further fatalities; I am personally aware of one case where this happened. I may add that in 2018, 29% of women who were killed as a result of domestic abuse were killed in this way. I therefore feel that a specific offence of non-fatal strangulation and suffocation should be in the Bill.
Another issue that worries me is abuse that occurs when a partner leaves home and goes to work. I am aware of cases where such situations have arisen, and consequently there should be protection for people at places of work. We should perhaps consider extending DVPOs to provide protection in workplaces.
A group of people who cause me concern are migrant survivors of domestic abuse. They are vulnerable people who need to be protected and supported. Furthermore, as the Bill includes psychological, emotional and other abuse, we should include in the provisions of the legislation an offence where a partner threatens to reveal intimate images that could be damaging.
In addition to passing the legislation, we need to ensure that adequate funding is provided to everyone involved in the implementation of the legislation. Furthermore, adequate guidance and training need to be available to responding agencies and professionals, as well as to police officers. Finally, we need to undertake educational programmes to make everyone aware of the provisions of the proposed legislation and the support and help that are available.