The Government has recently announced a number of new measures to tackle domestic abuse in England and Wales and provide further support to victims.
With regards to tackling domestic abuse, the Prime Minister, Theresa May, has set out plans for a major new programme of work leading towards bringing forward a Domestic Violence and Abuse Act.
She describes domestic violence as “one of the most widespread and heinous offences” and highlights that victims are often let down by the current legal system, partly because it includes a range of difference offences and statutes.
This creates a lack of clarity, which in turn has led to an unacceptable diversity across the country in terms of the degree of effort put in to try and tackle it. Although the prosecution of, and convictions for, such offences have started to improve in recent years, the Prime Minister says there is inconsistency in the use and effectiveness of the various law enforcement measures across the country.
The recently announced programme of work will look at what more can be done to improve support for victims, especially in the way the law currently works. Experts in this area will be invited to contribute ideas and proposals for improvement, which is likely to lead to legislation – making it much easier for law enforcement bodies to find and use more consistently the measures at their disposal.
Like the Modern Slavery Act, the Prime Minister believes that the measures that come out of this work will raise public awareness of the problem – as well as encourage victims to report their abusers and see them brought to justice.
“I believe that the plans I have announced today have the potential to completely transform the way we think about and tackle domestic violence and abuse,” said Theresa May. “There are thousands of people who are suffering at the hands of abusers – often isolated and unaware of the options and support available to them to end it. Given the central importance of victim evidence to support prosecutions in this area, raising public awareness – as well as consolidating the law – will prove crucial.”
The Government has also announced additional funding to support victims of domestic abuse, with 72 projects receiving a share of £20 million.
The funding will support a wide range of services and safe accommodation, including refuges, outreach services, Sanctuary Schemes, which help those at risk of violence to stay safe in their own homes through improved security measures and mainstream local authority accommodation.
Given that victims of domestic abuse will have different needs, many of the projects being supported are tailored towards support for specific groups including women with mental health issues, substance abuse problems, or the particular needs of different ethnic minority communities.
“Domestic abuse ruins lives with many victims forced to leave their homes for their own safety and to access the services they urgently need,” commented Communities Minister Lord Bourne.
“Real change will only happen at the local level and it’s these authorities that are best placed to identify the best solutions,” he added. “We’re clear that the victim must always come first and must always be able to access the specialist accommodation, help and support they need.”
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