A new law change has been put in place to see domestic abuse categorised as a national threat, along with a promise to add the most serious perpetrators to the violent and sex offender register. For the first time, police will be required to treat violence against women with the same seriousness as they would terrorism or child sexual abuse.
The Home Office announced the law will be changed to protect women from not only physical abuse but also harassment, coercive control and sexual violence, and pledged to work harder on stopping domestic abuse before it takes place. It also shared plans to invest up to £8.4 million into funding for specialist victim support schemes over the coming two years.
Moving forward, controlling or coercive behaviour will be rightly viewed on par with physical violence and domestic abusers – the most serious of whom will have their names added to an offenders register. Those classed as dangerous will also be monitored and electronically tagged in a bid to stop them from falling through the cracks. Police, prison and probation services will jointly manage offenders who have been convicted of controlling or coercive behaviour and sentenced to at least a year (or given a suspended sentence).
Home Office Minister Sarah Dines said during a recent television appearance on GB News, “This is a national priority for us, both the Home Secretary and the Prime Minister are very clear that this is a very serious issue. For the first time violence against women and girls is going to be a national priority for policing. That means it’s going to be on a par with other serious offences, such as terrorism and child sexual abuse.”
All of this is good news, of course, but is it really enough? Ashley Le-Core, a Senior Associate at Stowe Family Law, who has also worked with domestic abuse charity, Choices, raised concerns about the level of resource the police actually have in light of the newly announced changes. “After spending many years working in family law, I often find that the police do not have the time or resources to deal with the increasing levels of domestic abuse, leaving people trapped in dangerous and abusive situations,” he told Cosmopolitan UK.
Le-Core said he’s worked with many clients who didn’t realise they were being abused until the relationship had ended, as it’s rarely limited to just physical (which is often the most commonly portrayed form of abuse in the media). “Abuse can be emotional, psychological, sexual, financial and more. Often abuse can be subtle and difficult to identify, meaning it can go unnoticed for some time. Victims can be slowly isolated from friends and family, and confused by behaviours such as gaslighting until they no longer have the confidence or support to leave.”
Around 2.4 million people in England and Wales experienced domestic abuse in 2022, and around one in five homicides are related to the crime, according to official figures.
“For victims of abuse who come forward, it is imperative that they are heard and given the appropriate support to protect themselves from further harm,” Le-Core continued. “Hopefully, these changes by the government will start to improve support for victims of abuse, finally giving the correct resources, time and energy to the police and other services so they have the teeth they need to combat this widespread problem.”
He added, “Will this, and the increased monitoring and tagging of perpetrators, reduce domestic abuse crime? Given it will be considered a national threat, and could impose significant criminal sanctions on perpetrators, I certainly hope they do. However, a lot rests on the appropriate actions being taken, and the three main agencies: police, prison and probation services working together.”
Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, said of the news, “Domestic abuse is a despicable crime that leads to people’s closest relationships becoming a frightening existence of torment, pain, fear, and anxiety. It is completely unacceptable and as Home Secretary I will do everything in my power to stop it.”
For more information on the full set of measures being set out, visit the government website.
For confidential support or advice about any form of abuse, you can contact Woman’s Aid using their live chat feature. You can also view their local domestic abuse directory to find services nearby.