The government has announced more adjustments in response to its recent declaration regarding the sentencing of domestic violence offences.

There will be a new definition of domestic abuse that clarifies that it covers economic abuse and controlling behaviour and applies to all partnerships and victims.

The following is the new statutory definition of domestic abuse (subject to public comment):

Any incidence or pattern of occurrences of controlling, coercive, threatening behaviour, violence, or abuse between individuals aged 16 and up who are or have been intimate partners or family members, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. Abuse can include, but is not limited to, the following:

  • psychological
  • physical
  • sexual
  • economic
  • emotional

Controlling behaviour: Controlling behaviour is a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour.

Coercive behaviour: Coercive behaviour is an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim.

New Protective Order

The government plans to develop a new Domestic Abuse Protection Notice (DAPN) that may be issued by the police and a Domestic Abuse Protection Order (DAPO) that can be issued by the courts in a variety of situations.

These measures would combine the most effective parts of existing protective orders for victims of domestic abuse, resulting in a single, flexible pathway for victims, police, and other practitioners.

While the new DAPN and DAPO regime will replace the present domestic violence protection notice and order, other orders such as restraining orders, non-molestation orders, and occupancy orders will continue to exist because they provide protection in situations other than domestic abuse.

A court could issue the new order in response to a freestanding application, such as one made by the victim or certain parties acting on the victim’s behalf (for example, a family member or support service), or during any ongoing proceedings, such as on conviction or acquittal in criminal proceedings.

The police would also be able to apply for the new order, even if they had already issued a Domestic Abuse Protection Order. Domestic Abuse Protection Orders could be issued in family, civil, and criminal courts, as a result of this.

The new order would also be more flexible in terms of the conditions that could be attached to it, which could include both prohibitions (for example, requirements not to contact the victim, including online, not to come within a certain distance of the victim, and not to drink alcohol or take drugs) and positive requirements (for example, requirements not to contact the victim, including online, not to come within a certain distance of the victim, and not to drink alcohol or take drugs). Attendance at perpetrator programmes, alcohol and drug recovery programmes, and parenting programmes are examples of good requirements. Electronic monitoring (for example, location or alcohol monitoring) and notification requirements (for example, requiring certain perpetrators to provide the police with personal information such as their address and details of their relationship and family circumstances) could be added to the new order as conditions.

In contrast to the present maximum duration for the existing domestic violence protection order of 28 days, there would be flexibility in the amount of time the new order may be in place: it might be for a period determined by the court or until the court made another order.

Breaching a Domestic Abuse Protection Order is a criminal offence.