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Equalities and Rights Equalities and Rights

Create a legal definition of domestic violence and abuse

Last updated: 11:55am 21 January 2019

There is currently no statutory definition of domestic violence and abuse. We will therefore also legislate to enshrine a definition of domestic violence and abuse in law, providing the legal underpinning for everything in our new act.

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.58

Our verdict

As the manifesto states, there’s no law saying what domestic abuse is. Most offenders are prosecuted using laws from many different sources.

Under a previous government, the Serious Crime Act (2015) made “controlling or coercive” behaviour an offence, but this is still a small part of the whole picture of domestic abuse. According to the government’s definition, domestic abuse can include behaviour that is:

  • psychological
  • physical
  • sexual
  • financial
  • emotional

Now a new bill, which will address all of these, is being processed through parliament after going through public consultation in March 2018. The current Prime Minister, Theresa May, has written an article explaining how the new Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill will “for the first time […] provide a statutory definition of domestic abuse that includes economic abuse, alongside other non-physical abuse”. 

We can’t say the government have delivered their promise until the bill is passed and becomes law, but according to reports on the content of the draft bill, it looks likely that it will contain the promised definition of domestic violence and abuse. But for now we can say for certain that things are ‘in progress’.

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