Domestic Abuse Act 2021

The Domestic Abuse Act 2021 received Royal Assent and became law at the end of April 2021.

The Act has three key features and 7 main parts:

Awareness – raising awareness and understanding about the devastating impact of domestic abuse on victims and their families.

Criminal justice system - to further improve the effectiveness of the justice system in providing protection for victims of domestic abuse and bringing perpetrators to justice.

Support for victims - strengthening the support for victims of abuse by statutory agencies.

Part 1: Definition of “domestic abuse”

There is as new legal definition for domestic abuse:

Domestic abuse is any single incident, course of conduct or pattern of abusive behaviour between individuals aged 16 or over who are “personally connected” to each other as a result of being, or having been, intimate partners or family members, regardless of gender or sexuality. Children who see, hear or experience the effects of the abuse and are related to either of the parties are also considered victims of domestic abuse. Behaviour is “abusive” if it consists of any of the following: physical or sexual abuse; violent or threatening behaviour; controlling or coercive behaviour; economic abuse; or psychological, emotional or other abuse. This includes incidences where the abusive party directs their behaviour at another person (e.g. a child). Economic abuse means any behaviour that has a substantial adverse effect on someone’s ability to acquire, use or maintain money or other property, or obtain goods or services.

For the full legal definition of domestic abuse, see Part 1 of the Domestic Abuse Act.

Statutory definition of domestic abuse factsheet - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Part 2: The Domestic Abuse Commissioner

The Act establishes in law the office of the Domestic Abuse Commissioner, to provide public leadership on domestic abuse issues and play a key role in overseeing and monitoring the provision of domestic abuse services in England and Wales.

The Commissioner will be tasked with encouraging good practice in preventing domestic abuse; identifying victims and survivors, and perpetrators of domestic abuse, as well as children affected by domestic abuse; and improving the protection and provision of support to people affected by domestic abuse.

Domestic Abuse Commissioner factsheet - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

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Part 3: Powers for dealing with domestic abuse

This area of the Act sets out new Powers for dealing with domestic abuse, mainly for the police and courts. These powers include:

Part 4: Local authority support

This area of the Act places a duty on each Tier One local authority in England to:

  • Appoint a multi-agency Domestic Abuse Local Partnership Board which it must consult as it performs certain specified functions

    There is the Hampshire Domestic Abuse Partnership Board which holds this overarching responsibility, and also the Hampshire Safe Accommodation Steering Group that sits as a sub group to the Board.

  • Assess the need for accommodation-based domestic abuse support in their area for all
  • Prepare and publish a strategy for the provision of such support to cover their area having regard to the needs assessment
  • Give effect to the strategy (through commissioning / decommissioning decisions).
  • Monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the strategy.
  • Report back annually to central government.

The Hampshire Domestic Abuse Partnership Board has now built the Safe Accommodation Strategy into the wider HDAP Strategy 2023-2025 to outline the planned provision of Part 4 duty.

Statutory guidance for local authorities across England: Delivery of support to victims of domestic abuse in domestic abuse safe accommodation services.

Part 5: Protection for victims, witnesses, etc in legal proceedings

This area of the Act sets out new measures of Protection for victims, witnesses, etc in legal proceedings. These include:

Part 6: Offences involving abusive or violent behaviour
Part 7: Miscellaneous and General

This area of the Act sets out all other requirements under the title of Miscellaneous and general. These include:

Useful resources

Domestic Abuse Bill 2020: factsheets - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Domestic Abuse Act 2021 | The Law Society

Domestic Abuse Act 2021 commencement schedule - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)