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New bill recognises kids in domestic violence

We were pleased to see that, this week, the government passed a landmark domestic violence bill that will recognise children as victims in their own right if they had seen, heard or experienced abuse.

We work with many domestic abuse survivors in the region and have seven solicitors recognised by the Children’s Panel, allowing them to work on complex family cases. We welcome this decision to include children as victims, acknowledging the damage of witnessing abuse.

The bill, which also introduced increased protection for victims giving evidence and a ban on the use of ‘rough sex’ as a defence for abuse, has passed its final stage in the Commons and will now be debated in the House of Lords.

It also includes an expansion to an existing ban of abusers cross-examining their witnesses, potentially intimidating them.

Last year, Cleveland Police reported the third highest number of incidents and crimes related to domestic abuse, with a rate of 35 cases per 1,000 people, and the second highest number of domestic-abuse related crimes, at 21 cases per 1,000 people*.

Stacey Phoenix, a director and head of Public Law Department at Cygnet Law, said: “This is a landmark bill which acknowledges the devastating impact that witnessing the abuse of a parent has on a child by classing them as a victim in their own right.

“We welcome the changes that give the victims more safety if their case comes to trial, protecting them from facing their abusers or even having to sit with them in a waiting room. These are genuine concerns victims have and often prevents justice being served.

“However, the scope of this bill now must go further and support asylum seekers whilst they remain within this country to offer them the same protection. Disappointingly, the amendments that would have provided this protection were rejected and will leave many vulnerable people, particularly women and children, in a dangerous position.”

Stacey added: “There has been an increase in domestic abuse reports since the lockdown, so it is exactly the right time for the government to address this issue. Abusers need to understand that their actions will have severe consequences and that their victims will be protected.”

*ONS statistics for year ending March 2019