Domestic Abuse Bill

Written evidence submitted by Men & Women Working Together (MWWT) (DAB27)

Submission to the Scrutiny Committee re Domestic Abuse Bill 2020

MWWT Amendments to the Domestic Abuse Bill 2020


There is much in the Bill to commend it but our amendments are based on a need to provide a Gender Neutral Narrative and compliance with the Equality Act 2010 and the Human Rights Act 1998. MWWT recognises that some sections of society experience prejudice and discrimination. The Equality Act 2010 specifically recognises the protected characteristics of age, disability, sex, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation and transgender. The Equality Act also requires regard to socio-economic factors including pregnancy /maternity and marriage/civil partnership.

All public authorities have a legal duty to uphold the Human Rights Act 1998. Section 6 of the Human Rights Act requires all public authorities to uphold and promote Human Rights in everything they do. It is unlawful for a public authority to perform any act which con travenes the Human Rights Act. As such all public authorities should be committed to carrying out its functions and service delivery in line the with a Human Rights based approach and the FREDA principles of F airness, R espect, E quality, D ignity, and A utonomy

1. Statutory definition of Domestic Abuse including emotional, coercive and economic abuse – It must be emphasised that men also suffer from emotional, coercive and economic abuse. The gendered narrative that it mostly happens to women is misleading as a pilot helpline I set up around 20 years ago showed that 87% of my male callers found coercive control worse than physical violence. It also applies to the children of fathers who would be part of or witness this form of abuse.

This similarly gendered narrative in the Benchbook has led to development of Gender Specific standards for the improvement of health and wellbeing for women prisoners in England. This does not apply to men. Another lack of compliance with the 2010 Equality Act.

The statutory definition must cover broken contact orders and parental alienation which causes untold misery to both children and fathers. False allegations in the Family Courts are also domestic abuse while perjury usually remains unpunished.

2. Domestic Abuse Commissioner – acceptable as long as the Commissioner and her department complies with the Equality Act 2010.

3. New Domestic Protection Order and Notice - acceptable

Place a duty on local authorities in England to provide support to victims of domestic abuse and their children in refuges and other safe accommodation – how will men with or without children obtain a referral as they are unlikely to be in a refuge or place of safety ?

4. Male refuges –

A network of Male refuges for men with or without children are urgently required and adequate funding must be made available. Failure to do so will never solve the domestic abuse crisis for all victims and local authorities are failing to comply with the Equality Act 2010 by denying funding for male refuges.

5. Prohibit perpetrators of abuse from cross-examining their victims in person in the family courts in England and Wales. This automatically assumes that the defendant is guilty and that the allegation is true and should not be adopted as it borders on Article 6 of the European Human Rights Treaty regarding the right to a fair hearing. This problem could be overcome provided there is some mechanism for cross examination to be carried out by someone – a Judge clearly is not the right person to do this. As we understand the Bill there is some mechanism for this being paid out of court funds but this would not work as you cannot cross examine effectively unless you know the case. The solution here would be to restore legal aid to these cases so both men and women can have the legal help to make and defend their cases.

6. Special measures in Criminal Courts eg video link for victims – acceptable.

7. Polygraph testing – acceptable

8. Clare’s Law – acceptable ( right to check on partner’s background re dv etc )

9. Secure lifetime tenancies – acceptable

10. Extension of jurisdiction - acceptable

11. The non-statutory commitments include:

11.1 introduce regulations and statutory guidance on Relationship Education, Relationship and Sex Education, and Health Education.

11.2 invest in domestic abuse training for responding agencies and professionals.

11.3 develop national guidance for police on serial and repeat perpetrators.

11.4 improve awareness and understanding of coercive control offence and review effectiveness of offence.

11.5 continue to develop means to collect, report and track domestic abuse data.

Excellent providing all guidance and training is undertaken in gender neutral and fully inclusive terms and complies with the 2010 Equality Act.

12. Children

In the instance of broken contact orders for no cogent reason, which have been tolerated for years in the Family Courts, children, per se, have no voice when they lose contact with their father, or mother, if that is the case. A suspended residence order should be the default in this instance in order to remove any unnecessary suffering.

Stephen Fitzgerald

Chairman – MWWT

29 May 2020


Prepared 11th June 2020