People who manipulate and control their partner’s money could face prosecution for the first time, under new government plans to widen the statutory definition of domestic abuse.
A draft bill published today will introduce the first statutory definition of domestic abuse, which will specifically recognise economic abuse and controlling and manipulative non-physical abuse.
Economic abuse is a form of coercive control and is a common tactic used by abusers to gain power in a relationship.
Abusers use a range of methods, including controlling their victim’s money or running up debts in their name.
Victims of domestic abuse will no longer face the harrowing practice of being cross-examined in court by their abuser, part of the legislation proposes.
It will also establish a domestic abuse commissioner to improve the response and support for victims of abuse and domestic abuse protection orders to protect victims and place restrictions on the actions of offenders.
Women will also get the right to check a partner’s background under the so-called “Clare’s Law” – named after a mother who was murdered by her ex-partner.
Victoria Atkins MP. the minister for crime, safeguarding and vulnerability, says: “I have heard absolutely heart-breaking accounts of victims whose lives have been ripped apart because of physical, emotional or economic abuse they have suffered by someone close to them.
“The draft domestic abuse bill recognises the complex nature of these horrific crimes and puts the needs of victims and their families at the forefront.”
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Abuse costs £66bn
New government research has revealed that the economic cost of abuse in England and Wales is £66 billion a year.
According to the research, most of this was a result of the physical and emotional harm of domestic abuse, as well as the cost to the NHS and police.
It is estimated that nearly two million adults experience domestic abuse every year, with women twice as likely to be victims than men.
According to the Office for National Statistics, in the 12 months to March 2018 1.3 million women and 695,000 men suffered domestic abuse in the UK.
Charities have welcomed the bill.
Katie Ghose, chief executive of Women’s Aid, says: “The domestic abuse bill has the potential to create a step change in the national response, to create a more effective approach to tackling domestic abuse.
"Sustainable funding for our life-saving network of specialist support services must be at the centre of this if we are to make a real difference to survivors’ lives.”
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If you are the victim of financial or domestic abuse you can call the 24-hour National Domestic Violence Helpline (run by Women’s Aid and Refuge) on 0808 2000 247.