The government has proposed creating a single protection order applicable across the criminal, family and civil courts among measures unveiled today to support victims of domestic abuse, acknowledging that the current range of orders can confuse victims and practitioners.
A Home Office and Ministry of Justice consultation, entitled Transforming the response to domestic abuse, states that domestic violence protection orders are specific to cases of domestic violence, but that other orders, including restraining, non-molestation and occupation orders, can be made in varying circumstances. These orders vary in terms of who can apply for them, the conditions attached and the consequences if they are breached. Different parties, including victims, agencies and the police, can apply for different orders.
The government says the absence of a single order applicable across the criminal, family and civil courts 'can lead to confusion for victims and practitioners in domestic abuse cases and problems with enforcement. Some police practitioners and organisations representing victims have also cited the absence of the potential for criminal sanction following breach as limiting the effectiveness of the existing domestic violence protection order'.
Courts will be able to issue the new order during ongoing proceedings, on conviction or acquittal in criminal proceedings. Existing restraining, non-molestation and occupation orders will continue as they provide protection in other situations.
The government also proposes to create a new statutory definition recognising abuse that happens in all types of relationships, include single incidents and behaviour patterns, including 'economic abuse'.
Today's consultation paper states that convictions for crimes related to domestic abuse have risen by 61%, to 70,853, over the past decade. More than 300 charges have been made under the offence of controlling or cooercive behaviour in an intimate partner or family relationship, introduced under the Serious Crime Act 2015.
In a joint foreword, justice secretary David Gauke and home secretary Amber Rudd say all forms of violence and abuse are unacceptable 'but it is particularly shocking when it is carried out by those who are supposedly closest to the victims, and by those who profess to love the very people that they subject to terrible psychological, emotional and physical abuse'.
Gauke and Rudd added that the response victims receive, and the action taken to punish and rehabilitate offenders, is not a 'postcode lottery'.
The consultation closes on 31 May.