Proposed changes to the law could see domestic violence classified as a ‘specific criminal offence’

Fri 21st Nov 2014

The Law Commission has just launched a consultation on ‘Offences against the person’, asking whether we need to reform the way we deal with a range of violent crimes to better reflect 21st century society. The consultation asks whether new offences should be created for domestic abuse ‘falling short of physical violence’. This raises the question of whether the legal definition of domestic abuse should be broadened to include coercive control, bullying or financial abuse.

Despite the many efforts to raise awareness of the different forms of domestic abuse, non-physical forms of domestic abuse are not widely recognised and are sadly not always taken seriously enough.

Many of the women who come to my office when they want to separate from a spouse or partner, who has subjected them to threatening and intimidating behaviour, don’t initially recognise themselves as suffering domestic violence because they haven’t been physically harmed.

There is very low awareness of the fact that if you are a victim of domestic violence in any form – emotional or physical – you can get Legal Aid to help you divorce or separate from an abusive partner. Most of the women we support are covered by Legal Aid, but there are many more out there who don’t get the help they need because they don’t recognise that they are victims of domestic violence or that they would qualify for financial support.

The consultation is due to run until February, with results expected in spring or summer 2015. We will then see whether domestic abuse is to be identified as a specific offence – different from other forms of violence. The challenge will then be to spread this message and change perceptions.


Sarah Evans is a Domestic Abuse solicitor for Coodes with a particular interest in domestic violence issues and children matters.

Fri 21st Nov 2014

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