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Domestic Violence and Family Proceedings Bill - We Want Your Views


The Northern Ireland Assembly’s Committee for Justice is currently examining the Domestic Violence and Family Proceedings Bill

We want your views—what do you think about it? Do you think that this Bill will make a real difference? Do you agree with its aims and how it will deal with both the victims of abuse and the abusers? Why not have your say and tell us what you think.

The Domestic Violence and Family Proceedings Bill is intended to make it easier for victims of abuse to receive justice and make it harder for abusers to evade.

One of the issues that this Bill will address is that of ‘coercive control’. The Bill recognises that domestic abuse often takes place over a period of time and can include psychological and emotional abuse as well as physical abuse. At present, non-physical abusive behaviour is not addressed under existing offences.

One of the ways that the new Bill addresses this issue is by recognising a pattern of non-violent abusive behaviour and allowing the police to bring charges based on it. This should help victims to come forward and engage with the justice system. A ‘pattern of behaviour’ is defined as behaviour that occurs on two or more occasions which a reasonable person would consider likely to cause the victim fear, alarm or distress and where the abuser intends to cause harm or ought to have known that the behaviour would be likely to cause harm.

The proposed Bill, aside from making it a crime to psychologically or emotionally abuse a partner, ex-partner or close family member, also includes the option of heavier sentencing where a child (defined as a person under the age of 18) is a victim of domestic abuse, either as a partner or family member, or sees, hears or is present while abusive behaviour is being carried out. In addition, if criminal damage takes place as part of domestic abuse and involves a child, the sentence can also be increased.

Another of the Bill’s provisions is to prohibit the accused from cross-examining a partner or connected person either in criminal court or family proceedings. There are already some laws prohibiting this—but for the first time it would apply in domestic abuse cases. The Bill further provides that the court will be able to appoint a court funded legal representative to carry out any cross-examination on behalf of the accused.

These changes would ensure that neither the criminal justice system nor the family justice system can be used by the accused to further abuse and control a partner or connected person.

You can read more about the Bill here: 

Why not give your views on this Bill to the Committee?

You can let the Committee know what you think by: 

or by post to:

The Committee Clerk,
Room 242, Parliament Buildings,
BT4 3XX. 

You can also give your views in confidence if you wish.
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