Stormont seeks to create new offence of domestic abuse

Legislation a bid to end patterns of controlling behaviour against partners, relatives

Draft legislation which would create a new offence of domestic abuse has been introduced in the Northern Ireland Assembly. Image: iStock.

Draft legislation which would create a new offence of domestic abuse has been introduced in the Northern Ireland Assembly. Image: iStock.

 

Draft legislation which would create a new offence of domestic abuse has been introduced in the Northern Ireland Assembly.

The Domestic Abuse and Family Proceedings Bill seeks to capture patterns of controlling and coercive behaviour as well as physical abuse, against a partner, former partner or family member.

The legislation is required to close a current loophole and ensure that protection for victims is not limited to physically violent behaviour, as at present.

Minister for Justice Naomi Long said the introduction of the Bill was an “important step.”

She said the legislation would “make domestic abuse, in all its forms, a criminal offence” and send out a message that this form of abuse will not be tolerated.

“From speaking to victims and survivors it is clear that psychological abuse in a domestic setting can be as damaging as physical abuse, if not more so.”

The Bill also prohibits the cross-examination of victims of domestic abuse in person, and provides the potential for enhanced sentencing where a child is present during abusive behavior, or is used to abuse a victim.

Where domestic abuse is an aggravating factor in other offences, such as criminal damage, an increased sentence may also be imposed.