Richard Ager comments on this new definition.

Following pressure from Police and those working with the victims of domestic violence, The Government has today announced a broadening of the definition of domestic violence. Now the phrase will cover psychological intimidation and controlling behaviour. Additionally those aged 16 and 17 will now be covered by the definition.

It seems then that incidents of control, for example causing the victim to be isolated from family and/or friends, financial control and continual undermining of self-confidence will fall within the definition. These changes will come in to force in March 2013.

The current definition is “incidents of threatening behaviour, violence or abuse”. The Government hopes that the broadened definition will bring greater awareness of what is abuse. The Home Office considers there may well be an increase in the number of prosecutions.

The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 virtually abolishes public funding for representation for separating parents regarding their children. One exception is that the victims of domestic violence in certain circumstances may still qualify. What remains unclear is whether the announcement today applies in these circumstances; if not then the Courts face the difficult and demanding task of dealing with these complex cases in which neither the victim nor perpetrator of violence is represented when significant findings of fact are needed. The announcement today, whilst welcome in many ways, still leaves the worrying prospect of the victim of domestic violence being cross examined by the alleged perpetrator of that violence.