Amendment 149

Part of Domestic Abuse Bill - Committee (5th Day) – in the House of Lords at 9:15 pm on 8th February 2021.

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Photo of Baroness Burt of Solihull Baroness Burt of Solihull Liberal Democrat 9:15 pm, 8th February 2021

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Lister of Burtersett, and other noble Lords for bringing Amendment 149, and to Surviving Economic Abuse. I support both Amendments 149 and 157 and am particularly keen to support Amendment 149 on post-separation economic control.

In an earlier discussion, we had the debate about universal credit and other benefits and the need to ensure the victim can have the financial wherewithal to leave the abuser by making split payments the default position. I hope the Government will be kindlier disposed towards this amendment, which covers a whole aspect of abuse not yet covered in UK law.

As we have heard, the crime of domestic abuse as set out in the Serious Crime Act 2015 does not cover post-separation abuse. Amendment 149 rectifies this. I do not need to add further to the examples that have already been given by other noble Lords, such as the noble Baroness, Lady Newlove, to make the point of how serious and all-pervasive to the life of the victim this can be.

A number of noble Lords have mentioned the amendment to tackle post-separation abuse that was tabled in Committee in the Commons. The Minister, Alex Chalk, acknowledged that the charity Surviving Economic Abuse had done an “important public service” in raising the issue. However, the amendment was withdrawn in Committee due to assurances regarding an ongoing government review into controlling or coercive behaviour, as mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Lister. We still await the review. It is now promised before Report, and I hope this Minister will not use the same reason for not allowing this amendment. Even better, we would love to see the Government bring their own amendment on Report.

We really need this. One Crown Court judge estimated that without something of this nature, the legislation would be missing 50% or 60% of the people who need to be protected. This is a great Bill, but it will still fail victims—even after they have summoned the courage to escape and even when they thought they had finally got their lives back—if we do not tackle this vitally important group.

Amendment 157 was ably introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, and I have added my name to it. It tackles coercive and controlling behaviour by a relative, whether or not they reside with the victim. As the noble Lord has said, only 25% do. The definition still applies, even if they are no longer in an intimate relationship but still reside together. The noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, raised the issue of forced marriage, and the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, mentioned other members of the girl’s or woman’s family who do not toe the family line and the way that their life can be poisoned as a result. This amendment therefore widens the definition of controlling and coercive behaviour to ensure that these relationships are still defined as domestic abuse and can be prosecuted as such. I hope that the Government give it favourable consideration.