Definition of “personally connected”

Part of Domestic Abuse Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:15 pm on 9th June 2020.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Victoria Atkins Victoria Atkins The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department 2:15 pm, 9th June 2020

I thank the right hon. Member for Dwyfor Meirionnydd—gosh, I took a deep breath before trying to say that. My hon. Friend the Member for Hertford and Stortford has summed it up beautifully, if I may say so. I absolutely understand the motivation for the right hon. Lady’s amendment.

As we were saying earlier, exploitation takes many forms. I know that the hon. Member for Hove has shone a bright light on the concept of sex for rent. I keep coming back to this golden thread of the relationship. I think everyone understand that that is what the concept of domestic abuse centres around, so that is the approach we have taken with the definition.

We considered the Joint Committee’s recommendations very carefully. Our concern was that including “household” in the definition may have the unintended consequence of diverting people’s attention from those relationships where people do not live together. I am sure we can all think of examples of incredibly abusive relationships in which the two people in that relationship do not happen to live together.

I will give an example: I visited a fantastic women’s centre a month ago, which has independent sexual violence advisers and independent domestic violence advisers working together. The IDVAs could identify certain serial perpetrators in their local area who were in relationships with not one woman, but with several women at the same time. By definition, that perpetrator could not live with all of the women simultaneously, but was visiting them and conducting his abuse against many women at the same time. I am anxious that we do not inadvertently, with absolutely the right intentions, divert people’s attention away from the central purpose of the Act. We have also tried to ensure in clause 2 that where a relationship has ended, that is still considered within the definition, because we are alive to the fact of abuse after a relationship has ended.

Finally, we would not want to broaden the definition to such an extent that it covers areas, such as landlords and tenants, that I do not believe people think of when they think about domestic abuse. As my hon. Friend the Member for Hertford and Stortford has said, it has taken us an awfully long time to get to where we are, and I hope we can work on ensuring that victims who are in abusive relationships have our attention and focus. These other forms of exploitation should also have focus—just not in this piece of legislation.