Clause 28 makes provision for the court to make a domestic abuse protection order of its own volition during other ongoing proceedings that do not have to be domestic abuse-related. It is an important provision that shows the flexibility of the legislation.
The family court will have the power to do so in cases where both the victim and the alleged abuser are parties to the proceedings, which means that the family court will be able to make an order in other ongoing proceedings where the court becomes aware that an order would be beneficial. For example, if an issue of domestic abuse is raised during ongoing child contact proceedings, the victim would not have to make a separate application to the court to obtain an order. Instead, the court can make an order of its own volition as it sees necessary. That is an important element of flexibility, and indeed robustness, built into the legislation.
In criminal courts—I am conscious that we have expertise here in the form of a former magistrate, which is excellent—as with the current restraining order, the court will be able to make a domestic abuse protection order on either conviction or acquittal. To that extent it is similar to a restraining order, which can also apply in the event of an acquittal. Importantly, however, the DAPO is an improvement on the current restraining order because it can impose positive requirements as well as prohibitions on the perpetrator. All Committee members will recognise that, although we of course want to protect victims first and foremost, we also want to stop further abuse happening, so anything that can be done to ensure that people are rehabilitated and see the error of their ways is a positive thing for society as well as, of course, for the victim.
In the case of a conviction, that will allow the court to, for example, set an order with a longer duration than the sentence passed, to ensure that the victim receives the protection they need beyond the length of their sentence. In the case of an acquittal, it will ensure that the victim still receives protection if the court thinks that is necessary.
The court will also be able to make a DAPO of its own volition during other ongoing civil proceedings where both the victim and the alleged abuser are parties to the proceedings.
We will specify the type of civil proceedings in regulations, but initially we expect it to cover civil proceedings in which issues of domestic abuse are most likely to be raised or revealed in evidence, such as housing-related proceedings.