Provision that may be made by orders

Domestic Abuse Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:30 pm on 10th June 2020.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Alex Chalk Alex Chalk Assistant Whip, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

Clause 32 concerns provision that may be made by orders. The Committee will recall that we heard earlier about provision that may be made by notices. This is the twin in respect of orders.

Clause 32 provides courts with the flexibility to impose in respect of a DAPO not only restrictions but positive requirements, depending on what is necessary in each case to protect the victim from all forms of abusive behaviour. Subsections (4) to (6) provide examples of the kinds of conditions that could be imposed by a DAPO, but subsection (3) expressly provides that those are not exhaustive.

It is up to the court carefully to tailor the conditions of the DAPO to meet the needs of the individual victim and take into account the behaviour of the perpetrator. The reason is that circumstances are varied and it is important to ensure that the court considers each case on its merits, and the circumstances as they apply, and ensures that the conditions are tailored accordingly.

Photo of Jess Phillips Jess Phillips Shadow Minister (Home Office)

Specifically with regard to what we were discussing earlier in relation to workplaces, does the Minister foresee that that could be one of those issues that could be discussed in the court—that there would be an allowance for the workplace to be included, with leave of the court?

Photo of Alex Chalk Alex Chalk Assistant Whip, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

Absolutely; I do not see why not at all. In fact, when the hon. Lady was making those points in respect of notices, I did fast-forward to clause 32, and it is deliberately broadly cast. Clause 32(2) says:

“The court must, in particular, consider what requirements (if any) may be necessary to protect the person for whose protection the order is made from different kinds of abusive behaviour.”

Subsections (4) to (6) contain examples of the type of provision that may be made under subsection (1), but they do not limit the type of provision that may be so made. That gives an indication of how broadly drafted the clause is, and that is necessary to ensure that the court, be that a bench of magistrates or another court, may take into account all relevant considerations.

Photo of Jess Phillips Jess Phillips Shadow Minister (Home Office) 2:45 pm, 10th June 2020

It is very pleasing to hear that—it is reassuring. I urge that the point is made explicitly in the guidance that will go along with all the orders. I wanted that on the public record.

Photo of Alex Chalk Alex Chalk Assistant Whip, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

It may be in the guidance but, I respectfully suggest, does not necessarily need to be in it. When a court comes to consider what it will or will not do, it may look at this measure and say, “Are we precluded from banning him from her workplace? If the answer to that is no, we will go ahead and do it, regardless of what is in the guidance.” It may be that it will be in there anyway, but I am confident that, as the Bill is set out, it is drafted sufficiently widely—deliberately so—for the courts to see their way to do justice and impose protections as they see fit.

Photo of Peter Kyle Peter Kyle Shadow Minister (Justice)

One benefit of this approach to legislation is that it allows scope for creativity in the individual court to tailor to a specific circumstance that might not be predictable. In such circumstances, how can other courts learn from that innovation? It is obviously the responsibility of the judiciary, including the president of the family division of the High Court, but we have learnt from bitter experience that some courts and judges are almost impervious to change—I speak with respect to the former one before us. How does the Department seek to use innovation on the frontline in family courts to ensure that family courts in other parts of the country benefit?

Photo of Alex Chalk Alex Chalk Assistant Whip, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

May I gently push back on that? I understand the hon. Gentleman’s observations about the need to ensure that one modernises and so on, but if we think for a second about the sorts of conditions that the court is likely to impose, those will be along the lines of conditions routinely imposed in respect of bail, for example—not to contact an individual, not to go within a certain a postcode, not to go to a school, not to visit the home or not to contact relatives directly or indirectly.

I am confident that the courts will be well able to impose those conditions without requiring any particular leap of imagination. They will welcome and embrace these powers, which are deliberately drawn widely, so that the courts may apply their everyday experience of the world to understanding what is required to do justice and to provide protection in an individual case.

On the issue of keeping an eye on this, there are data and statistics, which will be published in due course. It will be open to hon. Members, the domestic abuse commissioner and the Victims’ Commissioner to keep a close weather eye on that. I know that the hon. Member for Hove will do precisely that.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 32 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.