The Home Office issued a letter on 29 June saying that children who witnessed domestic violence would be classified as victims under new legislation.
The letter, written to Jess Phillips MP, also confirmed that children who see or hear domestic violence in their home would be acknowledged in a new statutory definition of domestic abuse.
A growing body of research explains that children who witness domestic violence are at heightened risk of developing long-term physical and mental health problems.
The decision to include children as victims rather than passive bystanders in domestic abuse settings comes after proposals to do so were included in a Bill which is currently passing through Parliament.
A clause in the Domestic Abuse Bill, which passed its report stage in the House of Commons today, provides that a child who “sees or hears, or experiences the effects of, domestic abuse and is related to the person being abused or the perpetrator” must also be regarded as a victim of domestic abuse in the context of connected legal proceedings.
The Report stage of a Bill allows MPs to put forward any proposed amendments which are then considered by the Speaker.
The Bill features several provisions which look at issues such as banning cross-examinations of an alleged domestic abuse victim by their alleged or convicted abuser in family courts in England and Wales, and offering vulnerable witnesses alternate ways of offering evidence where court attendance might affect the quality of evidence being given.
The letter, written by Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Office, Victoria Atkins MP and Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice, Alex Chalk MP, outlines the ways in which these measures will be applied.
The Bill has one more reading in the House of Commons before passing through to the House of Lords for evaluation.
For more information on the Bill and the government’s proposed framework for statutory guidance on domestic abuse and how to address it, please see the links below:
- Home Office: Draft Statutory Guidance Framework
- Domestic Abuse Bill 2020: factsheets
- Statutory definition of domestic abuse factsheet