Children who see or hear domestic abuse to be treated as victims under law, government announces

James Morris
·Senior news reporter, Yahoo News UK
·2-min read
Victoria Atkins announced on Monday that children who see or hear domestic abuse will be treated as victims under law. (Parliamentlive.tv)
Victoria Atkins announced on Monday that children who see or hear domestic abuse will be treated as victims under law. (Parliamentlive.tv)

Children who see, hear or experience the effects of domestic abuse will be treated as victims under law, the government has said.

After pressure from campaigners and cross-party MPs, the government has altered its own Domestic Abuse Bill to cover children living in abusive households.

Safeguarding minister Victoria Atkins, moving the amendment to the bill, told the House of Commons on Monday that domestic abuse “does not just affect adults”.

“It affects the children living in abusive households too,” she said.

“The government has always recognised the devastating impact that domestic abuse has on a child who sees, hears or experiences it.”

Shadow domestic violence and safeguarding minister Jess Phillips pointed out Labour had originally tabled the amendment, and that the party was “eternally grateful” to the government for altering the planned legislation.

The bill is part of Boris Johnson’s 2019 manifesto promise to “support all victims of domestic abuse”.

It was expected to pass its third reading in the Commons – the fifth of 11 stages before it can gain Royal Assent and become law – on Monday evening. It would then be scrutinised in the House of Lords.

Meanwhile, Labour is seeking a further change to the bill to protect children who live with domestic abuse and have had their cases heard in the family courts.

Phillips said that between 2006 and last year, at least 21 children were killed during contact with fathers who were perpetrators of domestic abuse.

She went on: “The government’s own report, released last week, states that many mothers explained how they had fled the relationship with the father in order to protect their children, only to find that protection undermined or destroyed by the family court.”

Labour’s amendment “seeks to change the presumption that parental involvement furthers the child’s welfare when there has been domestic abuse”.

It would also prohibit unsupervised contact for a parent awaiting trial or on bail for domestic abuse allegations.