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Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004

Volume 687: debated on Monday 18 December 2006

I am very pleased to announce that I plan to implement Sections 1 and 12 of the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004 on 1 July 2007. This confirms the commitment given by the Prime Minister on 6 December 2006.

Section 1 will make the breach of civil orders made under the Family Law Act 1996 a criminal offence punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment. The Family Law Act 1996 provides victims with the non-molestation order and the occupation order. Victims can apply to a court for a non-molestation order to forbid someone using or threatening violence and/or harassing, pestering or intimidating them. Victims can also apply for an occupation order to enforce their entitlement to remain in occupation of the home, make the respondent leave the home, or regulate the occupation by both parties.

Section 12 extends the powers on restraining orders under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 to cover all violent offences. It also provides the courts with the power to make an order where a person is charged, pending trial, or where a person is not convicted but the court considers that it is necessary to make an order to protect the victim. The benefit is that a court may make a restraining order even if a defendant has been acquitted of other charges but the court considers there is sufficient evidence of harassment that it is necessary to protect a person from harassment by the defendant.

Both of these measures will significantly strengthen the suite of measures available to courts. Earlier measures already introduced included:

Making common assault an arrestable offence so that a police officer may arrest without a warrant under Section 24 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. This provided the police with significant extra powers in respect of domestic violence and violent offences generally.

Amending the eligibility criteria in the Family Law Act so that same-sex relationships are treated in the same way and to offer the same level of protection to people in relationships who are not living together.