Long welcomes new domestic abuse legislation

Date published: 18 January 2021

Today marks a significant step forward in Northern Ireland’s fight against domestic abuse, with the Domestic Abuse and Civil Proceedings Bill passing Final Stage in Northern Ireland Assembly

Picture of Justice Minister Naomi Long

“Today marks an important step in not only encouraging more people to talk to someone but in changing the conversation.  There is no shame in being a victim of domestic abuse or coercive control. The shame lies with the abuser. 

Completion of this legislation will play a crucial part in giving victims the courage to know that they are not in the wrong, they have nothing to be ashamed of, they will be believed, to know the system works and importantly that it has their back.

“Training will be essential to the success of the offence and this is now the focus of my Department, as well as our statutory and voluntary sector partners.  Public awareness is also key.  I am committed to ensuring that everyone recognises that domestic abuse, whether physical or non-physical, has no place in the homes of Northern Ireland and will not be tolerated.”

The Bill, introduced to the Northern Ireland Assembly in March 2020, is expected to receive Royal Assent by March 2021.  The new domestic abuse offence is expected to be operational by the end of 2021.   A body of work is taking place to ensure that the necessary system and process changes are in place, that training is provided to police and public prosecutors and that the public is also aware of the new offence.

The Bill also contains two child aggravators associated with that offence, a statutory aggravation of domestic abuse associated with any other offence, and a number of associated changes to criminal procedures, evidence and sentencing in domestic abuse related cases.  It also makes provision in relation to information sharing to schools, protection of victims, civil legal aid for victims of abuse, guidance and operational matters (including independent oversight) related to the new offence.

The Bill enhances the measures available to protect victims of domestic abuse and other offences giving evidence in family courts and other civil cases.

Naomi Long added: “For many victims of domestic abuse, their first contact with the justice system will be a family court, so the Bill also gives greater protection to victims giving evidence in family cases.”

Notes to editors: 

1.  WATCH: Minister Long on the Domestic Abuse & Civil Proceedings Bill reaching its final stage in the Assembly

2.  If you need support or advice contact the Domestic and Sexual Abuse helpline.  The helpline is open to women and men affected by domestic abuse. A free telephone service is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year on 0808 802 1414.  Email help@dsahelpline.org.  Website www.dsahelpline.org.

3.  Support is also available from local Women’s Aid Groups, www.womensaidni.org/get-help/local-groups/, as well as the Men’s Advisory Project (028 9024 1929 or 028 7116 0001).

4.  If you need help from the police call 101.  In an emergency always call 999.  For those who need to call 999 but are scared to speak, a 'silent solution' exists to press 55 when prompted. This allows police to know it is a genuine emergency.

5.  Media enquiries should be directed to the Department of Justice Press Office via email at press.office@justice-ni.x.gsi.gov.uk

6.  The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours’ service for media enquiries between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted out of hours on 028 9037 8110.



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