The Domestic Abuse Bill has completed its passage through the Legislative Council, after MLCs powered through the remaining scrutiny stages on Tuesday.

The new law would lead to prison sentences of up to 14 years for domestic abuse crimes.

It gives police the powers to issue emergency protection notices to keep alleged perpetrators away from someone at risk. It also introduces an offence of ’controlling or coercive behaviour’.

The bill has been put under close scrutiny by the upper chamber, including a committee phase, and several amendments to address technical issues.

On Tuesday, MLCs completed their consideration of the clauses and then granted the bill a third reading.

One provision added was any additional offences to cover stopping abusive cross-examination of witnesses would have to be approved by Tynwald.

Tanya August-Hanson has guided the bill through the Legislative Council.

She said the bill ’seeks to protect victims of abuse and by extension their dependents, to prevent domestic abuse and, where necessary, to punish perpetrators of domestic abuse’.

In addition, the bill will not be brought into effect without appropriate guidance, which will be approved by Tynwald.

The bill will still need to go back to the House of Keys so MHKs can approve the changes made to the draft legislation by the Legislative Council.

Kate Lord-Brennan said the Covid-19 crisis had put a spotlight on the issue of domestic abuse in the home, with victims possibly being stuck with perpetrators, in a ’pressure cooker’ situation.

Strong message

However, she said approving the bill sent a message: ’Abuse the people you live with, physically or mentally, and it will be an offence recognised with great seriousness.

’It will be investigated, taking account of not just one transgression or incident but the full range of abuse.

’It will attract significant penalties and victims will be heard, without fear.’

Ms Lord-Brennan sought assurances on multi-agency working and training from the Department of Home Affairs, and whether it would involve public health and safeguarding.

She also urged the government to monitor developments in UK legislation on protecting children who found themselves in domestic abuse situations.

Ms August-Hanson said a multi-agency strategy was being worked on, but she was unsure when it would be in place, although it was hoped to be ready when the bill became law.

Jane Poole-Wilson welcomed assurances about measures on guidance and training given and that the department would look to ensure areas such as stalking and strangulation were covered. The Department of Home Affairs has previously indicated that, although not covered in the Domestic Abuse Bill, they will be covered in an upcoming Justice Reform Bill.

Risk assessments

She said other key areas included prosecutions guidance and a review of Family Court rules, resourcing of risk assessments in family cases, proper resourcing of support and therapy for victims of domestic abuse, housing needs of people in situations of domestic abuse, and implementation of the government-wide strategy.

At the close of Tuesday’s Legislative Council sitting, President of Tynwald Steve Rodan thanked MLCs for their forbearance in adhering to social distancing rules.