The Domestic Abuse Act 2021 has created a new statutory definition of domestic.
It is considerably longer than the previous government definition and is divided into three sections – the definition; what is personally connected; children as victims.
The definition ensures that different types of relationships are captured, including ex-partners and family members.
There are broad categories which capture a range of different abusive behaviours, including physical, emotional and economic abuse. Specifically included is economic abuse to demonstrate that it is a distinct type of abuse.
1 Definition of “domestic abuse”
(1) This section defines “domestic abuse” for the purposes of this Act.
(2) Behaviour of a person (“A”) towards another person (“B”) is “domestic abuse” if—
(a)A and B are each aged 16 or over and are personally connected to each other, and
(b)the behaviour is abusive.
(3) Behaviour is “abusive” if it consists of any of the following—
(a)physical or sexual abuse;
(b)violent or threatening behaviour;
(c)controlling or coercive behaviour;
(d)economic abuse (see subsection (4));
(e)psychological, emotional or other abuse;
and it does not matter whether the behaviour consists of a single incident or a course of conduct.
(4) “Economic abuse” means any behaviour that has a substantial adverse effect on B’s ability to—
(a)acquire, use or maintain money or other property, or
(b)obtain goods or services.
(5) For the purposes of this Act A’s behaviour may be behaviour “towards” B despite the fact that it consists of conduct directed at another person (for example, B’s child).
(6) References in this Act to being abusive towards another person are to be read in accordance with this section.
(7) For the meaning of “personally connected”, see section 2.
2 Definition of “personally connected”
(1) For the purposes of this Act, two people are “personally connected” to each other if any of the following applies—
(a) they are, or have been, married to each other;
(b) they are, or have been, civil partners of each other;
(c) they have agreed to marry one another (whether or not the agreement has been terminated);
(d) they have entered into a civil partnership agreement (whether or not the agreement has been terminated);
(e) they are, or have been, in an intimate personal relationship with each other;
(f) they each have, or there has been a time when they each have had, a parental relationship in relation to the same child (see subsection (2));
(g) they are relatives.
(2) For the purposes of subsection (1)(f) a person has a parental relationship in relation to a child if—
(a) the person is a parent of the child, or
(b) the person has parental responsibility for the child.
(3) In this section—
•“child” means a person under the age of 18 years;
•“civil partnership agreement” has the meaning given by section 73 of the Civil Partnership Act 2004;
•“parental responsibility” has the same meaning as in the Children Act 1989 (see section 3 of that Act);
•“relative” has the meaning given by section 63(1) of the Family Law Act 1996.
3 Children as victims of domestic abuse
(1) This section applies where behaviour of a person (“A”) towards another person (“B”) is domestic abuse.
(2) Any reference in this Act to a victim of domestic abuse includes a reference to a child who—
(a) sees or hears, or experiences the effects of, the abuse, and
(b) is related to A or B.
(3) A child is related to a person for the purposes of subsection (2) if—
(a) the person is a parent of, or has parental responsibility for, the child, or
(b) the child and the person are relatives.
(4) In this section—
• “child” means a person under the age of 18 years;
• “parental responsibility” has the same meaning as in the Children Act 1989 (see section 3 of that Act);
• “relative” has the meaning given by section 63(1) of the Family Law Act 1996.