The Domestic Abuse Bill has not gone away. Whilst its 2020 incarnation is technically a new Bill, as Bills are not formally carried forward between Parliaments, it is the same Bill that received much attention in 2019. My precis of its immediate history and main points is here. You can be forgiven for having failed to notice that the resurrected Bill has already sailed through its first and second readings in the House of Commons, the latter on 28th April’20. The Bill is now in the hands of the Public Bill Committee, which body considers amendments tabled by MPs. They are due to report on 25th June’20.
The Public Bill Committee will usually take evidence from other parties, but they have complete discretion from whom they take evidence. Having scrutinised the Bill line by line, and implemented amendments, or not, the Bill moves to the Report/Third Reading stage (sometimes with various other machinations in-between). MPs then have a further opportunity for amendments, though not necessarily on all clauses. Yes, its complicated.
A live listing of Bill documents, including amplifications of proposed amendments, is here.
In particular, MP for Shipley, Mr Philip Davies, has proposed several amendments. You can hear him delivering them during the Second Reading here (go to 15:28:13).
The burden of this post is to urge you to write to your MP along the lines that I have done already, the text of which follows. There is much that a committed MP can do to influence a Bill as it passes through its Committee/Report/Third Reading stages, but there is little chance of this happening in the desired direction if MPs are not made aware of the strength of public feeling on these matters.
The wording is up to you, here’s mine…(NB: you must include your name & address, and state that you are a constituent – you can find contact details for your MP here)…
RE: Seeking your support for Mr Philip Davies’ amendments to the Domestic Abuse Bill
Dear Mr / Ms (Your MP’s Name),
I am writing to you as my constituency MP.
I hope that you and your family are keeping well and safe during these challenging times.
I am writing in regard to the Domestic Abuse Bill that is currently making its way through Parliament. In particular I’m writing respecting the amendments Mr Philip Davies MP, has tabled which I fully support. I work with a charity which supports non-resident parents and so I know how destructive are the issues to which he refers. These amendments seek to ensure that the Bill is not gender specific, supporting male and female victims equally, whilst making children’s best interests paramount. The amendments proposed include:
1) Extending the definition of domestic abuse to include parental alienation. This is where one parent deliberately alienates a child from the other parent by misrepresentation, causing serious emotional and psychological damage to the child. The Courts’ obligation to put the interests of the child first cannot be fulfilled whilst parental alienation continues to be unrecognised.
2) Classifying false allegations of domestic abuse as domestic abuse itself. Every year thousands of parents’ lives and reputations are destroyed by malicious allegations. The advantage in court process that such allegations provide to a belligerent ex-partner has made their use endemic, and there is currently no deterrent. By classing false allegations as domestic abuse an essential deterrent would be provided.
3) Extending the definition of domestic abuse to include child contact obstruction: when one parent deliberately and repeatedly prohibits the other parent’s contact with their children without good reason. At present even court ordered contact arrangements are frequently flouted by one parent and this is done with complete impunity as the Courts fail to enforce their own orders. This brings the whole system into disrepute and denies children one half of their parental support, which is known to hugely exacerbate future disadvantage.
I strongly urge you to support these amendments in the interests of children and as a way of making the Bill equitable as befits a democratic country with a world reputation for sound justice and protection of the innocent.
Many thanks in advance and I look forward to hearing your positive response.
Your name & address
You can find alternative, shorter, specimen letters here.
Another issue which Philip Davies raised in his speech during the Second Reading was the impact of the Covid-19 lockdown on non-resident parents’ child contact arrangements. An earlier blog related to the survey which charity FNF-BPM Cymru was conducting to gather data on this matter. I have recently made this submission to the HOC Women and Equalities Committee’s call for evidence on behalf of the charity giving the results of the survey, which are stark, if predictable.