Domestic Violence And A Brexit Blind Spot
Published on 31 March, 2021 | Katie Welton-Dillon
Last week has marked the first anniversary of the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, placing the UK into a state of lockdown in an effort to control the spreading coronavirus pandemic.
There have, of course, been enormous economic consequences since on a national, business and also a personal level.
Financial support from Westminster may have softened the impact somewhat but there was little doubt that as the economy shrank by close to 10 per cent over the course of 2020 (https://www.ons.gov.uk/economy/grossdomesticproductgdp/articles/coronavirusandtheimpactonoutputintheukeconomy/december2020#:~:text=6.-,The%20UK%20economy%20during%20the%20coronavirus%20(COVID%2D19)%20pandemic,declined%20by%209.9%25%20in%202020.&text=GDP%20measured%20by%20the%20output,growth%20of%201.4%25%20in%202019.), the country’s households would feel at least some pressure with belts being tightened and jobs lost.
The tensions created by money worries and people being confined to their homes have manifested themselves in increased domestic violence.
The scale of such offences is truly shocking. New figures from the Ministry of Justice have revealed that the number of domestic violence remedy orders made between October and December last year was 20 per cent higher than during the same quarter in 2019 (https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/family-court-statistics-quarterly-october-to-december-2020/family-court-statistics-quarterly-october-to-december-2020#divorce).
That period, of course, coincided with a different type of pressure as both London and Brussels attempted to agree the terms upon which the UK would leave the European Union.
The implications of Brexit for travel and trade have been studied in detail elsewhere but one element of the withdrawal negotiations has passed largely without comment and it’s something of significance for those at the sharp end of the rise in domestic abuse.
It has effectively seen the collapse of a European-wide process to protect abuse victims.
The Victims’ Rights Directive, which came into force in January 2015, enabled protective measures, such as non-molestation or restraining orders, made in one EU member state to be enforced elsewhere in the Union.
The Directive was of importance because it spared those who had unfortunately experienced domestic abuse from having to repeat the stresses and strains of applying for orders in multiple European jurisdictions.
Although the UK will still recognise domestic protection orders made in the remaining EU member states as if they were made here, Brussels has not reciprocated.
As I’ve explained in an article for The Times (https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/0c72df08-8cb6-11eb-8f69-0367b6f4fca7?shareToken=bf6f17a72874eca7ec65e1d5be8cab7b), that is a point of some concern.
Abuse victims who relocate to the EU or even go there on holiday will not now be safeguarded by any court order issued in the UK.
I don’t think that anyone should interpret that as a lack of interest or compassion on the part of the EU for those who suffer domestic abuse.
In recent years, it has launched a series of specific campaigns to address the issue and signed the Council of Europe Convention (the Istanbul Convention) which aims to reduce domestic violence.
Nevertheless, the absence of a continued, uniform approach on the topic is a worry.
It is quite disappointing, especially given that a Domestic Abuse Bill has had its third reading in the House of Lords in recent days, as it navigates its way towards the Statute Book (https://services.parliament.uk/bills/2019-21/domesticabuse.html).
We can only hope that a solution is found. After all, those women and men who have been the victims of domestic abuse deserve the protection of the law, not further anxiety.