No dilution of Domestic Abuse Bill expected, new commissioner says

The country’s first domestic abuse commissioner has moved to reassure campaigners that new legislation to protect victims is not expected to be diluted when it is brought back to Parliament for consideration.

Nicole Jacobs made the comments in one of her first interviews since taking on the role.

She was speaking after a Government minister refused to confirm whether the Domestic Abuse Bill would ban the cross-examination of victims by alleged perpetrators, among other elements of the original proposal put to Parliament before it was suspended.

Home Office minister for safeguarding, Victoria Atkins, would not comment on whether the key provisions from the initial Bill would remain when any fresh Bill is brought back to the House of Commons for consideration by MPs.

Plans for new legislation to protect domestic abuse victims are expected to be re-introduced in the new parliamentary session after the Queen’s speech.

The Bill was among those brought to a halt when Boris Johnson decided to prorogue Parliament.

Speaking to the PA news agency, Ms Jacobs said: “I think we have to be live to any of those concerns (from campaigners) although my understanding is the Bill will be re-introduced in a very similar fashion.

“One of the things I’ve been really heartened by in the last couple of weeks is just how much commitment there has been in all parties and all sectors, and much concern about this Bill in general, and wanting it to be in the Queen’s speech and re-introduced.

“So I think there’s a lot of scrutiny and a lot of eyes on this Bill at this stage, partly because of the fear that it was almost lost.

“I think it’s almost given a lot more emphasis for all parties to really keep involved and abreast of what’s going on.

“So yes, concerned, but I don’t have any overarching concern that there will be elements of the Bill lost.

“If anything, what’s going to happen with the Bill is there will be some additional amendments when it is tabled.

“I think people appreciated there was a bit more work to be done on the Bill.”

She said she was particularly interested in strengthening certain elements of the proposal, like protections for migrant women, adding: “I know the Government’s really taken that on board.

“Those would be the things I’m really focused on in the coming weeks after the Queen’s speech.”

Speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme, Ms Atkins said: “All Bills in those early stages fall at prorogation, but I am delighted that the Prime Minister and Home Secretary have, pretty unusually, confirmed that the Bill will be in the Queen’s Speech.

“At this point in time, I am at the limit of time in terms of what I can say about what is in the Queen’s Speech.”

Ms Atkins added that she would be able to provide more detail “in a few weeks’ time”.

Her comments came as the Government announced the appointment of Ms Jacobs as its first domestic abuse commissioner, and followed news that the number of domestic violence killings has hit a five-year high.

Ms Jacobs takes up the post after being the chief executive of charity Standing Together Against Domestic Violence, having previously told the BBC she was “relieved” the Prime Minister has pledged to re-introduce a new law on the issue.

Ms Atkins said she hoped the appointment would give charities “comfort” and said her job will be to “stand up for victims and survivors, raise public awareness and hold both agencies and government to account in tackling domestic abuse”.

The independent Office of Domestic Abuse Commissioner will be made a statutory body and publish reports on its findings and is expected to be set up with a full-time team of staff within the coming months.

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