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The law recognises that the harm that can occur between two people aged 16 or over in familial or intimate personal relationships are distinct. There has been growing pressure on public bodies to act to ensure that individuals affected by domestic abuse are supported and perpetrators are held accountable for their actions.

A wide range of international treaty provisions exist to protect people from domestic abuse. These treaties place duties on the State to ensure that people at risk of domestic abuse receive appropriate protection and the perpetrators of abuse face consequences. These provisions include the:

European provisions also exist. The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, commonly known as the Istanbul Convention, aims to protect women against all forms of violence (including domestic violence). The United Kingdom signed the Convention in 2012 but has not yet ratified it (applied it in practice).

The UK also has its own laws designed to protect people from domestic abuse. Generally, such legislation is not bespoke to domestic abuse. Instead, general criminal, civil and family law can be applied to domestic abuse cases. There are also a number of offences that are specific to domestic abuse cases, including the offence of controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship, along with measures to tackle stalking and harassment.

In 2021, the Domestic Abuse Act was passed following public consultation. This Act sets new definitions around domestic abuse, creates obligations on local authorities to support victims of domestic abuse and new measures for perpetrators. The Act also creates the office of Domestic Abuse Commissioner to provide public leadership on domestic abuse issues and play a key role in assessing and monitoring the provision of domestic abuse services in England and Wales.

Last reviewed: 15 June 2022

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Safeguarding people at risk of domestic abuse

  1. Overview
  2. Legal definition of domestic abuse
  3. Key duties

This page was last reviewed for accuracy on 15 June 2022

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