Policy paper

Domestic Abuse Act 2021: overarching factsheet

Updated 3 January 2024

What are we going to do?

Raise awareness and understanding about the devastating impact of domestic abuse on victims and their families.

Further improve the effectiveness of the justice system in providing protection for victims of domestic abuse and bringing perpetrators to justice.

Strengthen the support for victims of abuse by statutory agencies.

Domestic abuse is an abhorrent crime perpetrated on victims and their families by those who should love and care for them. This landmark Bill will help transform the response to domestic abuse, helping to prevent offending, protect victims and ensure they have the support they need.

Victoria Atkins MP, Minister for Safeguarding

How are we going to do it?

The act will:

  • create a statutory definition of domestic abuse, emphasising that domestic abuse is not just physical violence, but can also be emotional, controlling or coercive, and economic abuse
  • establish in law the office of Domestic Abuse Commissioner and set out the Commissioner’s functions and powers
  • provide for a new Domestic Abuse Protection Notice and Domestic Abuse Protection Order
  • place a duty on local authorities in England to provide accommodation based support to victims of domestic abuse and their children in refuges and other safe accommodation
  • prohibit perpetrators of abuse from cross-examining their victims in person in the civil and family courts in England and Wales
  • create a statutory presumption that victims of domestic abuse are eligible for special measures in the criminal, civil and family courts
  • clarify the circumstances in which a court may make a barring order under section 91(14) of the Children Act 1989 to prevent family proceedings that can further traumatise victims
  • extend the controlling or coercive behaviour offence to cover post-separation abuse.
  • extend the offence of disclosing private sexual photographs and films with intent to cause distress (known as the “revenge porn” offence) to cover threats to disclose such material
  • create a new offence of non-fatal strangulation or suffocation of another person.
  • clarify by restating in statute law the general proposition that a person may not consent to the infliction of serious harm and, by extension, is unable to consent to their own death
  • extend the extraterritorial jurisdiction of the criminal courts in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to further violent and sexual offences
  • provide for a statutory domestic abuse perpetrator strategy
  • enable domestic abuse offenders to be subject to polygraph testing as a condition of their licence following their release from custody
  • place the guidance supporting the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (“Clare’s law”) on a statutory footing.
  • Provide that all eligible homeless victims of domestic abuse automatically have ‘priority need’ for homelessness assistance
  • ensure that where a local authority, for reasons connected with domestic abuse, grants a new secure tenancy to a social tenant who had or has a secure lifetime or assured tenancy (other than an assured shorthold tenancy) this must be a secure lifetime tenancy
  • prohibit GPs and other health professionals in general practice from charging a victim of domestic abuse for a letter to support an application for legal aid
  • provide for a statutory code of practice relating to the processing of domestic abuse data for immigration purposes


There are some 2.3 million victims of domestic abuse a year aged 16 to 74 (two-thirds of whom are women) and more than one in ten of all offences recorded by the police are domestic abuse related.

In December 2019 the Government was elected with a manifesto commitment to “support all victims of domestic abuse and pass the Domestic Abuse Bill” originally introduced in the last Parliament. The act aims to ensure that victims have the confidence to come forward and report their experiences, safe in the knowledge that the state will do everything it can, both to support them and their children and pursue the abuser.

In spring 2018, the Government conducted a public consultation on Transforming the Response to Domestic Abuse which attracted over 3,200 responses.

The Government response to the consultation and a draft Domestic Abuse Bill were published in January 2019. The Government response set out 123 commitments, both legislative and non-legislative, designed to promote awareness of domestic abuse; protect and support victims and their families; transform the justice process to prioritise victim safety and provide an effective response to perpetrators; and to drive consistency and better performance in the response to domestic abuse across all local areas, agencies and sectors.

Will these measures apply across the United Kingdom?

The majority of the provisions in the act apply to England and Wales, or England, only.

The provisions in the act relate to devolved matters in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

At the request of the Scottish Government and the Department of Justice in Northern Ireland, the act includes analogous provisions for Scotland and Northern Ireland extending the extraterritorial jurisdiction of the criminal courts.

When will the measures in the act come into force?

The majority of the provisions in the act will be brought into force by commencement regulations, once the necessary preparatory work has been completed, for example, the making of court rules or the issue of guidance.

It is expected that most of the provisions in the act will come into force during 2021/22.

The new Domestic Abuse Protection Notice and Domestic Abuse Protection Order will be piloted before being implemented throughout England and Wales.

How much will these measures cost?

The Impact Assessment published alongside the act indicates that the current  estimated cost of the measures in the act applying to England and Wales (or England only) is between £247 to £300 million per year once fully implemented.

The impact assessment shows that only a small reduction (0.3%) in the prevalence of domestic abuse as a result of the measures in the act would be required for the benefits of the act to outweigh the costs.

Key facts

In the year ending March 2020, an estimated 2.3 million adults aged 16 to 74 years experienced domestic abuse in the last year (1.6 million women and 757,000 men).

The cumulative effect of small year-on-year reductions, including a significant decrease in the year ending March 2009, has resulted in a significantly lower prevalence of domestic abuse experienced by adults aged 16 to 59 years in the year ending March 2020 (6.3%), compared with the year ending March 2005 (8.9%).

The cost of domestic abuse is estimated to be approximately £66bn for victims of domestic abuse in England and Wales for the year ending March 2017.