Legal Articles

‘Domestic abuse’ – the new statutory definition

Written by: Helen Hanley PNLD Legal Adviser
Published Thursday 30 September 2021

A key feature of the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 is that it provides a new cross-government statutory definition of ‘domestic abuse’ (section 1) and details the types of connections between perpetrator and victim (section 2).  Although sections 1 and 2 are only in force for specified purposes at present, it is anticipated that these sections will be fully brought in force in 2022. ‘Domestic abuse’ covers a lot of different types of behaviour, which can differ in nature, dynamics, and impact.  Recognising behaviour as ‘domestic abuse’ with reference to this new statutory definition, will be crucial to ensuring that the appropriate help can be given to the victim and that necessary action is taken against the perpetrator to prevent them from going on to carry out further abuse. 

In this article, PNLD Legal Adviser Helen Hanley aims to provide some examples of the types of behaviour that will constitute ‘domestic abuse’ under the 2021 Act; describe the types of connection between perpetrator and victim that will be deemed to be ‘personally connected’; and highlight a suggested police response to such incidents.

Read the full article.


Released Under Investigation

Written by: Ruth Hartley, PNLD Legal Adviser
Published Friday 3 September 2021

The Policing and Crime Act 2017 introduced several legislative changes, including the concept of release under investigation without bail (RUI) to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE). The words ‘released under investigation’ or ‘RUI’ are not specifically stated / quoted in the legislation; rather the legislation simply refers to ‘released without charge’.  The decision to release under investigation is provided in subsections 34(2)(a), 37(7)(b), 37(7A) and 37(8) of PACE. An individual released under investigation is regarded as being of the same status as a person released on bail, but without the requirement for them to return to the station on a specified date.

Whilst most officers are now more than familiar with this form of release, procedurally, the concept still generates a significant number of queries for PNLD, namely because many aspects relating to the release are not directly provided for within the legislation. PNLD Legal Adviser, Ruth Hartley, highlights some queries of interest received by PNLD, below.​

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Stalking Protection Orders

Written by: Zoe McDonald, PNLD Legal Adviser
Published Tuesday 27 July 2021

The Stalking Protection Act 2019 came in force on the 20th January 2020 and with it came the introduction of Stalking Protection Orders (SPOs). These civil orders, which could be applied for without the need for criminal proceedings to have commenced, aimed to protect victims with pre-conviction intervention. PNLD published an article in February 2020 with details of the new orders; how they could be applied for, what they could achieve and offences that would committed upon breach.

Since that time, we have of course, had the Covid pandemic. It has been well documented that levels of domestic abuse have surged during this time, but it appears that so too has stalking behaviour. The latest figures show (according to the BBC) that stalking incidents recorded across England and Wales in the nine months between April and December 2020 - almost doubled the annual number of incidents for the year ending March 2020. More than half of all police forces have seen stalking incidents double over the same time period.  It has been acknowledged by forces that changes to how stalking crimes were recorded, as well as last year's lockdowns and the growth of online stalking behaviour, had been a factor in the surge in stalking incidents.

However a BBC investigation (report published by the BBC on the 15th June 2021) has revealed that SPO powers to protect victims are not being used by some police forces, despite the surge in stalking offences. The national charge rate for stalking offences is at its lowest point for five years, falling from 23% in 2015-16 to just 6% for the nine months up to December 2020.  Some forces in fact had failed to make a single application for an SPO up to May of this year.

Victims of stalking have called for better education and training so officers can recognise when action is needed to apply for an order. As forces are now looking to improve training for officers, it is felt that a recap is warranted, which PNLD Legal Adviser, Zoe McDonald has provided below.

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Domestic Abuse Act 2021

Written by: Shelley Gregory, PNLD Legal Adviser
Published Friday 25 June 2021

The Victim Personal Statement (VPS) Scheme was formally introduced into the Criminal Justice System of England and Wales on 1st October 2001. It is now included in the Criminal Practice Directions 2015, Division VII, Part F and is also embedded in the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime 2020 (the Victims’ Code). In accordance with section 63 of the Sentencing Act 2020 the provision of a VPS will assist a sentencing court to consider the offender's culpability in committing the offence, and any harm which the offence caused, was intended to cause, or might foreseeably have caused. It is also important in providing victims with the opportunity to be heard.

PNLD Legal Advisor, Shelley Gregory, provides an overview of the VPS process, below.

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Domestic Abuse Act 2021

Written by: Helen Hanley PNLD Legal Adviser
Published Sunday 25 May 2021

Abuse of men/women in a domestic setting has existed for many years and sadly still occurs.  Attempts have and are being made to stop this abuse.  The Domestic Abuse Act 2021 seeks to continue in this endeavour by raising awareness and understanding of domestic abuse and further improving the effectiveness of the justice system.

The Act, which extends to England and Wales, or England only (in some provisions), was given royal assent on the 29th April 2021.  Although most of its provisions are not currently in force, the provisions are to be brought in force and implemented within the Criminal Justice System later this year. 

In this article, PNLD Legal Adviser, Helen Hanley, provides a brief overview of the Act in preparation for the implementation of its provisions. 

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Antique Firearms

Written by: Danielle Johnson PNLD Legal Adviser
Published Sunday 25 April 2021

The number of antique firearms used in crime has remained at a relatively high level over the last few years, with the absence of a legal definition of ‘antique firearm’ being exploited by criminals.

Following a public consultation, a new statutory definition for antique firearms has now been legislated.

PNLD Legal Adviser, Danielle Johnson explores the new definition and the changes to the law in more detail.

Read the full article.

The Sentencing Act 2020

Written by: Christiane Rabenstein PNLD Legal Adviser
Published Thursday 25 March 2021

On 1 December 2020, the Sentencing Act 2020 came into force. Its aim is to consolidate the law of sentencing procedure into one single Act, thereby making it more transparent and accessible.

This article, written by PNLD Legal Adviser Christiane Rabenstein, explains the background to this Act and examines some of its main features and its relevance to the police.

Read the full article.