Wednesday 18 November 2020
Green Party NI MLA Rachel Woods has said that her work on the Domestic Abuse Bill has been motivated by the urgent need to protect victims and survivors and address rising levels of domestic abuse.
Rachel, other MLAs and Justice Committee members attended a twelve-hour Consideration Stage Assembly session on the bill yesterday (Tuesday 17 November).
Several of Rachel’s amendments were accepted including widening access to legal aid for victims of abuse and changes to the “child aggravator” clause providing for tougher custodial sentences where a child could be impacted by abuse, as well as additional reporting requirements.
Rachel Woods MLA said: “Victims and survivors of domestic abuse have always been front and centre of my mind when working on this Bill.
“This legislation is much needed and long overdue. Domestic abuse has always had an insidious effect on society but incident rates have escalated during the pandemic.
“However, today we are a step closer to the aim of having new Domestic Abuse legislation in place by the end of this year.
“The legislation must be as effective as it can possibly be and we’ve had an opportunity to adopt best practice from other jurisdictions.
“I’m pleased that my amendments on widening access to justice and the child aggravator clauses were accepted by the Assembly.
“The Justice Committee has worked well across party lines for many months to scrutinise the Bill and I am pleased all Committee amendments were passed by the Assembly.
"This includes reporting requirements, information sharing with schools for child safeguarding, mandatory training for criminal justice agencies and the introduction of interim protections for the victim.
“Getting vital pieces of legislation like this one through the Assembly is the very thing we were elected to do and our work continues until the Domestic Abuse Bill is on the statute books.”