The deputy mayor of Andover has vowed to fight for change in domestic abuse law as legislation makes its way through parliament.

Councillor Lauren Banville said the UK has a ‘serious problem’ with domestic violence and has called for reform so authorities are better equipped to help those fleeing volatile partners.

Speaking to The Advertiser, Cllr Banville said the current lockdown restrictions were forcing people to stay in abusive relationships.

At the moment, the councillor said she wasn’t confident those suffering at the hands of violent partners would receive the right help.

“You’re not believed, you’re looked at like a liar [when you report incidents],” Cllr Banville said. “At the moment, if one of my residents calls me and says: ‘I’m thinking about leaving a domestically abusive relationship’, I won’t able to confidently say to them: ‘yes, you will get the help you need.’”.

“I can’t promote their legislation and their law like they’ve asked me to if it doesn’t work.”

She said the current situation was being exacerbated by the pandemic. Data from the Office of National Statistics saw a seven per cent rise in reports of domestic abuse to police in March to June 2020 compared to the previous year, though this cannot directly be tied to Covid.

However, charities such as Women’s Aid have found that almost 70 per cent of those in abusive relationship believed domestic abuse got worse during the pandemic.

“It’ll be at the forefront of ministers’ minds for a long time,” Cllr Banville said. “It won’t get better [after Covid], it won’t improve until people understand what coercive, controlling behaviour is.”

Speaking for the first time publicly about her own experiences, the mother-of-two said the support wasn’t there when she left an abusive relationship where she was subjected to ‘threatening messages’ by someone who wielded ‘financial control’ over her.

Cllr Banville is now urging the police to not apply a ‘one size fits all’ approach to dealing with domestic violence, saying: “The people with the power need to know that what is happening out her isn’t working. I think police need to be able to recognise the difference between someone abusing and misusing the services to initiate abuse.

“Every case needs to be dealt with on its own merits. The problem is personalising cases and with domestic abuse it’s so specialist that one size does not fit all. And this is the problem.

“They need to have more knowledge, they need to be better trained, and they need to be aware of what to do.”

She praised current attempts to define domestic abuse in law as part of the Domestic Abuse Bill. Currently at the report stage in the House of Lords, the bill will, for the first time, create a specific crime of domestic abuse, as well as preventing cross-examination in certain cases associated with abuse, and create the role of Domestic Abuse Commissioner to better tackle it.

“It is something I’m going to fight for in parliament,” she said, saying she had made contact with Victoria Atkins, who introduced the Domestic Abuse Bill, to discuss how to improve the services which are offered.

“I need to raise awareness that this is not working,” Cllr Banville said. “I am going to keep pushing.”

A spokesman for Hampshire Constabulary said: “We take all allegations of domestic abuse seriously and are committed to providing a compassionate service to anyone affected by this.”

"Domestic abuse cases are often very challenging and complex matters to deal with, and frequently involve incidents where there are no independent witnesses to a crime that has taken place. This is particularly true in cases where there is coercive and controlling behaviour present.

"Hampshire Constabulary’s role is to safeguard victims of domestic abuse and to gather evidence to prosecute the perpetrators.

"The force has trained 3,000 officers and staff in domestic abuse in the past three years, and has a network of 550 specially trained Domestic Abuse champions whose role in Force is to raise the profile of domestic abuse with colleagues, to review current practices and to shape new pieces of work.

"We work with our partners in the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner, Local Authorities, Health and local Domestic Abuse charities to reduce incidents of domestic abuse and signpost victims to agencies where they can seek longer term support. We also share best practice with regional and national policing colleagues to enable us to constantly review and improve the service we provide and understand what works well with regards to tackling domestic abuse.

"Our partnership work focuses on keeping victims safe and supporting them to leave abusive relationships. Part of this work also involves referring perpetrators on to agencies who will work with them on a programme which aims to change their behaviour and reduce the risk of them offending again."

If you, or someone you know, are being affected by domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247 in complete confidence. Alternatively, you can chat online with advisors at: Escaping domestic abuse is also a valid reason to leave the home during lockdown.