14/12/2011 08:35 GMT | Updated 14/12/2011 08:49 GMT

Domestic Violence Definition Plans Contradict Government's Own Legislation, Say Labour

Coalition plans to widen the definition of domestic violence to include psychological abuse and victims under 18 have been criticised for contradicting the government's own legislation.

The plans to re-work how domestic violence is defined across the government come in a consultation launched on Wednesday.

But shadow home office minister Stella Creasy said the plans contradicted the definition of domestic violence set out in the government's legal aid bill, which is currently going through parliament.

"Instead of widening the definition of domestic violence, they are narrowing it and making it extremely hard for victims to demonstrate that abuse has taken place before getting the help they need in child custody or divorce cases so they can leave violent relationships," the Labour MP said on Wednesday.

Currently domestic violence is defined by threatening behaviour but the Home Office are consulting on including psychological abuse such as "coercive control".

Home Secretary Theresa May said domestic violence victims could only be helped when there is a "common understanding" of what it is.

"It is also vital that victims themselves are clear what constitutes abuse so they seek help early and unnecessary suffering can be avoided by adults and children alike.”

The consultation says many victims of psychological abuse "occasions where domestic violence could be regarded as an isolated incident."

The coalition are also working to support male victims of violence in a £225,000 'Male Victims Fund'.

Equalities minister Lynne Featherstone said: “There are some forms of violence, like domestic violence, where the majority of the victims are female and the majority of the perpetrators are male. However, we recognise that men can be victims of these crimes too and also deserve support and protection.”