An MP has called for a change in the law after her constituent was prevented by her bank from closing a joint account she shared with her abusive ex-partner.
Dr Lisa Cameron used Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday to challenge Theresa May about the incident, in which one of her constituents was told she would be unable to close the account unless she appeared in the branch with the man she had fled from.
The SNP MP has demanded action to protect other domestic violence victims from being put through similar trauma.
She told HuffPost UK: “The case concerned a woman who came to my advice surgery and explained she had been in a physically and sexually violent relationship for a number of years.
“At the end of the day, she had to escape for her life, as the abuse was extremely severe.
“She managed to get herself out of the situation and managed to find somewhere safe to stay, but she still had a joint bank account with this person.
“She went to the bank and explained the situation and background, but was told she could not close the account down without appearing in the bank alongside her ex-partner.
“At that point, he was on bail, with conditions that specified he was not to have any contact with her.”
The issue was eventually resolved after demands for several letters were met and the victim, who did not want to be named or name the bank for fear of being traced, was offered an apology.
But the East Kilbride MP wants the government’s new domestic violence bill to be amended to cover financial abuse, to prevent future incidents from occurring.
She added: “It was traumatising for my constituent, having to go through and relive the entire situation.
“For someone in that situation to be told they will have to sit in the same room as their abuser - which could place them in grave physical danger, not least put them through extreme mental trauma - is unacceptable.
“After looking into the issue, I have found that such cases are dealt with at banks’ discretion, so financial abuse and situations like this need to be recongised in the domestic violence bill and frontline staff in banks should be given proper training on how to deal with issues like this.”
Responding to Cameron’s account, which was greeted with audible gasps in the Commons chamber, the PM said: “We want to ensure that we do give proper support to all those who have been subjected to domestic violence, or to abuse of the kind that the honourable lady has referred to.
“The home secretary will be issuing a consultation shortly on the proposed domestic violence legislation, and that will be an opportunity for issues such as this to be raised.”
Cameron said she would work alongside domestic violence charity Women’s Aid to ensure the issue remains on the government’s agenda.
“The prime minister seemed to listen to my concerns and said she will look at the issue, but that needs to be translated into real action,” she added.
“This cannot be allowed to happen to any more women.”