1. Home
  2. |
  3. Information Hub
  4. |
  5. News
  6. |
  7. Government commitment to tackling domestic abuse

Government commitment to tackling domestic abuse

'Gaslighting’ has been used by a High Court judge in the family courts for the first time ever.

The term ‘gaslighting’ has been used by a High Court judge in the family courts for the first time ever in a ‘milestone’ hearing that is a ‘welcome development’ for family law professionals.

Says the head of Lodders’ Family Law team, Beverley Morris.

Many family law professionals continue to be concerned that insufficient weight is attached to the importance of recognising the width and variety of forms and patterns of behaviour which impact on someone’s health and wellbeing, and the need to recognise the ongoing harm to children who witness it.

According to the ONS, 2.3 million people in England and Wales suffered domestic abuse in the 12 months ending March 2020 (i).

Everyone working in the sphere of family law know this figure is likely to be much higher as many incidents of abuse are unreported.

Legal definition

The Domestic Abuse Act 2021 created a statutory definition of domestic abuse – capturing physical, emotional and economic abuse using gender neutral definitions to ensure no victim is excluded.  It also created the office of Domestic Abuse Commissioner.

Victoria Atkins, MP Minister for Safeguarding stated it was vital for there to be a proper understanding of what abuse was in order to support and protect victims.

High Court

It is a significant and very welcome development that the term “gaslighting” has been used by a High Court judge, Mr Justice Cobb, in a reported family decision – for the first time.

Gaslighting refers to manipulating someone by pushing a false narrative of events and manipulating someone into doubting their grasp of reality.

Recognition of this category of abuse has been welcomed by the legal profession amongst ongoing publicity in which the media continue to criticise the family court for remaining “shrouded in secrecy”.

The ongoing calls for transparency have been embraced by the President of the Family Division, Sir Andrew McFarlane who has undertaken a review of the media/public access and reporting in the family courts.


(i) Domestic Abuse in Enland and Wales overview: November 2020.

Contact us