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Domestic Violence

Volume 463: debated on Thursday 19 July 2007

14. What steps she is taking to raise awareness of Crown Prosecution Service measures to tackle domestic violence, with particular reference to Blackpool, North and Fleetwood. (150577)

Yesterday, we published the Crown Prosecution Service’s annual snapshot survey of domestic violence cases, which shows that convictions are 66 per cent.—up by 20 per cent. since 2003, with 6 per cent. fewer cases being discontinued—and the number of cases recorded has doubled since 2002. There has been some success, and the latest figure suggests that complainants are starting to believe that they will be made safe and helped if they complain, and are therefore coming forward more. That should help to raise awareness in my hon. Friend’s constituency, and elsewhere.

I thank my hon. and learned Friend for that reply and commend her and the Department on the success that they are achieving. The local Crown Prosecution Service in Blackpool—and, indeed, across Lancashire—is working closely with a variety of agencies to support the victims of domestic violence. However, some people still do not realise that changes have taken place and remain worried that perhaps they will not receive the sympathetic hearing that my hon. and learned Friend mentioned. What further steps can she take, working through a variety of agencies, to offer reassurances so that victims come forward and are heard, and that prosecutions take place?

My hon. Friend makes a good point. There is a lack of confidence among complainants, approximately 94 per cent. of whom are women because, historically when they have come forward, they have not been taken seriously. My hon. Friend is doing a good job of publicising the changes at the moment. The fact that we label courts as domestic violence specialist courts makes it clear that they are places to which people have recourse.

However, the CPS has in recent years worked overwhelmingly with local non-governmental organisations and told them the sort of services it can offer. They are likely to be the place of first resort for domestic violence complainants if they come forward and I therefore hope that there is a continuum of information through that mechanism.

Female genital mutilation is one of the most grievous forms of domestic violence in this country. Does it not shock and concern the Solicitor-General that, despite legislation that was passed in 2003 to prevent it, only one person has been investigated? As far I can discover through freedom of information requests, not one person has been prosecuted for that most grievous and wicked crime.

I am glad to have the hon. Gentleman’s support in our attempts to tackle that grievous and often hidden crime. It is not easy to tackle—it is not easy to bring complainants forward or deal with them when they do come forward. However, we have no lack of political will to do that. If the hon. Gentleman can help us, I would be pleased to meet him and discuss the matter further. It will be a priority for my noble Friend the Attorney-General and me.