Domestic homicide of women is at the lowest rate for 10 years. Conviction rates for domestic violence cases have risen from 46 per cent. in 2003 to 72.5 per cent. in 2008. Between 1997 and 2007-08, there was a 58 per cent. fall in domestic violence incidents. Despite all that, we know we must do more, particularly at the Christmas period when women are at increased risk. For many, Christmas is a family time but for some it is a time of fear, violence and isolation. A new advertising campaign supported by the Home Office, Women’s Aid and Refuge begins today to encourage domestic violence victims to seek support and not to suffer in silence. It supports a Home Office-funded enforcement campaign over Christmas in 10 police force areas; it includes innovative tactics such as the use of body-worn video cameras by police, dedicated domestic abuse response vehicles and increased front-line policing, targeting the highest risk domestic violence victims and offenders.
I was very impressed that a member of the Home Office ministerial team spent a long time listening—not speaking—on the issue of knife killings in Croydon, although mentioning them is unfortunately not a proud boast for any Member of Parliament. Does anyone in the ministerial team feel that there is any good practice that could be copied in terms of providing additional resources for policing in Croydon, bearing in mind that since the Minister visited there have been two more street killings? I know that it is a devolved matter, but by following good practice elsewhere could the formula for funding for extra police officers be changed after such a significant increase in the number of street killings in a particular place?
I was delighted to visit the hon. Gentleman’s constituency and to see him talking to young people in particular about the work they are doing to tackle knife crime in their area. The work done in Croydon shows that the police cannot solve the problem on their own through enforcement. Of course, police enforcement is essential, as we have seen in the success of stop and search and the increased number of people going to prison for possession, but alongside that, we need the involvement of local authorities, local residents and young people. From my visit to the hon. Gentleman’s constituency, I learned the value that young people can bring to that process. We need to remember that the vast majority of young people are decent—they are not involved in knife crime; but in terms of the solution, if we listen to what they say, they have part of the answer. As much as anything else, that is what I learned from my visit and I know that the hon. Gentleman was impressed as well.
I think that the report to which my hon. Friend refers concerned the joint UK-French flight. The UK is able to return people to both Iraq and Afghanistan in that way, and we continue to work with our partners in the French and Belgium authorities towards that end.
Will the Home Secretary commend Essex chief constable Roger Baker’s policy of ensuring that a police officer attends whenever there has been a crime, and does she think that the policy could be spread to other constabularies as good practice?
I was very pleased to visit Essex constabulary at the beginning of December, and to praise chief constable Roger Baker and the Essex police force for being the first to commit publicly to the police pledge. At the heart of the police pledge is how we can ensure that local people have the information, support and ability to have an input into the policing that they want. Chief constable Roger Baker is doing an extremely good job in Essex.
Clearly, I do not want to pre-empt the consultation, but the hon. Gentleman makes a very important point that I know is being borne carefully in mind by my colleagues in the Ministry of Justice. He has made it forcefully on numerous occasions, and I think that he has significant support from across the House on the issue.
I have written to the hon. Member for Cambridge (David Howarth) on the issue. I was informed that 70 police officers had been hurt, and naturally assumed that they had been hurt through direct contact, as a result of the protest. That clearly is not the case, and I apologise if that caused anybody to be misled. I can say to my hon. Friend the Member for North-West Leicestershire (David Taylor) and other Members that the National Policing Improvement Agency is currently considering the lessons to be learned from the Kingsnorth climate camp protest. I will meet the public order lead of the Association of Chief Police Officers to discuss the report, so that we can share the lessons to be learned from Kingsnorth with police forces across the country.
The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. As we have frequently said, local people are one of the best weapons in helping to fight crime. It is precisely to give local people the confidence to report crimes to the police that, working alongside ACPO, we are pleased that the policing pledge, which provides monthly local information, monthly opportunities to feed in concerns, and much better communication between neighbourhood policing teams and local people, will be in place across the country by the end of the year. That will help to ensure that local people know that they can and should play their part in tackling local crime and antisocial behaviour.
I share my hon. Friend’s concerns about the sort of irresponsible promotions that she outlined, which is why, having commissioned KPMG to look at how the industry was fulfilling its responsibilities under a voluntary code, it became clear that in some cases those responsibilities were not being fulfilled, so we are now proposing to introduce in the policing and crime Bill the ability to provide a mandatory code, which would outlaw precisely the type of irresponsible promotion that she outlined.
The hon. Gentleman has raised this issue with me on a number of occasions, and what is happening in his constituency is absolutely deplorable, as is the inability of the law—not the police—to tackle that problem and deal with it. If it would be helpful to have a further meeting to discuss with officials what further action we might take to try to bring an end to that totally unsatisfactory situation with the cannabis café in his constituency, I am perfectly happy to have one. Where the law needs to be changed, that should be looked at, and it should be changed.
Returning to the issue of Kingsnorth policing, I thank the Minister both for what he has just said and for the letter that he wrote to me. However, in the light of the new information available to the House, would he care to revise his conclusion that the policing of Kingsnorth was proportionate and appropriate, especially as we also know that large numbers of protesters were injured at the hands of the police, especially by batons?
I have apologised to the hon. Gentleman for that, and as he quite rightly said, I have written to him. I think it would be best for me to wait for the NPIA report on what happened at Kingsnorth, and to review it with the ACPO representative responsible for public order to see what lessons can be learned. I would then be happy to share those conclusions with the hon. Gentleman.
DNA and fingerprints play an invaluable role in fighting crime. We are carefully considering how best to give effect to the recent judgment of the European Court of Human Rights, but I remind the House that in 2007-08 there were more than 37,000 crimes with a DNA match, 363 homicides and 540 rapes. We will not rush to judgment, and we will not be rushed, either.