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Corston Report

Volume 504: debated on Thursday 21 January 2010

16. What contribution the Law Officers’ Departments are making towards the implementation of the recommendations of the Corston report on meeting the needs of women with particular vulnerabilities in the criminal justice system. (312122)

The Government accepted almost all of Baroness Corston’s recommendations and are committed to diverting from custody vulnerable women who are not dangerous or serious offenders by strengthening services in the community that can tackle the complex needs of such women, who are frequently convicted of a lot of low-level offending. There have been 31 grants to such organisations, including Together Women and the Cardiff-based women’s turnaround project, which is hosted by Safer Wales and offers practical support so that women can manage their lives better and do not fall into offending. My hon. Friend has been a great champion of the turnaround project.

I thank my hon. and learned Friend and congratulate the Government on the progress made on the Corston report and on the fact that the number of women in prison is now falling. I am particularly pleased about the Cardiff project. Does she agree that many women offenders are, or have been, victims of abuse to a disproportionate level? What more can the Law Officers’ Department do to help women who have been abused as either children or adults when they present as offenders?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. When I chaired the Fawcett commission on women and criminal justice, the evidence made it plain that a disproportionate number of women in custody for low-level, non-dangerous offending had either been sexually abused or suffered domestic violence, and through the chaos that followed that treatment had declined into crime. Because at that stage we were not intervening as quickly and as well as we do now in cases of either domestic violence or sexual abuse, we were, in a sense, punishing them twice—by not helping them early enough to prevent them from descending into offending and then by putting them in custody when they offended. We are now trying to tackle the problem, and it is notable that organisations such as the turnaround project and Together Women deal with women not just after they have they have been convicted but after they have been abused, when their lives are becoming chaotic, to try to save them from ever descending into criminality at all.