Since 1997, the Government have been working to ensure that domestic violence law supports and protects all victims of domestic abuse. We have introduced practical system changes to promote co-ordinated community responses to domestic violence, including the establishment of specialist domestic violence courts. On 19 March, we announced that from 1 April 2010 there will be 141 SDVC systems. That means that the Government’s target of having a total of 128 court systems in place by 2011 will be not only met but exceeded a year ahead of schedule.
I thank the Minister for her detailed response. Will she join me in praising the Cheshire domestic violence partnership, which was recently shortlisted for a local innovation award? It is working extremely well with the special advisers that the Minister has mentioned.
Children who witness domestic violence are also victims. What advice do the Government give to domestic violence partnerships and the courts on supporting children?
Of course I join my hon. Friend in praising the work of the Cheshire domestic violence partnership. The effect on children who witness domestic violence and abuse can be harrowing, and their needs must be reflected in any strategy dealing with the effects of such abuse. The services of independent domestic violence advisers are integral to providing additional support to the victims of domestic violence and their families in both normal criminal courts and family courts. I am happy to write to my hon. Friend about the other services that we are providing for victims, especially through the national victims service.
How can it be just that last year, about 40,000 victims of violence saw their cases not taken to court but dealt with by a caution, and four out of five offenders who made it to court were not ordered to pay compensation? In the dying days of this Government, will the Minister ensure that we have not just a national victims service but national victims’ justice, so that we see more offenders convicted in court and made to pay back for their crimes?
This Government have done far more for victims by introducing the national victims service, which will provide caseworkers for those who are affected by the most serious crimes and those who are the most vulnerable. In addition to bringing more criminal cases, the Crown Prosecution Service continues to improve its performance in respect of domestic violence, and the charge to conviction rate for 2008-09 was 72.2 per cent., exceeding the CPS’s target of the previous year.
Will my right hon. Friend consider visiting West Lancashire and meeting representatives of West Lancashire women’s refuge, who deserve congratulations on their effort and work on the front line in dealing with the fallout from domestic violence and who are keen to discuss with Ministers the positive Government contribution and commitment to funding the tackling of domestic violence?
I am very happy to do whatever I can to support the good work that my hon. Friend is doing in her constituency.