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Violence against Women

Volume 514: debated on Tuesday 27 July 2010

3. What the outcomes were of the Crown Prosecution Service’s review of its violence against women strategy. (11106)

The Crown Prosecution Service’s violence against women strategy, 2008 to 2011, was published in June 2008. No review has been carried out to date. Quarterly assurance is provided by the voluntary sector, and annual reports are published. The assessment of the benefits of the strategy on violence against women prosecutions will be made in 2011.

I am grateful for that reply. Does the Minister accept that the concerted effort of the previous, Labour Government led to a 64% reduction in the incidence of domestic violence according to the British crime survey? Will he therefore ensure that potential cuts of 25% in CPS funding and his Department will not lead to a lesser focus on domestic violence issues, which are important not just to women, but to the whole community?

I have no reason to disagree in any way with what the right hon. Gentleman has said. He is right that, for example, successful prosecutions from charge to conviction have significantly increased, from 65% in 2006-07 to 72% in 2009-10, against an increasing volume of such prosecutions. The number of discontinued cases has fallen, from 26% in 2006-07 to 21% in 2009-10. Similar statistics apply to rape cases. Although there will clearly be financial constraints on all Departments, let me reassure him that it is certainly my intention and that of the Director of Public Prosecutions to ensure that the CPS can maintain its record of momentum and good progress in this area.

Is not one reason for the progress in successfully prosecuting domestic violence and rape cases that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has reported the existence of independent domestic violence advocates and independent sexual violence advocates? Will he give the House a commitment that he will continue to resource such a programme—a programme that is helping women bring their attackers to justice—or persuade his colleagues who are budget holders to do so?

Yes, there are currently 141 specialist domestic violence courts, and in these courts there is the assistance of independent domestic violence advisers, as the hon. Lady says. Indeed, as she and I both know, in Slough there is an excellent voluntary service helping those who have been the victims of domestic violence. I will do all that I can to reassure her that there is no intention of allowing that excellence to be diminished. Clearly, I accept that in times of financial constraints we will look across the board at everything. However, as matters stand at the moment, it is the intention of the Crown Prosecution Service, as well as my intention as the Attorney-General, to ensure that the progress that has been made in this area is maintained.

I welcome the right hon. and learned Gentleman’s comments about his continuing focus on the issue. However, now that he has given up his role of co-ordinating the policy response to domestic violence across the criminal justice system as a whole, and in view of the CPS submission to the Treasury—we have all read it on The Guardian website: it says that delivering only key priorities will be affordable in future—will he confirm today, in terms, that tackling domestic violence will indeed be one of those key priorities for the CPS and him?

Yes, I am happy to confirm that tackling domestic violence will remain a key priority. However, going back to the point that I made last time I answered questions about the role of the Attorney-General and the office, perhaps I could explain that the decision to cease taking a lead in this area is reflective of the size of the Law Officers’ office and their ability to drive such an agenda. There is a trilateral partnership, as the hon. Lady is aware. The role of the Law Officers is to be heavily involved in that tripartite relationship, providing policy advice and helping to drive agendas. However, it is right and proper that driving the agenda in question should lie with another Department, because those other Departments are specifically resourced to introduce the necessary legislation.