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Domestic and Sexual Violence

Volume 530: debated on Monday 27 June 2011

In March this year we published a detailed action plan on tackling violence against women and girls. We have already delivered in several areas, including a commitment to provide more than £28 million of Home Office funding over four years for local specialist services to support victims of domestic and sexual violence.

Recent incidents of rape and sexual assault in my constituency have been linked to Gloucester’s nightlife. Although Gloucestershire constabulary, which incidentally is increasing the number of front-line officers in our city, is doing a great job to protect my constituents on the streets, many parents would like awareness to be raised among youngsters about the risk of sexual assault. Are there things that the Home Office could do, perhaps together with the Department for Education, to help in that?

Preventing sexual and domestic violence from happening in the first place is a key priority of our action plan to end violence against women and girls. We are committed to developing education and awareness-raising campaigns on rape and sexual assault. As my hon. Friend said, we work with the Department for Education to encourage teaching about sexual consent in schools.

What discussions has the Minister had with the Department of Justice about victims of domestic violence who do not report offences to the police, particularly in the light of potential legal aid changes?

There have been no specific discussions with the Secretary of State for Justice on this issue. However, the Ministry of Justice is a member of the inter-ministerial group on violence against women and girls, which is chaired by the Home Secretary. Discussions on the support provided for all victims of violence against women and girls is discussed at its meetings.

Two wards in my constituency have seen increases in domestic abuse of 38% and 44%, which is way out of sync with the national or local trend. Will Ministers consider targeting work in areas where the figures are so far above trend?

The hon. Lady raises an important issue. I will look at the areas that have higher rates of domestic violence, with an eye to seeing what has happened in those areas.

What discussions has the Minister had with the Minister for Housing and Local Government about the need to rehouse victims of domestic and sexual violence in safe homes? There are a number of cases in my constituency where I do not feel that the council is stepping up to the mark in providing a safe haven for these women.

It is clearly very important that when women need a place of safety and refuge, they have such a place. Obviously women’s refuges and shelters are available, but there is always a blocking issue with housing. We keep a constant eye on that. Councils should hear the message loud and clear that they need to provide for women who need shelter from domestic violence.

I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing the much-needed funding for rape crisis centres. What does she expect the timing will be, because those centres are so greatly needed by this country?

The funding has been agreed and is on its way. Not only have the bids been accepted for the existing rape crisis centres; there is money coming through this year for four new centres in Hereford, Dorset, Trafford and Devon, which will fill the gaps left by the previous Government.

How will destroying the DNA of people who have been arrested for rape, had their files sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions, but with a charge not being able to be brought, help to reduce sexual violence against women?

As I said last Thursday, we do not believe in keeping 1 million innocent people on the database. If someone is arrested for rape and not charged, but the local police believe that they are a danger to public safety, the police may apply to the commissioner to retain their DNA for three years, as the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper) said.