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Domestic and Sexual Violence

Volume 530: debated on Tuesday 5 July 2011

5. What recent assessment he has made of the role of specialist domestic and sexual violence services in supporting prosecutions in cases involving allegations of such offences. (63521)

The evaluations of specialist domestic violence courts conducted between 2005 and 2008 demonstrated that specialist domestic violence support services contributed to improving prosecution rates as well as to the safety of domestic violence victims. More recent analysis, conducted on behalf of the Crown Prosecution Service, has also shown a significant reduction in domestic violence against supported victims. There has been no formal assessment of sexual violence services.

The Swansea sexual assault referral centre, or SARC, is one of four across Wales run by the New Pathways organisation. I have been informed that the centre receives no statutory funding for any work that it undertakes with children and young people, who often suffer the worst types of sexual abuse and violence. The majority of its referrals come from the statutory sector. Will the Solicitor-General promise me that he will look at the issue and at the gap in the funding that the centre receives?

I can certainly promise to look into that. This Government, including my Department, value the work that such agencies perform. As the hon. Lady will know, in her part of Wales there are two SDVCs—or specialist domestic violence courts—one in Neath and one in Swansea, as well as other necessary advisory services. I appreciate that we are in a time of great economic constraint, but we will do our best with the resources that we can make available to them.

One of the main challenges facing vulnerable complainants and their families is the sometimes lengthy time gap between the making of their complaint and their appearance in court. Does my hon. and learned Friend agree that the work of women’s refuges, such as the one in my constituency, and of police family liaison officers is vital if we are to maintain the confidence we need in complainants in order for them to follow their complaints through the criminal justice process?

I know that that is true not only in my hon. Friend’s constituency but throughout the rest of the country. It is important that the advisory services and family liaison staff are there to help those affected by such crimes of violence, whether they involve sexual or non-sexual assault, so that they can bring their evidence to court and the perpetrators can be convicted.