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Domestic and Sexual Violence

Volume 533: debated on Tuesday 11 October 2011

5. What recent discussions he has had with the Director of Public Prosecutions on the prosecution of cases involving allegations of domestic or sexual violence. (72848)

I have not had a recent discussion with the Director of Public Prosecutions in relation to domestic and sexual violence. However, I support the continuing work of the Crown Prosecution Service to improve prosecutions in that area and to support victims of crime.

Last month, I met Change, a user-led organisation of people with learning disabilities, which highlighted the extent of domestic abuse against people with learning disabilities. Will the Attorney-General tell me what steps the Government are taking to ensure that such victims are properly catered for in criminal proceedings, and what discussions he is having with colleagues across the Government to ensure that such vulnerable victims are properly looked after?

The hon. Lady is right to highlight this matter. A great deal is done by the CPS in multi-agency working at a national level to try to ensure that there is good support for victims who come forward in such a setting. If the hon. Lady wishes me to write to her with further details on the specific instances that she raises, I will be most happy to do so. However, from my discussions with the Director of Public Prosecutions, I have been left with a sense of confidence that there is a full understanding of the difficulties raised by such cases, that the CPS will do its utmost to ensure that justice is done and that prosecutions are brought wherever possible, and that the victim is supported during the process.

One in four girls are hit by their boyfriends—some are as young as 14 and 13. What action will the Attorney-General take to deal with that?

My hon. Friend highlights an area of undoubted concern—violent behaviour by younger teenagers—but as she will appreciate, that is first a matter for the police. Secondly, if such cases come to the attention of the CPS, consideration must be given as to whether it is in the public interest to prosecute. Each case will turn on its own facts, and prosecutorial discretion may have to be exercised in such circumstances.

That said, if my hon. Friend feels that that is a growing difficulty, the multi-agency approach that we were talking about in a different setting a moment ago will probably be the only way to tackle it. At the end of the day, prosecutors can take only one of two decisions—to prosecute or not—but prevention must come from other agencies.