Estimating the number of women in prison who have been victims of domestic violence is difficult, as the information is not recorded centrally. However, surveys tell us that half of female prisoners report having been the victims of abuse of some kind. That includes abuse at any age, and is not necessarily domestic violence. The figures could also be a significant underestimate, as the hon. Lady knows, because admissions from victims of domestic violence are not always forthcoming.
I warmly welcome the Minister to her responsibility; she is a rare creature who cares seriously about this issue in her bones and not just in her words. If it is right that half or more of women in prison have been victims of domestic violence, sexual abuse and other kinds of violence, should not those victims be diverted from the criminal justice system rather than incarcerated in it?
The hon. Lady is very knowledgeable on such matters, having worked hard and effectively for a number of years, campaigning for both victims of domestic violence and female offenders. It was to my absolute delight that I was given this brief as a new Minister by the Secretary of State and I hope to draw on some of my experience before I came to this place while I undertake the role. Tackling domestic violence and women’s offending are priorities for the Government and me, and I am delighted to note that the National Offender Management Service has been working very closely with Women’s Aid to develop policies, strategies and training to support women who are in prison and to identify domestic violence. Considerable work needs to be done and I look forward to working closely with the hon. Lady and other Labour Members to drive through change and make a difference in this area.