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Domestic Violence

Volume 569: debated on Monday 28 October 2013

Domestic violence is a dreadful form of abuse and is totally unacceptable. Our approach to tackling it is set out in the Government’s updated violence against women and girls action plan. Key initiatives include piloting domestic violence protection orders, which I referred to in a previous answer, and a domestic violence disclosure scheme. We have also extended the definition of domestic violence to include 16 and 17-year-olds and to include the use of coercive control.

I have visited the women’s refuge in Swindon and was extremely impressed by the help and facilities that it provides. What steps is the Home Secretary taking to support the work of those vital safe havens for victims of domestic violence across the country?

Like my hon. Friend, I pay tribute to all those who work in refuges and provide refuge for the victims of domestic violence. They are predominantly for women, as the majority of such victims are women, but we must never forget that men can also be the victims of domestic violence, as my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield (Michael Fabricant) said earlier. The Government are providing stable funding of £40 million to support specialist domestic and sexual violence services, such as the independent domestic violence advisers who offer further valuable support to victims.

The last Girl Guides survey showed that 5% of girls thought it was okay to be threatened with violence for spending too much time with friends, and that 25% thought it was okay for a person’s partner to check up on them and read their texts. What are the Government doing to combat domestic violence by educating young people, particularly young women, about what is acceptable in relationships, and—

Although cut off in her prime, the hon. Lady makes an important point. It is shocking to see the number of girls and young women—and, indeed, the number of boys and young men—who think that violence in a relationship is okay and part of a relationship. She is absolutely right that we must do what we can to educate young people about what a proper relationship should be and what should not be part of it. That is why the Home Office has supported a very successful national teenage rape prevention campaign, which we were able to extend into a teenage relationship abuse campaign. The figures and responses show that those campaigns have had a real impact on young people’s understanding of the nature of relationships.

19. Victims of domestic violence in my constituency sometimes find the first step of talking to someone about it to be the hardest one to take. Residents are well served by the Pendle domestic violence initiative helpline, as well as the national domestic violence helpline. Will my right hon. Friend tell us what she is doing to ensure that the victims of domestic violence are aware of these helplines, which provide them with valuable support at the time they need it most? (900715)

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to commend the work of those who provide helplines, and I would like to congratulate him on the success of the Pendle domestic violence initiative. Helplines indeed play an important role in supporting the victims of domestic and sexual violence. That is why the Home Office provides £900,000 to five national helplines each year. We take every opportunity to publicise these helplines, and we have done so through the two campaigns to which I referred in my previous answer—the teenage rape prevention campaign and the relationship abuse campaign. It is important to keep telling people about the availability of these helplines.

The Home Secretary is astonishingly complacent given that reported domestic violence has risen by 31% on her watch, while at the same time as funding for refuges and specialist advice has fallen by 31%, the number of independent domestic violence advisers is falling and specialist domestic violence courts are being axed. Is this a deliberate attempt to target the victims of this violence or does it simply show that she has no influence over her colleagues in other Departments?

First, I welcome the hon. Lady to her new role on the shadow Home Office Front Bench, but I have to say that I thought that the nature of that question was beneath her. [Interruption.] The hon. Lady says “facts” from a sedentary position, and she quoted a figure of 31%. I understand, however, that that came from a survey based on the average from 63 local authorities, and that survey did not take into account responses from 201 authorities that said cuts had not been made in their provision. If the hon. Lady wants to cite facts, I suggest she looks at them more carefully in future. This Government take domestic violence very seriously. That is why it is this Government who have put in place stable funding of £40 million and why under this Government rape crisis centres are opening, when under the last Labour Government they closed.

13. What recent assessment she has made of the level of referrals from the police to the Crown Prosecution Service for domestic violence offences. (900709)

The Home Office chaired a meeting with the Director of Public Prosecutions last month. This has led to a six-point plan to increase the number of referrals from the police to the Crown Prosecution Service. However, it should also be noted that last year saw the highest ever conviction rate for domestic violence prosecutions.

I am grateful for that answer and for all other answers given on this subject this afternoon. Since the general election, however, there has been a 13% fall in the number of cases of domestic violence being referred to the CPS from the police. Will the Minister ban the use of community resolutions in all cases of domestic violence?

We have heard from the Home Secretary that the ministerial team in the Home Office take this matter very seriously. We will discuss it later this week with chief constables and others. We are determined to ensure that domestic violence is given the prominence it should have within the legal system. I have also had a discussion about this matter with my colleague, Lord McNally, at the Ministry of Justice.