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Violence Against Women and Girls

Volume 589: debated on Thursday 18 December 2014

Domestic abuse is a serious crime that shatters the lives of victims, trapping them in cycles of abuse that too often end in tragic and untimely deaths. There are over a million calls for assistance to the police each year for domestic abuse-related incidents, but only 78,000 prosecutions. It is clear that the criminal justice response to domestic abuse can be improved and I am determined to achieve this.

In September 2013 I commissioned Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary to review the police response to domestic abuse because I was concerned that it was not as good as it should be. Sadly, when HMIC reported their findings in March, my concerns were realised. I am clear that there must be an immediate and lasting change in the police response to domestic abuse. This means a change in culture right from the officers in charge to those on the front line. I am chairing a National Oversight Group to make sure this happens. This work remains a priority, however I am also keen to ensure the police and other frontline agencies have the tools they need to respond to domestic abuse.

The Home Office ran a consultation over the summer seeking views on whether the law on domestic abuse needs to be strengthened. Some 85% of respondents agreed that the law in this area is inadequate, and 55% agreed that it should be strengthened with a new offence to close the gap in the law relating to coercive and controlling behaviour in intimate relationships.

Today, I can inform the House that we will be tabling amendments to the Serious Crime Bill at Committee stage to strengthen the protection afforded to the victims of domestic abuse. A new offence of domestic abuse will provide an additional charging option where there is continuous or repeated coercive or controlling conduct, the cumulative impact of which can be no less traumatic for the victim than physical violence.

I will place a copy of the consultation response document in the Library of the House.