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Domestic Violence

Volume 628: debated on Thursday 14 September 2017

8. What discussions he has had with the Crown Prosecution Service on cases involving domestic violence (900861)

9. What discussions he has had with the Crown Prosecution Service on cases involving domestic violence. (900863)

I discuss offences connected to domestic abuse with the Director of Public Prosecutions on a regular basis. Such cases are forming a higher percentage of the CPS case load, and prosecutions and convictions in them are at their highest ever level.

Last weekend, I met a woman who had been subjected to horrific domestic abuse by her partner since the age of 13, and it had carried on for many years. She was concerned that the relatively new offence of coercive and controlling behaviour had never been used against that perpetrator and that it may not be being used as much as it should be. Will the Attorney General look at that when he next meets the DPP?

I will certainly do that. I understand the concern that the hon. Lady has expressed. As she knows, this offence is relatively new, and there have therefore been relatively few cases where it has been deployed. There have been convictions, and the more that there are, the more the signal will be sent that this is the kind of behaviour that will result in criminal action, prosecution, conviction and sentencing. I hope that that will increasingly be the case, but of course it cannot act retrospectively. In relation to the future, we are making good progress.

It is apt to say in these questions that our thoughts are with Doreen Lawrence whose son, Stephen Lawrence, would have been 43 yesterday.

An estimated 1.8 million adults aged 16 to 59 were victims of domestic abuse in the year ending March 2016. Will the Attorney General consider whether electronic-only evidence submissions to the CPS is the most effective way of capturing a case and the experience of a victim?

We will always consider ways in which we can capture the evidence from victims, and other witnesses of course, in the most effective way. The hon. Lady will know that some of our recent changes involve the opportunity for particularly vulnerable witnesses to give evidence without being in a courtroom physically and to do so in advance of the rest of the case, so that they can get their part in the case done quickly. We will always look at ways in which we can do that better. It is a crucial part of encouraging people to come forward and report abuse and stick with the purpose and the process of prosecuting those who are responsible.

In Gwent, 1,401 cases of domestic abuse were put forward to the CPS in 2015-16, and charges were brought in 68% of them. The highest rate was in Leicestershire where the CPS pursued 82% of cases. Will the Attorney General please explain why there are such stark regional differences?

The differences are always explained by the merits of the cases themselves, and there will be some variation. I will look at the hon. Gentleman’s particular statistics, but he will recognise that every case is different, every case must be considered on its merits, and the CPS must make the best judgment it can in each of those cases.

The local police in Yeovil report good progress in dealing with domestic violence but would welcome a bit more flexibility from the CPS about the types and amounts of evidence required for prosecution, including evidence gathered by modern methods such as body cameras. Will my right hon. and learned Friend please work with the police and the CPS on those suggestions?

I agree that flexibility is important, and I hope that my hon. Friend will be reassured to know that, with the roll-out of more and more body-worn cameras, we will see this evidence play a greater part in this kind of prosecution. That is welcome, because it means that we can have evidence of what was happening when the police arrived without the need to extract that evidence from complainants who may be reluctant for all sorts of reasons. That is a positive move, and I am sure that we will see more of it in Yeovil and elsewhere.