Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary and fire & rescue services has noted in recent inspections that forces have protected dedicated resources to support victims of domestic abuse. The number of police referrals, prosecutions and convictions for domestic abuse has increased significantly since 2010, but this Government are not complacent. In this Session, we will introduce a landmark domestic violence and abuse Bill to better protect and support victims, and to bring perpetrators to justice.
According to the crime survey for England and Wales, an estimated 2 million adults aged 16 to 59, mostly women, say that they were victims of domestic abuse in the past year. Do not the Government accept that the massive cuts in police resources that they have inflicted will inevitably mean that there will be fewer arrests and fewer prosecutions for domestic violence, leaving more women in danger?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for the question, but I simply do not accept that at all. Interestingly, funding for Bedfordshire police has risen by 1.8% this year—that is £1.8 million. I hope that he will join me in congratulating his local police and crime commissioner on her personal leadership in tackling domestic violence in Bedfordshire and, in particular, on Project Emerald, which is delivering record numbers of prosecutions and protecting more women than ever before from domestic abuse.
Which police force responds to domestic violence the best and which responds to it the worst, and will the Minister get them together in the same room at the same time so that one can inform the other?
I thank my hon. Friend for that question. I can assure him that through the rigorous inspections of HMICFRS and the Home Secretary’s leadership in bringing together Government Departments, we are doing everything that we can to support police officers to deliver the best possible outcomes for victims of domestic abuse and violence.
The Minister said that legislation to tackle violence against women will be introduced. Will she comment on the practice of upskirting, on which a constituent of mine is leading a campaign? The practice involves individuals taking photographs from underneath women’s skirts. I understand that it is unlawful in Scotland, so what plans does she have to introduce some form of penalty for it here?
I thank the hon. Lady for her question. Any sort of violence against and abuse of women and girls is totally unacceptable. This Government have a very ambitious strategy to tackle violence against women and girls, and of course we are always looking to make sure that police officers and our criminal justice system have all the measures that they need to keep women and girls safe.
Alcohol plays a significant part in the scourge of domestic violence, so will the Minister consider using the forthcoming legislation she mentioned to allow the use of alcohol abstinence monitoring orders in domestic violence cases, given that they are proving so successful with respect to other violent offences?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right to talk about the important role that, tragically, alcohol can play in cases of domestic abuse and violence. It also causes wider harms. Dealing with the abuse of alcohol is a key part of our modern crime prevention strategy, which is why we are looking carefully at what more we can do to keep people safe, including through new measures on alcohol.
The reluctance of victims of domestic abuse to complain, and the law’s chronic failure to prevent serial abusers, are distressingly commonplace. Does the Minister agree that a domestic violence register of convicted repeat offenders would help the police to save lives?
I thank the hon. Lady for her question, but I do not accept the premise at all. Confidence in the police is higher than it has ever been, and more and more victims are feeling confident enough to come forward. We see more victims coming are forward, more prosecutions and greater use of the powers that we already have to keep women safe. As I said, we are leaving no stone unturned and we are very ambitious about what more we can do to keep women and girls throughout the country safe.
I call Wera Hobhouse.
Will the Minister confirm—
Order. The hon. Lady needs to ask Question 2.