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House of Commons Hansard
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Victims: Policy Alignment
05 February 2019
Volume 654
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9. What steps the Government are taking to ensure that measures in the victims strategy, the forthcoming violence against women and girls strategy and domestic abuse Bill are aligned. [908996]

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22. What steps the Government are taking to ensure that measures in the victim strategy, the forthcoming violence against women and girls strategy and domestic abuse Bill are aligned. [909009]

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The victims strategy is the first time that we have looked in such detail and in such a joined-up way at how we treat victims of crime. The strategy provides the vision for the Government’s approach to victims. The Government’s violence against women and girls strategy refresh and draft domestic abuse Bill have been developed with this vision in mind, and have been designed to sit within the framework of the wider victims strategy. The Bill is a joint Home Office and MOJ Bill, with close ministerial and official-level working to ensure close alignment.

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To return to a theme raised on the Opposition Benches earlier, there is great support on the Government Benches for closing the loophole that may allow convicted rapists to gain notification rights to children conceived through those heinous crimes. Will the Minister assure me that if it turns out that practice directions will not have the requisite strength, legislation will be looked at? When he meets the hon. Member for Ashfield (Gloria De Piero) to discuss the possibility of the commissioner having powers with regard to practice direction 12C, will he consider including practice direction 12J under those same powers? That will also give safeguards to women and children.

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Building on the answer that I gave to the shadow Minister, I hear what my hon. Friend says and I know his work in this area and his commitment on the issue. I am very happy to look at the points that he raises. It is a draft Bill and I very much hope that he will consider putting his views to us in that process.

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For many victims of domestic violence and coercive control, like my constituent Chloe, and for their families, the process of giving evidence and preparing for trial adds to the pain of the original abuse. What is the Minister doing to support vulnerable witnesses, including victims of domestic abuse?

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We are determined to improve the family justice response to vulnerable witnesses, including people such as my hon. Friend’s constituent Chloe and victims of domestic abuse. Family judges have a range of powers to make sure that difficult courtroom situations are handled sensitively. In particular, we are looking to give the courts a specific power to prevent perpetrators of certain offences, including domestic abuse, from cross-examining their victims in person. We will also give the courts the power, in certain circumstances, to appoint a lawyer to conduct cross-examination on the preventive party’s behalf.