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Domestic Abuse: Victim Protection

Volume 683: debated on Monday 9 November 2020

This year, in response to the pandemic, our work to tackle domestic abuse has included additional significant investment of £27 million across Government to domestic abuse charities and service providers to bolster the support they give to victims and survivors. We have also run a public information campaign, #YouAreNotAlone, which we continue to build on, and the police have been proactively targeting perpetrators. We also continue to work on the Domestic Abuse Bill, which will help to support victims in the longer term.

I thank the Minister for listing that extensive programme of work. One of the reasons why I backed last week’s national restrictions with such a heavy heart was their impact on domestic abuse. Will the Minister say loud and clear from the Dispatch Box that one of the reasons that someone can leave their home is to flee abuse?

I thank my hon. Friend for raising that really important point. I know that hon. Members across the House will very much have borne in mind the impact that further restrictions may have on victims and survivors of domestic abuse. I am more than happy to reiterate loud and clear that victims of domestic abuse can and must leave their home address to seek help, if they are able to. What is more, the Prime Minister made that very clear in his public statement to the nation at little over a week ago. I ask all hon. Members please to send that message loud and clear to their own constituents—that is, if someone is facing harm or injury at home, they can leave their home to seek help.

I join the Minister in her calls just now. I also make further calls to ensure that when people do need help, there is some help there for them. Due to a decade of cutbacks to our court system and the coronavirus crisis, there is a backlog of around 50,000 Crown court cases. I am sure that the Minister will have heard from those who have bravely come forward—just as I have been told by distressed survivors of domestic and sexual abuse—that trials such as these are being delayed, in some cases by up to two years. In light of these terrible delays to justice, will the Minister answer the calls of the domestic and sexual violence sector, and the Labour party, to ensure that sustainable, long-term funding is put in place beyond March, at least for community-based domestic and sexual violence advisers? Currently, those going through very delayed court cases could end up without the correct support because their court case will certainly run for longer than the funding allocated for their support.

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for raising the point of courts. Another message that we can all spread to constituents—please—is that under this set of restrictions, the court system is remaining open. Last time, some courts had to be closed. There were, none the less, still criminal and family courts open; indeed, domestic abuse and other forms of personal violence were prioritised by the courts. This time the courts remain open and absolutely can seek justice, and we have seen reports of increased orders, including domestic violence protection orders, issued by the police during the previous lockdown.

On the hon. Lady’s wider point about funding, I would say that it goes further than funding independent domestic violence advisers and independent sexual violence advisers, absolutely vital though they are. It is also about a wholesale change in how we deal with victims and survivors of domestic abuse, and with the perpetrators of those crimes. The Government are investing in more perpetrator programmes precisely so that we can stop the cycle of abuse. We will also be piloting integrated domestic abuse courts so that victims and survivors can find an easier atmosphere in which to secure justice, because that is what they deserve.