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House of Lords Hansard
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27 November 2017
Volume 787

Question

Asked by

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To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will consult on establishing a register of serial stalkers.

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My Lords, the Government are fully committed to tackling stalking and we are working with partners to look at ways to strengthen the management of serial offenders. Stalking perpetrators can already be captured on the dangerous persons database and can be managed by the police and the probation service under the multi-agency public protection arrangements. We are not convinced that a new register would improve how serial perpetrators are managed and are concerned that this approach may risk a disjointed police and offender management response.

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My Lords, I thank the Minister for her response. Is she saying that she does not see the need for a separate register despite all the evidence from Paladin? Surely the Minister would agree that serial stalkers and the perpetrators of domestic violence should be subject to orders that place a positive obligation on them to change their behaviour. They should be included on the ViSOR database and thus MAPPA to ensure that they are subject to robust and proactive supervision, monitoring and tracking, which would give better protection to victims.

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My Lords, I am fully supportive of a register for all the purposes that the noble Baroness has set out. The point I made in my first Answer was that running several registers might lead to a fragmented approach by the police and the probation service. One register capturing both violent and serious sex offenders enables the police to deal more effectively with the types of people that we all want to capture.

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My Lords, contrary to what I think the Minister was moving towards saying, the House may know that currently there is no existing framework which can track or monitor serial stalkers. Might that be addressed in the domestic violence Bill and will measures to tackle serial stalkers be included in it?

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As I have said, we will be going out to consultation very shortly on the domestic violence Bill. On stalkers, the noble Baroness will know about Clare’s law, which enables people to find out whether their partner has a past in this area. I would recommend to the noble Baroness and to all noble Lords who are interested in the Bill to take full part in the consultation.

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My Lords, I know that all noble Lords will welcome the Government’s commitment to an additional £17 million fund to tackle violence against women and girls. What impact does my noble friend expect the proposed domestic violence and abuse commissioner to have?

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I am pleased to be able to say to my noble friend that the domestic violence and abuse commissioner will have a significant impact on domestic violence. Certainly the commissioner will stand up for victims and survivors, raise public awareness of the issue, monitor the response of statutory agencies and local authorities and, I hope, drive further improvements in tackling domestic abuse.

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My Lord, aside from the risk of multiplication, what are the difficulties in just expanding the sex offenders register?

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On expanding the sex offenders register, someone has to be violent and a sex offender to go on to it. A stalker might be neither violent nor a sex offender. However, if someone becomes violent and a menace both to society and to their victim, they would be captured on the sex offenders register.

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My Lords, some ethnic minority women have got married under the nikah ceremony and have subsequently found themselves in a domestic violence situation, but they have no redress because they have not had their marriage registered by a registry office. Will this be tackled in some sort of register too?

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I am so glad my noble friend brought up this issue because it is one I have seen evidence of on many occasions: a woman thinks she is married—she may have come from another country to get married in this country—but she is not and her marriage is not recognised in law. If she is a victim of domestic violence she is in a very vulnerable position indeed. I hope my noble friend brings this up in the course of the consultation on the domestic abuse Bill.

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My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for her answer to my letter of 23 October and for her suggestion that we should meet again. However, I do not understand what has changed between the meeting my colleagues from Paladin had with Sarah Newton the Minister on 11 September, when she said that a register would be part of the consultation, and the statements given by the noble Baroness today and in her letter to me saying that the register would not be part of such a consultation. What has changed in the last two months?

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My Lords, nothing has changed. There is every opportunity for the noble Baroness to put that forward through the consultation. At that point—I am sure she would agree—I was loath to have a fragmented system of registration. Let us continue to discuss it because we both want the same thing.

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My Lords, women who have been stalked and have been victims of domestic violence keep having to move. I had a case recently of a woman who moved five times to get away from her abuser. Several times information about where she had moved to was not passed on to the relevant constabulary and she was left vulnerable to her stalker. What safeguards are in place to ensure this does not happen?

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Going back to the national statement of expectations, we need a joined-up approach for local authorities and across police forces so women are not found by their stalkers or abusers. In fact, women should not have to flee at all and the perpetrators should be brought to justice.