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Domestic Abuse Victims

Volume 648: debated on Thursday 1 November 2018

4. What steps he is taking with the CPS and Cabinet colleagues to improve the effectiveness of the criminal justice system for victims of domestic abuse. (907424)

Tackling domestic abuse is a top priority for this Government, and we are committed to securing justice for all victims. We have seen improved conviction rates—in 2017-18, the conviction rate for domestic abuse cases increased to 76.4%, which is the highest rate ever recorded.

In June 2012, Eystna Blunnie, a 20-year-old pregnant young lady was brutally kicked to death by her ex-fiancé, Tony McLernon, two days before her due date in Harlow. She sadly died in hospital and doctors were unable to save the baby. Despite McLernon’s death threats prior to the attack, he was not charged, and police assessed Eystna as being at “medium-risk” of domestic abuse. What changes has the Crown Prosecution Service made in how it decides to bring charges in cases of domestic violence, and what specialist training is given to CPS solicitors to deal with cases of domestic abuse and violence against women?

I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend and to the family of the victim for their dignity in the face of such tragedy. Steps have indeed been taken as the result of that case and others, for example: the existence of a victims’ right to review policy on prosecution decisions; the use of local scrutiny and inclusions panels to consider violence against women and girls cases; and the new offence of coercive control, which can capture cumulative abusive behaviour by one partner against another.

Prosecuting cases of domestic violence is only possible if the police have sufficient officers and resources, so what conversations did the Solicitor General or Attorney General have with the Chancellor about police funding and were they satisfied with the result?

The hon. Lady knows police funding is a question for an announcement in December and the forthcoming spending review next year. I reassure her that the number of flagged referrals on domestic abuse from the police is remaining steady at about 110,000 in the past two years. As I have said, the number and rate of prosecutions continues to rise. We have seen a rise of over 50% in domestic abuse prosecutions in the past 10 years.