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Domestic Violence

Volume 691: debated on Thursday 18 March 2021

The need to effectively tackle violence against women and girls has been brought into sharp relief, as the hon. Lady and this House knows, in recent days. I would like to reassure her that this Government take tackling domestic abuse extremely seriously, as shown by the introduction of the landmark Domestic Abuse Bill. The CPS is working hard to deliver justice in this area, working to protect the public, and has recently published an ambitious 12-month domestic abuse programme to help narrow the disparity between reporting and criminal justice outcomes.

In 2020, domestic abuse-related crime surged by 9%, but referrals to the CPS fell by 19%. We know that the CPS is under enormous pressure to clear the backlog caused by covid-19. Will the Attorney General commit to provide the necessary resources to ensure that all victims who report domestic abuse crimes receive the justice they deserve as swiftly as possible?

We will do everything we can to facilitate that. The reality, of course, is that the CPS can only deal with cases that are referred to it. That is an issue that needs to be addressed by the hon. Lady, but, as I have said, the Government have already introduced the Domestic Abuse Bill to Parliament, which is a landmark and generationally important. That is a signal, just one of many signals, of how important we consider this area to be, and the Crown Prosecution Service will continue to focus on it.

We know that domestic abuse complaints have rocketed during lockdown while prosecutions have collapsed. My constituents are concerned about that and are taking action with Charlotte Gerada and Kirsty Mellor, encouraging Portsmouth City Council to commit to the white ribbon pledge. What specific actions is the Attorney General taking to ensure that domestic abuse prosecutions do not follow the disastrous collapse of CPS rape prosecutions that we have seen in recent years?

I again point out that the number of rape prosecutions by the CPS has increased to 65% of all of those rape cases referred to it. That number is an increase on just under 50% some time ago. None the less, the hon. Gentleman makes a perfectly reasonable point about domestic abuse. The Government are working on this area, as I have alluded to, with the Domestic Abuse Bill. There is also a call for evidence, which will inform our upcoming Violence Against Women and Girls strategy. That call for evidence has recently had tens of thousands of new people emailing and writing in. I encourage anyone listening to take part in that before it closes We will look at those responses very carefully and see what else we can do.