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Stalking and Domestic Abuse

Volume 785: debated on Tuesday 10 October 2017


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they intend to introduce a register of serial stalkers, including perpetrators of domestic abuse.

My Lords, the Government are fully committed to tackling domestic abuse and stalking and are doing all that we can to protect victims and robustly target perpetrators. Domestic abuse and stalking perpetrators can already be captured on the dangerous persons database and managed by police and probation under multiagency public protection arrangements, or MAPPA. The domestic violence disclosure scheme has also been rolled out nationally to inform and alert new partners about a perpetrator’s previous offending.

My Lords, I am grateful for that Answer and I know the Government are doing what they can. Does the Minister agree that lives would be saved if serial stalking perpetrators were indeed managed in exactly the same way as sex offenders by including them on ViSOR and MAPPA? I also ask her to assure me that the forthcoming consultation on the DV Bill will include something on this register, as promised by the Minister to my colleagues Laura Richards and Zoe Dronfield from Paladin at a meeting held several weeks ago.

Perhaps I may first pay tribute to the noble Baroness for all that she does with Paladin. I really valued being able to go to the Paladin evening, although we only just crossed paths because the noble Baroness was delayed. We are certainly working across Government to develop measures that are both legislative and non-legislative to ensure that we are able to do all we can to protect and support victims, and to bring the perpetrators of stalking and domestic violence to justice. Later this year we will consult voluntary sector partners, experts and parliamentarians on the proposals and we will bring forward a Bill following that consultation. I look forward to the submission by both the noble Baroness and by Paladin, whose representatives I know have had a meeting at the Home Office as well.

In the light of that answer, would the Government consider putting the register to which the noble Baroness has alluded into the much-anticipated domestic abuse Bill? When is that Bill likely to be published, so that offenders can be punished?

We have signalled our intention to bring forward a Bill in this Session. On the register, of course, we have the domestic violence disclosure scheme, which is also known as Clare’s law. It provides a way of disclosing information about a partner’s previous convictions in this area. Also, perpetrators can be put on the ViSOR register for violent and sex offenders. It is important in this space to ensure that we have a register that is simple to use for those who need to use it, and not to over-complicate things by issuing too many registers, with cases potentially falling between the cracks. However, I will be very happy to work with noble Lords on this as we progress towards the Bill.

My Lords, does the noble Baroness agree that cultural change is urgently needed to ensure that the serial perpetrators, rather than the victims, are placed at the centre of investigations and risk management plans? Paladin’s evidence and research show that this is not happening and that women are paying for that with their lives. What actions are the Government taking to ensure that such a cultural change takes place?

The noble Baroness is absolutely right to make the point that cultural change is essential in this area. Often, it is the women who are fleeing their homes and running away from often quite violent and wicked men. I pay tribute to the various groups such as SafeLives, which are providing perpetrator programmes to ensure that women actually remain safe in their homes and, where possible, men can be rehabilitated. I do talk about women and men here because women are most likely to be the victims of these offences.

Perhaps I may also talk about the police’s approach to vulnerability, which was brought up in a previous Question about training. We have awarded nearly £2 million to the College of Policing to transform the police’s approach. This will include a much-enhanced programme of training. I referred earlier to getting the voluntary sector to engage, as well, which would be all to the good since cultural change is sought across all agencies. Unfortunately, we are quite new to this process, although we have been trying to tackle this issue for decades. The noble Baroness has raised a very valid point.

My Lords, as the thinking develops about a register, will the Minister consider having a section devoted to highlighting families with vulnerable young children, who are also the victims of abuse?

I am glad to be able to answer the noble Lord’s question. Of course, we have a register, but one of the things we are looking to acknowledge is that a child who experiences or witnesses just one episode of domestic abuse can be scarred for life. That should be reflected in sentencing. Hopefully, I will be leading on the Bill and I look forward in particular to discussing measures in that area with noble Lords.