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I have a huge amount of time for the Minister, but that is the first time that I have been told that a penalty is in the Bill, asked the Minister where it was and been told that we do not know. Those in the Box will tell us, no doubt, as they have been listening. It must be in a clause that I have missed, but we shall come to it.
My advice to the Government is: do not just legislate. Think things through. Take on board the practical point made by my hon. Friend Tony Baldry and do things in the criminal justice system that actually work. This is my final tip for the day: forget some of the old-fashioned initiatives such as the night courts at Bow street. When Mr. Blair was Prime Minister, he wanted instant justice and for people to come before the courts at Bow street straight away, so that was done as a pilot scheme. What a shambles. According to official answers, 97 per cent. of the defendants were drunk and could not be dealt with that night anyway, so the cases were adjourned for weeks. Eventually, after spending an absolute fortune on getting one guilty plea over three months, the night courts were abandoned.
The Government should forget all that and stick to what is real. When somebody in a domestic violence situation hits a woman so hard that damage-blood and a wound-is caused, make sure that the police charge them with actual bodily harm, because they do not do so at the moment. They charge common assault, because it does not go to the Crown court, so they get a quick guilty plea and a lesser sentence. Very nasty violence is not being dealt with in the courts as it should be due to under-charging. The problem is endemic among police forces in the south-east, as far as I can see. We need to stick to what works, and the Minister should know that I have my doubts about the efficacy of the new domestic violence protection orders.
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