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Crime and Security Bill

Part of Bill Presented — Pedicabs Bill – in the House of Commons at 7:08 pm on 18th January 2010.

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Photo of Rob Flello Rob Flello Labour, Stoke-on-Trent South 7:08 pm, 18th January 2010

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that intervention. He makes an extremely good point, and it brings me on to my next point, which is that financial intimidation is often a factor in domestic violence, in that the victim, who is often a woman, might think that she will be made homeless. She will often have children, too, and she will be considering their needs. She might feel that if she takes the children and leaves the family home, she will be more vulnerable. There is further intimidation-a further level of domestic violence-in such mental cruelty being heaped on to somebody already suffering in an abusive relationship. The orders give breathing space, by in effect saying, "No, you don't need to leave your family home; you don't need to take your children at dead of night and get away. Actually, it is the person creating the problems in this relationship who has to go," thereby creating some safe space around the family to sort out what to do next.

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children has issued a briefing, which many hon. Members have probably read. It talks about the current official definition of domestic violence, which is

"any incident of threatening behaviour, violence or abuse (psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional) between adults who are or have been intimate partners or family members, regardless of gender or sexuality."

I entirely agree with the NSPCC's point that that definition fails to capture the impact of such abuse on children. Where children have witnessed-perhaps for many years-ongoing domestic violence, their perceptions of what is a normal, healthy adult relationship can be extremely tarnished, and sometimes, although by no means always, their own relationships in future years are very damaged by what they have witnessed. The Bill must take note of the fact that children can be silent victims. The main victim-very often a woman-is the physical victim on whom the violence is being inflicted. However, any children witnessing it-even if just remotely, such as by being upstairs and hearing the shouting and sounds of violent activity-can be extremely damaged by that. The Government, and certainly the Department for Children, Schools and Families, should consider offering greater support through the schools network for young people who have witnessed domestic violence in their home.

I understand that there are to be pilots for the Bill's domestic violence programme, and I would like to make a plug for Staffordshire. We have already heard some extremely positive comments about what Staffordshire has achieved in minimising form-filling, and I would like it to be considered as a possible location for a pilot.

The hon. Member for Epsom and Ewell said that prison security is a much greater issue, and phone smuggling a much more common crime, than 12 years ago. Over that period, the availability and use of mobile phones among the general population has increased a lot, and the size of handsets has reduced dramatically. He may not realise that mobile phones are getting smaller, but the inmates who smuggle them into prison via their bodily orifices have realised that. Phones are being routinely and regularly smuggled in, and that is a problem. I see that my right hon. Friend the Minister for Policing, Crime and Counter-Terrorism is shifting in his seat; I hope he is not reaching for his phone to check the size of it. [Interruption.] I knew I would get his attention one way or another. [Interruption.] That is an extremely chunky phone. The smuggling of phones into prison is a problem, but that is not a result of lax security-of it somehow being worse now than 12 years ago. It is simply a fact of life that mobile phones are smaller and more accessible, and component parts are more easily taken apart and smuggled inside.

I fully support the measures to address this problem, and I wonder whether their scope should be widened to include police cells. Visitors, and even staff, are not the only external parties who smuggle phones into prison. Often, prisoners being taken straight to prison from the courts are already in possession of a phone. That is an issue, too.

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