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What steps are being taken to reduce the incidence of domestic violence against women.
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Due to the introduction of specialist domestic violence courts, better multi-agency arrangements to focus on prolific perpetrators and better support for victims and families, there has been a 64 per cent. reduction in the incidence of domestic violence between 1997 and 2008-09, as measured by the British crime survey. An extra £5 million will be invested in 2010-11 to support multi-agency risk assessment conferences and independent domestic violence advisers.
The number of cases of domestic violence reported to the police in Selby and York in the last year increased by 26 per cent., which shows the importance of establishing specialist domestic violence police services. But more reports mean more victims and children who need support. What are the Government doing to increase the funding for independent domestic abuse services and to ensure the prosecution of the perpetrators of this crime?
We welcome increased reporting. I can tell my hon. Friend that there were 67,000 prosecutions in 2008-09, increasing from 50,000 in 2005-06. The conviction rate also increased from 46 per cent. of those charged in 2003-04 to 72 per cent. in 2008-09. That is why domestic violence crime is falling. We are putting more focus on it, there are more prosecutions, the conviction rate is up and the incidence is down. There is more help for victims, and the courts, the police, the Crown Prosecution Service and all authorities are better able to understand this crime and to do the job. That is not to say that more cannot be done; it can, but the focus on the issue has led to the fall in the volume of this crime.
There were worrying findings in last week's report on the role of the NHS in supporting the victims of domestic violence. Does the Minister agree with the chair of the taskforce that too little has been done by the NHS so far in this area?
No. It is important to realise that many of our public services have not in the past focused on the impact of this crime as much as we would like them to do, or as much as they are now doing. We welcome that increase in focus from the NHS and from other public services. It is only when all public services, working together, focus on the needs of the victims and of children in families in which domestic violence is perpetrated that we see increased reporting, better conviction rates, and a better result and outcome for all of us.
Order. I would like other colleagues to be able to get in too, so I need short questions and answers.
My hon. Friend is right to identify that as an important point for the future. We are making personal, social and health education statutory in schools, and domestic violence will be part of that curriculum. We are also making it easier for children who are affected by this in their families to be listened to independently, by giving greater support to the listening services provided by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. We hope that that will have a real impact.
Incidents of violence against women in Northern Ireland have been increasing in recent years. Will the Minister join me in expressing the hope and expectation that as policing and justice powers move from this House to the Northern Ireland Assembly next month, this issue will be a matter of priority for the incoming justice Minister?
I welcome the further devolution of powers to the Northern Ireland Assembly; the hon. Gentleman will be aware that I have had a particular interest in that myself in the past. I hope that the move will lead to Ministers with responsibility for health and other areas of public service working together with the new policing and justice Minister in Northern Ireland to find relevant local solutions to such problems to achieve the greatest impact on domestic violence in the area. We do not want just to export solutions; it is for local people to come up with their own solutions. The more Ministers work together, the more they are likely to come up with a solution that will work locally.
In focusing on what lies behind domestic violence, the recent report by Dr. Linda Papadopoulos examined the issue of sexualisation and violence. The evidence given to the report suggested a clear link between consumption of sexualised images, a tendency to view women as objects, and the acceptance of aggressive attitudes and behaviour as the norm. We believe that we should ban the most manipulative marketing techniques aimed at young people, and stop irresponsible companies from winning future Government contracts. Do the Government agree?
A late convert to effective action is better than no convert at all. We would certainly welcome support from any party in the House, across party politics, in ensuring that the equality agenda is moved forward and that young girls can have the same protection and the same likelihood of doing well in society as young boys.