Domestic Abuse: Police Response

Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 23rd March 2015.

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Photo of Andrew Slaughter Andrew Slaughter Shadow Minister (Justice) 2:30 pm, 23rd March 2015

What assessment she has made of the effectiveness of the police response to domestic abuse.

Photo of Lynne Featherstone Lynne Featherstone The Minister of State, Home Department

Domestic abuse is an appalling crime, and this Government are determined that the police response is the best it can be. The Home Secretary commissioned Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary to review the response to domestic abuse across police forces in England and Wales. We are driving change through a national oversight group. All 43 forces have action plans on domestic abuse. In November, HMIC highlighted the commitment of forces to improving their response.

Photo of Andrew Slaughter Andrew Slaughter Shadow Minister (Justice)

This Government have a truly terrible record on tackling domestic abuse, whether it is closing specialist courts, restricting legal aid, or failing to prosecute. There is a rising number of offences, but since they came into office there have been 4,000 fewer prosecutions. What are they going to do about that?

Photo of Lynne Featherstone Lynne Featherstone The Minister of State, Home Department

I totally refute the hon. Gentleman’s assertions. This Government have a record to be proud of in the work we have done on domestic abuse, not just the ring-fencing of stable funding of £40 million but the introduction of new laws, protection orders, and measures on stalking abuses. We have done more in the five years we have been here than the Labour Government before us did in all their 13 years. What is more, I seem to recall that Labour Members are not proposing to reverse any of the legal aid cuts, and we have preserved legal aid for cases in which domestic abuse plays a part.

Photo of Meg Hillier Meg Hillier Labour, Hackney South and Shoreditch

On legal aid for victims of domestic violence, I and other colleagues have come across women who are victims but who have had to fork out from their own pockets, and some have just given in after spending too much, moving too often and finding that the system does not work. Surely the Minister must acknowledge that there is a problem. What is she going to do about it?

Photo of Lynne Featherstone Lynne Featherstone The Minister of State, Home Department

I reiterate that the £2 billion annual cost of legal aid, combined with the economic circumstances left by Labour, meant that hard choices had to be made. Labour was also committed to reducing legal aid. We have retained legal aid in key areas impacting on women, particularly with regard to injunctions to protect victims from domestic abuse and in private family law cases where domestic abuse is a feature.