Domestic Abuse

Attorney General – in the House of Commons at 9:30 am on 14th January 2016.

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Photo of Robin Walker Robin Walker Conservative, Worcester 9:30 am, 14th January 2016

What recent steps the Crown Prosecution Service has taken to ensure that prosecutors are able more effectively to prosecute cases of domestic abuse.

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Solicitor-General

Crown Prosecution Service legal guidance on domestic abuse was updated ahead of the introduction of the new offence of coercive or controlling behaviour in intimate and familial relationships. To support the introduction of that guidance, training has been developed and made available to prosecutors.

Photo of Robin Walker Robin Walker Conservative, Worcester

I thank my hon. and learned Friend for that answer. Women’s groups in Worcester and national campaigns such as Women’s Aid have warmly welcomed the new law of coercive control as a real step forward in the protection of victims. Does he anticipate a further rise in the number of domestic abuse cases coming to court as a result of that change in legislation?

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Solicitor-General

I pay tribute to all those groups that do so much to support male and female victims of domestic abuse. Yes, I think we can expect a rise in prosecutions. There has been a similar precedent in the case of stalking and harassment offences, which were introduced several years ago, and I was proud to be the Minister who took the coercive control provisions through this House.

Photo of Andrew Gwynne Andrew Gwynne Shadow Minister (Health)

Given that conviction rates for rape, domestic abuse and other sexual offences have fallen in the past year, what reassurances can the Solicitor General give to the House that further budget cuts will not damage attempts to secure justice for the victims of those crimes?

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Solicitor-General

The hon. Gentleman makes a proper point. Conviction rates for domestic violence remain broadly flat, but the volume of convictions continues to increase, which is good news for every single victim. For example, rape convictions now exceed

2,500 a year, whereas there were only 2,000 some five years ago. I assure him that the CPS, in the light of the comprehensive spending review settlement, is placing continued priority on rape and serious sexual offence units, and no prosecution will be prevented as a result of any budget problem.

Photo of Alex Chalk Alex Chalk Conservative, Cheltenham

The strength of the victim’s evidence in a domestic violence trial can often depend on recalling recollections as close in time to the incident as possible. Does the Solicitor General agree that we should consider allowing victims to record evidence remotely, perhaps via an app on their phones, rather than having to flog off to a police station?

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Solicitor-General

Like my hon. Friend, I am always enthusiastic about the sensible use of new technology. Police in London are already piloting body-worn cameras, which capture the immediacy of events of domestic abuse. That sort of technology needs to be very much part of the tools available to police officers when investigating such cases.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Equality)

I thank the Solicitor General for his responses so far. Domestic violence accounts for about a fifth of all crime in Northern Ireland, with police officers attending 60 domestic incidents a day. That is massive, but we still have problems with people failing to come forward, particularly men. Is the CPS considering taking steps to work alongside police forces to encourage people to report all domestic incidents?

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Solicitor-General

I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising the issue of male victims. About 15% of domestic abuse victims are, indeed, men, and proper emphasis is being placed on the need to encourage men to come forward. It is not a badge of shame for someone to admit that they are a male victim of domestic abuse, and that message needs to be heard loud and clear throughout the length and breadth of the kingdom.