Domestic Abuse Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:34 pm on 2nd October 2019.

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Photo of Theresa May Theresa May Conservative, Maidenhead 2:34 pm, 2nd October 2019

My right hon. and learned Friend has made a very valid and important point. That is why I say this is a difficult topic. Sometimes it seems hard to talk about working with the perpetrators, but it is important that we identify the programmes that work, and that will not be one size fits all. I think the Joint Committee made that point when they looked at this issue, which was very welcome. It has to be done carefully, but we should not shy away from it, because if we wish to see an end to domestic abuse, we have to deal with perpetrators. That goes alongside issues such as education on what a good relationship is, so that we see those sorts of behaviours being stopped at the first sign, rather than being allowed to continue.

Some might say that the last point I want to make is slightly tangential to the Bill, but I want to talk about the police. A huge amount of work has been done with the police to train them to deal with domestic violence. Many developments are very helpful. For example, body-worn video cameras can ensure that film is taken when the police turn up to a reported incident, so that someone cannot say later, “Well, no, it was okay, nothing happened.” Such evidence is hugely important. The ability through the use of technology for a police officer attending an incident to know in advance whether there have been reports of domestic violence or abuse there in the past is another important element. Also—I am sure that others have had this experience—domestic abuse victims talk about the fact that if they get a police officer who has been well trained, it works well, but when someone reports an incident, it is the police officer who is on duty who comes, and they will hand on to the response unit that comes out, and such officers often do not have the same experience. We need to look at that very carefully.

We also need to do something else—this point was made to me by one of the people involved in one of the charities dealing with victims of domestic abuse. Police forces need to look at how they deal with domestic violence and domestic abuse within the force when police officers themselves are subject to such domestic abuse. If they turn a blind eye, that gives a message to their officers about how they should treat people outside the force who are reporting abuse. That aspect has not really been focused on previously, but we should focus on it. We should be encouraging police forces to ensure that they have, within their forces, the means to support such officers properly. There will be police officers who themselves are the victims of domestic abuse, and we need to ensure that forces have the ability to support those police officers.

As I say, this is a hugely important Bill. It will, I know, be subject to very close scrutiny during the Committee stage. There is so much that is good in this Bill. There are obviously issues that the Government are being asked to look at again to make sure that we get this into the best shape that it can be. However, as I said earlier, I say to everybody across this Chamber that passing this legislation is but one move. It is up to all of us to make sure that we are doing everything we can to make clear to our society and to the public the horrific nature of domestic abuse, the impact it has on people’s lives and the need for us as a society to say, “Stop it.”