Domestic Abuse Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:47 pm on 2nd October 2019.

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Photo of Yvette Cooper Yvette Cooper Chair, Home Affairs Committee 3:47 pm, 2nd October 2019

My hon. Friend is right. Refuge, for example, has faced funding cuts of some 80% of its services over recent years—that was the evidence given to the Joint Committee. We also heard that 60% of referrals to refuges were unsuccessful because of a lack of bed spaces. I hope that in Committee we can look more closely at the recommendation from the Home Affairs Committee to have a statutory duty on local authorities to provide refuge places with sustainable funding supported by Government.

I want to raise the point about what happens to serial perpetrators, including serial stalkers. We recommended in our report that the Government should introduce a national register of serial stalkers and domestic violence perpetrators. We know from the ONS evidence that around a third of victims of domestic abuse suffer from more than one type of abuse, with partner abuse and stalking being the most common combination. The Suzy Lamplugh Trust told us that 55% of callers to the national stalking helpline were being stalked by an ex-partner. We need more co-ordination between police and social services to address that.

In a case in my constituency, a man has just been sentenced to 11 years for violent assault. He tied a noose around his partner’s neck and lifted her off the ground. It was part of a series of sustained attacks. At the time, he was on bail for other attacks, including punching his previous partner in the face, trying to suffocate her and wrapping a phone cord around her neck. He also threatened to tie a rope round her child’s neck and drag him behind his van. Laura Richards of Paladin, the anti-stalking charity, warned that this particular man had abused at least four women before, including some years ago grabbing a 17-year-old by the hair and kneeing her in the face, and the following year grabbing another woman by the throat and headbutting her in the mouth. Yet this man was able to go on and commit the abuse for which he has now been sentenced. There are so many other cases that involve serial abuse, yet the onus is still on potential victims of domestic abuse or stalking to raise their concerns with the police, rather than agencies having a responsibility to manage the risk, identify those who are committing serial violence and make sure that action is taken before it is too late.

Let me briefly raise the other concerns we had. As well as seeing the commissioner be more independent, I hope the Government will also take further account of the gendered nature of abuse. Of course men and women can both be victims of domestic abuse, but the Minister will know that women are more likely to be the victims of abuse and of the most serious abuse. That is part of a wider context of violence against women and girls. We owe it to those who experience terrible coercive control, and to their children, who can bear the greatest scars, to ensure we use this Bill to make the maximum possible change in people’s lives.