Domestic Abuse Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:46 pm on 2nd October 2019.

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Photo of James Cartlidge James Cartlidge Conservative, South Suffolk 5:46 pm, 2nd October 2019

It is always a pleasure to follow Tracy Brabin. I echo all hon. Members who rightly said that, following what we might describe as the rumbustiousness of previous days, today we have seen the Chamber at its best, with some amazing, moving and powerful speeches, not least that of Rosie Duffield.

I strongly the support the Bill, but I want to raise an aspect that is not covered by it, which is that of coercive control in a professional relationship, specifically the relationship between therapist and client. This relates to the traumatic case of a constituent of mine. Her daughter was one of a group of young women—all from very affluent backgrounds, not coincidentally, because they were targeted as such—who in 2008 attended an art school in Italy, where they came into contact with a self-appointed therapist or, as she called herself, life coach.

The therapist practised dream therapy and professed to specialise in personal development. Over the course of the next year, the therapist saw up to a dozen of those women for regular therapy sessions. By early 2014, only three women were still seeing the therapist, one of whom was my constituent’s daughter. By that time, two of the women had broken off all contact with their friends and families, and had rejected their inheritances. The reason was that the therapist had used a tactic known as false memory placement. She placed into the minds of those girls, those impressionable young women, false memories of being abused by their own mothers. That has been proven and substantiated since, but when the case came to the Crown Prosecution Service, it had to conclude that legislation did not cover that specific outrage.

That was a case of domestic abuse, and I entirely understand that, but existing legislation refers to abuse only in a domestic setting. Nevertheless, in the case of my constituent, there was a crime—call it what one might, but it was theft, the theft of love. The love between mother and daughter was indoctrinated out, being replaced by false hate based on false memories. This is a terrible story, which previously received quite some media coverage, but I will not name anyone because parts of it are still ongoing.

The key thing is that, for me, it would be preferable if the definition of A and B in the Bill was confined not just to family members, partners or ex-partners, but to other types of relationship where coercion and control can happen. I can tell the House that I am aware from other parliamentarians that this problem is not restricted to the case I have mentioned. There have been other cases. Geraint Davies has tried to bring forward a Bill connected with the qualifications of therapists. Previously, Lord Garnier tried to amend the Bill so that it could be a crime to use coercion and control in a professional setting. That is certainly what I would like to see.

I do appreciate the fact that the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend Victoria Atkins—she is doing brilliant things—has previously seen me about that case. I understand that the desire in the Home Office is to focus on the domestic context, but the fact is that the incident has had profound domestic ramifications, as hon. Members can quite imagine. The good news is that my constituent’s daughter did eventually get in contact and has returned, but there are many ongoing implications of the case.

As I say, I know from other parliamentarians, including Lord Deben, that there are many other cases like that one. I hope that, in the course of the Bill’s passage, we can look at the specific, relatively niche cases in which the crime of coercion and the use of certain psychiatric tools can emerge but that would not be covered by the Bill as it is currently drafted. I hope to be able to explore that at a later stage, if at all possible.