New Clause 15 - Children as victims of domestic abuse

Part of Domestic Abuse Bill – in the House of Commons at 4:42 pm on 6th July 2020.

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Photo of Victoria Atkins Victoria Atkins The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, Minister for Women 4:42 pm, 6th July 2020

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. I, of course, pay attention to the fact that he has had a long-standing campaign on this matter. I have looked carefully at his proposals, and the Government have two chief concerns. The first is that any clinical need of the individual must, of course, be a matter for doctors. I would be very worried about making a blanket application for anyone who is a victim of domestic abuse, not least because we know that, as clause 1 sets out, domestic abuse can take many forms and is not just restricted to physical violence. So I believe that the correct way to deal with the very important point he raises is to enable clinicians to make that judgment. The second point relates to screening. I understand that the UK screening authority would have to consider whether such a universal programme should be introduced. I believe that it has looked at this relatively recently and has concluded that the evidence is not there. If I may, I will return to the text of my speech now. I will hear his arguments develop during the course of this afternoon and comment further if need be.

On the subject of justice, one of the most chilling and anguished developments in recent times has been the increased use of the so-called rough sex defence. This is the subject of the last of the Government’s new clauses on Report, new clause 20. Before I develop the argument for the new clause, I would like to pay particular tribute to Ms Harman and my hon. Friend Mark Garnier, who have been unrelenting in their work to secure justice for victims about whom the most difficult and violent claims can be made by defendants in the course of a criminal trial. They have been absolutely committed in their campaign to clarify the law. Indeed, I seem to remember that my hon. Friend raised this issue in the first Second Reading debate in October, which reminds us all of the journey that this Bill has had. They have called on the Government to codify the law in relation to the use of violence in consensual sadomasochistic sexual acts and the so-called rough sex defence. I am incredibly grateful to them for their continued and constructive engagement on this important and sensitive issue. I also note the support that Members across the House have given to these provisions, and I thank everyone for their work on this.