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

If I have understood the hon. Gentleman correctly, he is not just addressing the use of this so-called defence in our courts but reflecting on the wider impact of pornography, particularly internet pornography, on violence towards women and girls in particular. I know that my hon. Friend Fiona Bruce will be raising this in her speech and if I may I will respond to her in that part of the debate, but I very much take on board his point.

The hon. Gentleman will know that part of the problem that has emerged in the last 15 to 20 years is that, whereas in the old days cases were reported freely in the newspapers and so on, such cases are now also reported on the internet. In that regard, I must pay particular tribute to the family of Natalie Connolly, who have suffered in more ways than anyone can really contemplate. I am pleased—and I hope they are satisfied—with the developments that have resulted from the hard work of the right hon. and learned Member for Camberwell and Peckham and my hon. Friend the Member for Wyre Forest. I hope that Natalie’s family are satisfied with what we have reached in this Bill.

We have been clear that there is no such defence to serious harm that results from rough sex, but there is a perception that such a defence exists and that it is being used by men—it is mostly men in these types of cases—to avoid convictions for serious offences or to receive a reduction in any sentence when they are convicted. As my right hon. Friend the Lord Chancellor indicated on Second Reading, this area of law is extremely complex. It is therefore important that anything that is placed in the Bill does not have unintended consequences. In acting with the best of intentions, we do not want to inadvertently create loopholes or uncertainties in the law that can then be exploited by those who perpetrate such crimes.

If I may, I would just like to take a moment to thank my friend the Under-Secretary of State for Justice, my hon. Friend Alex Chalk. As the co-Minister on the Bill, he has brought all his legal expertise to the consideration of how we can address the mischief and the upset, which we all want to address, in a way that does not have unintended consequences.