New Clause 15 - Children as victims of domestic abuse

Part of Domestic Abuse Bill – in the House of Commons at 6:30 pm on 6th July 2020.

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Photo of Liz Saville-Roberts Liz Saville-Roberts Shadow PC Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Women and Equalities) , Plaid Cymru Westminster Leader, Shadow PC Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) 6:30 pm, 6th July 2020

It is truly an honour to follow Mark Garnier, given the work that he has done to prevent the rough sex defence, alongside Ms Harman. I welcome many of the Government’s new clauses and pay tribute to Members across the House who have worked constructively during the Bill Committee, and previously on the Joint Committee, to achieve that. Thanks to their efforts, the Bill now includes many landmark changes—frankly, too many for me to list in the time that I have. It is a pleasure for once to stand on this side of the House and welcome so many of them. I am sure that the whole House will join me in commending the outcome of what has been effective cross-party co-operation.

In that spirit, I urge the Government to take unequivocal action to guarantee that all victims of domestic abuse will be treated equally, and to afford them the same support and resources regardless of their immigration status. We were talking earlier about the evidence gap in relation to some victims, and how temporarily lifting the “no recourse to public funds rule” might provide the evidence required to address that gap, which seems to hamper the pilot project at present. How to find out exactly whom to target certainly seems to be an issue.

I add my voice to the call for further updates, especially on how the pilot scheme might achieve the ratification of the Istanbul convention, which I believe all Members present would very much welcome. I therefore urge the Government to support new clauses 22, 23, 26 and 27, which call for special attention to be paid to the exceptional circumstances migrant women face.

Amendment 46, in my name, would ensure that a representative for Wales would hold a seat on the commissioner’s advisory board to reflect the particular circumstances faced by women in Wales. Many of the services aimed at preventing and supporting people affected by domestic abuse are of course devolved, whether relating to healthcare, housing or social services. Specific Welsh legislation exists in the form of the Violence against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Act 2015. Much of the funding arrangements are already also devolved in Wales. With the role of the commissioner, it is important that the voice of victims of domestic abuse is heard. What I fear is that, as things stand, the voice of victims of domestic abuse in Wales will not be represented. It is important to remember that there are people who are at present experiencing the jagged edge of legislation, which will hold until Wales gains full legal jurisdiction. The designate domestic abuse commissioner has already done excellent work in co-operating with organisations in Wales—I commend Ms Jacobs for her hard work and her keen interest in the specific circumstances faced by Welsh women—but I beg the Minister to consider that the amendment would safeguard that relationship into the future, rather than being one on voluntary grounds.

Finally, my new clause 21 calls for the creation of a domestic abuse register to ensure that greater protection is provided for potential victims of domestic abuse from individuals who have a track record of abusive behaviour within a relationship and whose potential for repeat violent actions warrants proactive intervention. A domestic abuse register would provide the incentive for a shift in focus away from reacting to domestic abuse towards a preventative approach. We know that repeat offending by perpetrators with violent and controlling histories of abuse is common. Data provided by the Metropolitan police to the London Assembly as part of the Assembly’s domestic abuse report showed that in the year up to September 2019 there were 13,600 repeat victims of domestic abuse and that 21% of the cases discussed at the 2018 multi-agency risk assessment conference were repeat cases. One concern raised in Committee with regard to the domestic abuse register was the consequential increased bureaucratic burden it might place on police forces. Although I argue that cross-force technology offers opportunities, I respond in the spirit of compromise and urge the Government to support new clause 33, tabled by Yvette Cooper, as a way of improving the current situation, or even new clause 32.

We must take this opportunity to ensure that the Domestic Abuse Bill includes lifesaving measures to protect all victims of abuse. Recognising predictable perpetrator behaviour and addressing it is key to the Bill’s future success.