I thank the Minister, and Members from both sides of the House, for bringing to fruition a Bill that will protect and support victims of domestic abuse. As many in this House have outlined, domestic abuse is on the rise in the UK. Northern Ireland figures released today show an increase of 1,000 cases in the past three months. The figures show a 15% increase on the same period last year, and domestic abuse is no respecter of gender or age.
Last week, as I travelled by car around my constituency, I listened to an interview about a young lady called Joleen Corr, a 27 year-old girl from Downpatrick. She was a mum of one and she was propelled down a set of stairs and died as a result of a brain injury. Her mum was devastated, and continues to be devastated. I trust that the legislation will assist in bringing some comfort to people like the Corr family. As a wife and mum, I am thankful for the safe haven of my own home, but I know that many throughout the UK do not have the safety that I enjoy. I want the Bill to be just the start of great things to assist victims. I also pay tribute to Mr Steven Smyth from Northern Ireland, who is today running 100 miles to raise awareness for Men’s Alliance Northern Ireland, a support group for male victims of domestic abuse. I commend him for his efforts.
A person who works with women experiencing domestic abuse in England said of new clause 28 over the weekend, “We work every day with women who experience domestic abuse. We see the way they are controlled and manipulated. To me, this suggests the legislation will only be making that worse. It will give abusers more power and more reason to keep the woman being abused at home, away from people who can really help them.” This House should not hinder those professionals in their work.
The new clause seems to be a clear attempt to use the Domestic Abuse Bill as a vehicle to advance an agenda that is emphatic on expanding access to abortion, seemingly failing to acknowledge that allowing women to have an abortion at locations other than hospitals or places approved by the Secretary of State has already led to serious complications. We all know that abortion is not the answer to domestic abuse. Surely we should be addressing how women find themselves in such difficult situations, and take measures to prevent that?