New Clause 15 - Children as victims of domestic abuse

Part of Domestic Abuse Bill – in the House of Commons at 8:15 pm on 6th July 2020.

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Photo of Anthony Mangnall Anthony Mangnall Conservative, Totnes 8:15 pm, 6th July 2020

It is a privilege to speak in the debate and hear the recounted stories that so many hon. Members have brought to the House. Domestic abuse is a horrific experience; I have spoken to many of my constituents who have suffered it. However, this is a landmark Bill, and we should all be rightly proud of what is going on this afternoon.

I was sorry not to be able to contribute on Second Reading. However, I listened carefully to hon. Members from across the House, whose contributions were heartfelt and have added great weight to the Bill. I congratulate my hon. Friends the Members for Newbury (Laura Farris) and for Wyre Forest (Mark Garnier) and the Mother of the House, Ms Harman, on their extraordinary work in ending the perverse and unjust rough sex defence. The addition of their amendment will ensure that perpetrators can no longer escape justice from the most heinous and horrific crimes.

My reason for speaking in the debate is twofold. I do so first as chair of the all-party parliamentary group on preventing sexual violence in conflict and, secondly, because a new domestic abuse prevention group has been set up in my Totnes constituency called SASHA—support, advice, safety, help and aid. I hope my work on the former and support for the latter will be of use in tackling this issue and helping all those who, too often, suffer in silence. Much of the work that I and others have done on preventing sexual violence is based on tackling the culture of impunity, ensuring that justice is delivered, and supporting and providing the assistance that so many need. The same can be said of this Bill, which I hope will deliver for people across the country and serve as an inspiration to people around the world, with other countries following suit. I suggest we should be very proud of that.

At the start of the debate, I listened to my right hon. Friend Mrs May and Yvette Cooper, who spoke passionately about advertising and ensuring that people are aware of the contents of the Bill. That cannot be expressed enough. People must understand what the clauses do and how there will no longer be the injustice of people getting away with a flimsy defence. The Bill will end the reality of people thinking that domestic abuse is just something that occurs and that it is of a time. We can do better than that.

Covid-19 has highlighted the prevalence of domestic abuse both at home and abroad. The sad fact is that crises and conflicts only see gender-based violence increase, regardless of where someone is or where they live. The facts speak for themselves. As other hon. Members have said, 26 women and girls have been killed since the lockdown began in March. That is a tragedy in itself. The lockdown has forced people from their schools, their places of work and their social areas—essentially their refuges and places of safety—and pushed them back into the arms of abusers, behind locked doors from which they cannot call out, cry out or ask for help. Again, that is something that the Bill will deal with in its entirety. However, for every crime, how many will not be reported? For every bruise, every broken bone and every rape, how many people will not be able to come forward? That is of serious concern. We must continue to work that.

The Bill, as I said, is a landmark piece of legislation. It does all the things in the right area. However, it is also important to note that it is the first step of many that I hope this Government and future Governments will take to ensure that we can always seek justice for those who need it. Only when victims have places of safety and perpetrators feel the full force of the law will we be able to believe that progress is being made. I see that my time is already running out, so I will just make the point that the creation of a commissioner, the new civil domestic and protection notice, and the international jurisdiction are all incredibly useful.