New Clause 15 - Children as victims of domestic abuse

Part of Domestic Abuse Bill – in the House of Commons at 8:30 pm on 6th July 2020.

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Photo of Laura Trott Laura Trott Conservative, Sevenoaks 8:30 pm, 6th July 2020

I pay tribute to all those who have contributed to the Bill. I am relatively new to the House, but cross-party working on matters that will make a real difference to people’s lives is exactly why I wanted to be here.

I wish to speak to new clause 20, make a brief mention of new clause 28, and then say a word about parental alienation. First, on new clause 20, I join the wholehearted praise for my hon. Friends the Members for Wyre Forest (Mark Garnier) and for Newbury (Laura Farris), and for the Mother of the House, Ms Harman.

The legislation we will pass today is too late for Natalie Connolly, although I hope it will bring some comfort to her family. It is shameful that the perpetrator was given three years and eight months for what he did to Natalie, but it is not too late for the many other victims. It is important to note that new clause 20 is about serious harm, not just murder. The Centre for Women’s Justice has worked on numerous cases that have been dropped due to the rough sex defence. I very much hope that those cases can be looked at again and that the CPS will open itself up to bringing cases forward. I cannot imagine how hard it is for someone to go through the process of going to the police and reporting the case, only to be told that because of rough sex their experience is not valid. We must make sure that never happens again for any victim and that the cases of people who have gone through it can be addressed. I really hope that the CPS will do something about that.

I understand why new clause 28 was tabled and strongly support the review announced from the Government Front Bench announced earlier. Dame Diana Johnson made an important point about access to the provision of abortion, particularly for people who are victims of domestic violence. It is true to say that access to abortion services is not the same as access to GPs, and that should be the case. We all know that when someone takes abortion pills the effects can be quite dramatic and quite quick. It is important that women are very close to abortion services, to allow dignity in a process that can be so difficult for so many. I hope that that is considered as part of the review.

On parental alienation, which was raised earlier by my hon. Friend Philip Davies, we need to be very careful, as I know those on the Front Bench will be. Parental alienation is brought up quite frequently in the divorce process and is something in respect of which there is a huge amount of conflict. I am nervous about bringing it into the definition of domestic violence, because I worry that it will add something else that will bring conflict to a process in which there are already so many issues. I know that those on the Front Bench are conscious of that, but I nevertheless urge that we really should tread very carefully in that respect.

I will conclude—because I know that I have to. We are all worried about the rise in domestic violence that has happened during the covid-19 process. I hope that what has happened with this Bill today will send a strong message to the country that this House will not tolerate it and we will act to address it.