Covid-19 Lockdown: Domestic Abuse Prosecutions

Attorney General – in the House of Commons on 10th December 2020.

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Photo of Catherine West Catherine West Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

What assessment she has made of the adequacy of CPS resources to tackle domestic abuse prosecutions arising from the covid-19 lockdown.

Photo of Michael Ellis Michael Ellis The Solicitor-General

The CPS is determined to bring perpetrators of domestic abuse to justice and provide protection for victims in spite of the pandemic. I have personally presented cases in the Court of Appeal where I have felt that sentences were too low in this area of law. Following the £85 million uplift awarded last year, CPS recruitment has continued to boost our resources and ensure that cases progress through the courts.

Photo of Catherine West Catherine West Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

The Solicitor General will be aware of the 88% increase in case load and the 23% drop in resources to deal with that. What urgency can he inject to deal with this burning issue?

Photo of Michael Ellis Michael Ellis The Solicitor-General

The hon. Member is right: it is a burning issue and a very important one. Domestic abuse cases are among our highest priorities in the court system, being dealt with by the criminal justice system. They continued to be afforded a higher priority as social distancing restrictions were eased. That was reinforced in guidance for judges about listing in magistrates courts issued by the senior presiding judge for England and Wales, and the CPS is working across Government. We are at one on this. We recognise it as a priority. Domestic abuse cases are appalling, and they remain among our highest priorities.

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom Conservative, South Northamptonshire

My right hon. and learned Friend will be aware that up to 30% of domestic violence starts during pregnancy, so can he tell me what the CPS is doing to protect vulnerable babies from that toxic environment, which has such a profoundly damaging impact on their lifelong potential?

Photo of Michael Ellis Michael Ellis The Solicitor-General

I am full of admiration for the work that my right hon. Friend does in this area. She is a powerful and committed advocate for this cause. She is undertaking some work for the Prime Minister, which I know the Government are eagerly awaiting. Tackling domestic abuse and supporting victims is a key priority for this Government, now more than ever. The Domestic Abuse Bill and the wider action plan will help to protect and support victims and their children. All NHS staff must undertake mandatory safeguarding training nowadays, which includes a focus on domestic abuse, so that they can pick it up. The new “Working Together to Safeguard Children” arrangements help to strengthen the multi-agency approach of partnership and collaborative working.