Amendment 164

Domestic Abuse Bill - Committee (6th Day) – in the House of Lords at 2:00 pm on 10th February 2021.

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Lord Hunt of Kings Heath:

Moved by Lord Hunt of Kings Heath

164: After Clause 72, insert the following new Clause—“Monitoring of serial and serious harm domestic abuse and stalking perpetrators under multi-agency public protection arrangements (1) The Criminal Justice Act 2003 is amended as follows.(2) In section 325 (arrangements for assessing etc risk posed by certain offenders)—(a) in subsection (1), after ““relevant sexual or violent offender” has the meaning given by section 327” insert—““relevant domestic abuse or stalking perpetrator” has the meaning given in section 327ZA;”;(b) in subsection (2)(a), after “offenders” insert—“(aa) relevant domestic abuse or stalking perpetrators,”.(3) After section 327 (section 325: interpretation) insert—“327ZA Section 325: interpretation of relevant domestic abuse or stalking perpetrator (1) For the purposes of section 325, a person (“P”) is a “relevant domestic abuse or stalking perpetrator” if P has been convicted of a specified offence and meets either the condition in subsection (2)(a) or the condition in subsection (2)(b).(2) For the purposes of subsection (1), the conditions are—(a) P is a relevant serial offender, or(b) a risk of serious harm assessment has identified P as presenting a high or very high risk of serious harm.(3) An offence is a “specified offence” for the purposes of this section if it is a specified domestic abuse offence or a specified stalking offence.(4) In this section—“relevant serial offender” means a person convicted on more than one occasion for the same specified offence, or a person convicted of more than one specified offence;“specified domestic abuse offence” means an offence where it is alleged that the behaviour of the accused amounted to domestic abuse within the meaning of section 1 of the Domestic Abuse Act 2021;“specified stalking offence” means an offence contrary to section 2A or section 4A of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.(5) Within six months of the commencement of this section, a Minister of the Crown must lay a report before both Houses of Parliament reviewing the interpretation of the term “relevant domestic abuse or stalking perpetrator” for the purposes of section 325.(6) A report under subsection (5) must give specific consideration to arrangements for assessing and managing the risks of domestic abuse or stalking posed by perpetrators convicted of offences other than a specified offence.(7) Subject to a report under subsection (5) being laid before both Houses of Parliament, a Minister of the Crown may by regulations amend this section.””Member’s explanatory statementThis new Clause amends the Criminal Justice Act 2003, which provides for the establishment of Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (“MAPPA”), to make arrangements for serial domestic abuse or stalking perpetrators to be registered on VISOR (the Violent and Sex Offender Register) and be subjected to supervision, monitoring and management through MAPPA.

Photo of Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Labour

My Lords, in moving Amendment 164 on behalf of my noble friend Lady Royall, I will also speak to my Amendment 177B. My noble friend is extremely sorry that she is not able to speak today due to a long-standing and immovable commitment. My remarks very much reflect her views and passion to see strong action in relation to serial and serious domestic abuse perpetrators and stalkers. I am grateful also to the noble Baronesses, Lady Jones and Lady Brinton, for putting their names to the amendment.

This amendment follows many years of advocacy, during which my noble friend Lady Royall has sought to reflect the views of families of victims and many organisations, including John and Penny Clough; Paladin; Aurora New Dawn; Women’s Aid; the Hampton Trust; the Alice Ruggles Trust; the Centre for Women’s Justice; the London Assembly and the Mayor of London; the domestic abuse commissioner, Nicole Jacobs; the Victims’ Commissioner, Dame Vera Baird QC; Napo; magistrates; police officers; countless survivors, including Zoe Dronfield, Georgia Hooper, Rachel Williams, Charlotte Kneer and Celia Peachey; and the 217,000 people who have signed the petition in support of the need for action.

My noble friend’s amendment seeks to ensure a co-ordinated, consistent and mandatory approach throughout the country to the flagging and targeting of perpetrators, without which, more women and children will be terrorised, and some will die. It would place a statutory obligation on police, prison and probation officers to identify, assess and manage serial and serious domestic abuse perpetrators and stalkers. This would change the culture and ensure that questions are asked of the perpetrator and not the victim. It would ensure a multiagency problem-solving approach by the statutory agencies charged with a responsibility for public protection.

So far, the Government have resisted this in the belief that current arrangements are adequate. They are not. There are pockets of good practice, but it is not national and there is no co-ordinated approach led by statutory agencies. There is no legal framework or national process in England and Wales by which serial perpetrators are routinely identified, monitored and managed. These serial perpetrators and stalkers are simply not visible or held to account, even though past behaviour is the best predictor of future behaviour. We know that they are transient: they seek to control the most vulnerable women and children, and if that includes moving across borders to meet their needs, they often will do so. They travel and start new relationships, but the history is not recorded, so vital information does not travel with them. We have to change this by ensuring that there is a legislative duty to proactively identify, assess and manage these men using MAPPA-plus, an enhanced version of MAPPA, to include domestic abuse specialist services, honour-based abuse services and stalking services that understand coercive control and stalking, and ensure that the intelligence is collected and put into the national system, ViSOR.

The enhanced system would of course require multiagency training, complemented by clear guidance ahead of implementation. Without MAPPA-plus, Clare’s law will never work effectively, because there is no duty on the police to add any information or intelligence about a perpetrator’s previous offending to a local or national system. If information is put on a local system, it lacks the detail required. The burden is placed on the victim, and too often the perpetrator’s narrative is believed rather than the victim’s.

When my noble friend Lady Royall met the Minister, she was asked for evidence of such a system, and she forwarded a report by Laura Richards, a global expert and founder of Paladin. Her report focused on 28 men who had murdered 31 women and eight children, and who had significantly harmed more women and children. There will undoubtedly be more. In addition, there are family members who are terrorised and threatened by serial abusers, and the impact on others when a loved one is killed. The report makes for distressing reading. It is utterly compelling in its conclusion that there have been too many reviews and that the time for action is now.

I will cite just two cases in the report. The first is that of Alfie Gildea:

Four-month-old Alfie Gildea was killed by violent Sam Gildea, who had been previously convicted of manslaughter by violent shaking. This is how he killed Alfie.”

His mother, Caitlin McMichael, learned about Sam Gildea’s history after Alfie had been murdered. Why was she not told before about his previous conviction?

“This is the police force that failed Clare Wood, and the reason Clare’s Law came in because of their failures. Greater Manchester Police knew that he was a serial perpetrator and they did not act. Why not?”

Last November, the coroner, Alison Mutch, said that Gildea was a

“serious and serial domestic abuse perpetrator” who was well known to Greater Manchester Police. They failed to recognise coercive control. Why was his case not heard at MAPPA, when his history of violence was known to Greater Manchester Police?

I now come to the case of two unnamed women, in 2020:

Stephen Williams was sentenced to two years in prison on May 29 2020, for a horrific campaign of mental and physical abuse on his 18 year old girlfriend. She is 10 years younger than him. He held a knife to her throat, punched in the face, poured corrosive cleaner over her head and threatened to kill her. He coercively controlled her and made her give up her job as a hairdresser & her family and friends … made her travel with him in his HGV lorry cab to make sure she didn’t talk to anyone … punched her in the face, bit the back of her neck and said he would ‘break every bone in her body.’ He pulled her finger back causing ligament damage and fractured her rib. Her sister called the police and she was taken to hospital.”

Williams was arrested and pleaded guilty to controlling and coercive behaviour, assault by beating, assault occasioning actual bodily harm, causing an unauthorised transmission from prison, and witness intimidation.

“A former partner gave evidence at court about his abuse. Williams pressured her to retract her statement and threatened her by saying ‘I will get out of her one day and you will regret it.’ The judge described him as a controlling and manipulative bully and said ‘I have come to the view that you pose a significant risk of harm to your female partners.’ Williams was sentenced to just two years in prison and made the subject of a restraining order, forbidding him to see or contact his ex-partner for two years.”

Upon his release, Williams will not be identified as a serial perpetrator and a risk to other women. Under the new system, he would be categorised as category 4, included on ViSOR and managed via MAPPA. Other relevant services would be involved as well. An order could be placed on him regarding whether he moves, starts a new relationship or changes his name, as well as attendance at an accredited perpetrator programme. But we do not have that at the moment, and

“under current guidance and practice it is unlikely that he will meet the MAPPA criteria.”

I have mentioned two cases. In her contribution the noble Baroness, Lady Newlove, will bring another disturbing example to the House’s attention.

My noble friend Lady Royall is arguing that, under MAPPA-plus, a new category four,

“serial and serious harm domestic abuse and stalking perpetrators”, should be included. Positive obligations would be placed on a perpetrator, including attending a treatment programme. They would have to notify the police if they changed their name, moved, went abroad or started a new relationship. These are critical components of the strategic plans in Amendment 167, which I also support, and my own Amendment 177B. The difference between these two amendments is the time given to the Government to come forward with a strategy. In fairness, my noble friend Lady Royall thinks that my two-year period is far too generous and that we need much quicker action. Time is of the essence. We know that at least two women a week are murdered by ex-partners, many of whom are serial offenders. This has increased to five a week during the pandemic. It is self-evident that a cohesive strategy is needed as soon as possible.

At Second Reading the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Trafford, spoke of investing more than £7 million in direct perpetrator-focused interventions through police and crime commissioners to prevent abuse. She also promised that the forthcoming domestic abuse strategy would include specific work to tackle perpetrators and prevent offending. This is welcome but not sufficient.

It is significant that, last year, 80 signatories, including charities such as Women’s Aid, Respect and Action for Children, as well as academics and individuals, called on the Government to invest in a perpetrator strategy. They called for public voluntary services to be empowered to hold perpetrators to account; best-practice perpetrator interventions to be available across England and Wales; a national quality assurance system and a sustainable, predictable source of funding; and for national and local leaders to spearhead the perpetrator strategy. Nicole Jacobs, the designate domestic abuse commissioner, supports these measures. She said

“I support the call on Government to publish a Strategy on Perpetrators of Domestic Abuse. Current prevention work is patchy and too often perpetrators go unchallenged and are not offered opportunities to change their abusive behaviour.”

I urge the Minister to accept the principles contained in Amendments 167 and 177B but, even more importantly, to accept my noble friend Lady Royall’s amendment and introduce MAPPA-plus without further delay. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Bertin Baroness Bertin Conservative

My Lords, before I speak to the amendment in my name, as we enter the final day of Committee I want to thank everyone who has been involved in this marathon. By tabling more than 200 amendments, we have created a vast amount of work for the clerks, the Bill team and the Whips’ Office. I acknowledge their professionalism, time and effort. I also recognise and pay tribute to the different organisations and individuals who have worked so hard to brief us while also dealing with a huge surge in work because of the pandemic. In particular, I thank Drive and Veronica Oakeshott.

I thank all noble Lords who have put their names to Amendment 167, giving it cross-party support. It is a great honour to follow the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath. As he set out, this amendment would require the Government to provide a comprehensive perpetrator strategy for domestic abuse within one year of the Act being passed. I will not speak specifically to the other amendments in this group, but I pay tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, for her tireless work against the insidious crime of stalking. I support the sentiment behind her amendment.

With so much of the current discourse on domestic abuse rightly focusing on victims, the term “perpetrator strategy” can jar. For years perpetrators have barely been mentioned in political debate, as if domestic abuse simply appears from thin air. Only with robust action on perpetrators can we put an end to domestic abuse, which is why the Government urgently need to publish and fund a comprehensive strategy for England and Wales. As the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, pointed out, colleagues inside and outside this House are calling for it. More than 100 signatories, spanning domestic abuse charities, police and crime commissioners, police forces, children’s voluntary sector organisations, academics and survivors, have asked the Government to set out this comprehensive plan.

I will outline its five key points. First, it should drive significant improvements in the risk management of known perpetrators, many of whom are hiding in plain sight. It is unacceptable that the system, or lack of it, effectively allows perpetrators to offend time and again. This speaks to the amendment from the noble Baroness, Lady Royall. Just as we would watch someone who presents a terrorist risk, the eyes and ears of a whole range of agencies need to be on the people who make a lifetime habit of destroying lives. The best way to achieve this is through multiagency forums led by the police. As we have heard in many debates during Committee, training is vital to help professionals from a range of services exercise professional curiosity, even when they are assured that all is well. They need to spot the signs, share information and know what to do next.

Secondly, good quality behaviour-changing programmes need to be provided nationally to give offenders the best chance of ending their abusive behaviour. Such interventions could include structured group work, where perpetrators are challenged to recognise their abuse and their impact—although it is fair to say that this kind of intervention is more suitable for those who accept some responsibility for their actions. For more severe offenders, one-to-one, intensive case management is often more effective.

Disrupt approaches are also needed for high-level perpetrators who are not willing to co-operate and who continue to abuse. This is where multiagency work becomes vital through sharing information, being responsive to the dangers posed by perpetrators and being ready to react to changes or triggers that could increase aggressive behaviour, such as new child contact arrangements or new partners. The reorganisation of probation services must also form an important pillar of this strategy.

As the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, said, current provision for change programmes is extremely patchy. Nowhere is there a full range of programmes. For example, putting an LGBT perpetrator on a group work programme for heterosexual perpetrators will not work. Similarly, a perpetrator of honour-based abuse will need something very different from someone perpetrating abuse against an intimate partner. This is the inconvenient reality of domestic abuse. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. The strategy must invest in developing a fuller range of programmes.

We already know that there are many proven programmes that should now be extended. A study by London Metropolitan and Durham universities of 12 domestic violence perpetrator programmes found a reduction from 54% to 2% in the number of women whose partners tried to punch, kick, burn or beat them. A random control trial evaluation of the Drive programme, which works with perpetrators who pose serious risk of murder or severe harm to their victims, found that it reduced physical abuse by 82% and controlling behaviours by 73%.

Successful provision of the programmes would be a triple win: for victims, who would be safer; for the public purse, which currently shells out billions of pounds each year addressing the impact of domestic abuse; and for perpetrators. Some want to stop their abusive behaviour. Many were themselves victims when growing up.

Thirdly, quality assurance and data systems must be put in place. Safe, quality perpetrator interventions will always include support for the victim. Badly managed perpetrator work can be worse than doing nothing. The charity Respect has published standards which the Government have endorsed, but there is currently no requirement for commissioners to follow them or any other standards in England. We need to ensure that, at best, the Government are not wasting their money and that, at worst, victims are not being put further in harm’s way.

Fourthly, this successful strategy needs a sustainable, reliable source of funding for intervention programmes. The perpetrator intervention fund was a very welcome first step, with its grants confirmed in September last year. However, these have to be spent by March, which means that commissioners, services and victims have no financial security from April this year. A report by SafeLives estimates that a full range of perpetrator interventions would cost £680 million a year. Such an amount could not be responsibly spent tomorrow but this is the scale of what is ultimately needed. Such investments in prevention should also be considered in relation to the estimated £66 billion cost of domestic violence in any given year.

Finally, the strategy should encourage leadership. I commend the Home Office’s engagement on this issue and the Chancellor’s launch of the first perpetrator fund. However, it is vital that other departments step up and play their part in the development of a strategy. That could be MHCLG thinking about new ways to support victims to stay safe in their own homes by removing perpetrators. As we heard in the previous debate, housing is a huge element in all this. It could be DCMS thinking about how it can encourage cultural shifts. How can we get away from “Why doesn’t he just leave?” to “Why doesn’t he stop?”? The Government should not underestimate the power they have to encourage and speed up culture change with public awareness campaigns. Let us not forget the lasting impact they have had over the years on issues such as drink-driving, and through anti-smoking laws.

A targeted campaign to drive down the acceptability of misogyny and macho attitudes among young men is also overdue. Many charities and police officers are voicing concerns about the growing problem of abusive sexual behaviour in intense teen relationships. Children as young as 13 or 14 are victims, but some are also perpetrators. If we do not address this urgently, the fight will be lost for another generation. Technology firms and internet giants—I refer noble Lords to my registered interest as an adviser to BT—have got to accept their share of the blame for this. But they must also step up and be part of the solution, whether by helping the Government far more proactively to, for example, prevent smartphones becoming an abuser’s weapon or by finding a workable solution to prevent such easy access to violent porn that degrades women and girls. I urge the Government to hold their feet to the fire.

So where do we go from here? The Government appeared to acknowledge in the other place that a more strategic approach to perpetrators is needed. That is good. Now we need a firm commitment that this approach will be laid out clearly and be truly comprehensive, not just an afterthought, as perpetrator work has so often been. That is why I am calling on the Government to incorporate a thoughtfully developed perpetrator strategy within one year after the passage of the Bill. We need the right balance between urgency and consultation, through something that reflects the ambition and the need. I feel one year should give the time for that.

This is the Government’s chance to turn the tide on domestic abuse and pave a route into a new era where perpetrators, not victims, are expected to make changes in their lives. The Bill is the foundation block to kick-start that rethink. Put simply, if we do not properly tackle the people who cause the harm, we will never see an end to it.

Photo of Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Green 2:15 pm, 10th February 2021

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, and the noble Baroness, Lady Bertin. They reminded us just how popular these amendments are, as almost every single one of them was backed by many organisations and individuals. Whereas popularity is not necessarily a good guide to the way we approach legislation, in this case we ought to be listening to the people who know what they are talking about. We have talked extensively about stamping out domestic violence, misogyny and gender-related violence. We have discussed the fact that domestic abuse is endemic in our society, and these amendments would hand important tools to people who try to be in the arsenal in that fight.

Amendment 164 requires the monitoring and rehabilitation of serial domestic abusers and stalkers. That is an important requirement. It means that they are treated alongside other violent and sexual offenders. Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements—MAPPA—are about protecting society as a whole, and individuals against the most dangerous and sinister people in our society. The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, used the phrase “change the culture”. Changing culture is incredibly difficult. It takes a huge amount of work, but that is the only way we have to make a difference in this, and we have to change the culture.

The noble Baroness, Lady Bertin, used a very good phrase, “professional curiosity”, and I will come on to that in the next group of amendments. That is something we should encourage so that people spot exactly what is happening. So often, people feel that they should not get engaged because it is personal and involves people’s privacy. MAPPA would bring together the police, probation and prison services and draw support and co-operation from social services, health, youth offending teams, Jobcentre Plus, local housing and education authorities. It would also take the responsibility off the victim for reporting it themselves, which is crucial. MAPPA is a ready-made system.

With this Bill, we recognise that as a society we have failed to treat domestic abuse as the serious and grave offence that it is, so updated arrangements would be perfect—MAPPA-plus—and a natural extension of MAPPA. Then we can recognise domestic abusers as dangerous people who need that level of intervention and co-ordination. It is essential if we are to stamp out domestic abuse and misogyny in the way that any civilised country would expect us to do.

Photo of Lord Paddick Lord Paddick Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

My Lords, I should remind the Committee that I was a police officer for more than 30 years. Picking up the theme from the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, of a change in culture, there has clearly been a change of culture in the police service towards domestic abuse, but it needs to go further. There needs to be a cultural change in attitudes, particularly those of men towards women and towards domestic abuse in wider society.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, for so clearly and comprehensively introducing this amendment. He clearly demonstrated that the approach to perpetrators is, at best, inconsistent. The examples he shared with the Committee showed that existing legislative and procedural provisions are insufficient or are not being complied with adequately. I have received more emails on this amendment than any others during this Committee.

Section 325 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 requires the responsible authority for each area to

“establish arrangements for the purpose of assessing and managing the risks posed in that area by … relevant sexual and violent offenders,”— and other offenders which the responsible authority considers

“may cause serious harm to the public.”

These are the Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements, MAPPA.

Section 327 of the 2003 Act defines “relevant sexual or violent offender”, and Amendment 164 would add

“relevant domestic abuse or stalking perpetrator” to that definition. It goes on to define a “relevant domestic abuse or stalking perpetrator” as someone who has been convicted of a serious offence and is a “serial offender”, or that

“a risk of serious harm assessment has identified” the person

“as presenting a high or very high risk of serious harm.”

A relevant domestic abuse or stalking offence is defined as an offence under Clause 1 of the Bill or under Section 2A or Section 4A of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.

I have known Laura Richards, whom the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, mentioned, since we were both in the Metropolitan Police Service. She has been a tenacious campaigner to improve the identification, assessment and management of serial stalkers and perpetrators of domestic abuse. Although many of them are captured by the existing definition of who can be managed through MAPPA, her long and extensive involvement in these issues suggests to her that this is not happening in practice, with sometimes fatal consequences. As we have heard from other noble Lords, serial perpetrators who could have been identified, and the risk they presented managed, have gone on to commit murder. Laura Richards’ belief is that there has been an albeit understandable focus on supporting victims but that this has detracted from managing the perpetrator. She provides some tragic examples and statistics that show that one in four perpetrators of these offences are serial offenders.

I will be interested to hear from the Minister whether a change in approach needs to be forced on relevant authorities by means of primary legislation, as suggested by the amendment, or by mandating the relevant authorities to undertake assessment and management of high-risk perpetrators of domestic abuse and stalking through an enhanced MAPPA process that involves specialist services relating to domestic abuse, honour-based abuse and stalking. The evidence presented suggests that something needs to change.

Amendment 167 similarly calls for a strategic plan to improve the identification and assessment of domestic abuse perpetrators, including increasing the number of rehabilitation programmes and the work done to tackle abusive attitudes and behaviour. The noble Baroness, Lady Bertin, has just given examples of how effective such programmes can be. Amendment 177B also calls for a domestic abuse national perpetrator strategy.

Clearly, it is far better for domestic abuse to be prevented from happening in the first place than to have to support the victims and survivors after the event, and effective perpetrator strategies are an important part of this. This must go beyond simply identifying and managing high-risk individuals. As the noble Baroness alluded to, it must start in schools and young offender institutions, with comprehensive personal, social, health and economic education that includes teaching students what healthy relationships look and feel like, as opposed to what many children, sadly, experience in their own homes.

I look forward to participating in a later group on the impact of the internet on perpetuating misogynistic attitudes. But, as the noble Baroness, Lady Bertin, said, it is time that the perpetrator, not the victim, was expected to change their behaviour.

Photo of Baroness Wyld Baroness Wyld Conservative 2:30 pm, 10th February 2021

My Lords, I wish to speak briefly in support of Amendment 167, in the names of my noble friend Lady Bertin and others. Given that we are discussing multiagency strategies, I declare my interests as a non-executive member of the board of Ofsted and a non-executive director of DCMS.

My noble friend gave a powerful and comprehensive speech. It is quite right to push us to change the narrative from “Why doesn’t she leave?” to “Why doesn’t he stop?” What has really come across today is the need for urgency here. My noble friend is right to urge the Government to take a definitive step to help this happen and for it to be reflected in lived experience.

As we have heard, it is completely unacceptable for perpetrators to move from one victim to another when evidence exists that they can be stopped with early intervention. We have a huge bank of evidence showing what works, and I am grateful to all those who briefed me—in particular, the Drive initiative—and to those in your Lordships’ House who have brought their own examples to the Floor. Seeing who follows me in the list, I am sure that we will hear more of those today.

We have heard consistent calls for a national approach to quality assurance, from better-tailored information on data sharing to workforce training, long-term funding and campaigning. The Government have, rightly, emphasised the need for an evidence-based and precise approach to a perpetrator strategy, but let us not drag our heels. The concern that has come across today is that we do not want to end up with the situation where everyone agrees with each other but nobody takes the lead and gets this done. On that note, I very much look forward to the Minister’s response.

Photo of The Earl of Lytton The Earl of Lytton Crossbench

My Lords, I am delighted to be able to support all these amendments but particularly Amendments 167 and 177B. I too pay tribute to all those who have written to me and have frankly explained not only their policy approach but, in the case of individuals, the personal tragedies that they have experienced. I may not have replied to them all, but I have been deeply moved by many of them. My sense is that we all want the same things with this Bill, but some take a more binary approach than others. I try to avoid that in order to look at what I hope is the larger picture and wider criteria, but I apologise in advance if I fail.

My starting point is that with domestic abuse there is already a relationship in which the parties to it mostly come together voluntarily and often remain so in a sufficiently close and prolonged arrangement for children to arrive on the scene. Whatever happens thereafter, there are thus emotional and psychological bonds, some of which remain very important and for children are often formational, even when the original adult relationship has started to go wrong or failed altogether.

The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, set out very many points—too many for me to say, on each individual one, how much I agreed with him. But, however justified in any given case, simply providing for some variant of justice in which perpetrators are branded as intrinsically evil or criminal and resource is focused primarily on due process and the support and protection of victims and survivors does not, in my view, amount to a comprehensive policy response. So I was very glad to learn both from my local police and crime commissioner and again from the Minister herself in a briefing last month about the £7 million provided last year to police and crime commissioners for perpetrator programmes.

The PCC, in particular, was enthusiastic in her explanation of the hugely beneficial effect that even a relatively modest allocation of £150,000 or so could have in pressing forward with a perpetrator programme and the disproportionate advantage that would flow from this intervention as compared with what I might term the “picking up the pieces after the relationship” debacle. Of course, with the largest force areas, the available sum might be a drop in the ocean but, for all that, it is welcome. However, as the noble Baroness, Lady Bertin, said in speaking to her amendment, it is not ongoing but a one-off. That needs to be addressed.

In all this, I have in mind that every perpetrator may cast a shadow over the lives of maybe six victims—at least, that is the factor that I most frequently hear. But, beyond that, it is the pain, the dislocation of lives and the damaging effects on adults and particularly children that concern me, plus the potential for abused partners to fall into some other similarly abusive relationship, just as unaddressed abusive behaviour might simply be allowed to repeat itself in an endless cycle of wretchedness. We know that these things have social and emotional costs—they lurk behind crime statistics, in judicial activities, in the all-too-limited resources of the voluntary and charitable sector, in the workplace, in health outcomes and in children’s long-term attainment.

To intervene and break this cycle, the Bill must now provide for a national framework for perpetrator programmes; it seems to me that the Long Title readily admits it. The Government clearly readily admit it to the tune of £7 million as an admission of need. We have heard much about the architecture of the Bill and I agree that it needs to keep focused, but all the focus in the world will be of little help if it is so narrow that the principal facet of what is, after all, a process involving human relationships of the most complex kind is overlooked. In the Bill we have motive, opportunity and the means to effect change. We should do it.

The noble Baroness, Lady Bertin, referred to current programmes, such as MAPPA, and their success. I suggest that a carrot and stick approach may be better than simply stigmatising perpetrators. I agree with other noble Lords that this is very much a two-way street that we need to look at. She also referred to the need for coherence—for sustainable and reliable funding and the wins all round in the effects on society for perpetrators, victims, victims’ families and survivors that would flow from that. I fundamentally agree.

At the end of the day, we have a relationship, usually between two people, each of whom makes a personal investment in that. Were we to be successful in making perpetrator programmes not only universal according to some sort of coherent framework and leadership referred to by the noble Baroness, but also part of the normal, non-criminalised mainstream service provision, then more relationships might remain functional and a significant proportion of perpetrators might cease to abuse. That would have implications for the frequency and severity of victimhood and victim and survivor experiences.

Amendments 167 and 177B propose in their various ways what is fundamentally the right way forward. This needs to be co-ordinated and driven as a national strategy by Government. I trust that the Minister will see the merits of this and accept that there is now an unanswerable case for adopting the principles behind these amendments.

Photo of Baroness Brinton Baroness Brinton Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Health)

My Lords, I echo the thanks of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, to the many organisations and people who have briefed us and who constantly fight for safety and justice for victims of serious domestic abuse and stalking. I have added my name to Amendment 164.

Ten years ago, I was a member of the Independent Parliamentary Inquiry into Stalking Law Reform, supported by the noble Baroness, Lady Royall. It has been a pleasure to work with her over the succeeding years. I was asked to join the inquiry because I had been the victim of harassment and stalking by a political opponent, who over nearly three years waged a war of anonymous hate, criminal damage and increasingly serious threats of violence against myself and my team in Watford.

We could not get the police to take seriously what was happening to us. Only when I gave them my spreadsheet linking more than 100 escalating incidents did the police realise that this was not a political spat. But it took their expert profiler to warn them of how serious this behaviour was and how violent it was likely to become before they arrested the perpetrator. He pleaded guilty to 67 separate incidents and, in common with many other obsessed perpetrators, was found to have had mental health problems.

We know that this category of serious domestic abuse and stalking perpetrators exhibit FOUR traits—an acronym for fixated, obsessive, unwanted and repeated. Their entire behaviour and its escalation must be understood rather than each single incident being looked at separately.

The College of Policing guidance and flow charts published since the stalking protection orders came into effect last year are excellent. This is exactly the type of documentation that needs to be understood by all front-line staff and officers in the police, courts, probation and health. A decade on, there are some pockets of excellent practice, but it is not consistent. The result of that lack of consistency is that victims of such perpetrators—usually but not always women—are ignored. Too many times, this has resulted in serious violence and murder.

I shall give just one example. In 2014, Cherylee Shennan was stabbed to death by convicted killer Paul O’Hara in front of police officers called to investigate reports of domestic abuse. He had already served a life sentence for murdering Janine Waterworth in 1998. Coroner James Newman published a prevention of death report, raising alarms over lack of inter-agency communication between probation services and police. He said that, following O’Hara’s release,

“there were no local MAPPA meetings, no inter-agency meetings and no significant inter-agency communications regarding the perpetrator; no detailing of his licensing conditions and no information regarding either his nature or the trigger factors of his offending”.

Cherylee was failed at every step of the way when she tried to get help. She was even held hostage at knife point at least twice. Had that information been shared, O’Hara would have met the category 4 criteria and could have been risk-managed by MAPPA-plus.

There is still no mandatory process for the sharing of information between agencies where the offender, despite a known extensive history of domestic abuse and identified trigger factors, is then managed at MAPPA, hence the need for this amendment. Women are still being attacked and murdered by these fixated perpetrators. Laura Richards, the founder of the Paladin National Stalking Advocacy Service, has written a report, mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, with a shocking list of 30 perpetrators who have murdered 31 women, seriously harmed at least 58 more whom we know about, and seriously harmed 12 children and killed eight children—again, whom we know about. That is far too many since the stalking law reforms of 2012.

These murders do not happen in a vacuum. These are murders in slow motion—the drip, drip, drip happens over time on an escalating continuum. The incident-led approach to patterned crimes such as domestic abuse and stalking is very costly and must be stopped, as women are paying with their lives and perpetrators continue to offend with impunity.

Many predatory stalkers, sex offenders and serial killers also abuse their partners. Police research found that one in 12 domestic rapists was raping outside the home. Once a violent and controlling man leaves a partner, it does not mean that the violence ends. Evidence suggests that they find new partners to abuse. Many had extensive histories of abusing multiple women.

MAPPA panels already exist as a statutory requirement to manage perpetrators across England and Wales, and the violent and sex offender register—the ViSOR database—supports the process and allows for standardised and meaningful data collection, case management and governance, and should be the answer that we seek. However, the information on the police national database is very mixed, with some forces uploading key information while others, more commonly, simply input the offence with no other contextual data. Context and nuanced detail are crucial when risk assessing and managing these offenders. This is particularly problematic regarding Clare’s law disclosure, as it often means that information is missing, as it is commonplace for domestic abuse and stalking cases to be downgraded to common assault instead of strangulation or attempted strangulation, to criminal damage and harassment instead of stalking, and burglary or interfering with a motor vehicle instead of attempted murder. These cases are downgraded to achieve a conviction, so the insidious and terrifying pattern of behaviour is not recorded, routinely missed and, worse, can mean that MAPPA is not involved.

The NHS regards certain incidents as “never” events. I argue that any violence or murder from a known perpetrator with a history should be regarded by all parties in the criminal justice system as a “never” event. Never again should women repeatedly report that they fear for their lives, and then be murdered after the police have failed to act on a report. Never again should different agencies be aware of escalating serious behaviours, but not catalogue and share them, resulting in attacks and murders. This amendment seeks to put systems in place to make these very serious attacks and murders “never” events, by ensuring that all parties in MAPPA understand and implement the effective guidance that will save lives.

Photo of Baroness Eaton Baroness Eaton Conservative 2:45 pm, 10th February 2021

My Lords, I declare my interest as a vice-president of the Local Government Association. I wish to speak in support of Amendment 167 in the name of my noble friend Lady Bertin and others.

I have long supported the view—also held by the Local Government Association—calling for the Government to introduce a national domestic abuse perpetrator strategy. It is clear that the right interventions at the right time can stop abuse occurring, recurring or escalating. According to the organisation Respect, there are around 400,000 perpetrators causing high and medium levels of harm across England and Wales, and yet only a small percentage of these—fewer than 1%—get the specialist intervention that might prevent future abusive behaviour.

The strategy should focus on community-level initiatives and communication campaigns for those seeking help and let them know where to access such help. Perpetrator interventions need to be responsive to the cultural context in which they are delivered. Programmes for children and young people are also needed to ensure that they are appropriately educated about domestic abuse and that prevention starts at the earliest stage. These programmes should also be available for those excluded from mainstream school. Some consideration should also be given to accommodation for perpetrators. This is an important aspect of helping the domestic abuse victim to remain in their own home, if it is safe to do so, and ensuring that the perpetrator leaves.

I am pleased to have added my voice to others emphasising to government the urgent need to produce a much-needed perpetrator strategy.

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Labour

My Lords, I begin by congratulating both my noble friend Lord Hunt and the noble Baroness, Lady Bertin, on the way that they introduced this group of amendments. The examples that they gave to illustrate their points were horrendous by any stretch of the imagination.

My noble friend Lord Hunt’s point about the need for a cultural change is significant. I have looked at some of the figures that have been published; I do not wish to repeat them in detail, but the numbers of people involved are phenomenal. The noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, also gave a very stark example. I understand and accept that the role of the police has changed in recent years; I know in particular that it is taken incredibly seriously by the part of the police family which with I am familiar in the West Midlands.

I do not want to repeat what others have said, but my central point relates to the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Bertin, regarding Amendment 167; I agree entirely with their thrust and indeed support them. She mentioned that the overall costs were thought to be something like £66 billion and that there was a need for funding—probably £600 million. The point I want to make is that in order to have a strategic government approach, you must break the Whitehall silos.

This takes me back. I am not going back to the good old days, but I can remember when, in 1997, along with many others, I entered government after decades in opposition. We made an attempt, over a range of issues, to try to work across Whitehall, and it is not easy to break the silos. It has to be driven by ministerial commitment; it has to be known that the Minister at the top—in fact, the Prime Minister really, when you come down to it—has a bang-on, full-hearted commitment to something because that can be used to drive from the top. In both my first and second departments, when I was still in the House of Commons —first MAFF and then DSS; two very different departments—I can remember occasions when bright and, I will say, youngish civil servants moved from the department to go to work at some of the cross-departmental units that had been set up. One reason was that they saw the benefit of working in those units in terms of their career and promotion prospects and an enhanced role in the Civil Service—they were committed to the issues; this is not in any way a criticism of the individuals concerned—simply because of the drive to get cross-departmental work going and to break the silos. I realise that over the years, more particularly towards the latter end of the Labour Government years, things fell by the wayside. It does not mean that it cannot be rebuilt.

I would encourage the noble Baroness, Lady Bertin, and others, and the Ministers as well, to learn from experience. You do not have to reinvent the wheel. There are people around with experience—there are of course ex-heads of the Civil Service in your Lordships’ House who would fully take on board the points that I am making. You have to build a strategy that crosses the silos and breaks them down. If you do not do that, it will not work. That is what will filter to the cross-departmental work and indeed the cross-agency work outside government at other levels.

My central message, based on my own experience where I can see how things have worked in the past and indeed how they have not worked—I have examples I could use where it has not been successful—is on this issue of the silos and the cross-departmental working in Whitehall. The effect on civil servants is absolutely fundamental to success. I hope that this can be taken on board. I know that the Home Office Ministers have been very receptive on a range of legislation recently, but this has to permeate right across Whitehall.

Photo of Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Justice)

My Lords, I am very grateful for the comprehensive opening by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt. He and every other noble Lord who has spoken have stressed the urgent need to overhaul and broaden our perpetrator strategy.

Amendment 164 from the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, would correct a very obvious deficiency in the Bill and in our current arrangements for protecting potential victims from known perpetrators who present serious risks to those they may prey on in future, notably women with whom they form new relationships, but sometimes men, when those new partners know little or nothing of their past offending and nothing of the risk they take by being with them.

However, it is not always new partners who may be threatened. Serial stalkers threaten victims they hardly know but who still stand to be harassed by them in life-destroying ways. We know how stalking offences, which may not cause physical harm, can cause long-lasting and sometimes permanent psychological damage. Happy, untroubled lives can easily be reduced to anxious existence only, with work, travel and lives at home overshadowed by ever-present fear.

The case for this amendment is as clear as could be. There can be no argument against including domestic abuse offenders and stalkers in the arrangements already in place under the 2003 Act for serious sexual and violent offenders, including MAPPA. But these arrangements badly need enhancing, as the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, and others have explained, by establishing MAPPA-plus.

A central part of the system is the violent and sex offender register, ViSOR, a national database that enables agencies to register offenders, to carry out risk assessments and keep them up to date, and to manage and keep track of offenders. It is important that the register is national because offenders travel. It has been far too easy in the past for offenders to leave one area and set up home in another, where they are unknown to the police and manage to commit appalling repeat offences, without warning lights ever flashing.

I have not been able to see any weakness in the way that the amendment is drafted, but it is not the drafting that matters; it is the outcome that we seek. However, there is a further concern, which is that the current arrangements are not working well enough for monitoring offenders who are covered already. None of us can have been unmoved by the harrowing accounts prepared by the tireless campaigner, leading academic on this subject and former police analyst Laura Richards, the founder of Paladin, of horrible violent offences committed by former offenders about which their new partners knew nothing. Those accounts, some given in this debate, catalogue multiple failures of responsible agencies to ensure proper information-sharing and monitoring of offenders’ whereabouts and activities, which have sadly often contributed to tragic results.

Another common theme emerges, and it is really worrying. In so many cases, victims’ complaints to the police have been ignored, not taken seriously, largely disbelieved or simply not followed up. This point is supported by the personal account given by my noble friend Lady Brinton of the long history of her being stalked by a political opponent and then of her many clearly true complaints not being taken seriously. This pattern is not unusual, even in the case of repeated complaints and transparently genuine accounts of violent and abusive attacks.

My noble friend Lord Paddick spoke of the need for a change of culture, not just in the police but in society at large. One of the great benefits of the Bill as a whole will be its effect in fostering that change of culture. However, too little effort has been concentrated on protecting actual and potential victims. When complaints are made, when offenders are released from custody and when they attack victims, there is always a risk of future attacks. The next attack is so often worse than the previous and, tragically, sometimes fatal. As we discussed in the non-fatal strangulation debate, a strangulation offence is a chilling predictor of future homicide.

We need not only MAPPA-plus, and a new category four, but more training for police officers and others involved in taking full histories from vulnerable victims—coaxing out of them full accounts of what has happened, even when those victims are reluctant to give such accounts—and in following up on reported attacks, recognising risk, protecting victims and monitoring perpetrators. I agree with my noble friend Lord Paddick that this also means a change in education and culture, among children about relationships and in society at large. Effective monitoring would go a long way towards protecting likely victims if the arrangements were made to work well, but there is much more that could be done to protect women and girls from future offences.

Photo of Baroness Newlove Baroness Newlove Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords) 3:00 pm, 10th February 2021

My Lords, I add my support to Amendment 164 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Royall. I do so as, in my former role as Victims’ Commissioner, I met many heartbroken families suffering from the loss of a dear loved one. In having such discussions with them, listening was really heartbreaking, especially knowing that nothing would bring their loved ones back.

I also speak on a personal level, albeit not about domestic abuse but about systems. In 2007, my late husband was murdered by a gang of youths. I found out afterwards that when a murder happens, the Home Office asks agencies to see if those charged are flagged up on their systems. To hear the background information of criminal activity is just shameful—even more so given that when I was a key speaker at an agency’s conference, I heard another speaker go into further detail on the procedures of gathering information for the Home Office. I ask the Committee to imagine the emotions going through my heart as I listened to a speaker that day describe how their agency breathed a sigh of relief that the offenders were not on its system as a red flag. However, I found that not to be true: one of the defendants was out on bail, awaiting sentence for a violent offence. Earlier on in the day when Garry was murdered, the defendant had appeared in court for a breach of bail and been bailed again with conditions that he then went on to breach in not just one attack but a further attack that night, which was Garry being kicked to death.

There have been some excellent speeches and they have been heartrending to listen to. I add my thanks to Laura Richards, the founder of the Paladin National Stalking Advocacy Service, for her outstanding briefing. I commend her on her many years of hard work in helping families to understand why. In fact her briefing makes for extremely distressing and deeply disturbing reading, especially, as others have already mentioned, her outstanding report about 30 perpetrators, which describes a total of 109 women and children who were seriously harmed or murdered. In all those cases, they were let down by systemic failure. The cases highlight the failure of information-sharing, risk assessment and management across all agencies. Put simply, the focus should have been on the perpetrator and there should have been a MAPPA referral, but that rarely happens in practice regarding coercively controlling perpetrators and stalkers. This is exactly why a national co-ordinated mandatory approach is urgently needed for MAPPA to co-ordinate MAPPA-plus. Such systemic changes are urgently needed through law reform because, as Laura says, no amount of training has changed this.

The situation has to be dealt with as soon as possible, without more reviews that lead to no action because we are dealing with men who routinely terrorise and harm women and girls, who need protection now. As the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, mentioned, it is right, as we discuss such an important amendment to an important Bill, that we listen to a young lady’s horrendous story. It is only fitting to share it now. I have asked her permission so I am not reading this without her consent. She says:

“I must first introduce myself and share with you my own experience of domestic abuse. My name is Georgia Gabriel-Hooper. I am 17 and, along with my mother, I am a victim of domestic abuse. I was witness to the domestic homicide of my mother, only two months after my 14th birthday. I grew up with abuse in the home from a very early age. My parents divorced when I was two after my dad gambled and drank away all the money in the relationship, leaving my mum with major debts and a child to look after.

I faced the rigmarole of Cafcass, where it was decided that my father would get supervised contact for a period of time. He was soon allowed to see me away from the contact centre but subsequently chose to pay more attention to betting offices and alcohol than to his own daughter. I have now not seen him for five years, as he was more of a burden in my life than a parent.

My mum entered into another relationship while I was still young. This ended after several years, when I was aged approximately six. This relationship was extremely physically abusive towards myself, and we always found ourselves in the situation of having to make up excuses to people for why I was bruised. I used to be dragged up the stairs by my wrist and thrown into my room, even when I had not done anything wrong. I would be left with black bruises on my wrist and carpet burns and bruises from where I had tried to resist being taken away.

My mum was helpless in these situations: all she could do was stand and watch, as, if she intervened, it would only make the situation worse. We spent 10 months locking ourselves in a bedroom together at night, with three bolts fitted to the door to stop him being able to get to us. He also put nails in our car tyres and tacks on the drive. The police refused to do anything because the tacks he was putting down were on his own property, even though they were there with intent to harm.

Shortly after my seventh birthday, in 2010, my mum met my stepdad-to-be. At first, he was the most charming, lovely man, well respected by his peers. He was a farmer and undeniably intelligent. Andrew Hooper soon turned out to be our worst nightmare. He was an emotional abuser and extremely controlling and unpredictable. Unfortunately, my mum had a miscarriage roughly a year into their relationship. He made her sit on a wooden kitchen table all night and bleed into a bucket, as she was ‘dirty’ and ‘disgusting’. The abuse had already started long before this incident.

Coercive control is incredibly hard to spot. It is like carbon monoxide poisoning: you can’t see it, smell it or taste it until it is too late. My mum had a lot of friends and would often go out to meet them for a coffee or a meal at the pub. Andrew would punish my mum for this by giving her the silent treatment or humiliating her, in private or public. The mood swings and trouble that would come from venturing out eventually got too much, and my mum was cut off from a lot of friends. We could not even have people over to visit us, as he would make us all so uncomfortable that nobody wanted to come back, and my mum was too embarrassed to even ask.

At some point in the relationship, Andrew made Mum aware of a situation that had occurred in 2004 regarding his ex-wife which resulted in him pleading guilty to affray and receiving a four-year suspended sentence. However, we were never told the full details, and it would not have mattered either, as he would still have managed to manipulate us into thinking that that was okay. We, of course, did not know his ex-wife, which made it very easy for him to convince us that she was a psycho and deranged and that his actions were to rescue his son from her. By the time we found out what had really happened, it was, of course, too late.

Andrew and my mother wed in 2016. The problems were meant to go away, but they only got worse. At this point, he really did have my mum where he wanted her, and leaving was made even harder. Things came to a head in December 2017, when a drunken Andrew smashed a television and was messing around with guns in his cabinet in the middle of the row. It was at this point that my mum made the decision to leave. From start to finish, it lasted approximately six weeks.

We stayed at my nan and grandad’s until we could find a house that we could move into. We were incessantly stalked. He would be outside the house, monitoring when we were in. He would drive round to our friends’ houses, hoping to find us there, and, if we were not there, he would flip between crying and rage, trying to get them to convince Mum to go back. He told a close friend that, if he could not have her, nobody would.

He removed our car from the drive without us knowing, as he had found the spare key. He kept the car for a matter of days before apologising and letting us have it back. However, he had fitted a tracker to the car, so he knew every move. There was also a long string of suicide threats, including one where he drove to my mum’s place of work and sat outside with a loaded shotgun, saying he would kill himself then and there if she did not go to him.

We did manage to find a property that we could move into in early January 2018. We had been there for three weeks before Andrew murdered my mother. She had gone out with a friend for the evening, when Andrew showed up unexpectedly to question my mum about what she was doing. My mum was in an area she would never normally go to, so, suddenly, we realised that he had been tracking her car. He made threats to destroy our belongings but not of physical harm. I was at a friend’s house, and my mum had to text me to tell me to call him in an attempt to calm him down. I received an angry fit of rage down the phone from him; this was the last time he ever spoke to me.”

The letter continues: “The drive home was quiet, but full of tension and concern. As we pulled onto the drive, Andrew’s silver Land Rover Defender shot behind us, and he blocked us in. He got out of his vehicle and started trying to smash the driver’s side window. It was 11 o’clock at night and extremely dark; all I could see was his silhouette. I believed he may have had a spade or scaffolding pole in his hands. I jumped out of the car, and, despite being in a medical boot and on crutches for three months, I ran around the front of the car, trying to call the police. I was running towards him, to either be a distraction or to take the beating so that my mum could get out of the car.

I never made it to him. Before I got there, he fired a 19th-century vintage shotgun through the window, shattering it and penetrating my mum’s arm and chest. That was not enough to kill her, so he fired again at her neck, and the shot went through her collar bone, severing her arteries and spinal cord, and came out through her armpit. The last words my mum ever said were, “Oh my God, he’s here”. If I had not got out of the vehicle, I would have likely been permanently injured or killed too.

He was sentenced to life, with 31 years minimum before eligible for parole, in 2019. It was then that it came out about his previous convictions, and I found out the truth from court and also family members of his. He had broken into his ex-wife’s house with surgical gloves and a carving knife in the hand, threatening to kill her and leaving her with permanent mental scars. He was prosecuted for aggravated burglary but pleaded guilty to affray and received four years’ suspended sentence. Somehow, after this violent incident, he was still allowed to keep his shotgun licence, something that will for ever play on my mind.

Had Andrew been placed on a register or monitored more closely after this, my mum may never have even entered into a relationship with him. Yes, we have Clare’s law, but it has flaws. First, a potential victim has to reach out to the police to ask about a specific person. That is their choice: they are not automatically notified that the person is a known abuser and a danger to them. Another major flaw is the fact that someone may not even know what Clare’s law is or that they have the right to ask the police someone’s history in the first place.

My question to you is: we have a sex offenders register —why do we not have a domestic abusers register, when we know that domestic abuse is just as prevalent, life-threatening and damaging as any sexual assault or misconduct? My mum might still be alive today if this had been in place. Next Tuesday, 26 January, is the third anniversary of my mum’s murder. You can make a difference to stop more victims getting murdered or permanently mentally scarred when they could easily have been saved.

At the age of 17, I have no parents, because I was failed by a system that was meant to protect us and take domestic abuse seriously. Her name was Cheryl Gabriel-Hooper; never ever forget.”

This Bill presents an opportunity to create a real change to better protect women and girls. We must not delay any further—too many women and girls are paying with their lives.

Photo of Baroness Fox of Buckley Baroness Fox of Buckley Non-affiliated 3:15 pm, 10th February 2021

My Lords, when considering these amendments, I thought at first about tackling the perpetrators guilty of persistent stalking and constant and continued terrorising or harassment of the victim. The kind of stories that we have just heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Newlove, in the testimony about Cheryl is what came to mind. For anyone who has experienced, or known friends or family on the receiving end of, that kind of treatment—constantly living under the awful reality of fear, looking over one’s shoulder and sometimes then facing police indifference or negligence—that is what springs to mind, as it did for me when I first looked at these amendments.

Yet I have some real qualms and queries about these amendments and feel that, however emotive this topic is, we need to pause and be cool. At the very least, I think there is a need for more precision in terms of what or who we are talking about. Who, exactly, does this allow the law to target? What constitutes a serial offender? What constitutes a serious enough offence to trigger these kinds of perpetrator interventions? Are there any time limits at all on surveillance, the sharing of information or the labelling of someone as a perpetrator? I worry that we could bring our own prejudices and subjective views and assume that we all agree on who or what we are talking about.

The noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, stated as fact that

“past behaviour is the best predictor of future behaviour.”

I dispute that. It flies in the face of agency and the possibility of reform, and it is not necessarily the basis on which we should develop law. We should certainly suggest that it is not always true. We heard the terrible story of Colin, whose past behaviour went on and escalated. But this Bill broadly spells out abuse to include a huge range of different types of behaviour. Do we always think they will escalate and end up as murder?

We are told that if somebody moves and starts a new relationship or moves away, they must report to the police, but that assumes that they will always be an abuser. We assume the police should have the right under Clare’s law to warn partners. But again, I want to know: does that mean we consider abuse a permanent feature in somebody’s personality? I worry about a national system of surveillance that follows around somebody dubbed a perpetrator that involves all state agencies. This amounts to state stalking of those labelled as abusers. I worry when perpetrators are accused in this Bill of hiding in plain sight, as though they are permanently committing offences, when maybe they are living in plain sight as citizens who have done the time for their crime and are not offending. Why do we always see them as perpetrators?

Of course, the most extreme examples are being given here today, and some of those terrorising examples of the most violent abusers, leading to preventable murder, are what concern me and many others here. Yet this legislation has broadened the meaning of abuse to an ever-expanding number of behaviours, as though all of them are escalating behaviours. I worry about losing a sense of perspective and justice. I worry that we end up focusing on offenders, not offences. For legislators, that is nerve-wracking. I do not think that if somebody has been abusive, they should for ever be tarred as abusive or we should see it as predetermined that they will carry on.

We will go very close, if we are not careful, to seeing certain people as malevolent, dangerous and evil. Are we saying those who have ever committed any of the multitude of abuses named in this law are a peculiar breed of criminal who, inevitably, no matter what, will strike again, and will carry on posing an ongoing threat? It is far too reminiscent of outdated views about “criminal types”, and that view of people has a long, unsavoury history.

The noble Baroness, Lady Bertin, earlier asked us to “spot the signs”, but I am worried about us wandering around spotting signs in people. In an earlier part of this Committee, we were told that football matches and drinking might lead to domestic abuse. The “spotting the signs” version of legislative change strikes me as being too arbitrary and rather dangerous. Whenever we discuss domestic abuse, I often detect a lurking class prejudice. But the most important thing is the danger of lumping together a variety of individuals and behaviours.

I will make one point as an aside. Many noble Lords have mentioned that we all received a huge amount of information before these amendments were discussed. That is true, and in the debate so far those briefings have been used as evidence. I will make a caveated note about what constitutes evidence. When people stand up and say “But the evidence shows”, it is not quite the same as the evidence of the efficacy or safety of, for example, a vaccine against coronavirus. The evidence we are sent as legislators is often commissioned by, and presented by, lobbying organisations. Their briefing documents, much repeated in this House, might be repeated as facts or truth, but they are not always objective —or, in fact, factual. At the very least, we should recognise that they can be contentious. So, I ask for some caution that, while we want to deal with the most extreme examples, in the course even of this discussion facts and evidence have been thrown in that have been ideological than helpful.

Photo of Baroness Finn Baroness Finn Conservative

My Lords, we have debated at length whether our laws are sophisticated enough to catch all the terrible subtlety and invidiousness inherent in domestic abuse. It is important, though, that we also consider what can be done by way of prevention and reform. It is for this reason that I speak in support of Amendment 167 in the name of my noble friend Lady Bertin and other noble Lords.

I say, first, that not a penny should be spent on perpetrator programmes until we are sure the victim support provision is comprehensive. But where it is, we should also look at perpetrator strategies. We must do all we can to help victims, but our ultimate aim is to come as close as we can to eradicating domestic abuse from our society. Here, we are looking to reform individuals but also to weed out the idea that domestic violence is somehow a normal part of existence. Our targets are as much perpetrators as their children and extended families. It is right, then, that the Government should come forward with a perpetrator strategy, and one year should suffice to ensure it is sufficiently thought through and properly resourced.

In particular, I call attention to proposed new paragraph (a),

“improving the identification and assessment of perpetrators.”

Everything we have heard throughout the passage of this Bill has been about domestic abuse and its victims falling through the cracks—cracks in public health, cracks in early intervention, cracks in enforcement and cracks in sentencing. We need to get ahead of this crime wherever we can, and that means getting better at identifying perpetrators as well as victims to lessen damage and expedite justice and reform.

A large number of organisations, including those that support victims, have come forward to say they support this amendment and call for the Government to create a perpetrator strategy. The only caveat I would offer is that we should make sure that the strategy is thoughtful and comprehensive and that the programmes it offers are quality-assured. I read with interest the debate from the other place, where Members heard stories of providers that were not only opportunistic but unqualified bidding for contracts to provide perpetrator programmes. But if we get this right, the effects could be profound.

Other noble Lords have mentioned the Drive project, which works with high-risk, high-harm abusers—in other words, the worse and most dangerous perpetrators of domestic abuse. A University of Bristol evaluation found the Drive project reduced the number of perpetrators using physical abuse by 82%, and those displaying jealousy and controlling behaviour by 73%, and that it was similarly effective in reducing other types of abuse. In other words, if we have a strategy that supports quality-assured programmes such as these, we can prevent abuse, reform perpetrators and save lives.

My final point is a call for the Government to ensure that funding is available for such programmes consistently and universally. Local authority budgeting cycles or geographical location should never prevent such provision being available. The consequences are simply too profound for postcode lotteries. Domestic abuse is unfortunately ubiquitous and, if we are to attempt to eradicate it, our support programmes must be too.

Photo of Lord Strasburger Lord Strasburger Liberal Democrat 3:30 pm, 10th February 2021

My Lords, I support all the amendments in this group but I will focus my remarks on Amendment 167, to which I have added my name. This is a good Bill and it contains many well thought out provisions to help victims and survivors of domestic abuse, but it deals almost exclusively with the support of those victims after the abuse has occurred. That is commendable, but it is not enough. Surely we also need measures to stop abuse happening, so that there are fewer victims and there is less harm done to them and their children.

Amendment 167 focuses on the perpetrator rather than the victim to prevent repeat occurrences with the same victim or, as often happens, with fresh victims. If we want to reduce domestic abuse, we need to change the focus. Instead of asking “Why doesn’t she leave?”, we should be asking “Why doesn’t he stop?” We should be changing the dynamics of abusive relationships, making it clear that responsibility lies with the perpetrators of domestic violence and giving them tools to deal with their behaviour.

We already know, and we have heard again today, that high-quality interventions can substantially reduce or even stop violence and coercive control, which leads to happier and safer lives for victims, their children, and future generations. Amendment 167 calls for urgent research on the assessment and identification of perpetrators. Domestic violence does not come from nowhere. It often builds over time until outbursts of violence become commonplace. For example, we already know that non-fatal strangulation is a common signal of future, more serious violence and even murder. This research should lead to an increasing number of high-quality rehabilitation programmes, which should be checked for quality and based on best practice. The opportunity to make use of such a programme should no longer be a postcode lottery based on whether an appropriate charity is funded in your area. It currently amounts to a postcode lottery as to whether the one or two women who will be killed this week by their partner will be you, your daughter, your sister or your mum.

We should be ambitious in tackling the foothills of domestic abuse issues. Specialist work that challenges abusive attitudes and behaviours should be part of every school curriculum, so that every child knows what an abusive relationship looks like. We can teach the next generation to recognise the warning signs, so that they can avoid ever entering into such a relationship —either as an abuser or a victim. For those children who know all too well what domestic abuse looks like, we can give them the vocabulary and a place to talk about it, and chances to seek help to stop it.

We know that working with perpetrators brings success. The University of Bristol’s three-year study of over 500 cases, as we have heard earlier, shows an 82% drop in physical abuse and an 88% drop in sexual abuse. Similar dramatic drops in stalking and controlling behaviours are also seen after high-quality perpetrator programmes.

Domestic abuse leads to whole families living with the constant presence of fear at home. It leads to victims in a constant state of high alert, concealing physical and emotional damage, terrified almost every moment of every day, but with nowhere else to go. It leads to children feeling frightened, powerless, confused and angry, and their taking responsibility for events over which they have no control. They are unable to concentrate at school, unable to make friends, afraid to go home and afraid not to.

Domestic abuse leads to abusers feeling that the only way they know of staving off loneliness is to carry on controlling, beating, hurting, screaming, shouting and threatening, because no one who had a choice would ever live with them. Perpetrator intervention can reduce and even eliminate this pain, violence and death which leaks from relationship to relationship and generation to generation. We know this and now we have the chance to act on it. Amendment 167 is that chance, and I hope the Government will accept it into this Bill.

Photo of Lord Polak Lord Polak Conservative

My Lords, one is always left stunned and moved when listening to my noble friend Lady Newlove. I rise to support Amendment 167 in the name of my noble friend Lady Bertin and others. I congratulate her on her clear and persuasive introduction.

As I said last week when moving Amendment 176 in my own name, to truly tackle domestic abuse we must be bold. We need to take a holistic, whole-family approach, with targeted interventions to support adult victims to rebuild their lives, to support children experiencing domestic abuse and to ensure that perpetrators have access to quality programmes to prevent offending and reoffending. It is the quality programmes for perpetrators that Amendment 167 is addressing.

We know from MARAC data that there are at least 53,000 high-harm perpetrators in England and Wales at any given time. We know too that the Drive project which noble Lords have spoken about, set up by Respect, SafeLives and Social Finance, is probably the best-funded perpetrator intervention programme. It has suggested that it is working with just over 2,000 of the highest-harm perpetrators who pose a risk of murder or serious physical harm. It is important, it is praiseworthy and it is life-saving work, but 2,000 out of 53,000 is not even scratching the surface. As my noble friend Lady Newlove explained, so many are in danger now.

This timely and vitally important Bill is very welcome and has so much support, but this amendment is crucial. It is crucial that efforts are made to improve and enhance current perpetrator programmes, but it is also crucial to dramatically increase the number of programmes. I look to my noble friend the Minister to find a way to welcome this amendment, as it will enhance this vital legislation. As my noble friend Lady Bertin rightly said, it has support not only across this House but from countless organisations on the front line, from children’s organisations to the police, LEAs and—perhaps most tellingly—survivors themselves.

Photo of Lord Farmer Lord Farmer Conservative

My Lords, I am also pleased to speak in support of Amendment 167 in the name of my noble friend Lady Bertin. I am pleased to follow my noble friend Lord Polak in his encouragements for this amendment to be made law, particularly because of the emphasis on prevention as well as perpetrators in the strategy. It is essential to focus adequately on perpetrators, but this is late intervention. It needs to be properly matched with a root-and-branch approach to early intervention, preventing, where possible, the precursors to violence and abuse from developing into full-blown perpetration.

There is very little mention of prevention in the Bill as it currently stands, yet adopting a prevention paradigm is indispensable for reducing the staggeringly high levels of domestic abuse reported in this country over the long term. This requires acknowledging that in this area of policy, as in so many others, people cannot be treated as individuals, because their identity, health and well-being fundamentally depend on their relationships. As well as being a crime, domestic abuse is a problem with a relationship or set of relationships, and if we are ever to get ahead of its dreadful curve, a cross-government approach to strengthening families before, during and after abuse occurs is utterly foundational.

I could substantiate this in very many ways. The noble Baroness, Lady Casey, when she led the Government’s troubled families programme, highlighted the ubiquity of domestic violence in the families being helped. Evidence suggests that the most powerful contributors to domestic abuse in our society are rooted in the relationships people have and are witnesses to when they are young. This needs to be addressed in a prevention paradigm. Childhood exposure to domestic violence and child physical abuse are two of the most powerful predictors of both perpetrating and receiving domestic abuse as an adult. Domestic violence between parents increases the likelihood of violence in their children’s later relationships by 189%. The public understand this. Polling carried out by the Centre for Social Justice, albeit in 2011, found that most of the population—73% of adults—think that if we want to tackle domestic abuse, we have to recognise that many perpetrators have themselves been victims of abuse.

Childhood neglect can mean that individuals enter adult life unable to regulate their emotions and communicate with others. They often have intrusive memories of violence, think badly about themselves or others and are at risk of struggling profoundly when they become partners and parents. Obviously, there are other cultural influences, such as misogyny and enduring beliefs that it is okay, under certain circumstances, to resolve arguments with violence. These can be tackled also with social marketing. In Hull, they put up posters with slogans such as “Real Men Don’t Hit Women”.

Low income is consistently associated with, and indeed worsened by, domestic abuse. Victims’ ability to work is hampered by psychological and physical effects, and restricting their access to work is a form of abuse of economic control. Money worries make conflict about finances more likely to trigger aggression. It can also threaten men’s identity where lack of money is associated with lack of male power. Men denied power through social status can seek it in violence, social control and subjugation of women.

Alcohol and drugs are also massive drivers. In almost two-fifths of domestic violence incidents, the perpetrator is under the influence of alcohol; in one-fifth of cases, under the influence of drugs; and sometimes, both. Substances hamper social and problem-solving skills and the ability to control emotions and they lower inhibitions, but the link between alcohol and violence is socially learned. This and the other factors cited above, including adversity in childhood, are never excuses; they simply help to explain. Many men and women with the most desperate back stories never resort to abuse. They may even determine to alchemise adversity into kindness towards themselves and others.

Finally, if we are to prevent revictimisation, we have to recognise that victims are often unable to break free of the psychological drivers embedded in their past experiences. These can contribute to them becoming enmeshed in an abusive relationship in the first place, and help explain why they feel so ambivalent towards the perpetrator and end up in other abusive relationships. Between 40% and 56% of women experiencing domestic abuse have had a previously abusive relationship. In one study, 66% of refuge residents had previously left and returned to their abusive partner; 97% of these women had done so on multiple occasions. These are sobering statistics because the impact of abusive relationships is cumulative; so much of the harm associated with domestic abuse is due to multiple victimisation.

I hope that I have given the Government a steer as to what a prevention strategy would look like. It would acknowledge the effects of low income, substance misuse and culture, but primarily focus on early intervention in families and be explicit about the relational character of domestic abuse. It would highlight the role of family hubs as places people can go to get help in this area, including when early signs of violence are seen in children and young people. In summary, families and family relationships can no longer be neglected in solutions to this most heinous of social problems.

Photo of Baroness Burt of Solihull Baroness Burt of Solihull Liberal Democrat 3:45 pm, 10th February 2021

My Lords, the Lib Dem group strongly supports this group of amendments—noble Lords might have already guessed that from the number of Liberal Democrat speakers we have had already this afternoon—so I shall try to be brief. It is a hugely important group of amendments because it takes us off the back foot in dealing with perpetrators and gives us a chance of keeping track of them, preventing further offending and helping them to change their behaviour for good. We have heard several harrowing examples, and several noble Lords have made the point in respect of Amendment 167 that it is the perpetrator who must change, not the victim.

Amendment 164 strengthens the ability of the law to register and track serial stalkers and domestic abusers so that they can be registered on ViSOR, the violent and sex offender register, and be subject to supervision, monitoring and management through MAPPA. I add my thanks to Laura Richards, founder of the Paladin group, for her excellent briefing. Domestic abuse and stalking are the only areas of offending where serial abusers are not routinely and proactively identified and managed by police, probation and the prison service across the UK. This has serious consequences for the safety of women and children. There are many pockets of excellent good practice across the country but no systematic approach and no systematic tracking—a failure of systems so tellingly described by the noble Baroness, Lady Newlove. Her story of Cheryl Gabriel-Hooper will stay with me for a long time.

My noble friend Lady Brinton strongly argues that we desperately need a strong, national, co-ordinated approach, and cited several harrowing examples, including her own, to prove her case. She calls this “murder in slow motion” and talks about under-reporting and inaccurate reporting on the MAPPA database, as have several other noble Lords. As things stand, the stalker or abuser can remain one step ahead, free to pick his next unwitting victim with a head start on the police, whose response between different forces is patchy. This is not good enough: now is the time and this is the place to lay down legislation to get on the front foot—legislation based on facts, not ideology, as urged by the noble Baroness, Lady Fox.

Amendment 167, to which I have added my name, requires the formation of a national perpetrator strategy. I understand that the Government instituted the first ever fund for perpetrator work last October, but I gather that there are big teething problems. Will the Minister update the Committee on this, and particularly the fact that part of the fund allocated for research must be spent by the end of this financial year, but the research bodies have only just been informed of their grants and have not even received the go-ahead to start spending? Can the Minister confirm that this deadline will be extended?

I and many other noble Lords are very grateful to the Drive Project for its briefing. It shocks me to learn that Drive, whose work has already been commended, including by my noble friend Lord Strasburger, says that only 1% of perpetrators get a specialist intervention that might help prevent further abuse, yet research shows that one perpetrator in four is a repeat offender, and some have up to six victims. It is a vicious cycle. Drive’s work has shown how perpetrator interventions can stop this cycle, which not only blights whole families, but spreads like a canker down the generations.

We invest huge amounts of money in dealing with the damage perpetrators have wrought, but that is next to nothing compared to stopping the vicious cycle and enabling perpetrators to turn their and their families’ lives around. Investment now will benefit untold numbers of people, not just those directly affected today. Let us pass this amendment, and reap the rewards today and into the future.

Amendment 177B, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, is very similar to Amendment 167 but is more generous to the Government, giving them two years to establish a comprehensive perpetrator strategy. If the Government will commit to two years today, that is a done deal as far as I am concerned.

Photo of Lord Kennedy of Southwark Lord Kennedy of Southwark Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Shadow Spokesperson (Housing)

My Lords, like others, I thank Laura Richards for her excellent briefing, which has been a precursor to an excellent debate on these amendments. I fully support Amendment 164, proposed by my noble friend Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, with my noble friend Lady Royall of Blaisdon and the noble Baronesses, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb and Lady Brinton, as I do Amendment 167 tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Bertin, which I was delighted to sign, and Amendment 177B tabled by my noble friend Lord Hunt of Kings Heath.

With these three amendments the Government have effectively been given a whole range of options to choose from. My noble friend Lord Hunt of Kings Heath’s Amendment 177B would require the Government to lay before Parliament a national perpetrator strategy within two years of the Bill passing into law. I agree with my noble friend Lady Royall that my noble friend Lord Hunt is probably being a bit too generous to the Government in allowing them two years. The amendment from the noble Baroness, Lady Bertin, would require a comprehensive strategy focusing on prevention and how to deal with perpetrators within one year of the passing of this Bill into law. The lead amendment in this group from my noble friend Lord Hunt sets out a comprehensive framework in which to deal with perpetrators of domestic abuse and stalkers, and would require a report to be laid before Parliament within six months of the Bill being enacted.

It was good to hear my noble friend set out a range of organisations that support this multiagency approach. I also pay tribute to my noble friend Lady Royall of Blaisdon for her years of work on this issue. She has raised these matters again and again, and we are all very grateful to her for that.

We have heard previously that domestic abuse, coercive control and stalking are escalating crime: the behaviours can persist over many years and escalate, and more crimes of increasing levels of abuse and harm are committed. This amendment raises the need for joined- up, multiagency working in tackling and managing perpetrators in the community. My noble friend Lord Hunt highlighted two horrific cases where a proper, all-encompassing approach is needed to deal with these perpetrators.

I recalled, while listening to this debate, the day I spent at the domestic violence unit of the Metropolitan Police in the Royal Borough of Greenwich—I still recall the horrific acts of violence I was apprised of. I was so impressed with the officers in the unit and the way they worked closely with the local authority. It is quite clear that, by working together, the council and the police officers of the unit were helping victims and saving them from further abuse and, in some cases, the risk of being murdered.

I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Bertin, who spoke about this multiagency approach and referred to research by Durham University and London Metropolitan University. It was good to see that violence inflicted on victims reduced when that work took place. I also endorse her comments on internet companies and platforms. I know we will come to this in another Bill, but these companies, which are making a lot of money, really need to step up to ensure that their tools are not used to aid abusers. We need to deal with that very soon.

As many noble Lords mentioned, we need a culture change. We need to get to a situation where these offences are viewed as totally unacceptable and as the disgusting, evil acts they are. That culture change is what this strategy is all about. We must break the cycle where children witness abuse—I think the noble Lord, Lord Farmer, mentioned this—and risk becoming the abused or abusers many years later. To do that, we need effective action.

When the noble Baroness, Lady Bertin, mentioned drink-driving, I remembered watching a programme featuring Barbara Castle, who got death threats for introducing the breathalyser. She appeared on a programme called “The World This Weekend”, where the journalist said to her that it was a rotten idea to bring in the breathalyser. He said, “You’re only a woman; you do not drive; what do you know about it?” Thankfully, things have changed, but I hope we get to a point where these disgusting offences are viewed as we view drink-drivers today, who now face bans and fines, risk imprisonment in serious cases and at best are viewed as completely reckless, irresponsible, stupid idiots. That is the sort of culture we need here: let us get to a place where we can have that, because women’s lives will be saved, we will have better men and better, happier relationships, and we will not have children witnessing abuse and becoming abusers or victims in later life. The noble Baroness, Lady Eaton, also referred to that in her contribution.

My noble friend Lord Rooker talked again about breaking silos in government. He was a Minister for many years in the previous Labour Government and knows all about how government works. I very much agree with him. I have a similar problem campaigning to get these GP letters banned: I am tackling the Department of Health and Social Care, the Home Office, the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. I have four departments trying to get it sorted out, but I hope that we will finally get somewhere on that issue.

The noble Lord, Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames, said we need to get the outcomes right. I fully support that.

It is always a privilege to listen to the noble Baroness, Lady Newlove. Her story about Cheryl Hooper was harrowing, but sadly not unique. As I said, when I went to the domestic violence unit at Greenwich they gave me a number of redacted statements to read. What struck me in reading about these awful events was that they were not some story, but were happening to real people—the most appalling things being done by one human being to another. It was dreadful. All these things started off with, “I met someone; we were happy; then the abuse escalated.” It gets to the point where people are at real risk of losing their lives.

I did not agree with the contribution of the noble Baroness, Lady Fox of Buckley. Of course perpetrators can be rehabilitated—we want people to be rehabilitated —but what we are proposing is about protecting victims and developing a strategy to control perpetrators, help victims and save lives, and to stop the years of abuse that victims can suffer. Some may not be killed, but can undergo years of abuse and a terrible life. We must stop that.

I also do not agree that there is some suggestion or implication in the briefings or from noble Lords’ comments that this offence is committed only by working-class people. I think I have been here for most of the debates and I have not seen that. I do not believe it either. I come from a working-class background, having grown up on a council estate near Elephant and Castle, and I just do not believe that is the case. I have also been told by the police that, when they get the perpetrators in, they are from all walks of life—they can be very rich people with well-paid jobs who are doing very well, such as lawyers. All sorts of people across the spectrum can be victims or perpetrators. That is one of the things about this offence; it does not affect any one group, and we need to ensure we get that right.

I agree very much with the noble Lord, Lord Farmer, about the determining factor with children; we must stop that. We can all point to things that have happened. The one thing that was a real shame was disbanding the Sure Start programme from 2010 onwards. That was a mistake. The centres are the family hubs that he talks about.

This has been a good debate and I look forward to the noble Baroness’s response. I hope at the next stage of this Bill we can come forward with the strategy to put in it.

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department 4:00 pm, 10th February 2021

My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, that this has been a very good debate. I join noble Lords in commending the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, who has done a huge amount of work in this area and with whom I have worked over several years now. I think she would join me in paying tribute to John Clough—his daughter met her death at the hands of a serial stalker—and his family. I also pay tribute to Cheryl Hooper; I had not heard that story until my noble friend Lady Newlove talked about it today.

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy of Southwark, that it is a classless crime. When I visited my noble friend Lady Barran’s charity, SafeLives, way back when and heard the various testimonies, it really underlined the fact that it does not matter who you are or where you are from: this can affect you. The noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, also gave a very moving testimony. I also echo my noble friend Lord Farmer’s point about the cycle of abuse. I join him in paying tribute to the troubled families programme which, as its name suggests, takes a whole-family approach to the issue of domestic abuse.

I will deal first with Amendment 164 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Royall. This seeks to amend the Criminal Justice Act 2003 so that individuals convicted of more than one domestic abuse or stalking offence should automatically be subject to management under Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements. Management under MAPPA may result in these individuals being recorded on ViSOR, the dangerous persons database.

The amendment also seeks to place a duty on the Government to issue a report six months after Royal Assent to review these changes to the Criminal Justice Act. This review would include details of consideration given to assessing and managing the risks of domestic abuse or stalking posed by perpetrators convicted of offences other than those outlined in the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 for stalking or an offence for behaviour that amounts to domestic abuse within the meaning of Clause 1 of the Bill.

I agree with the intentions behind this amendment. We want to make sure that we have the right systems in place to allow the police and partner agencies to identify the risks posed by high-harm, repeat and serial perpetrators and to act accordingly to protect victims. However, the provisions in the Criminal Justice Act 2003 already provide for these offenders to be managed under MAPPA arrangements.

Individuals who are convicted of offences listed in Schedule 15 to the 2003 Act and sentenced to 12 months or more are automatically eligible for management under MAPPA category 2 when on licence. These offences include domestic abuse-related offences such as threats to kill, actual and grievous bodily harm, and attempted strangulation, as well as harassment and stalking involving fear of violence or serious alarm or distress within the Protection from Harassment Act. There is also discretion for people who have been convicted of other domestic abuse or stalking offences and who have been assessed as posing a risk of serious harm to be managed under MAPPA category 3.

Guidance makes it clear that MAPPA should be actively considered in every case of domestic abuse. The guidance specifies that offenders should be considered for category 3 where they demonstrate a pattern of offending behaviour indicating serious harm, such as domestic abuse, that was not reflected in the charge on which the offender was actually convicted, are convicted of the controlling or coercive behaviour offence, or are serial domestic abuse perpetrators. My instinct is that instead of amending the current legislation, there is probably more value in making better use of the existing MAPPA framework and related police systems and we recognise the need to strengthen the use of these. Listening to noble Lords, I do not think that they would inherently disagree with that point. The noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, pointed out what she saw as some of the deficiencies undermining it.

It is also true that not all victims of domestic abuse call the police and not all victims wish to pursue a criminal justice outcome against their abuser. There are many other statutory agencies involved in families’ lives, not just the police, which is why effective multi-agency working is so vital to ensuring that the risks faced by victims of domestic abuse and their children are properly identified and assessed. I do not think noble Lords would disagree with that either. That is why the package of non-legislative action that underpins the Bill covers the full range of front-line professionals with a role to play in protecting and supporting victims of domestic abuse, including schools, children’s social care, job centres, the NHS and local authorities.

My noble friend Lady Newlove and the noble Baroness, Lady Fox, mentioned Clare’s law, otherwise known as the domestic violence disclosure scheme. It already provides a system for the police to inform partners and ex-partners of a person convicted of domestic abuse-related offences about that person’s offending history. Importantly, that is from both a right-to-know and a right-to-ask point of view. Clause 70 places the guidance for the police on the DVDS on a statutory footing. This will help to improve awareness and consistent operation of the scheme across police forces.

Work has already begun on improving existing police information systems. I am pleased to say that we have already completed the first phase of work, looking into the current functionality of ViSOR. The College of Policing has issued a set of principles for police forces on the identification, assessment and management of serial or potentially dangerous domestic abuse and stalking perpetrators. More generally, as part of the £10 million funding announced by the Chancellor in last year’s spring Budget, we have now allocated £7.2 million—the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, referred to it—in 28 funding awards to police and crime commissioners for the introduction of perpetrator programmes for domestic abuse, including stalking, such as the Drive Project that noble Lords have been referring to so positively.

There are also existing provisions in the Bill that will help to improve the management of the risk posed by domestic abuse perpetrators. The new domestic abuse protection orders—DAPOs—will provide an additional tool for managing the risk posed by perpetrators by enabling courts to impose a range of conditions, including electronic monitoring, or tagging, and positive requirements. DAPOs will also require perpetrators subject to an order to notify the police of their name and address and any change in this information, and that will help the police to monitor perpetrators’ whereabouts and the risk that they pose to victims.

Regarding stalking specifically, in January of last year we introduced new civil stalking protection orders, which can also impose positive requirement conditions on perpetrators. These orders, which were welcomed by most stalking charities, enable early police intervention pre conviction to address stalking behaviours before they become deep-rooted or escalate. Therefore, while we agree with the spirit of the noble Baroness’s amendments, we do not feel that it is necessary to accept them at this stage.

I am similarly supportive of the intention behind Amendments 167 and 177B, which call on the Government to prepare a domestic abuse perpetrator strategy. The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, has been more generous in his time than my noble friend Lady Bertin, and that has been spotted and pointed out already, but the substance of the two amendments is the same. The Government are clear that we must hold perpetrators to account for their actions, and we are ambitious in our aim to prevent these destructive crimes happening in the first place. My noble friends Lord Polak and Lord Farmer spoke very eloquently about that.

I am also sympathetic to the aims outlined in the calls to action for a perpetrator strategy, which are reflected in the amendments. We recognise that more work is needed to improve the response to perpetrators, and in particular to increase the provision of effective perpetrator interventions. I assure the Committee that we already have a programme of work under way to address the issues raised by the amendments and by the calls to action.

What we are not persuaded of is the need for an inflexible legislative requirement for a perpetrator strategy, but the Government of course endorse the need for such a strategy. Indeed, I can inform the Committee that, later this year, the Government will bring forward a new, ambitious strategy to tackle the abhorrent crime of domestic abuse. This strategy will be holistic in its approach to tackling domestic abuse and will outline our ambitions not only to prevent offending but to protect victims and ensure that they have the support they need. It is right that we have a strategy that takes a holistic approach to tackling domestic abuse.

In the meantime, we are building our evidence base to inform this work. As part of his spring Budget last year, the Chancellor allocated £10 million to fund innovative approaches to tackling perpetrators and preventing domestic abuse. As I have said, more than £7 million of this has been allocated in 28 funding awards to PCCs from all areas of England and Wales to support the adoption of a range of domestic abuse perpetrator-focused programmes in their area. To strengthen the evidence base of what works in preventing reoffending, as part of this funding, PCCs will be required to conduct an evaluation of their project to measure outcomes for perpetrators, victims and survivors of domestic abuse.

We value the importance of research in helping to improve our understanding of perpetrators of domestic abuse. That is why we will also be funding a range of research projects that focus on topics including drivers and aggravating factors, and what works in preventing offending, identifying perpetrators and improving understanding of underrepresented groups to further aid our understanding of perpetrators of domestic abuse. I will provide the noble Baroness, Lady Burt, with more details on this, but I know that the contracts have gone out today. I think she will agree that the findings from this research will play a key role in helping to shape the domestic abuse strategy.

In addition, the designate domestic abuse commissioner, Nicole Jacobs, has already begun mapping the range of interventions currently available for non-convicted perpetrators who are showing signs of abusive behaviour, which will allow us to better assess where there is unmet need for this cohort.

I must mention two things that have come out consistently today—and I really welcome their mention. My noble friends Lady Bertin and Lord Farmer, and the noble Lords, Lord Rooker and Lord Kennedy, talked about a whole of government approach. They are absolutely right. This does not exist in a vacuum in the Home Office; it needs a whole of government approach to get it right. The noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, gave a very good example of the GP letters, which I think we have not heard the last of. The noble Lord, Lord Strasburger, talked about sex and relationships education in schools being such a much-needed development in teaching school-aged children what healthy relationships look like, because some of them may be witnessing domestic violence in their own home. It was of course made compulsory as of last September. Several noble Lords, including the noble Lords, Lord Hunt, Lord Rooker and Lord Kennedy, talked about the culture change that is needed, and I could not agree more.

Finally, I hope that noble Lords will agree that the work currently under way to achieve a comprehensive package of perpetrator programmes and improve our understanding of what works in managing offenders and preventing reoffending, as well as our upcoming domestic abuse strategy that will look to incorporate this, already meets the essence of these amendments and, on that basis, I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, and, through her, the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, I think, will be content to withdraw the amendment.

Photo of Lord McNicol of West Kilbride Lord McNicol of West Kilbride Deputy Chairman of Committees 4:15 pm, 10th February 2021

I have received two requests to speak after the Minister: from the noble Lords, Lord McCrea and Lord Kennedy. First, I call the noble Lord, Lord McCrea of Magherafelt and Cookstown.

Photo of Lord McCrea of Magherafelt and Cookstown Lord McCrea of Magherafelt and Cookstown DUP

My Lords, acknowledging that rehabilitation programmes are an essential part of tackling these abhorrent abusive attitudes and actions, can the Minister tell your Lordships’ House who will take the lead in any co-ordinated approach, bringing together such a multiagency strategy so we can ensure that any programme will not be cosmetic but meaningful and productive?

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department

Clearly, the Home Office will take the lead, but I acknowledge the challenges in trying to work across government to try to bring it all together. Of course, the Department for Education will take the lead for schools.

Photo of Lord Kennedy of Southwark Lord Kennedy of Southwark Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Shadow Spokesperson (Housing)

I may have misheard the Minister, but did not she say that one of her reasons for not accepting any of the amendments was that it would be restrictive to place these things in the Bill? You can perhaps argue that Amendment 164 is a bit more prescriptive, but the other two amendments, other than setting a time limit for a report, set no restrictions at all. They would just steer the Government to get on with the matter in good time. Beyond that, I do not see that they are restrictive at all.

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department

The point I was trying to make—and I hope the noble Lord will accept it—is that we do not need to put it in the Bill, because you are always restricted by primary legislation. But I voiced my intention that the Government want to do this.

Photo of Lord McNicol of West Kilbride Lord McNicol of West Kilbride Deputy Chairman of Committees

I call the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, to speak on behalf of the noble Baroness, Lady Royall.

Photo of Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Labour

My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken and to my noble friend Lady Royall for her fantastic work in this challenging area. It has been an extraordinary debate. As the noble Baroness, Lady Bertin, said, perpetrators have for too long been ignored and it is those very perpetrators who must change their behaviour—not the victims.

The noble Baroness, Lady Jones, spoke about the importance of changing the culture. That was echoed by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, who talked about the changes in culture—but, as he said, they need to go further. The noble Earl, Lord Lytton, spoke about good practices in his local patch but, as he said, funding has been vulnerable; it is too patchy and we need national action.

The noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, was very effective in referring to Laura Richards’s powerful and shocking report. As she said, murders do not happen in a vacuum. Never again should a woman be murdered following a report by her to the police about the perpetrator.

My noble friend Lord Rooker, echoed by my noble friend Lord Kennedy, stressed the importance of cross-Whitehall action. He said that it is not easy. I agree with him. However—my noble friend Lord Rooker will have experienced this—when we had public service agreements across government departments, it brought them together. I commend that approach to the Government.

The noble Lord, Lord Marks, said that Amendment 164 was needed to ensure that new partners who know nothing of the past behaviour of a perpetrator are informed and protected. The noble Baroness, Lady Newlove, as a former Victims’ Commissioner and also personally, spoke movingly about her husband’s murder and the systematic failures that we still seek to confront. Then there was the moving case of Cheryl Gabriel-Hooper. I am so grateful to Georgia Gabriel-Hooper for allowing her story to be quoted by the noble Baroness.

The noble Baroness, Lady Fox, disagreed with my assertion that past behaviour is the best predictor of future behaviour and is worried about state incursion. We know enough to suggest that we need a more proactive approach. On her suggestion of a lack of evidence, I suggest that evidence-based research should form part of the perpetrator strategy that we are all calling for.

I agree with the noble Lords, Lord Strasburger and Lord Farmer, who stressed the importance of a preventative approach and early intervention. The noble Baroness, Lady Burt, spoke about the need for us to get off the back foot and change the law to give us the ability to track serial abusers and stalkers. My noble friend Lord Kennedy echoed my tribute to my noble friend Lady Royall and spoke about the need for joined-up agency working. I agree with him about Sure Start also. Finally, the noble Baronesses, Lady Wyld, Lady Eaton and Lady Finn, and the noble Lord, Lord Polak, spoke forcefully in favour of a strategy.

I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, for her very considered response. She said that she agreed with the intention behind my noble friend Lady Royall’s Amendment 164 but that existing provisions already provide what my noble friend is seeking to achieve. Ministers clearly think that more value could be made by the better use of MAPPA as it is now. I certainly agree that improving the way in which we do things under the current legislation and guidance would help. However, from all the submissions that we have seen, improvements to the current system will not be sufficient. Nor does £7 million, welcome as it is, seem anywhere close to what is needed.

On Amendments 167 and 177B, the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, said that she was sympathetic but did not want legislative provision and that work would proceed without it. However, legislative back-up in relation to a strategy would be a visible sign of its importance.

On the merits of the three amendments, all I would say is that they are consistent in embracing the detail contained in the amendment of my noble friend Lady Royall, with stress on a strategic approach in Amendments 167 and 177B. As the noble Lord, Lord Marks, said, it is not about the drafting but the outcome. We need a new MAPPA and category 4, and a new strategy and resources. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 164 withdrawn.

Photo of Lord McNicol of West Kilbride Lord McNicol of West Kilbride Deputy Chairman of Committees

We now come to the group beginning with Amendment 165. I remind noble Lords that anyone wishing to speak after the Minister should email the clerk during the debate. Anyone wishing to press this or anything else in this group to a Division must make that clear in the debate.