Domestic Abuse Bill - Report (3rd Day) – in the House of Lords at 6:00 pm on 15th March 2021.
Moved by Baroness Royall of Blaisdon
73: 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), after paragraph (a) 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 defined in 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 12 months of this Act being passed the Secretary of State must commission a review into the operation of the provisions of this section.(6) The Secretary of State must lay before Parliament a report setting out the findings of the review under subsection (5) which must include a comprehensive prevention and perpetrator strategy for domestic abusers and stalkers for the purposes of—(a) improving the early identification, assessment and management of perpetrators;(b) increasing the number of rehabilitation programmes;(c) increasing specialist work to tackle abusive attitudes and behaviour; and(d) ensuring a co-ordinated approach to data collection and management of perpetrators across England and Wales.””Member’s explanatory statementThis amendment amends the Criminal Justice Act 2003, which provides for the establishment of MAPPAs, to make arrangements for serial domestic abuse or stalking perpetrators to be registered on VISOR and be subjected to supervision, monitoring and management through MAPPA. It would require the Government to provide a comprehensive perpetrator strategy for domestic abusers and stalkers within one year of the Act being passed.
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, who moved my amendment in Committee; to the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, and the noble Lord, Lord Russell, for also adding their names to the amendment; to the noble Baroness, Lady Newlove, whom I regard as my noble friend, who cannot speak due to procedural issues but who has given me her strong support; to my right honourable friend Yvette Cooper MP, who moved a similar amendment in the Commons; and to the Minister, for all the work that she has done on this important Bill—as she knows, I hold her in the highest esteem.
We have been on a long journey, but there is more to do to tackle gender-based violence and misogyny. Following the appalling murder of Sarah Everard, it is with deep sadness but increased determination that I speak to my Amendment 73. The disappearance and murder of Sarah highlights yet again the fear and reality of male violence for all women. The one thing that unites all women is the fear of male violence. As Margaret Atwood once said, men are afraid that women will laugh at them; women are afraid that men will kill them.
Women are tired of domestic abuse and stalking being considered a women’s issue. They have spent years being told that they should change their behaviour, they have made thousands of reports to the police which have not been listened to or properly recorded and they are desperate for change. The culture of misogyny has to change. Just last week, women were told not to go out after dark—the same advice that was given after the Peter Sutcliffe murders 40 years ago. As ever, the onus was put on women, whereas violence against women is a man’s problem. We need men to step up, to take ownership and responsibility and to create the urgently needed change that holds other men to account for their behaviours. We need to focus on perpetrators.
This is a time to look to the future to prevent the violence, abuse, coercive control, stalking and murder of women in our society. I cannot help but reflect, however, on the fact that, together with victims, survivors, their families and professionals, we have been urging the Government for many years to legislate for the effective identification, risk assessment and management of perpetrators and their inclusion on a national register.
Laura Richards, in the 2004 report Getting Away with It, a profile of domestic violence, sexual and serious offenders, published by the Metropolitan Police Service, highlighted that many domestic abusers and stalkers are serial perpetrators who go from victim to victim and that one in 12 of them raped inside and outside the home. The recommendation was made for serial domestic abusers and stalkers to be proactively identified, assessed and managed by police, prison and probation services, using the Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements and the violent and sexual offenders database. However, 17 years later, this is still not happening.
Two HMIC inspections revealed deeply troubling findings. The 2014 inspection into the police response to domestic abuse revealed no risk management of perpetrators, and the 2017 HMICFRS report into stalking revealed 100% failure by every police service and Crown Prosecution Service in six areas. Recommendations were made in both reports, but action was there none.
I draw your Lordships’ attention to four cases that are personally known to me, in which women were failed abysmally by lack of action and by not having a register or a perpetrators strategy including risk assessment and management. Jane Clough, an A&E nurse, warned police that her violent ex-partner Jonathan Vass was going to kill her when she separated from him. Vass coercively controlled Jane and threatened to kill her when she left him. He raped her repeatedly and assaulted her. Jane was terrified when Vass was bailed, having been charged with seven counts of rape and three assaults. She moved to her parents’ house, the extraordinary John and Penny, with her baby. She did not leave the house for three months because she was so scared, but Vass started stalking her on Facebook. He waited for her to return to work from maternity leave and arrive at the hospital car park, and stabbed her 71 times. He had a history of abusing other women that was not joined up.
Hollie Gazzard was stalked and murdered by Asher Maslin in the hairdressing salon in which she worked. Hollie reported to police many times. There was no proactive investigation, risk assessment or risk management, despite Maslin being involved in 24 previous violent offences, including three on Hollie, 12 on former partners, three on his mother and four on others.
Helen Pearson called Devon and Cornwall Police 144 times over five years. She told police that she thought the person writing threatening graffiti saying, “Die, Helen, die”, damaging her car and putting out the windows of her flat was a man called Joe Willis. Helen was terrorised and became a virtual prisoner in her own home. Each time she reported another terrifying event, Helen told the police that it was part of a pattern and she read out the crime report number. The police closed the investigation and Helen attempted to take her own life, as she was at her wits’ end, but the abuse continued to escalate. Not only was Helen and her property targeted, but he targeted her parents and made their lives a living hell. The police did not investigate him, nor was he ever spoken with despite the fact that he had a history. Two weeks before he grabbed Helen off the street and stabbed her eight times with a pair of scissors, he left a dead and tortured cat on her doorstep. At no point was Helen or Willis proactively risk assessed or managed. The police in fact focused on investigating Helen, as they believed that she was making it up.
Zoe Dronfield was almost killed by Jason Smith, who had previously abused 13 women. No one checked his history and she was told to get a nicer boyfriend. His history was all at one police force, the West Midlands. He had victimised a police officer before Zoe, who said that he would seriously harm or kill a woman one day, yet nothing was done.
“Domestic abuse and stalking perpetrators can already be captured on the dangerous persons database and managed by police and probation under multiagency public protection arrangements, or MAPPA.”—[Official Report, 10/10/17; col. 106.]
We knew at the time that that was not working and now we have even more proof, with more women living in fear, being abused physically or mentally or, at worst, being murdered.
In that time, a great deal of guidance has been issued: a new framework has been adopted by Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service, setting out arrangements for working with people whose convictions or behaviours include domestic abuse; and the College of Policing has adopted a set of eight principles on the
“identification, assessment and management of serial or potentially dangerous domestic abuse and stalking perpetrators”.
The amount of money being spent by charities on programmes to work with perpetrators has increased, thanks to the Government. All of this is very good, but not enough.
Since the Second Reading of this Bill in your Lordships’ House on
In a recent meeting with the Minister and her officials, for which I am grateful, it was agreed that the current system is not working. It was suggested that the problems resulted from gaps in practice, rather than gaps in process, and that more strategies and guidance will suffice. It will not. No matter how many tools are added to the tool-box, the gaps between practice and process will not be narrowed, as they must be, until there is a coherent and co-ordinated national system and those implementing the process have to do so by law. It is, for example, not good enough to rely on best practice; we know that that does not work. There are some great examples of best practice, but they are rare. That is why we need a clear, consistent, national approach, which must include the proper identification, assessment and management of serious perpetrators.
The amendment makes explicit the importance of utilising data and technology in the prevention of domestic abuse and the management of perpetrators. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Russell of Liverpool, will focus on this. However, it is important to stress that, at the moment, perpetrators travel with impunity, but information about them is static.
On process, domestic abuser and stalker cases are currently not heard at MAPPA meetings. Ofttimes the cases are not seen as “serious”, despite guidance, and specialist domestic abuse and stalking services are not invited to attend MAPPA. Ofttimes there may be no physical abuse but high levels of coercive control. This is not seen as a risk by most professionals, yet research shows that it correlates significantly with femicide. In 94% of murders of women there was coercive control preceding separation and stalking post separation. That comes from a report from the University of Gloucestershire in 2017. The fact that a perpetrator is serial also increases the risk, yet this is not currently taken into consideration.
That is why my amendment requires a change in the law to create a new category—category 4—to ensure that serial and high-harm domestic abusers and stalkers are identified, monitored and managed by MAPPA-plus. MAPPA-plus would include domestic abuse, coercive control and stalking specialists around the table. This would create much-needed clarity that these perpetrators must be proactively identified, assessed and managed by police, prison and probation via the statutory body of MAPPA. A new category would arguably create more clarity and ensure that perpetrators did not get lost or deprioritised among others. Guidance could include that each area must identify 10 to 20 serial and high-harm domestic abusers and stalkers to be heard at MAPPA under category 4. Equally, “serial” has been defined as two or more victims, and offences can be specified just as they currently are at MAPPA. The perpetrators must also be included on ViSOR, the violent and sex offender register. Data collection is needed as perpetrators travel and their detailed history must follow.
I was delighted to read in the Sunday Times:
“Ministers are considering plans for a national register to monitor men who harass or are violent to women in response to an outcry over the murder of Sarah Everard.
Priti Patel, the home secretary, and Robert Buckland, the justice secretary, are understood to support a ‘super-database’ that would log details of the estimated 50,000 men convicted annually of offences including harassment, coercive control and stalking.
Police and social services would be given access to the register, which would act as an ‘early warning system’ when men commit certain crimes or move into local areas. A minister involved in discussions over possible legislation” is alleged to have said:
“‘These people are often in the system, but who’s keeping tabs on them?’”
Speed is of the essence. We need the Bill to deliver the register of perpetrators, but this amendment is not just about the register; is it also about a comprehensive perpetrator strategy for domestic abusers and stalkers that would improve the identification, assessment and management of perpetrators and ensure a more co-ordinated approach to data collection across England and Wales. Following the murder of Sarah Everard and the outpouring of concern, anger and grief by hundreds of thousands of women who live in fear, it is time to act. It is not for women to modify or change their behaviour: it is for men to change, to cease their violent actions; it is for society to bring about a cultural change in which misogyny is unacceptable; and it is for government to take leadership.
We can no longer rely on guidance, past or impending strategies or the potential sharing of best practice. We can no longer simply focus on victims; we have to focus on perpetrators. I am therefore pleased to support Amendment 81, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Strasburger, and I strongly urge the Minister to accept this amendment. If she is not minded to do so, I will seek the view of the House. I beg to move.
My Lords, I shall speak to Amendment 73, to which my name is added. I also support the amendment in the name of my noble friend Lord Strasburger. I too extend my deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Sarah Everard, but also to all the families and friends of those murdered since the beginning of this year. That there have been 30 murders of women since your Lordships’ House had its Second Reading of this Domestic Abuse Bill in January this year is deeply shocking. I suspect, as many of their cases come to court, that we will hear details time and again of how women sought help but were not able to get it from the people they should have been able to trust: the police and other parts of our judicial system.
I will briefly focus on three women murdered in the last five years, because what went wrong for them is still going wrong on a regular basis for this most heinous crime. They are Shana Grice, Pearl Black and Janet Scott.
Michael Lane stalked and murdered Shana in 2016. He had abused 13 girls before Shana and they had reported him for stalking. Shana herself reported him multiple times to Sussex Police. Despite this, there was no focus on Lane’s behaviour or his history, only on Shana’s. Outrageously, she was issued with a fixed penalty notice for wasting police time. She was polite and terrified, and went to the police for help. Shana did everything right, but there was no proactive investigation of Lane. In fact, he was interviewed by the police for just 12 minutes. There was no intelligence or information sharing, or referral to MAPPA.
Simon Mellors murdered two women, Pearl Black and Janet Scott. He murdered Pearl in 1999 when she split up with him. When he came out of prison, he began a relationship with Janet Scott. He coercively controlled her, threatened her and tried to kill her, which she reported to Nottinghamshire police and probation. At this point, Mellors should have been recalled on licence but no action was taken, despite her repeated reports. She was brutally murdered in 2018. The probation officer had told Janet that he doubted Mellors would reoffend, yet, when he did, police and probation took no action, saying that they just did not identify stalking behaviour. So why is it that a man who has killed his previous partner is not seen as a risk when Janet is terrified and reporting him for threatening to kill her? Janet did everything she could, and, despite the fact that Mellors had killed before, nothing was done to manage the risks and to stop him doing it again.
That is why Amendment 73 is necessary. I also heard yesterday that the Government are now considering consulting on a register for stalkers and serious and serial domestic abusers. That is not good enough. The need for a register is now and, as important, arrangements for MAPPA and ViSOR need to be strengthened. There is some very good practice, but it is not consistent, because the agencies are not being forced to work together and the impact that it is having on victims is appalling, as evidenced by the 30 murders we have seen this year alone.
My own experience was when a campaign of harassment, intimidation and then stalking started against me when I was the general election candidate in Watford. The perpetrator was my Conservative candidate opponent, a man called Ian Oakley. One of his particularly unpleasant traits was to harass and intimidate members of my local team to get to me, including poison-pen letters delivered to many houses in my area about our councillors, alleging that one of them had not supported his child in a previous marriage, and then later that he was a child sex abuser. None of this was true. He also perpetrated increasing levels of criminal damage to properties of people who supported me at election time. He sent obscene hand-drawn cartoons showing me in graphically sexual acts to our constituency office on postcards so that Royal Mail staff would see them too.
But for me, as his main target, on top of all these things happening day after day, week after week, there was more. He sent false letters about me to the weekly newspaper, the Watford Observer, making allegations about my family circumstances, trying to have us investigated by children’s services, as we were guardians and carers to two bereaved children. He reported me to Special Branch for falsifying my nomination papers; I had not. He dropped letters through my letterbox just so I knew that he knew where I lived. He phoned me very late at night and then did not talk. He sent me the most disgusting pornographic magazines in envelopes, but without stamps on, so I had to go to the Royal Mail collection office and pay for an envelope without knowing that it was yet another form of abuse. His messages would let me know that he had been following me at night when out canvassing. It was utterly relentless for three years.
Initially, I coped by cataloguing, reporting and helping others to report incidents to the police; I had a comprehensive Excel spreadsheet that grew. For the first 18 months, each reported incident was dismissed as “not serious”. Then the incidents grew and became more serious. Once we were at over 130 incidents on my spreadsheet, two detectives suddenly got it—they joined up the dots. By this time, we knew who it was, but there was no proof. We were issued with an operation name and mobile numbers for the detectives.
Publicly, I was very angry and determined that he would be caught, but privately, I felt constantly sick and nervous most of the time. I became tearful and anxious about having to go out campaigning in the evening in winter months; always watching, anywhere I went. I also felt personally responsible for the incidents targeted at my friends, colleagues and supporters, and I know that other victims of stalkers feel the same when their families and friends are targeted too.
Even when we had the evidence, after my husband bought and installed 10 CCTV cameras at the sites repeatedly targeted by Oakley, two things happened that still shock me today. The first was that a very senior police officer warned the detectives that they would be unlikely to prosecute a case like this, seen as political. That changed when Oakley started on my noble friend Lady Thornhill, who was then the elected Mayor of Watford, and an arrest was made very swiftly, thank goodness. The second thing was that not one of the more serious charges—to which Oakley had pleaded not guilty—was taken any further. This included incidents using 10-inch knives to slash car tyres, defamatory poison-pen letters distributed to large numbers of people, and the sending of pornographic images. For all of this, he received an 18-week suspended sentence—for a three-year campaign—and a year’s community order.
I relate my experience because the nature of the progression of the stalking is of utter relentlessness, and the police reaction is still not unusual. In 2016, eight years after my case, only 37 stalking offenders and 93 harassment offenders received a sentence of 12 months’ imprisonment or more and were therefore automatically eligible to be managed under the MAPPA process as category 2 offenders. However, we do not know how many of these offenders were either referred to or subsequently managed under MAPPA, but as the number of automatically eligible offences is low, and the number of prosecutions for serious harassment and stalking is considerably higher, we can infer that a substantial number of potentially dangerous individuals were not managed under recognised offender management processes.
The Violence Against Women and Girls report shows that in 2017-18 80% of stalkers did not face a charge. Out of over 10,000 only 1,800 were charged, 212 were convicted and only 48 went to prison. Furthermore, most cases were recorded as harassment or something lesser, as in my case, and in 2018-19 there was a further 10% decrease in stalking prosecutions. It is probable that the new stalking protection order will make sure that this continues to decrease as it is an easy alternative. In many domestic violence and stalking case prosecutions—where it is rare that convictions occur—unduly lenient sentences resulted for stalking, domestic violence and coercive control: namely, weeks, months or suspended sentences, which in no way reflects the severity of the crimes.
Stalkers have specific and complex needs to address due to their fixated and obsessive behaviour. For some, this behaviour becomes more serious as time goes on. There is a lack of suitable programmes for stalkers that will reduce the likelihood of reoffending and protect members of the public. It is vital that police, prosecutors, probation, judges and magistrates are trained to understand stalking, including the risks and dangers of stalkers, as well as the stalking legislation which was introduced in 2012 following the stalking law reform inquiry, which I worked on with Robert Buckland. This assumes even more significance if there is to be a stalkers’ and serial perpetrators’ register database, which we are calling for in this amendment. We believe it is urgently needed—now. We urgently need the elements to ensure that people such as stalkers are included in MAPPA.
My goodness me, I am almost left speechless by the account of the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, of what happened to her; I am so sorry that she had to endure that, and it is hard to disagree with a word that she said. Having taken the now enacted Stalking Protection Bill through this House, I understand the very serious nature of this issue. I would also like to say that the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, has spoken passionately to her amendment.
One note of caution is that MAPPA adviser arrangements are far from perfect as they stand. Only one thing that could be worse than not monitoring serial offenders and stalkers in this way is to say that we are keeping track of them, but in fact the opposite turns out to be true, due either to poor resourcing or a systems failure. So, if my noble friend the Minister is minded to reconsider this amendment, we must make sure the systems have the resource and the capacity—but it is hard to disagree after hearing the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, make that speech.
I will now speak to Amendment 81. Sometimes events happen that make society stand up and say, “No more”. The tragic murder of Sarah Everard has done exactly that. As we know, she is the 118th woman to be killed over the past year. Their names may be less familiar, but each and every one of them must be remembered. I praise the honourable Member for Birmingham Yardley for doing just that in the other place, and also the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, who just now read out the 30 women who have been killed since the Bill was brought to this House.
I hope noble Lords will forgive me if I mention my own cousin once again. Her name was Christine Bertin. At the age of 18 she had her whole life in front of her. Instead, she was murdered by a complete stranger. He had been harassing local girls in her neighbourhood in a suburb in Paris and she, also, had caught his eye. Unbeknown to her and my family he stalked her movements over a period of time, and when he knew she was alone in the house he forced himself in and he strangled her.
My heart therefore goes out to all those families who have lost loved ones at the hands of a killer. The journey they are now on is a long and lonely one, with no real end in sight. My cousin died many years ago now, but the sorrow we still feel is as acute as on the day she was murdered. No family should ever feel this. Sympathy and anger can and will spill over, but the only real thing we can do for them and their dead daughters, sisters and mothers is to ensure that they have not died in vain. We have to match heartfelt words with the far harder task of making changes that will actually drive down this death toll for good. I believe there is a lot in this Bill that will work towards that.
Stranger attacks and domestic abuse are inextricably linked. The media will alight on the former, and the latter, quite unacceptably, often just gets a shrug, as though it is some kind of inevitability. But the reality is that abuse and misogyny in the home flows freely into the street; they are the same crime. I often reflect that, if the police at the time of my cousin’s murder had taken that man’s harassment of young girls more seriously, if his behaviour had been called out as grossly unacceptable by his peers, or if he had been put on a perpetrator scheme such as the ones we now know work, my cousin just might still be alive today. His behaviour, and that of so many potential murderers and serial abusers, was simply allowed to carry on unchecked and unstopped. This must end.
However, the debate should not be about men versus women. If a boy is seeing only abuse and violence at home, compounding it with violence and abuse online, without the right support and guidance there is a chance that he will carry on that cycle. Early intervention and recognition of this are essential. I am grateful to my friend, the noble Lord, Lord Strasburger, for relaying this amendment. It was in my name in Committee and I support it wholeheartedly.
In the interests of time, I will not repeat what I said in Committee, but it feels more urgent than ever to focus attention on the perpetrator—the person actually committing the abuse. We will never see any real change in behaviours and attitudes if we carry on putting this as an afterthought. The new funding for perpetrators announced in the Budget was very welcome; more will be needed if we are to ensure a quality response everywhere, but it is certainly a really important move to building up a quality-assured national capacity to respond to perpetrators. We know that fewer than 1% of perpetrators receive any kind of intervention; that is a shocking statistic.
Experts have been calling for a strategy for more than a year now. In Committee, my noble friend the Minister acknowledged that it was needed. Will the Government now press on with developing a strategy and do it properly, in a way that is commensurate with the problem? It does not matter whether the strategy is self-contained or part of something wider; what is important is that it is comprehensive and consulted on. It should make clear what the Government want to see different parts of public service delivery do and how they will help them do it, whether in housing, probation or health. The domestic abuse commissioner has also highlighted that quality assurance is vital for effective perpetrator programmes, as is multiagency decision-making, something we have heard time and time again throughout these debates. Given that she has been mapping perpetrator services, the Government should take note of the clear gaps in provision before any rollout of schemes. There have been lost opportunities with this year’s £10 million fund as it was granted to parties so late. To make best use of the £15 million fund announced this year, work should be done to scope and plan the pilot properly prior to the summer. I also hope the Minister will change her view on the timing of a year, given the urgency that policymakers now face.
This amendment, alongside the Bill generally, which I support enormously, could go some way to building genuine change over the coming years.
My Lords, I am in an unusual situation. When I am fourth on the list, I would usually feel that I had something to contribute, but listening to the harrowing experiences of the noble Baronesses, Lady Brinton and Lady Bertin, it makes me feel that this is the most challenging amendment I have ever spoken on. The noble Baroness, Lady Royall, very clearly explained the need for this amendment and the fear that women face. I feel very privileged that I have met the family of Jane Clough, whom she mentioned, and listened to their heart-breaking experiences and how time and time again they felt that they were not being listened to.
Like so many women in public life, I have experienced very uncomfortable situations where I have had unwanted attention, been bombarded and had threatening behaviour. I have been incredibly lucky that people have helped and supported me through it, but even with that support and police support around me, I was not able to sleep, I could not eat, I was scared to go out and I was constantly looking over my shoulder. It changed how I felt about myself and my ability to cope with everyday life, and that was with help and support around, so imagine what it must be like to feel that nobody is listening to you and nobody is helping. That is why I strongly support Amendment 73 and the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Strasburger.
I thank the London School of Economics, which provided incredibly useful information and support on this amendment. Gathering data is important, but so is sharing that information with police forces. It does not seem right that this data is not systematically shared and is shared only through the Police National Computer, which records only charges.
I urge the Minister to listen to the speeches tonight. A comprehensive perpetrator strategy for domestic abusers and stalkers is essential. It is needed more urgently than a year from now. It must help the identification, assessment and management of perpetrators. We must focus on perpetrators’ behaviour and not blame victims. We must support the victims to enable them to have a chance to get through it. I shall not say any more on amendments tonight, but I strongly support the amendment and will vote favour of it if the noble Baroness divides the House.
My Lords, like the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, I strongly support my noble friend Lady Royall. Like her, I essentially want to see a co-ordinated, consistent and mandatory approach to the flagging and targeting of perpetrators, with a statutory obligation on police, prison and probation services to identify, assess and manage serial and serious domestic abuse perpetrators and stalkers. Without such a comprehensive approach, we will not get anywhere with this problem.
The appalling murder of Sarah Everard yet again highlights the fear and reality of male violence for all women. Femicide is at an all-time high; a woman is murdered by a male ex-partner every three days. These are not rare occurrences, as the police so often claim to justify the lack of priority given to the protection of women. The list of women killed by men since this Bill had its First Reading, read out by my noble friend, is surely testimony to that. Throughout the first lockdown. five women a week were killed by a male partner or ex-partner.
It is so striking that most of those men had a history of harming other women—yet there is no proactive risk identification or assessment or management of the perpetrators. Ministers attribute this, essentially, to poor practice. The noble Baroness, Lady Williams, has argued that offenders should be managed under MAPPA—but the reality is that domestic abuser and stalker cases are just not heard at MAPPA meetings; they are screened out as cases not seen as serious.
In a moving, courageous speech, the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, referred to three cases. I want to talk about another one: that of Cherylee Shennan. Cherylee was stabbed to death outside her home by convicted killer Paul O’Hara in March 2014 in front of police officers who had been called to investigate reports of domestic abuse. She had suffered a broken nose, repeated facial bruising and a broken jaw at O’Hara’s hands. She was held hostage at knifepoint at least twice before O’Hara killed her.
O’Hara was previously given a life sentence in 1998 for killing ex-partner Janine Waterworth, but he was released on licence in 2012. He had other previous serious convictions for violence against women. He had been assessed in prison as displaying traits of psychopathy. At the time of his release, he was assessed as posing a serious risk to women. Despite his history, O’Hara’s risk was not required to be managed within MAPPA.
Cherylee’s family first suspected that O’Hara was abusing her when they saw her with serious facial injuries at a family gathering on bonfire night. At the time, Cherylee gave an alternative explanation for the injuries but, on
The family called the police. Police officers attended what they believed to be an ongoing domestic violence incident, without any knowledge of O’Hara’s history. They discovered his history on doing a PNC check at Cherylee’s home, but they took no positive steps to arrest or risk-manage O’Hara. They also did not take a full account either from Cherylee, who was fearful of the consequences of police involvement, or from the family members present who could confirm the injuries.
Coroner James Newman published a “prevention of death” report, raising alarms over the lack of interagency communication between probation services and the police. In his findings, he questioned the role of MAPPA. 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 licence conditions, and no information regarding either his nature or the trigger factors of his offending. My concern is despite this, and the findings of the report, 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 Level 1.”
This is the tragedy of the current system. Chief constables apologise when these cases come to light and promise to do better, but history repeats itself time after time. The Government set great store by guidance; the police and probation services are awash with it, but it is not read, it has no teeth and very little has changed in 20 years. 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 will do so.
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 into the local system, it often 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. As my noble friend said, how many times do we see the depressing response from the police that women in the wake of these terrible crimes should stay indoors at night for their own safety? It is as if it is women’s responsibility and, essentially, they are to blame.
My noble friend also referred to the 2014 to 2017 inspections by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary into the police response to domestic abuse perpetrators. The recommendations from these reports still have not been put in place locally or nationally. It is the same with homicide reviews. Why is that so? The reality is that domestic abuse and stalking responses are woefully underresourced. Misogyny and institutionalised sexism are rife and no amount of guidance will change that.
On data, the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, is so right. Police forces do not have systematic ways of recording the same person, victim or perpetrator; hence, repeat victims or perpetrators are not spotted and no action is taken to protect and prevent. As she said, police forces do not share data systematically with each other apart from through the Police National Computer, which records only charges. The advice of LSE researchers Professor Tom Kirchmaier, Professor Jeffrey Grogger and Dr Ria Ivandic—which suggests that police forces should use machine learning predictions based on two-year criminal histories because it would be more effective—is ignored.
Last year, over 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. Nicole Jacobs, the designate domestic abuse commissioner said:
“I support the call on Government to publish a Strategy on Perpetrators of Domestic Abuse.”
As she said:
“Current prevention work is patchy and too often perpetrators go unchallenged and are not offered opportunities to change their abusive behaviour.”
If we are to better protect women and girls, the Government must act now to support these amendments and shift the focus onto the men who cause the fear, terror and violence. It is time, too, that we eradicated misogyny and sexism from our criminal justice system. It is time these dangerous domestic abusers and stalkers were registered and monitored in the same way as sex offenders, and that the victim’s right to safety and to live free of fear was realised and prioritised over an abuser’s right to freedom.
My Lords, it is always a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, who has made several powerful speeches during the passage of this Bill. I shall speak to Amendment 81 in my name. It requires the Government to devise a perpetrator strategy to prevent, identify and assess perpetrators. It would increase the number of rehabilitation programmes and better tackle attitudes before they lead to a crime. It goes without saying that it is far better to prevent repetition of domestic abuse before it occurs. Even better, we should aim to prevent abuse happening in the first place.
At a time when violence against women is sadly in the headlines once again, we have a duty to do all we can to prevent crimes that can be entirely predictable, as we have heard, and often follow a multitude of warning signs, as the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, illustrated in her four examples and as other speakers have done. Domestic abuse is a crime hidden in people’s homes. Behind the doors of ordinary homes, tens of thousands of victims live in pain and fear with their own families. Domestic abuse is a terrible, secret crime.
Several noble Lords have used the phrase “murder in slow motion” because when domestic abuse reaches its logical end, often after years, the murder is so very predictable. And yet it still happens, time after time—women mostly, dying after years of injury at the hands of the men they loved. The Bill sets out to help those victims when they leave their abuser and report them—when they have had enough.
However, Amendments 73 and 81 seek to prevent the crimes happening in the first place, so that victims do not have to leave and perpetrators can see what they are doing and choose to stop before another tragedy, of which there are so many, ending in injury, pain or death. We need to step in before children who witness this tragedy grow up and take everything they have learned into their own relationships, playing out the same tragedy again 20 years down the line.
Good-quality perpetrator programmes help those who assault, coerce or frighten those closest to them to stop. The best programmes help perpetrators realise that they do not do it because anyone makes them; they do it because they choose to, and they can choose not to. Good perpetrator interventions have stunning success rates, which I and other noble Lords have already rehearsed in this House. How can we possibly fail to do everything we can to stop the pain, the destruction and the transfer of this tragedy down through the generations? The Government must do everything they can to discover the best of these programmes, roll them out over the entire country and fund them in such a way as to make them a part of a well-used and reliable method of reducing this sickening secret crime.
We must do more. In their sex and relationships education classes, the children of this nation must be taught not only what good relationships look like and how to treat their future partners with respect, but also what an abusive relationship looks like. Then they will be able to recognise when a relationship of their own, which may have started well, begins to sour. Once we have shown them what it looks like, we should tell them where they can get help, what they can do, how they can stop it, or how they can escape it and who they can call.
In Committee, the Minister responded to this amendment with an assurance that a perpetrator strategy will be included within the forthcoming domestic abuse strategy. It has also emerged that a total of £25 million of initial funding is available. However, the Minister’s statement was rather short on important detail and I hope she will be able to fill the gaps in her reply. I invite the Minister to tell the House the Government’s position on the following matters, for all of which I provided her with advanced notice.
Will the Government not only fund behaviour change interventions but stimulate changes across public service delivery to better detect and prevent abuse in the first place? Will the perpetrator strategy set measurable targets? Will the Government lay out plans to stimulate social change to end any lingering tolerance of abusive behaviour? Will the Government commit the Home Office to work with other departments to shape the perpetrator strategy and ensure their buy in? Will they consult experts outside government across public services and the specialist women’s sector?
Will the perpetrator strategy contain clear guidance on quality for commissioners to ensure that there is no risk of public money funding poor practice? Will the perpetrator strategy set out the Government’s funding intentions for the next three years? Above all, will the Government no longer allow perpetrators to fly under the radar and abuse time and again? We must stop asking: “Why doesn’t the victim leave? Why doesn’t she keep her children safe?” We must start putting responsibility to change on those who are being abusive, until the abuser can ask himself: “Why don’t I stop?”
I look forward to the Minister’s response. If necessary, I will test the opinion of the House, depending on what she has to say.
My Lords, I will speak briefly to Amendments 73 and 81. I applaud the intentions of both amendments but will raise a couple of practical points. I hope that they do not seem inappropriate after the shocking testimony of the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, and the very powerful and moving speech by my noble friend Lady Bertin.
In relation to establishing a register, the aim of adding serial abusers and stalkers to ViSOR is to make it easier for agencies across the country to identify and monitor perpetrators. In principle, this seems sensible. It puts the burden on the perpetrator, not the victim, and, given that many high-harm perpetrators are repeat offenders, it could help manage the risk. However, there are concerns from some working on the front line as to whether it would achieve that goal in practice.
ViSOR is a vital tool for the police, prison and probation services, but its effectiveness depends on the quality and timeliness of the information recorded within it. If we are to extend it, then there must be questions about who goes on it, how long they stay on it and, given the potential size and complexity of such a database, how we ensure that it is fit for purpose. Will it be able to do the job for which it is intended? No one has yet found satisfactory answers to these questions. As I said, I applaud the intention, so I would be grateful if my noble friend the Minister could outline some of the alternative ways in which the Government can and will strengthen oversight in relation to perpetrators.
The call in Amendments 73 and 81 for a perpetrator strategy is more straightforward. Thanks to the innovative work of SafeLives and its partners in the Drive project, we know that targeted intervention programmes work. As they say, domestic abuse is not inevitable. We can and must stop it recurring and, indeed, occurring in the first place. I question whether we need to call for this on the face of the Bill, given that the Minister has already assured us that it will be part of the forthcoming domestic abuse strategy. However, like others, I do not question the need for it. As recent events have shown us, the focus should be on the perpetrator, not the victim.
Like others, I put on record my deepest sympathies for Sarah Everard’s family and friends. We all hope that something good can come out of something so unfathomably bad, but we should never forget that at the centre of this national debate is a very personal tragedy and a private grief.
My Lords, I could not believe the three opening speeches we had. Listening to the noble Baroness, Lady Royall of Blaisdon, I thought, “Well, that’s unbeatable.” Then we heard the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, which was equally unbeatable, and then from the noble Baroness, Lady Bertin, who was also unbeatable. I am not sure that I have very much to contribute except that, over the past week, I have had several hundred abusive emails. Those men—virtually every single one was a man—felt that it was all right to send to my parliamentary account the most incredible abuse. I am well aware that some women MPs at the other end have this sort of thing all the time, sometimes thousands of emails every week. It is just staggering that these people think that they can write this abuse, send it and let someone else read it. I am absolutely astonished at this.
The problem is that misogyny is embedded in our society, and we have not dealt with it. The only way we can deal with it is through education, and this is education that starts with children—but it also starts with educating our police force. We have heard these stories about how the police just do not take it seriously, because they do not understand it. Just as there is a lot of misogyny in wider society, there is misogyny in the police. Many times, 20, 30 or 40 years ago, one would hear police officers saying about domestic abuse incidents, “Oh, it’s just a domestic.” It sounds very much as if they are not taking it seriously now, all these decades later.
I am going to repeat myself—and I know that I am not allowed to do so on Report—but I have said on several occasions that police forces should have mandatory training on how to recognise and deal with domestic violence. Some forces have done it and, where they have done it, it is noticeable that they have a better attitude to women, but we also see the prosecution and sentencing of male offenders increase dramatically. Nottinghamshire Police has had that training and improved its rate of prosecution of male abusers, and it behaved phenomenally well on Saturday night, when our dear Met police really messed up.
Here we have these amendments, which pose the question: how seriously do we want to take domestic abuse and domestic violence? There are processes in place administered by specialists for managing and monitoring serious sexual and violent offenders, and I do not understand why this apparatus is not being used for domestic abusers and stalkers. The noble Baroness, Lady Royall, said that best practice does not work, but why does it not work? I just do not understand. Perhaps the Minister can explain why it is not working.
It is high time that we got serious about domestic violence. The perpetrators should wear a label and have to disclose it with anyone they try to form an intimate relationship with, and they should be monitored and managed in line with the seriousness of their offending behaviour. These people are generally very unlikely to display one-off behaviours of domestic abuse and violence; these patterns of behaviour are totally engrained into their personality, for whatever reason. Perhaps they saw domestic violence as a child or perhaps there is some other underlying reason—but whatever it is, it happens and we have to protect women against it.
We can have all the support for the survivors that we possibly could, but it is infinitely preferable to have a world where there are no perpetrators, rather than supporting survivors. Without stamping out the behaviour of perpetrators or forcing serious consequences on their behaviour, we cannot stamp out the evil of domestic abuse—and, yes, I am afraid that it has to be in the Bill. First, most of us do not actually trust the Government to do it if it is not in the Bill. Secondly, if it is there it is visible, and people understand that it is being taken seriously—so I ask the Government to accept these amendments. Obviously, the Green group will vote for whichever are brought to a vote.
My Lords, I am delighted to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, and I associate myself with many of the comments made by previous speakers. I pay tribute to the noble Baronesses, Lady Royall of Blaisdon and Lady Brinton, and my noble friend Lady Bertin for being so brave as to share their thoughts and experiences. Obviously, we are all deeply touched by the murder of Sarah Everard. I also record my growing concern. In 2009, Claudia Lawrence disappeared on her way to work as a chef at the University of York and has never been found. No one knows whether she is alive or dead, and, very sadly, her father passed away without knowing any more. I am very aware of the extent of the concern about the crime of stalking and more serious offences against women.
Some of the thoughts I would like to share this evening are my own, but I am also grateful for the briefing I have received from the Suzy Lamplugh Trust. We should also remember the tragic loss of Suzy Lamplugh.
Amendment 81, as I think my noble friend Lady Sanderson said, is to a certain extent more straightforward. There is much to commend a strategic plan for perpetrators of domestic abuse. I await with great interest my noble friend the Minister’s response to that.
My understanding is that the Criminal Justice Act 2003 already places a statutory duty on agencies to co-operate to manage certain categories of offenders. This does not exclude stalkers, so it is unclear how creating a register, as proposed under Amendment 73, would work in co-ordination with that duty. During the 18 years when I was a Member of Parliament—for two separate constituencies—my limited experience with MAPPA, the multiagency approach, was not an entirely happy one. It would be much better to have one lead agency, and I leave it my noble friend the Minister to decide which agency that should be. Of course agencies should co-operate and collaborate, but it is much more satisfactory when one agency is in control.
There is a problem which I hope my noble friend will address either through the forthcoming consultation or when dealing with Amendment 73, which is before us. As it stands, the amendment does not allow for information pertaining to perpetrators to be shared with other services and agencies. My understanding is that ViSOR is a confidential system that many professionals dealing with stalking cases would not be able to access and, further, that hardly any police officers have access to ViSOR. The information on it would not necessarily be immediately available to front-line officers responding to calls about a perpetrator. Apparently, the current situation is that checks on ViSOR have to be justified, while ViSOR terminals and their locations must be risk-assessed for security. That surely has to change; ViSOR must be more readily available to prevent future stalking offences, given the events of the last three months that were put so graphically and emotionally to us this evening.
I understand that the provision also already exists to ensure that perpetrators can be managed beyond their licence conditions. MAPPA is currently not being used as it potentially could, therefore more emphasis should be placed on upskilling criminal justice agencies to use MAPPA. Does my noble friend the Minister expect that her department will authorise that? Apparently, there is a requirement for two stalking convictions to have taken place in order to get a stalking perpetrator on the register, which adds an unnecessary obstacle, whereas they could already be placed on ViSOR without conviction if they are considered dangerous. Again, might my noble friend be minded to consider this?
The numbers speak for themselves. It has also been raised by the Suzy Lamplugh Trust that Amendment 73 has appeared in the context of a Domestic Abuse Bill. Does the Minister share my concern that this could potentially create a two-tiered system between domestic and non-domestic stalkers? That would be very regrettable? Clearly, this is a gender-based crime and it is on the increase. Current legislation is not dealing with it, I am sure, to the satisfaction of the House.
Stalking is a serious crime that is currently underreported and under-prosecuted. Figures for 2019-20 from the Office for National Statistics reveal that there were only 3,067 charges for stalking offences, let alone convictions. I hope that my noble friend will take very seriously the two amendments before us and that she will consider the reservations I have expressed to ensure that we have the best legislation that is fit for purpose, either through this Bill or in subsequent Bills. I believe that this would be best addressed either through the amendments before us or in a government amendment, if my noble friend was minded to bring one forward in due course.
My Lords, I am pleased to support these two amendments. Many of the points that I would have made have been covered much more eloquently by others, so I shall try to be brief.
My first point is that we are not even accurately recording stalking and other domestic abuse cases. There have been consistent failures in this respect: apparently no common form of data recording is being applied, so flitting from one police area to another seems to be the workaround of choice for the serial perpetrator. That really has to stop.
Secondly, even when incidents have been reported, and one assumes recorded, they are not being followed up. The problems around information sharing have been voiced widely by other noble Lords, and I agree with them.
Thirdly, it is therefore not surprising that multiagency attempts to deal with this issue have not been sufficiently effective. I will pause to applaud the many instances of good and effective work being done in this field, but it is not universal and domestic homicide reviews have pointed out consistently how earlier and/or effective intervention could and should have been made, but was not. There may be multiple reasons for this: differences in available skills, divergences in policies and priorities, sectoral protocols, funding streams, management or policy direction, and gaps between policy and operational decisions. There may also be a deficit in accountability on the latter point, not only in the police but in other public institutions. Perhaps no one is in overall charge, a point that has been made by the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering, and others. Even if there was, as matters stand, funding and co-ordination would remain questionable.
Further than that, as noted by others, the provision for perpetrators is utterly inadequate—although I appreciate that the Government now appear to be minded to start addressing this.
At Second Reading I pointed out the work described by the Sussex police and crime commissioner about the cost-benefit of dealing with perpetrators. This is the critical point of this group of amendments: the proper identification, assessment, monitoring, management and application of therapy to perpetrators is cost-effective and of lasting general societal benefit. My information is that, while some perpetrators may be psychopathic and incurable—with apologies if I have used the wrong term—many are themselves suffering from deep-seated inadequacies that can and should be addressed.
Amendment 73, which has been put forward so ably by the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, addresses the need for a coherent approach. If I have any reservations at all, it is that it may not go far enough, which might have been the point behind the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh.
Amendment 81, which is specifically about perpetrator strategies, has been spoken to eloquently by the noble Lord, Lord Strasburger. I agree with him for all the reasons he has given. He covered everything that I would have addressed, and more besides. This needs to be the stuff of a national network to which any court in the land can effectively refer the convicted and in which those who want to change their ways voluntarily may also participate. The programme would have to be coherent and delivered to consistent standards. We should aim to rehabilitate offenders and those who may not yet be in the criminal system. I noted with satisfaction that the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, did not advocate locking up and throwing away the key, which has been the subject of some of the comments that I have received from outside the House.
The noble Lord, Lord Strasburger, noted the many indicators that can and should be picked up to facilitate early intervention. So, despite all the shortcomings that I recognise, I would simply remind noble Lords of the research done by the University of Manchester and others: it is not that we cannot afford to deal with this resolutely but that we cannot afford not to. The amendments get my wholehearted support and, if it comes to a Division, will get my vote.
My Lords, I will speak briefly to give maximum support to my noble friend Lady Royall, but in effect to all speakers, since I have not heard anything that I disagree with.
I have four short points to make. First, I was very struck that buried in the short but useful briefing from the London Assembly was a warning that carrying on on a more casual, non-statutory basis does not work. It points out that in London from January to November 2019, the current domestic abuse protection order was used in only 0.5% of domestic abuse offences recorded by the Metropolitan Police. So the warning is that we have these well-intentioned tools but they are not used by the police or magistrates. I was very struck by a point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Bertin, in her powerful speech, and it is a warning to the Minister: saying “We’ll do it” but then not doing it makes the position far worse. It is a question of resources in finance and of course in will, and that is a crucial point that has to be made.
Secondly, I share the questions of the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering, having read the briefing from the Suzy Lamplugh Trust about domestic and non-domestic stalking. As the previous speaker, the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, said, Amendment 73 probably does not go far enough.
Thirdly, my noble friend Lord Hunt of Kings Heath made a point about the numbers affected each week, but we also have to remember not just what happened last week and what has happened since the Bill came into your Lordships’ House, but the fact that we know for certain that by the end of this week another two females will have been murdered.
Fourthly, regarding perpetrators, we have heard the range of examples that noble Lords and noble Baronesses have given. Now I know this might be classed as fanciful because it is not correct, but I ask the Minister to think of perpetrators as an organised perpetrators’ grouping. I know they are not and there would be very little evidence for it, but there is a pretty consistent pattern, not only over some cases but over many years, as if they were such a group. If they were treated as an organised perpetrators’ group by Parliament, the Home Office and law enforcement then by now we would be having strategic views, risk management and people’s names on registers in the same way as with existing registers. We would really be toughening it up. I would take that as a starting point for the debate today, not a finishing point.
As I said originally, I do not disagree with anything I have heard today and I give my full support to these two amendments, both verbally and if they are pushed to a vote.
And so, my Lords, we come to tail-end Charlie. What is probably not obvious to those listening or watching today’s proceedings who are not around the Palace of Westminster is that they have been taking place with the sound of helicopters circling almost ceaselessly. I think that is because a group of people who feel strongly about what we are discussing, some of whom may even have been on Clapham Common on Saturday evening, have decided to come to Parliament Square today while we are having this discussion, and I suspect while another place is beginning to talk about the policing Bill, to voice their concern and—in a respectful way, I am sure—are trying to demonstrate how strongly they feel about this issue.
What an irony that we have a female Home Secretary and a female head of the Metropolitan Police, and that it was a female assistant commissioner who, under huge pressure, took a decision on Saturday evening that with the benefit of hindsight she may possibly regret. The evidence around the country of demonstrations taking place where the police decided to be judicious and hold back is that they seem to have gone off without event, while the two that I have heard of—one in London and one in Brighton—where the police decided to take a different decision have ended badly. I hope lessons have been learned from that.
In preparing for this debate, I looked back very carefully at the Minister’s replies in Committee. I will not go through them in detail but, broadly, they say that there is a range of laws, forms of guidance, processes and technology systems, all of which have been carefully designed to try and produce particular results. However, when you look at those results, they are very mixed. I know from talking to people who are involved in this area that some of them would say that parts of this are working extraordinarily well. All I can say is that, as and when we come up with a new, all-singing, all-dancing strategy to deal with domestic abuse, part of it must be—as when a strategy is formulated and rolled out in any organisation—to tell the world what is going well, what is working, that you are doing more of that and improving it; not, as we do mostly with domestic abuse, listening to an unspeakable litany of the occasions when it clearly is not working.
I suspect that that does a disservice to the many people in the various organisations that are dealing with domestic abuse, which is probably one of the most difficult areas to deal with, and who are working their guts out. In some cases, they are probably achieving excellent results. However, I ask the Minister to reflect on why, if that is the case, we do not know about it. If we are doing some things well, why can we not find a way of talking about that, and communicating it in a way that is not triumphalist, or scoring political points, but in a way that is actually helping the people who it is designed to help?
Having been in business for many years, working with very large companies, going through all sorts of strategies, S-bends, U-bends, takeovers and all the rest of it, my normal reaction when somebody proposes a new strategy is to reach for my tin hat. If the Government are going to proceed with their ambition to have this wonderful, holistic, joined-up domestic abuse strategy, we have to learn from our failings in the present and our many failings in the past. If we do not, we are simply going to repeat them. As somebody once memorably said about the situation in Ireland:
“In Ireland there is no future—there is only the present and the past”,
endlessly repeating itself. With domestic abuse, we run the risk of doing that unless we recognise what has not worked; unless we recognise that some of the promises that have been made, some of the semi-answers that are given, are not satisfactory.
The discipline that I always apply in a situation such as this is to imagine that the Gallery up there is filled entirely with victims and their families. I wonder what they think as we talk, pirouette, and demonstrate our rhetorical flourishes; as people are, occasionally, unable to resist making political digs. I wonder how they feel as they listen to us talking about incidents which have, in many cases, pulled their lives completely apart. It behoves us to think about them always when we are talking about these subjects. It is their graves that we are treading on, so we need to be very careful and mindful of that.
I would like to put on the record the experience of another woman who was killed, to do justice to her and to the many people who obsessively look into these cases. For them to have to live with what they do day in, day out, must be extraordinarily difficult. This is the story of Kerri McAuley—and this means she will now be remembered in Hansard.
Kerri was brutally murdered in Norwich by Joe Storey in January 2017, just over four years ago. She suffered 19 injuries to her head and face following an attack by the perpetrator, who then smeared her blood on his face and took a selfie, then left her there to die. He had previously violently attacked five former girlfriends, dating back to 2008, nine years before, and at the time he murdered Kerri, he had no fewer than—I stress—three restraining orders to prevent him abusing his former partners. Prior to that, Kerri had endured hours of being attacked and locked away and, in the last violent incident before she died, she managed to escape, wearing only her underwear, by jumping out of one of her windows. She called 999 and for 22 minutes she pleaded for help, telling the call handler about the previous assaults on her, which was the first time she had ever told it to anybody, saying that she was scared of further attacks and that she was afraid he might kill her. In July 2016, Storey—guess what?—received a restraining order for this prolonged and vicious attack, just like the other ones he had accumulated like a badge of honour with his previous assaults. Therefore, even with this additional restraining order, six months later, he murdered Kerri.
There can be no excuse for having a system that is trying to deal with domestic abuse which has been built on repeatedly over the last 20 years and which tolerates results like that. It is simply unacceptable, and we need to fix this. We need to do so for the victims, for their families but, most of all, we need to do it so that we can live with ourselves. I support both amendments and I hope the Minister will be able to give a convincing reply.
My Lords, this debate has been filled with harrowing examples, including powerful personal testimony such as the moving account the noble Baroness, Lady Bertin, gave of her cousin.
In Committee, a similar amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Royall of Blaisdon, was introduced to make it a legal requirement that serial domestic abuse offenders or stalking perpetrators are registered on ViSOR, the violent and sex offender register, and that they be subject to supervision, monitoring and management through existing Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements, or MAPPA. In Committee, I suggested that existing legislation and codes of practice may already require dangerous serial domestic abuse and stalking perpetrators to be supervised, monitored and managed through MAPPA, and that the issue may be one of the police and other agencies not complying with existing legislation rather than a problem with the legislation itself. The Minister appeared to agree with me. However, clearly something needs to change, as the noble Baroness, Lady Royall of Blaisdon, so powerfully set out. Women are dying because serial offenders are slipping through the net and, if this part of Amendment 73 is not the answer, the Government need to explain very clearly what they are going to do.
My noble friend Lady Brinton’s personal experience, so bravely and powerfully put, and the personal experience of the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, should leave the House in no doubt that action is needed urgently. Unlike the amendment in Committee, this amendment includes a requirement to review the operation of its provisions and to lay a report before Parliament that includes a comprehensive prevention and perpetrator strategy for domestic abusers and stalkers. Amendment 81 in the name of my noble friend Lord Strasburger also requires the Government to lay before Parliament a comprehensive prevention and perpetrator strategy for domestic abuse, the case for which he has so clearly set out.
I will not repeat the arguments I made in Committee. Suffice it to say that we on these Benches support both of these amendments, and were the opinion of the House be tested, we would support them.
My Lords, Amendment 73, proposed by my noble friend Lady Royall of Blaisdon with my noble friend Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, and the noble Lord, Lord Russell of Liverpool, has my full support, as does Amendment 81, tabled and moved by the noble Lord, Lord Strasburger.
Like other noble Lords, I send my condolences to the family of Sarah Everard and of all the other women who have been murdered since Second Reading. As was pointed out, 30 women have been murdered since Second Reading, which is an absolutely horrific figure.
My noble friend Lady Royall made a powerful case and laid out a comprehensive framework to deal with the perpetrators of domestic abuse and stalkers. Her amendment would require there to be a report before Parliament within the next 12 months looking at the operation of the provisions as set out in the amendment. My noble friend was right when she said that it is time for men to step up and take ownership, and take responsibility for this issue. The cases she referred to are harrowing but, sadly, they are only the tip of the iceberg: horrific abuse and a catalogue of failure by the authorities to understand the risk that these women were at, often only understanding that risk when it was too late and they had been killed. As has been said, 30 women have died, murdered by their partner, between Second Reading and today’s debate. That figure should be enough in itself for the Government to want to act. We have had a complete failure of practice and process, and we need to ensure that there is a proper, national framework to identify, assess and manage perpetrators. It is most important that people are not lost in the system. We need a comprehensive perpetrators strategy: nothing less will do.
The noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, in setting out the case for women who are murdered, demonstrated the need for that national solution and the failed system. I am very sorry to learn of the personal abuse the noble Baroness has suffered at the hands of a political opponent. Sadly, it means that she can speak with first-hand experience as a victim of appalling abuse and stalking. It seems to me, from what she told us, that the perpetrator was treated very leniently for the crimes that he committed. I was not aware of the murder of the cousin of the noble Baroness, Lady Bertin, and she is absolutely right that we have to match heartfelt words with actions. We have to break this horrific cycle, and that needs a proper multi-agency approach that leads to action. We need to ensure that we bring up better boys to become better men. That is what needs to happen here. That happens in the home, but if people in the home are seeing violence and abuse as part of their daily lives, are we surprised that when they become older, they behave in an equally appalling way and we get these dreadful, horrific crimes?
The noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, reminded the House of the abuse that women in public life have suffered, which, again, is totally unacceptable. One of my best friends—I will not mention her name—is a Member of the other place. We used to work together at the Labour Party. She was proud to be elected to Parliament to represent the constituency she lives in. She and her family suffered appalling abuse from a stalker, who found out where they lived and would turn up outside their front door, sent abusive emails and generally made their lives a living hell. In the end, my friend and her husband sold their home and moved to another part of the constituency, and the perpetrator went to prison for his crimes. In the new home, there are panic alarms, a special thing on the letter box and other security measures. This is no way to live, just because you want to represent your community and are good enough to stand for a party and get elected. It is appalling. I remember my friend telling me, when we had a coffee in Portcullis House, “Actually, Roy, I’m quite safe here. But I’ve left my husband and two kids under 16 at home, where this person knows we live. That is what really worries me while I am down in London during the week.” It is awful. She is not the only person; there have been horrific cases of women of all parties facing horrific abuse, particularly in the House of Commons. That is outrageous, and we must stop that.
I was talking to someone about the abusive emails that the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, received last week. Again, it reminded me of the total failure of the social media companies, which have not dealt with abuse or vile, disgusting threats. I look forward to the day the Government bring forward their online harms Bill and we can finally make the platforms that host these vile messages responsible. I suspect that when they are criminally responsible, things will change very quickly—and may that day come along.
The noble Lord, Lord Strasburger, rightly makes the point that domestic abuse is a hidden crime, committed over years, often leading to the death of a victim, and committed behind closed doors by the person who is supposed to care for, love and look after you. It is a horrific crime, and the more we talk about it, the more we can deal with it.
I agree with the comments from my noble friends Lord Hunt of Kings Heath and Lord Rooker and, like him, I agree with every comment made so far in this debate. The noble Lord, Lord Russel of Liverpool, drew attention to past failures and how we recognise those, learn the lessons and move on. Governments of all parties have made mistakes. This is not a party-political point. We have all got things wrong; we have all got things right. I deeply regret, though, the destruction of the Sure Start programme. Sure Start centres were the hubs that the noble Lord, Lord Farmer, often talks about when he debates here. Again, it is about ensuring that we have proper skills to address the problems and ensuring that things are better—that we bring up better boys and better men. That was very much an achievement of a much-loved and missed friend, Baroness Jowell. She gave that support to families who needed it.
I will leave my comments there. I am clear that if either amendment is moved to a vote, these Benches will support it.
My Lords, I join others in sending our thoughts and prayers to the family of Sarah Everard. We do not know the history of her murderer, but we do know that she is just another murdered woman. As the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, said, there have been 30 such women since Second Reading. I heard the story of the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, as a horror story; it is something you would never wish on anybody. The noble Baroness, Lady Royall, paid tribute to Jane Clough and her wonderful parents. I have met Jane Clough’s father, and I pay tribute to her parents, who have campaigned so tirelessly so that what happened to their daughter will not happen to somebody else. The noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, mentioned some of the horrendous things parliamentarians have to put up with. I am so sorry for the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, for the abuse she has suffered in the last week or so, and I am sure I speak on behalf of every other noble Lord in the House. And the story of my noble friend Lady Bertin was awfully sad and horrific.
To pick up the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Russell of Liverpool, this set of amendments is not about political digs. I totally agree with him. We all seek the same end, so it might seem odd that the words I am going to say disagree with noble Lords’ amendments. The noble Baroness, Lady Royall, and I have campaigned and worked together for years, trying to fix the gaps that we find in the provision.
Amendment 73 seeks to amend the Criminal Justice Act 2003, so that individuals assessed as high risk and high harm, as well as those convicted of more than one domestic abuse or stalking offence, should automatically be subject to management under Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements, commonly referred to as MAPPA. Management under MAPPA may result in these individuals being recorded on VISOR, which is the dangerous persons database. The amendment would also place a duty on the Government to review these changes to the Criminal Justice Act and issue a report 12 months after Royal Assent. It specifies that the report would need to include a comprehensive prevention and perpetrator strategy for domestic abusers and stalkers. This links to Amendment 81, which also calls on the Secretary of State to issue a perpetrator strategy.
Noble Lords have spoken passionately about this issue and it is impossible not to be moved. I am simply horrified by some of the stories raised, not only today but in Committee. I indicated then and say again that I totally agree with the intention behind these amendments. As the noble Lord, Lord Russell, said, so much works, so why are there gaps? We want to make sure that there are no gaps and that we have the right systems in place to enable the police and partner agencies to accurately identify the risks posed by high-harm, repeat and serial perpetrators, and to act accordingly to protect victims.
We recognise that there is more that can be done to fill the gaps and ensure that the system works as intended, but we do not think that Amendment 73 addresses or resolves the underlying issue of improving risk assessment and case management. We fear, therefore, that it will not achieve the outcomes that it is intended to achieve.
In Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, said—I will paraphrase—that serial and high-harm domestic abuse and stalking perpetrators can be managed under the current MAPPA legislation, but that it is not always happening in practice. My noble friend Lady Bertin echoed this and we agree, which is why, instead of amending the current legislation to add an additional category, we think there is more value in making better use of the existing MAPPA framework and related police systems.
My noble friend Lady McIntosh of Pickering talked about upskilling. There is a range of things, of which upskilling is one, which will drive an improvement in the system, including a better focus on the outcomes that we seek. We have already taken steps to improve MAPPA and related systems. Last spring, Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service published the Domestic Abuse Policy Framework, which sets out arrangements for working with people whose convictions or behaviours include domestic abuse. The framework mandates an adherence to the referral pathways for domestic abuse perpetrators and ensures that the required actions for these cases are fully laid out. It focuses on the need for an investigative approach, sets clear expectations about information exchange and the use of MAPPA, and draws together expected practice into a clear framework. This will significantly strengthen the consistency of our approach. It is right that we put our focus on embedding this framework, which will have a real operational impact to ensure that it is working to better safeguard victims and those at risk.
We are also introducing measures in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which was introduced in the House of Commons on
As my noble friend Lady Bertin says, we know that there is still more we can do to address the areas of concern that this amendment intends to resolve. I would like to outline the programme of activity that we will undertake to best achieve this. First, the Ministry of Justice will revisit and refresh all relevant chapters of MAPPA statutory guidance to include the sections on domestic abuse. This will ensure that all agencies involved take steps to identify offenders who are domestic abuse perpetrators whose risk requires active multi-agency management.
Secondly, we will introduce a thresholding document for local MAPPA strategic management boards to improve the consistency of assessments of MAPPA levels to ensure that those requiring greater oversight are correctly identified. We will ensure that there is a reference to domestic abuse perpetrators to assist relevant agencies in making decisions on the level of MAPPA management needed for individual cases.
Thirdly, HMPPS will issue a policy framework setting out clear expectations of the management of all cases at MAPPA level 1 by the National Probation Service, including domestic abuse perpetrators. This will further help to improve the quality of information sharing, the consistency and regularity of reviews, and the identification of cases where additional risk management activity is required.
Finally, we will improve the MAPPA sharing database —known as ViSOR—used to manage offenders, including through exploring alternative digital offender management systems, building on the success of the existing system in bringing agencies together to share information, and strengthening risk assessment, management and mitigation. To answer the point of my noble friend Lady McIntosh of Pickering, as I said before, the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill makes provision for that better data sharing under MAPPA.
There are provisions in the Bill which will also help to improve the management of risk posed by domestic abuse perpetrators. The new domestic abuse protection orders—or DAPOs—will provide an additional tool for managing the risk posed by perpetrators by enabling courts to impose a range of conditions and positive requirements. DAPOs will also require perpetrators subject to an order to notify the police of their name and address and any changes to this information. This will help the police to monitor the perpetrator’s whereabouts and the risk that they pose to the victim.
Stalking protection orders, which were introduced last year—I am glad that my noble friend is in the Chamber—can also impose positive requirement conditions on perpetrators. These orders enable early police intervention, pre-conviction, to address stalking behaviours before they become deep-rooted or escalate.
Ultimately, adding an additional MAPPA category into legislation specifically for domestic abuse offenders will not improve the practical issues it is truly seeking to resolve—and if it did, I would be fighting for it to happen. In fact, if we were to use the definition of domestic abuse offender as outlined in the amendment, we would make a large group of offenders not defined by specific offences automatically eligible for MAPPA. This would risk creating a level of complexity not reflected in the current legislation that will distract resources and could overwhelm the current system.
The definition of “specified stalking offence” in the amendment is given as an offence contrary to Section 2A or Section 4A of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. The Section 4A stalking offence, namely
“Stalking involving fear of violence, alarm or distress” can attract a sentence of up to 10 years in custody, and I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, for working with me on this. Where someone is sentenced to 12 months or more, they are already automatically subject to management under MAPPA. Crimes charged under Section 2A would be likely to involve episodes of stalking which do not involve fear of violence or serious alarm or distress and could be referred to MAPPA on a discretionary basis. We think this is the right balance to ensure that we are capturing the most harmful offenders. I am very grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, for bringing attention to this issue, but we think the package of actions that I have outlined today will be the most straightforward approach to achieving the intended outcomes and, most importantly, will make the biggest difference at an operational level.
I now turn to the part of Amendment 73 and to Amendment 81 that would place a duty on the Government to prepare a comprehensive prevention and perpetrator strategy for domestic abusers and stalkers. The Government are committed to holding perpetrators to account for their actions. As I mentioned in Committee, later this year the Government will bring forward a new, ambitious strategy to tackle the abhorrent crime of domestic abuse. Within this strategy, we will outline our plans and ambitions to prevent offending as well as to protect victims and ensure that they have the support they need. Tackling perpetrators and preventing offending will form a key pillar of the strategy, as my noble friend Lady Sanderson said.
The noble Lord, Lord Strasburger, asked for reassurance about what will be in the strategy with regard to perpetrators and prevention. He will appreciate that we are still in the early stages of our thinking, so I cannot pre-empt what the content of the strategy will look like at this stage, but I can commit that we will take all his points into consideration during its development. I know the noble Lord is particularly concerned about prevention, so I would like to provide reassurance that we recognise that to address a problem properly, we must tackle the root causes as well as the symptoms. I can also confirm that we will be consulting specialist organisations, including the Drive Partnership, other government departments and partner agencies during the development of the strategy.
The noble Lord’s amendment provides for a 12-month timetable for the publication of the strategy. While we aim to improve on that timetable, I hope noble Lords will recognise that we cannot have all the answers now. On the principle of a separate strategy, while we agree with the need to take a strategic approach to tackling perpetrators, we think it is right to do this in a holistic domestic abuse strategy and not in a standalone perpetrator strategy, to echo my noble friend Lady Sanderson again.
We continue to build up our evidence base to inform this work. As part of the spring Budget last year, the Chancellor allocated £10 million to fund innovative approaches to tackling perpetrators and preventing domestic abuse. This included more than £7 million for police and crime commissioners to support the adoption of a range of domestic abuse perpetrator-focused programmes in their area. This funding included a requirement for PCCs to conduct an evaluation of their project to strengthen the evidence base of what works to prevent reoffending. I am very pleased to confirm that we have now also provided more than £500,000 to 11 research projects to help improve our understanding of who carries out domestic abuse, how and why it occurs and how to prevent it.
I am delighted that in his Budget earlier this month, the Chancellor announced a further £15 million for the upcoming financial year to fund work on domestic abuse perpetrators. In addition to this, as part of the package to tackle serious violent crime, last week the Home Secretary announced an additional £10 million towards expanding domestic abuse perpetrator programmes. This more than doubles the total funding for tackling domestic abuse perpetrators and is an unprecedented amount of money in this area. This demonstrates the Government’s ongoing commitment to this agenda.
I apologise for detaining noble Lords for so long. I conclude by saying that we are absolutely committed to ensuring that MAPPA works as intended, but do not feel this amendment achieves that aim. I hope noble Lords will be reassured by the extensive programme of work under way that will help to address the concerns about the current MAPPA arrangements. The recent announcement by the Chancellor demonstrates the Government’s commitment to tackling perpetrators. I hope the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.
My Lords, what an extraordinary debate—powerful, passionate, distressing and harrowing in many ways. I am extremely grateful to all noble Lords who have participated, especially the noble Baronesses, Lady Brinton, Lady Bertin and Lady Grey-Thompson. It is extremely painful to relive the sort of experiences that they have relived today, but I hope their courage in putting their experiences on the record will help others.
The noble Lord, Lord Russell, was right when he said we need to fix the system for victims and their families, and for us to live at ease with ourselves as a society. Today, having named so many victims and cited the cases, we must remember the families of those victims and the great pain that such debates must cause them. Equally, I hope the fact that we are debating ways of improving systems will ensure that other young women, older women or girls will not be subjected to the same abuse, the same stalking and the same murders as their loved ones had to experience.
I am extremely grateful to the Minister for her comments, and she is right: we all seek the same end. But we have always had a slight difference in how to get to that end. If she does not mind, I would like to ask her something before she sits down, as it were, although I know she has sat down. I quoted some words from the Sunday Times suggesting that the Home Secretary and the Justice Secretary were thinking of a register for stalkers and perpetrators of domestic abuse. I wonder whether she can give us any further information about the comments made to the Sunday Times.
Like the noble Baroness, I saw that article. I have not had a chance to corroborate with the Home Secretary and my right honourable friend Robert Buckland the contents of that article. I can get some more information for the noble Baroness, because it would be useful to have their thinking on it.
My Lords, apparently in answer to a question from my right honourable friend Yvette Cooper, the Home Secretary said, “I will be very candid: I will look at all measures”. That was in response to a question about this very amendment.
The noble Baroness mentioned the fact that more guidance is coming and that there are more policy frameworks and strategies. All that is very good, but unless people have to do what we need them to, and unless they can be accountable to the law in some way, these things will not happen. We know that, for the last 20 or 30 years, there has been a plethora of guidance et cetera, but, still, people are falling through the cracks. This is why it is extremely important to have something in the Bill to put these things in statute. As my noble friend Lord Hunt said, police forces are awash with guidance—people do not need guidance; they need to know exactly what they have to do, and we have to hold them to account and ensure that they do it.
As the noble Baroness pointed out, my amendment might not be perfect—I have no doubt that it is not. However, I would like to test the opinion of the House, so that I can perhaps enter into some discussions with the Government, especially as they are now—from what we know from the newspapers and what the Home Secretary said in the House of Commons today—looking at a register. I suggest that perhaps the amendment before us provides the basis of such a register and of the way in which the Government might move forward.
Therefore, I would like to test the opinion of the House, so that we can, I hope, enter some negotiations. It will be up to our colleagues on all sides of the House of Commons to take this forward. I am very grateful to noble Lords who have supported this amendment in the Chamber today, and I have had messages from many other Peers, on all sides of the House, who are very supportive of what we are doing.
I say to the noble Lord, Lord Strasburger, that I think his amendment is excellent. I do not know if he will test the opinion of the House, but I am delighted to have been able to participate in the debate on his amendment. With that, I wish to test the opinion of the House.
Ayes 327, Noes 232.