Amendment 148A

Part of Victims and Prisoners Bill - Committee (6th Day) – in the House of Lords at 6:00 pm on 26 February 2024.

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Photo of Baroness Brinton Baroness Brinton Liberal Democrat 6:00, 26 February 2024

My Lords, I have signed Amendments 148A and 148B in this group. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, for her introduction and look forward to hearing from the noble Baroness, Lady Royall. The first amendment sets out an important addition to the arrangements for Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements, or MAPPA. We will hear about the detail of these amendments from the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, but I want to add that, throughout this Bill and its predecessors in your Lordships’ House, including the Domestic Abuse Bill and the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, we have repeatedly asked for more protection for people who have been victims of serial domestic abuse and, in particular, stalking.

Laura Richards’s ground-breaking work over many years in developing the dashboard profiling and documenting the most serious repeat offenders has changed the way in which specialist police teams view these perpetrators, but—I hesitate to say this for probably the third Bill running—MAPPA are still not applied consistently across police forces. One of the aims of these amendments is to make sure that happens. As we have heard, repeat perpetrators are far too often allowed to commit further crimes, including murder. Shockingly, a couple of years ago police research found that one in 12 domestic rapists was raping outside the home. A violent and controlling man leaving a partner does not mean that the violence ends. Many have extensive histories of abusing multiple women.

Amendment 148A sets out the licence conditions for serial and serious harm domestic abuse and stalking perpetrators, saying that anyone so identified should be part of a MAPPA. Proposed new subsection (4) sets out the definition of a relevant domestic abuse or stalking perpetrator. Similarly, the other amendment says that we must have an effective register. Non-domestic stalkers always seem to be left off. I always raise this problem in your Lordships’ House; there is an assumption that stalking is carried out only by a current partner or an ex-partner—or somebody who would like to be a partner and is therefore regarded as domestic—but about 40% of stalking cases have nothing to do with that at all. As we see from many stories in the papers day after day, these days people such as celebrities face massive amounts of stalking and do not get protection. Often, when people are arrested, it appears that they have stalked others as well.

The noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, made passing reference to the Gracie Spinks case. Derbyshire police and the police force that investigated its failings have learned from that, but we need consistency. I will give one recent example from Laura Richards. Last month a victim, Sadie, had been back in contact with her about her living hell over seven years. She is terrified that her ex will kill her children. In 2018 he was arrested for battery of her eight year-old daughter and an assault on her while she was holding her other daughter. He was convicted in 2019 and received a suspended sentence and restraining order. The police did not arrest him for stalking or coercive control. They told her that, because she had moved away, they would not arrest him for stalking and they would amend the restraining order to a lifelong RO. He has repeatedly breached it. As we discussed on earlier amendments, he then started family court proceedings.

I will not go on, except to say that she has had to flee three more times, and each time has hit problems with the new police force. There has been no consistency. He has a history of abusing others—exactly the point I made about police research finding that one in 12 domestic rapists rapes outside the home. This woman has no solution nearby to stop him continuing to behave in this way and mess up her life and those of her children. We need MAPPA to work effectively. These amendments are the first step in that direction.