Clause 7 - Establishment and conduct of reviews

Part of Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:15 pm on 24th June 2004.

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Photo of Robert Walter Robert Walter Conservative, North Dorset 3:15 pm, 24th June 2004

This is my first contribution to this Standing Committee—unfortunately, I was not able to be present at our proceedings on Tuesday. As a result of my actions on Tuesday, or perhaps for other reasons, I think that we now have two by-elections on 15 July. I leave hon. Members to work that one out.

I support the aim of the clause in principle, but I am concerned by two aspects that I hope the Solicitor-General will be able to address when she responds. The first was alluded to by my hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham and by the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Julie Morgan) in connection with the bodies that will be involved under subsection (4). I note that subsection (6) states:

''The Secretary of State may by order amend subsection (4) or (5).''

I would like guidance from the Solicitor-General as to whether she sees that power vested in the Secretary of State as simply one to amend the list in the light of changes to the arrangements for local government, or as a power that might be used to reflect some of the points made during the debate. There is probably a

good case for the Secretary of State broadening the group under that power, in the light of experience or otherwise. I can think of instances when it might be appropriate to bring into the reviews youth leaders, those who are running refuges and others, because they would have a specific contribution to make, particularly in the serious case of homicide. To broaden that provision and to give the Secretary of State the power to do that would be worth while.

My other point is on the guidance that will be issued. Paragraph 44 of the explanatory notes states:

''This clause provides for guidance on the establishment and conduct of domestic homicide reviews''.

Paragraph 45 states:

''The guidance will encourage multi-agency reviews in relevant cases and will provide details as to leadership, format, timing and participants depending on the individual circumstances of the case.''

It would be helpful if the Solicitor-General gave the Committee some idea of what that guidance will be. I am most concerned about the circumstances in which the review is triggered. Whose responsibility is it to trigger the review process? Who will set it going? Who has the power to request a review? Is it automatic? Will the chief police officer always do that, or will other bodies be able to trigger it, including bodies not listed in subsection (4)? Apart from those reservations, I very much support the thrust of this clause.