Clause 7 - Establishment and conduct of reviews

Part of Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:30 pm on 24th June 2004.

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Photo of Harriet Harman Harriet Harman Solicitor General (Law Officers), Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee 3:30 pm, 24th June 2004

For the most part, the reviews are not about people looking for new information but about people getting together and sharing information about their involvement; that will be the nature of the reviews. I agree with the hon. Lady when she says that the aim is to spend to save. Investing people's time after a homicide will save lives, but the estimate is that it will also save money. The idea is to learn lessons and intervene earlier, and to identify risk factors and stop their escalating. The analysis done by Cardiff shows that earlier intervention saves repeat calls to the police and repeat victimisation. We are not yet clear on what the costs or savings will be; we will have to keep an eye on that.

It was said at one point that only the Home Secretary will be able to initiate reviews. That is not the case. Only the Home Secretary can direct, but anyone can initiate. For the most part, the Home Secretary will not direct, because someone somewhere in the local system will have said, ''We need a review.'' It would be depressing if, having established that that was the way in which people should go about it, that does not happen and the Home Secretary has to direct. Anyone can initiate a review, whether or not they are one of the organisations identified in the Bill.

My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North (Julie Morgan) mentioned the role of the voluntary sector and told the Committee that the review in Cardiff was carried out by the NSPCC and the police. I pay tribute to their conduct of the review, which I have considered and examined thoroughly. Under this legislation, anyone can take the lead in such a review. If it were a wildly inappropriate choice, the Home Secretary might direct somebody else to take the lead, but we do not expect that. Where voluntary agencies are well placed to take the lead, are trusted by the all other agencies and are the preferred option, they might take the lead on their own, or in partnership with a statutory agency as happened in Cardiff.

My hon. Friend also said that statutory agencies have larger budgets. We are talking about 130 cases a year, which is not a huge number. For a police force, that might take a relatively small proportion of their

overall budget, but for a small voluntary organisation, such as Victim Support in a small town, the cost might be a huge issue if it participated or took the lead. Voluntary bodies are financed in many different ways by many different organisations, and we shall have to see how we respond to ensure that they play their part. It is essential that Victim Support, Women's Aid, women's groups and other community groups that might have a role to play in these reviews can come forward and not be restricted by money.