Matters to be considered before giving a notice

Domestic Abuse Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:00 pm on 10th June 2020.

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Question (this day) again proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Jess Phillips Jess Phillips Shadow Minister (Home Office)

I was just discussing the issue of a notice being breached on behalf of the victim. I had started to say that in the case of Caroline Flack, who sadly took her own life, there was a notice between her and her partner that they had not breached. In that instance, the partner would be considered the victim in the context we are discussing. That case has highlighted in the public’s mind the fact that when a victim is told not to contact somebody, there will always be pressures, for lots of different reasons, and certainly if the victim shares children with the perpetrator.

In a case where somebody is struggling with their mental health or wishes to reach out, I just want some assurance about how it might play out in court if a breach of these notices occurred on the side of the victim—that is, if a victim breached a notice for pressure reasons, or even for humanitarian reasons. I have seen lots of cases in the family courts, for example, where the fact that orders have not been kept to has been used against victims. I wondered what we might think about breaches of these particular notices from the victim’s point of view.

Photo of Victoria Atkins Victoria Atkins The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

The hon. Lady’s question relates to clause 23, but my answer will be given on the basis that we are debating clause 21. Before I answer, I want to clarify that when I said the perpetrator could not make representations, I was thinking of court representations. I suspect that the officer can take representations into account if they arrive at the scene and the perpetrator says something to that officer, or whatever.

In relation to breaches, again, we need to be careful about the language we use. The notice will be between the police, who issue it, and the perpetrator; it does not place any restrictions on the victim. However, with other types of orders, there are of course circumstances in which non-contact orders have been made and the person being protected by that non-contact order contacts the person on whom it is placed.

That must be a matter for the court. As the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley has set out, the person being protected may well have had perfectly reasonable grounds for making contact, but that must fall into the arena of the court. I do not think we could interfere with that, because the judge will have to engage in that balancing exercise when considering the orders, as opposed to the notices we are debating at the moment. I am sorry that I cannot provide the hon. Lady with more information than that, but in those circumstances I recommend to the Committee that the clause stand part of the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 21 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 22 ordered to stand part of the Bill.