Repeal of provisions about defence for controlling or coercive behaviour offence

Part of Domestic Abuse Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:25 am on 17 June 2020.

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Photo of Alex Chalk Alex Chalk Assistant Whip, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice 9:25, 17 June 2020

With respect, that is not a fair characterisation. Parliament had the opportunity to consider the Bill in 2015. It went through Committee stage in this House, and it went through the House of Lords. It was Parliament’s will that it should exist. What is now being suggested, less than five years later, is that we should sweep away something that was there in the past. In my respectful submission, the case for that has not been made.

Of course, all matters are considered with care, particularly matters of this kind of sensitivity, but we have to be alive to the fact that sometimes, if we remove such a defence, we risk making the position far worse for the people we want to protect. We see that time and again when people are concerned that if they are not given the opportunity to advance their defence and simply to say, “Listen, you decide whether I have got this wrong.” If they do not have the option at least to put forward their defence so that 12 people who have no prior knowledge can make a fair decision, it would be unfair on them and would risk unfairness to people with disabilities.

The final point that I want to make is that the equivalent domestic abuse offence in Scotland contains a similar defence, under section 6 of the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018, as does the proposed new domestic abuse offence in Northern Ireland, which is clause 12 of the Domestic Abuse and Family Proceedings Bill, currently before the Northern Ireland Assembly. This is not an outlier provision, I respectfully submit.

Notwithstanding the very proper concerns expressed by the hon. Gentleman, I invite him to consider that, set in a wider context, seeking to exclude the provision is not necessary. In the light of my explanation, I invite him to withdraw the new clause.