HC Deb 29 April 2004 vol 420 cc1000-1
20. Julie Morgan (Cardiff, North) (Lab)

What plans she has to introduce statutory reviews of domestic violence murders. [169197]

The Solicitor-General (Ms Harriet Harman)

The Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Bill, which I hope will be introduced to the House in June, will contain a clause establishing reviews after domestic homicides. Most domestic homicides—one in three of all killings—are not single, isolated events but the culmination of mounting violence. We must learn lessons from these deaths so that we can intervene earlier. Subject to the approval of the House, that is what the multi-agency domestic homicide reviews will do.

Julie Morgan

I thank my right hon. and learned Friend for that reply. I know that she is aware of the domestic violence homicide review conducted in the south Wales area, which produced the tragic evidence that there had been approximately 40 referrals to the health service before a particular murder took place. Is she aware that the review was jointly led by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and South Wales police, and that this joint approach was very successful in drawing all the different agencies into the process? Can she think of any situation in which it would not be appropriate to carry out a review when a domestic violence homicide had taken place?

The Solicitor-General

I am aware of the case to which my hon. Friend refers. I am grateful to the people in Wales who allowed me to see a copy of the full case report. It shows that on probably 40 occasions the woman had told her GP, her friends and her employer and had been in A and E. The criminal justice system missed many opportunities to step in and stop the violent assaults, which, because they were not stopped, culminated in her being killed. It is important that all those who worked together on the review continue to work together to ensure that practice is such that such a case does not happen again.

My hon. Friend asked about cases in which it would not be appropriate to conduct a review. There are some exceptional cases in which a killing is a bolt out of the blue. In most cases, however, somebody—a child's teachers, a GP or the police—will have known about the violence. In cases where a death has resulted, local agencies will need to have a review, so that they can learn lessons and introduce better practice.

Ms Meg Munn (Sheffield, Heeley) (Lab/Co-op)

May I urge my right hon. and learned Friend to ensure that included within the definition of domestic violence are people with learning disabilities who are living in a more domestic situation? She will be aware that great changes have been made whereby many people are now supported within domestic situations, and as such they can be particularly vulnerable to abuse from either relatives or carers, including paid carers.

The Solicitor-General

The definition of domestic violence, in circumstances in which it will give rise to a review after a homicide, is in the Bill We recognise that when violence takes place in a domestic setting, either between a husband and wife or a former husband and wife or boyfriend and girlfriend, or when it involves a young child, it is particularly difficult to make sure that there is early intervention. The cases that my hon. Friend mentioned will certainly fall within that review.