HC Deb 10 May 2004 vol 421 cc7-8
3. Vera Baird (Redcar) (Lab)

What his plans are to tackle domestic violence and to bring more perpetrators to justice. [171318]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Paul Goggins)

Domestic violence is an horrific crime, which affects one in four women and causes the death of two women each week. The Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Bill is the biggest overhaul of domestic violence legislation for 30 years. It includes a range of measures that will provide additional protection and support for victims and help to bring perpetrators to justice.

Vera Baird

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer and congratulate him on the Bill. Is he aware of the work of local domestic violence advocacy services, which attach a worker to every domestic violence sufferer who rings the police to help that person through benefit changes and all that can follow a complaint, and to support that person through the justice system, upping the courts' success rate quite significantly and very cheaply? Will he consider piloting such services more widely?

Paul Goggins

I thank my hon. and learned Friend for her positive welcome for the Bill. I congratulate her and other members of the all-party group on domestic violence on the tremendous work that they have done to bring such issues to the attention of the House. Following February's joint inspection report, we are looking closely at the role of local advocates: we see that the idea has merit, and we want to assess it further. I fully endorse her comment about the need to support victims of domestic violence through the whole process. The practice and philosophy of the Crown Prosecution Service and the police has been transformed in recent years, so that victims of domestic violence are much better supported than they used to be.

Mr. Henry Bellingham (North-West Norfolk) (Con)

How many convictions were there last year and the year before, and how many does the Minister think there will be once the legislation is in place?

Paul Goggins

The hon. Gentleman needs to be slightly more precise about which charges he is inquiring about. We will implement a range of measures under the Bill, including extending the availability of restraining orders and non-molestation orders and making common assault an arrestable offence. Such measures will bear down on domestic violence and make sure that its perpetrators are dealt with severely. I hope that those on both sides of the House will support that approach.