HC Deb 17 July 2003 vol 409 cc154-6WH
11. Mr. David Rendel (Newbury)

What proportion of the victims of murder were killed as a result of domestic disputes involving their spouse or partner in each of the last five years. [125475]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs (Mr. David Lammy)

Homicide figures for all victims where the principal suspect was a partner or an ex-partner were: in 1997–98, 21 per cent.; 1998–99, 16 per cent.; 1999–2000, 16 per cent.; 2000–01, 16 per cent.; and, 2001–02, 18 per cent.

Mr. Rendel

In view of the number of murders that are committed by one partner against another, does the Minister agree that it is tremendously important to maintain secrecy about the new details and, in particular, the new address of any family fleeing from violence? Will he make representations to the Lord Chancellor's Department following the case of one of my constituents who was involved in domestic violence? She wrote to me about the court case and said that the medical report compiled by the consultant paediatrician contained all their new details and secret address and was forwarded to her former husband. Does the Minister agree that that is outrageous and that it would be a good idea to make representations to the Lord Chancellor to ensure that it does not happen again?

Mr. Lammy

I certainly undertake, through the Lord Chancellor, to look into that case. General lessons may well be drawn from what happened.

Mr. John Randall (Uxbridge)

Has any assessment been made of the percentage of cases of murder as a result of domestic violence that involve asylum seekers? Many asylum seekers suffer stress because of their situation and the trauma that they may have gone through. Has any assessment been made of the effect that that might have?

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

I cannot give the hon. Gentleman a precise answer, but I will find out and ensure that he is informed. I can tell the House that another proposal in "Safety and Justice" is for multi-agency reviews whenever there is a homicide resulting from domestic violence so that all agencies operating at local level—the police, local authorities and so on—can learn lessons from that horrendous event to ensure that as far as possible action is taken to prevent such events happening again.

Mr. Lammy

In the last five years for which figures are available, 499 suspects were indicted for killing their partner or ex-partner, of which 443–89 per cent.—were convicted of homicide.

Linda Gilroy (Plymouth, Sutton)

Will one of the ministerial team comment on the role of male perpetrator programmes in getting to the root of the problem?

Paul Goggins

I do not know whether I am the most qualified to answer that question. We are analysing a number of programmes operating in, for example, north America. If we find that they are successful, we will implement them. We think that it is possible to run some of those programmes and for them to have a positive impact. Where possible, we will of course try to implement that approach.

Mrs. Caroline Spelman (Meriden)

We do not have to look so far afield for help with those perpetrator programmes. I commend to the Minister a project by Probation West Midlands, which recognises the fundamental injustice in domestic violence. So often, it is the victim who must move out of the family home, with the loss of the security and assets that go with it, while the perpetrator can remain there. Recognising that fundamental injustice, Probation West Midlands has made provision in its probation hostels to remove the perpetrator and to start on the probation programme. Is that not something that, without having to cross the Atlantic, we might investigate in a little more depth and roll out with more effect?

Paul Goggins

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her advice and I will certainly find out more about that scheme and other programmes. The point that she makes about the victim being forced to move out is important. It is one area, which again concerns safety and justice, on which we are consulting. Wherever possible the victim should remain at home within familiar surroundings and the perpetrator should be removed.

With reference to a previous answer, we want to ensure that, where people are identified as perpetrators, we have a pro-arrest approach. We are ensuring that common assault is an arrestable offence, so that perpetrators are arrested and removed and victims can remain in safety in their homes.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. We are still at an experimental stage with cross-cutting questions and not everyone has settled down and got it right, whether they are Back Benchers putting questions or officials advising Ministers on answers. It is a matter of finding the subjects that lend themselves most to these debates and then all Members will understand the type of question intended to cut across from one Department to another.

As I have said before, I hope that hon. Members will write to me with their comments on the debates. We have had five altogether, on different subjects, and we must consider what are the best subjects and put them on a regular rotational basis so that the debates work more smoothly. I have tried to bring in more informality, with follow-up questions from both sides, but within the scope of an hour that is often difficult to do. We were assisted today by pure chance, as some of the questions were withdrawn at the last minute. I thank everyone for entering in the spirit of the debate. It has been a useful innovation and we can hone it and make it an effective procedure.

Mr. John Randall (Uxbridge)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker, you have just answered most of the questions that I intended to ask, but bearing in mind that the recess is coming up I am keen to learn about cross-cutting questions. Can you point out where I can find the information in writing, so that I can mug up on them during the recess and we can finally hone the debates? Or do we have a situation rather like those adverts on TV, where cross-cutting questions build week by week into exciting new parliamentary procedure?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Modesty forbids, but I made a lengthy statement at the beginning of the first debate, so the hon. Gentleman may find it useful to consult Hansard to see what I said.

3.28 pm

Sitting suspended.