Debates between Lord Harries of Pentregarth and Baroness Burt of Solihull during the 2019 Parliament

Wed 3rd Feb 2021
Domestic Abuse Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage:Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords

Domestic Abuse Bill

Debate between Lord Harries of Pentregarth and Baroness Burt of Solihull
Committee stage & Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Wednesday 3rd February 2021

(3 years, 4 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Domestic Abuse Bill 2019-21 View all Domestic Abuse Bill 2019-21 Debates Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 124-V Fifth marshalled list for Committee - (3 Feb 2021)
Lord Harries of Pentregarth Portrait Lord Harries of Pentregarth (CB) [V]
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My Lords, I speak briefly in support of Amendments 137 and 138, especially Amendment 137. It has been introduced extremely powerfully by the noble Baroness, Lady Newlove. I do not think that any of us would be here at this stage of the evening, late in the Bill, if we were not absolutely convinced of the importance of a stand-alone offence of non-fatal strangulation, and of course the Government also recognise this.

Perhaps we could pause briefly to pay tribute to, first, those victims of domestic violence—particularly those affected by non-fatal strangulation—and their bravery in coming forward, to the campaigning groups that have been willing to take up the issue on their behalf, and to the parliamentarians, both in the other House and in this place, who have been willing to respond to it. In a dark time, it is good to celebrate the fact that something is working in our democracy in this kind of way.

The key issue this evening for the Government to face is not whether there should be such a stand-alone offence—I think everyone is convinced of that now—but whether or not it should be in this Bill. It seems to me that the Minister has to face two real questions put forward by the noble Baroness, Lady Newlove, and also very powerfully by the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox of Newport, the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, and others. First, if 80% of non-fatal strangulations take place in the context of domestic violence, is there any reason at all why it should not be in this Bill? That is where it belongs. Secondly, as was said by the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, and many others as well, the police are crying out for something clear and associated with this Bill, because it will both raise awareness of this terrible form of cruelty and ensure that there is appropriate training in order to help the police to recognise it.

I very much hope that, when the Minister comes to respond, he will be able to look at these two issues in particular and agree that there is a proper place for this in the Bill.

Baroness Burt of Solihull Portrait Baroness Burt of Solihull (LD)
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My Lords, I commend the noble Baroness, Lady Newlove—and other noble Lords, but particularly she—on her determination and her excellent speech in explaining the horrific nature of this crime and its repercussions. Like many noble Lords, I was delighted to receive a letter from the Minister, the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, regarding the Government’s willingness to introduce a new offence of non-fatal strangulation on to the statute book as soon as possible, albeit not within this Bill.

I had thought that the Minister would be at the Dispatch Box this evening, so I am going to put a number of questions to the noble Lord, which I hope he will do his best to answer, although of course he cannot stand in the Minister’s shoes. Can he tell us what the Minister meant by

“a commitment to consider a new offence of non-fatal strangulation”?

Are the Government going to introduce one or are they not? Something a little bit definite would be very much appreciated. Could the noble Lord elaborate on what she meant by making the offence “proportionate”? She spoke of ensuring that more convictions can be achieved, but can he please give any indication of what this might look like?