All Victoria Atkins contributions to the Domestic Abuse Act 2021

Mon 26th April 2021
Domestic Abuse Bill
Commons Chamber

Consideration of Lords amendments
Home Office
21 interactions (3,111 words)
Thu 15th April 2021
Domestic Abuse Bill
Commons Chamber

Consideration of Lords amendments
Consideration of Lords Amendments
Home Office
21 interactions (3,153 words)
Mon 6th July 2020
Domestic Abuse Bill
Commons Chamber

Report stage
Report stage: House of Commons
Report stage
Home Office
37 interactions (4,600 words)
Tue 28th April 2020
Domestic Abuse Bill
Commons Chamber

2nd reading
2nd reading: House of Commons
2nd reading
Ministry of Justice
3 interactions (1,945 words)

Domestic Abuse Bill

(Consideration of Lords amendments)
Victoria Atkins Excerpts
Monday 26th April 2021

(6 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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Home Office
Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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I must draw the House’s attention to the fact that financial privilege is engaged by Lords amendment 41B. If any Lords amendment engaging financial privilege is agreed to, I will cause the customary entry waiving Commons financial privilege to be entered in the Journal.

Clause 55

Annual reports

Victoria Atkins Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Victoria Atkins)
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I beg to move, That this House disagrees with Lords amendment 9B.

Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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With this it will be convenient to consider the following:

Government amendments (a) to (c) in lieu.

Lords amendments 40B and 40C, Government motion to disagree, and Government amendments (a) to (g) in lieu.

Lords amendment 41B, and Government motion to disagree.

Lords amendments 42D, 42E and 42F, Government motion to disagree, and Government amendments (d) to (f) in lieu.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
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I thank right hon. and hon. Members of this House and noble Lords who have worked tirelessly to make this a truly transformational Bill. It will make a significant difference to the lives of many women, men and children by better protecting them from their abusers and providing them with the support they so very much need. However, before the Bill can have any impact, we need to pass it, and we are fast running out of road to get us to that point. In the course of our deliberations, we should all be clear, therefore, about the risk of the Bill being timed out this week. None of us wants that—I hope I can take that as read. In the collegiate spirit of many of the debates on the Bill, we reflected carefully on the debates that took place in the Lords last Wednesday and we have tabled further amendments in the hope, and indeed expectation, that both Houses can now agree to submit this landmark Bill to Her Majesty for Royal Assent.

On child contact centres, there is no dispute that they need to be subject to appropriate regulation. It remains our contention that, on the evidence currently available, that is already achieved through accreditation by the National Association of Child Contact Centres, the agreements in place between the NACCC, the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service and the judiciary, and the comprehensive statutory provisions already in place that determine how local authorities should discharge their duties in public law family cases.

We listened carefully to the debate last week and recognise that there is an issue that needs to be examined further, but we cannot legislate on the basis of anecdotal—albeit pertinent—evidence. That is why the Government tabled Amendments 9C and 9D, which will require the Secretary of State to prepare and publish a report about the extent to which individuals, when they are using contact centres in England, are protected from the risk of domestic abuse or, in the case of children, other harm. The report will need to be laid before Parliament within two years of Royal Assent. We will engage closely with the NACCC and others in carrying out the work, which will provide a firm evidence base on which to introduce further regulation, including in the area of vetting, should that be necessary.

I turn to Lords amendments 40B and 40C. We remain concerned that the revised Lords amendments regarding data firewalls still pre-empt the outcome of the review recommended by the independent policing inspectorate in response to the super-complaint. We need to undertake that review without any preconceptions as to its outcome. To provide further reassurance on that point, Government amendments 40D to 40J introduce two new clauses. The first new clause will put the review of the current data-sharing arrangements on to a statutory footing and enshrine in law our commitment to report on the outcome of the review by the end of June. The second new clause will provide for a statutory code of practice relating to the processing of domestic abuse data for immigration purposes. Persons to whom the code is issued—notably the police and Home Office immigration staff—will be under a duty to have regard to the code, which will also be subject to parliamentary scrutiny. Although the clause is framed in terms of a permissive power to issue a code, I assure the House that we fully intend to exercise that power.

On Lords amendment 41B, I welcome the fact that this revised amendment attempts to separate the issue of leave to remain from the provision of support for migrant victims of domestic abuse. As I previously indicated, we need to focus on ensuring that victims with insecure immigration status can access the support they need. That is the priority. Unfortunately, despite the best intentions, the amendment would not achieve the outcome it seeks. The question of leave to remain is inextricably linked to the conditions attached to that leave, so it is impossible to waive the “no recourse to public funds” condition in isolation from consideration being given to a person’s immigration status.

As I announced last week, we have now appointed Southall Black Sisters to oversee the support for migrant victims scheme. The scheme will provide access to safe accommodation and the associated support to migrant victims of domestic abuse who are not eligible for the destitute domestic violence concession or other existing support mechanisms. The scheme will be independently evaluated, and will provide us with the necessary evidence of the gap in current support arrangements, so that we can put in place sustainable long-term provision. That is the direction of travel we are on. Since the scheme will provide support to victims, Lords amendment 41B is not necessary, and waiving the no recourse to public funds condition for a full year will again have significant new resource implications. The support for migrant victims scheme will be up and running shortly. We should see it through to its proper conclusion and settle on a sustainable programme of support.

Lords amendments 42D to 42F bring us back to the issue of how best to strengthen the management of high-harm domestic abuse and stalking perpetrators. Again, we are all in agreement as to the outcome we want to achieve. If I thought that the amendments would, of themselves, make women safer, I would be offering them my full support. However, it remains our firm view that they will not deliver the outcome they seek to secure. I say again that the legislative framework under which multi-agency public protection arrangements operate is not the problem. We acknowledge that those arrangements need to work better on the ground, but we need to look elsewhere for the fix.

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Yvette Cooper Portrait Yvette Cooper (Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford) (Lab)
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Will the Minister clarify what she just said? At the moment, repeat domestic abuse cases and stalkers will often not be included in categories 1 or 2 because the offences are not treated as serious enough in the way those categories are listed. Category 3 currently involves a tiny number of people. Will the Minister include all repeat domestic abusers and high-harm stalkers—all of them—under MAPPA in future?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
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As the right hon. Lady will know, category 1 perpetrators have to have committed a specified sexual offence under the legislation, and for category 2 they have to have been convicted of a violent offence and received a sentence of imprisonment for at least 12 months. If they are domestic abuse perpetrators, they will be included in the threshold guidance. This is very much about drawing out in the guidance the factors that local agencies should be concentrating on.

Although domestic abuse is already mentioned in section 6 of the guidance, we have listened to concerns that at local level the preponderance and patterns of behaviour are not necessarily being picked up in offenders in categories 1 and 2, as well as category 3. That is why, in discussions with Baroness Royall, we have been clear that we want to better capture those people under the existing framework. We will consult MAPPA responsible authorities on the draft revised guidance by the summer recess, and we will inform Parliament when the updated guidance is promulgated. Today, Baroness Williams of Trafford has written to Baroness Royall to confirm that past patterns of behaviours will be explicitly referred to in the guidance.

Yvette Cooper Portrait Yvette Cooper
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There are countless serious repeat domestic abuse cases that are not sexual offences. There are also countless very serious repeat domestic abuse offences that do not pass the 12-month threshold. All the Minister is saying is that she is going to try to include little bits of lines about domestic abuse in categories 1 and 2, which we know will not include huge numbers of repeat domestic cases, so she has actually gone backwards on some of the things that Baroness Williams was saying.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
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I do not accept that. The point is that category 3, as we have always said, is the flexible category. It is meant precisely to fit those cases that the hon. Lady has described. These offenders do not fit in category 1 or 2, but because they are considered to be dangerous offenders—they may, for example, have received a sentence of imprisonment of less than 12 months—they are in category 3. We want to join up that understanding in the guidance across all three categories.

We will consult with MAPPA authorities and will also invite views from across the House, but we have been working closely with Baroness Royall to try to address some of the issues that were rightly raised in the other place about past patterns of behaviour and so on. We give that undertaking today: we will look at that phrasing within the statutory guidance that is being drafted to help address some of the concerns in both Houses.

Yvette Cooper Portrait Yvette Cooper
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Will the Minister give way?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
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One more time, then I have to make progress.

Yvette Cooper Portrait Yvette Cooper
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I am very grateful to the Minister, who is being very generous with her time. May I specifically ask about category 3? There are only around 300 offenders in that category, compared with the thousands or nearly tens of thousands of people that we are talking about. Will she undertake to include all convicted serial domestic abusers in category 3?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
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The flexibility of category 3 means that that is already possible, if there has been a conviction. I gave the example on 15 April of criminal damage, such as if somebody kicks down a door. On the face of it, a criminal damage offence would not fit into category 1 or category 2. That is where the professional curiosity of professionals on the ground—police, probation and prison officers and so on—comes in. If someone has been convicted of that offence, he or she may not be in category 1 or category 2, but if those professionals believe that it is part of a pattern of past behaviour, on which Baroness Royall has rightly focused, that is how they will be put on to the system under MAPPA. We very much want the concerns that have been raised to be reflected in the guidance as well as the national framework.

I have already announced that we need to be sure that action is taken when there are indicators of escalating harm for those who are managed under the least intensive level of MAPPA—so, level 1. To that end, Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service will issue a new policy framework setting out clear expectations for the management of all cases at MAPPA level 1 by the National Probation Service. This includes domestic abuse perpetrators. That will further help improve the quality of information sharing, the consistency and regularity of reviews, and the identification of cases where risk is increasing and additional risk management activity is required.

Thirdly, as I announced on 15 April, we are bringing in the new multi-agency public protection system, or MAPPS, which will be piloted from next year. All category 3 offenders will be on MAPPS, which will have much greater functionality than the violent offender and sex offender register, or ViSOR, which is the existing database. That will enable criminal justice agencies to share information in real time and improve their risk assessments and the management of MAPPA nominals, including domestic abuse perpetrators.

Fourthly, we are legislating in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill to clarify the information sharing powers under MAPPA. For example, GPs and domestic abuse charities can very much be part of that data sharing. That is the intention of the clauses in the Bill, and I hope we will be able to persuade Opposition Members to support us on that.

Fifthly, we are committed to bringing forward a new statutory domestic abuse perpetrator strategy as part of our holistic domestic abuse strategy to be published later this year. Our revised amendment makes it clear that the strategy will address the risks associated with stalking. We will also include a perpetrator strand in our complementary violence against women and girls strategy, which will cover stalking that does not take place in a domestic abuse context.

Sixthly, we are investing new resources, with an additional £25 million committed this year, to tackle perpetrators’ behaviour and to stop the cycle of abuse. Finally, more broadly, I can assure right hon. and hon. Members that this Government are committed to supporting vulnerable victims. Having published a new victims code to guarantee victims’ rights and the level of support they can expect, we will consult over the summer on the victims’ law, which will enshrine those rights in law.

The other place has asked the Government to consider again these four issues. We will do so in the next hour. We have listened carefully to their lordships’ concerns and responded with a substantial new package of commitments, both to strengthen this groundbreaking Bill and to further our wider programme to protect and support victims of domestic abuse and their children and bring perpetrators to justice. It is time for the Bill to be enacted and implemented, for the sake of the 2.3 million adults and their children who are victims of domestic abuse each year. Let us agree to the Government amendments in lieu, let us pass this Bill, and let us help victims.

Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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I call the shadow Minister, Jess Phillips.

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Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP)
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Briefly, I wish to highlight my concerns on the issue of the identification, monitoring and management of serial domestic abuse and stalking perpetrators, and the provisions that refer to that. I base most of the comments I make in this Chamber on personal experience—on the people I meet in my constituency office and have helped and tried to help over the years.

I recall sitting in my office looking at the face of a victim, sometimes sitting beside the perpetrator, and feeling helpless and hopeless. I could see what was going on. I could also understand that my words could make the situation more difficult for the victim. So I found myself on some occasions just being silent and listening, when everything within me cried out to speak, act and help. That is what I wanted to do, but I felt that sensitivity was more important. All too often, I have tried to distract a partner while the staff attempted to assure the victim that they were here to help wherever they needed and in confidence. All too often, I have offered help, only to hear a victim say, “No one would believe me because he is a pillar of society.” That proves that, irrespective of position, those in the highest positions and the lowest positions of the land can abuse ladies.

The Lords amendment on this brings clarity on repeated offences, broadening things to include serious harm, sexual violence and stalking, among other specifications. It makes it crystal clear and a little easier to help those victims. It offers them greater scope and, with that, greater support. It makes it clear that the offences clearly listed will never be acceptable. It makes it clear that all those listed offences are taken seriously and that a strategy to deal with this must be a Government priority.

This clarity is welcome. This House must send a unified message on this Bill today. I believe that the Minister is very much committed to making the changes that are necessary to pull all of the concerns and thoughts of Members together, and provide reassurance that when we pass the Bill it is not simply the best we can do, but the best possible—not that we offer help, support and recognition to as many victims as possible, but that we have left no victim alone without legislation to protect them.

It is my desire, when I am faced with cases of domestic abuse—unfortunately, my staff and I have been faced with such cases—to have the confidence to be able to tell the victim, “All the elements, from the Police Service of Northern Ireland to the courts, are designed with your needs in mind. You do not have to do this alone. The police and the courts will walk alongside you, and give you the protection you want.” I long to send that message. I look again to the Minister for clarity that this is what we are saying tonight in this Chamber.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
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I thank hon. and right hon. Members across the House for the constructive tone they have maintained not just tonight but throughout. I am particularly moved by the comments the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) has just made. He speaks of the constituents he meets in his office. He knows they are sitting next to their perpetrators and he tries to distract them. I am sure many of us can understand and sympathise with that. It is precisely those people we are trying to help with the Bill.

I will try to deal with some of the issues raised but I am very conscious of time, so forgive me if I am not able to. My noble Friend in the other place will have more time tomorrow and will try to deal with some of the points that will no doubt be raised then.

The hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Jess Phillips) asked questions about the code in respect of the firewall review. We are very much in listening mode. We have not yet drafted the code and will consider the consequences she raised. I draw her attention to the fact that in the new clause we have said we will consult the Domestic Abuse Commissioner and the Information Commissioner’s Office. I very much hope that the fact that we have thought about the point she makes about accountability and so on, and included it in the new clause, gives her some comfort.

I am extremely grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Richard Graham) for raising Clare’s law. We have not talked about it in the context of recent debates. The right to ask and the right to know is an incredibly important tool for victims and the police. We can spread the message across our constituencies that if someone is worried about a new relationship they can ask the police whether there is something they should know about their new relationship, or if the police are worried about a serial perpetrator and want to warn the new partner, then this facility exists. Again, this is why it is so important that the Bill is passed.

The right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper) rightly and understandably raised questions about our approach to the point on MAPPA. I know this is an issue to which she has given a great deal of attention and consideration during the passage of the Bill and previously. If I may, I just want to clarify something. I do not know whether there has been a misunderstanding in translation, but I am aware of my duties at the Dispatch Box. I think she said that I had said that category 3 will include all serial perpetrators in future. I hope I have not misquoted her. To clarify, categories 1 and 2 will include domestic abuse perpetrators by definition of the qualifying offences under categories 1 and 2.

We very much hope and expect that the updated guidance we are issuing as a result of the discussions on the Bill and the improvements we will make to data sharing, not just in terms of guidance and framework but also, importantly, through the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, will see an increase in category 3 offenders. We want local agencies to be applying the system in the improved way we all want. Of course, domestic abuse protection orders will also include notification requirements. I just wanted to clarify that. Perhaps there has been a misunderstanding in translation, as it were, or in debate.

Yvette Cooper Portrait Yvette Cooper
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I think the confusion is that I was asking whether it would be possible to include all repeat domestic abusers and high-harm stalkers in category 3. That is what we were trying to achieve. Can the Minister include all of them through the change to guidance to include them on category 3?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
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I am extremely grateful to the right hon. Lady for clarifying that. This is the nub of it: through the framework that already exists—improved guidance, the national framework that I described, and the wording in guidance and so on that has been discussed recently—we want those offenders whom local agencies judge to pose a risk to be assessed as such. They will either already have been automatically included in category 1 or 2, or assessed under category 3. That is the point of this—it is the professional curiosity that I talked about. We want this framework to work better, in addition to the work in MAPPS, which is being piloted next year.

I know that this is incredibly technical. I have spent the past three years trying to de-jargon—if that is a word—some of this very technical language so that we may all communicate with the victims whom we are desperately trying to help in our constituencies. This is one of those instances that is very technical. I have tried to de-jargon it as much as I can, but it is incredibly technical. We have to look to local agencies and professionals using their best endeavours to protect our constituents across the country.

The hon. Member for Bristol South (Karin Smyth) asked the question—which I might have just answered—how we reassure women in her constituency that we are, first, acting with the best of intentions and, secondly, being held to account. I make this point, not just to us but to Members of another place: this is not the end of the road for our work on domestic abuse. We have been very clear that the Bill is a landmark one, but it is setting up a whole programme of work, locally through things such as our specialist services for people in safe accommodation, the Domestic Abuse Commissioner and all the measures we have put into local family courts.

This programme of work will, I hope, outlast many of us and our time in this place. By virtue of that, I point the hon. Lady to things such as our announcement that we want to publish a VAWG—violence against women and girls—strategy later this summer, looking at some of the behaviours that we have discussed during the passage of the Bill. Later this year, we will publish a domestic abuse dedicated specialist national strategy to tackle abuse. The momentum that the Bill has created will be continued through both those strategies. This is very much the start of the journey as far as I and this Government are concerned. We very much look forward to listening to ideas and suggestions from across the House as we take through those strategies and other pieces of legislation.

To return to the people to whom the hon. Member for Strangford referred, those constituents whom he faces in his office to help—as we all do—I have talked before about my commitment to helping victims of domestic abuse. This is not just about those victims whom we are trying to help today, or in the future; for me, this is about the women, the victims, I could not help when I was working in the criminal courts at the very beginning of my career. In that day and age, it was all too inevitable that the victim would hand in her withdrawal statement, because the abuser had got to her before she had been able to give her evidence and to put her case forward. It is for those victims, as well as victims now and in the future, that this Bill is so critical. I very much hope that the Lords will help us to pass this piece of legislation as quickly as possible this week, so that we can start to help those victims as soon as possible.

Question put, That this House disagrees with Lords amendment 9B.

Lords amendment 9B disagreed to.

Domestic Abuse Bill

(Consideration of Lords amendments)
Victoria Atkins Excerpts
Thursday 15th April 2021

(6 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber

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Home Office
Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
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I must draw the House’s attention to the fact that financial privilege is engaged by Lords amendments 41 and 43. If the Lords amendments that engage financial privilege are agreed to, I will cause the customary entry waiving Commons financial privilege to be entered into the Journal.

Clause 2

Definition of “personally connected”

Victoria Atkins Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Victoria Atkins)
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I beg to move, That this House disagrees with Lords amendment 1.

Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker
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With this it will be convenient to discuss the following: Lords amendment 2, and Government motion to disagree.

Lords amendment 3, and Government motion to disagree.

Lords amendments 4 to 8.

Lords amendment 9, and Government motion to disagree.

Lords amendments 10 to 32.

Lords amendment 33, and Government motion to disagree.

Lords amendments 34 to 36.

Lords amendment 37, and Government motion to disagree.

Lords amendment 38, and Government motion to disagree.

Lords amendment 39.

Lords amendment 40, and Government motion to disagree.

Lords amendment 41, and Government motion to disagree.

Lords amendment 42, and Government motion to disagree, and Government amendments (a) to (c) in lieu.

Lords amendment 43, and Government motion to disagree.

Lords amendments 44 to 82.

Lords amendment 83, and Government motion to disagree.

Lords amendments 84 to 86.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
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Before I start my speech, may I beg your indulgence, Mr Deputy Speaker, and place on the record not only my condolences to Her Majesty the Queen but my and my constituents’ heartfelt thanks to His Royal Highness Prince Philip? He was the personification of public service, dedicating his life to Her Majesty and to serving our country for more than 70 years, and he did so with great style and often a twinkle in his eye.

May I also pay tribute to my friend, the right hon. Dame Cheryl Gillan, who passed away very recently? She would have loved to take part in today’s debate. She was a huge advocate for the vulnerable, including those who live with autism. She was a wonderful, wonderful friend and colleague to us all, and she will be very, very sorely missed.

We support the vast majority of the 86 amendments that the Lords have sent to us. Indeed, we have worked with peers in many instances to bring those amendments forward. There are 12 sets with which we do not agree and I will deal with those in due course. But I would like to take a moment to reflect on the events of recent weeks and the concerns, the experiences and indeed the fears expressed by women and girls across the country.

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Maria Miller Portrait Mrs Maria Miller (Basingstoke) (Con)
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I thank my hon. Friend for all that she has done with regard to recognising the problems around threats to publish intimate images. Will she join me in saying that we need to make sure that the law is all-encompassing in this area? It is important to improve the law on revenge pornography as it stands now, introduced by this Government, but it is even more important that we have a wholesale review of this area, such as that which is part of the Law Commission’s review.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
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I agree completely with my right hon. Friend. I thank her for the work she has done over many years to address this and other issues particularly affecting women and girls. We very much take that point. We have worked on the amendment with Baroness Morgan to have an immediate impact, but in addition we look forward to receiving the Law Commission’s report and recommendations later this year—it is looking at the whole of the law on the use of intimate images and other types of malicious communications on the internet. If the law needs to be changed to reflect recommendations, we can address those in subsequent legislation. These clauses apply to all relationships and all encounters of a sexual nature, from a Tinder hook-up to a marriage of many decades. Those protections will be enshrined in this Bill.

I turn to another amendment that I know has been welcomed warmly by survivors and campaigners: the extension of the coercive and controlling behaviour offence to include post-separation abuse. We listened very carefully to debates in this place, as well as to charities such as Surviving Economic Abuse and, of course, to survivors themselves. We reviewed the offence to see how it is working after five years of being in force and we published that review in March.

We acknowledge that coercive and controlling behaviour continues and indeed may escalate following separation, so amendment 34 will extend the offence to cover post-separation abuse between former intimate partners and interfamilial abuse, regardless of whether the family members are living together or not. The amendment will send a strong message to perpetrators that controlling or coercive behaviours, irrespective of the living arrangements, are forms of domestic abuse and that the criminal law is there to protect victims.

The Bill also revolutionises the help that is available to victims who need to flee relationships to refuge or other safe accommodation. It is revolutionary in that it helps to ensure that they are helped to recover from their experiences. Part 4 introduces a duty on tier 1 local authorities to provide specialist services to such victims and we have announced £125 million of funding to support that provision in the Bill.

There is a cross-party desire to see those measures matched by equivalent provision in respect of community-based support. This Government are alive to such calls. Police and crime commissioners, and others, already provide significant community-based support to victims of crime, but we need better evidence of the gaps in current provision and how they might best be addressed. That is why the Government have now committed to consult on the provision of community-based support as part of this summer’s consultation on the new victims’ law. That commitment to consult is backed up by Lords amendments 5, 8 and 10 to 16. Lords amendment 5 will place a duty on the domestic abuse commissioner to publish a report, under her new powers in the Bill, on the provision of and need for community-based services. Lords amendments 8 and 10 to 16 will place a duty on tier 1 local authorities, with the support of their domestic abuse local partnership boards, to monitor and report on the impact of the safe accommodation duty on the provision of community-based support in their area. Taken together with the responses to our victims’ law consultation, those amendments will ensure that the Government have all the information they need to build on the strong foundations of existing community-based services.

Some of the most upsetting and torturous experiences that victims can experience happen after a relationship has ended, in the family and civil courts. Lords amendments 17 and 24 to 31 relate to special measures and the ban on cross-examination in person in civil proceedings. In short, those amendments more closely align the position in the civil courts to that in the family courts, so that victims of domestic abuse have the benefit of automatic eligibility for special measures to enable them to give their best evidence and to ensure that they are protected from being cross-examined in person by their abuser. Our justice system should not be used as another form of abuse. This Bill will help to protect victims and secure justice.

In the case of the family courts, perpetrators can continue abuse through repeated unmeritorious proceedings. Lords amendment 33 amends the Children Act 1989 to prevent such vexatious claims. The amendment makes it clear that a court may make a barring order in circumstances where it is satisfied that a further application made by the named person would put the child or another, for example the parent victim, at risk of harm. For all the victims and survivors I have met, and whose stories we have heard in the Chamber: these measures are to help you all to secure justice, as you deserve.

Lords amendment 39 would ensure that a health professional working in a general practice that holds an NHS contract cannot charge for evidence to show that a patient has been the victim of domestic abuse for the purpose of obtaining legal aid. We recognise that it is already the case that most GPs do not charge for such evidence, but the amendment will ensure that no victim faces that barrier to obtaining legal aid.

The Bill also reaches beyond these shores. Lords amendments 70 to 82 amend the extraterritorial jurisdiction provisions in the Bill to remove the dual criminality requirement for relevant sexual offences, including rape, committed outside the UK by UK nationals. That will enable UK nationals who commit marital rape in countries where such behaviour is not criminal to be prosecuted in UK courts. This is also a significant step forward towards ratifying the Istanbul convention, as it addresses one of the three outstanding matters set out in the statement to the House in October last year.

I turn to the 12 sets of Lords amendments to which we have tabled motions to disagree. I emphasise that, in line with our approach throughout the Bill, where we do not agree with the amendments, and where possible, we have sought to address the concerns raised through practical measures instead. The first set of amendments relates to the definition of domestic abuse. Lords amendments 1 to 3 would bring abuse by all carers of disabled persons, paid and unpaid, within the definition of domestic abuse in the Bill. I hope it is clear—it perhaps does not need saying—that the Government abhor all abuse, and we have every sympathy for the spirit of these amendments. Abuse of disabled people by their carers must be called out and acted upon. The issue before us today is whether this is the right Bill to strengthen the protection for disabled people.

The focus of this Bill is on domestic abuse as it is commonly understood—that is, abuse by a current or former intimate partner, or by a family member. That is the approach taken in the Istanbul convention, which I know many hon. Members are keen for the UK to ratify. Where a disabled person is abused by a partner or family member, the abuse will be covered by the definition as already agreed by this House. However, Lords amendments 1 to 3 would bring in a much wider range of relationships, outside a domestic abuse setting. We should steer away from diluting the purpose of the Bill.

As I have said, however, in inviting the House to disagree with these Lords amendments, we do not wish to downplay or deny for one moment the experience of disabled people who are abused by their paid or volunteer carers. There are protections in place, including the offences in the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 relating to ill treatment and wilful neglect. However, we have listened carefully to the experiences and concerns raised in this House and the other place. We want to find practical ways in which to address those concerns. That is why the Government intend to carry out a review of the protections for people at risk of carer abuse. We will engage with the noble Baroness Campbell of Surbiton and the disabled sector on the scope of the review, but it would broadly seek to examine the protections offered against carer abuse and the support available to victims. We have listened and we will act.

Lords amendment 33 takes us into the arena of judicial training, requiring the Secretary of State to set out a strategy and timetable for such training. Again, we agree, and we understand the motivations behind this amendment. No one can dispute the need for judges and magistrates to be properly trained in these matters, nor do we dispute that this must continue to be a developing process, and one of improvement. Indeed, the judiciary understands this and agrees. The Judicial College is committed to reviewing and improving training on domestic abuse. Moreover, the president of the family division has indicated that he will consider making recommendations regarding training, taking into account this Bill, the harm panel report and the four recent Court of Appeal judgments in domestic abuse cases.

--- Later in debate ---
Jess Phillips Portrait Jess Phillips (Birmingham, Yardley) (Lab)
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Like the Minister, I wish to place on record my own and my party’s sadness on behalf of Her Majesty the Queen. I suppose all your life you get used to the existence of the royal family as if they are always going to be there. In the passing of Prince Philip, we realised how lucky we are as a nation to have a sort of backbone that is always there—a family who are not always perfect, like anyone’s family, but who we can look to. I and we all feel very keenly in light of the pandemic the loss to the royal family specifically and to us as a nation.

We also share in the Minister’s sadness at the loss of Dame Cheryl Gillan. Regardless of political party, she was a friend especially to every woman in this House. To every woman from every party who came, she offered words of advice and words of exasperation in the lady Members’ rooms. She was one of a kind, and she will be missed genuinely and keenly across the House. She would definitely have been here today, without question. She spoke in almost every single one of these debates. We will miss her further, and no doubt we will all seek to take on her work.

Following the death of Sarah Everard, heartbreak, fear and anger ripped through the country—a response to the endemic violence that women and girls suffer. People felt it in their bones. Responding to such an outpouring of grief is our job. It is our duty and a privilege as parliamentarians to take that emotion, that fear, that rage, that passion and that injustice and to turn it into policy and law. It is our job to do something meaningful.

The question for the House today, as we consider the amendments inserted into the Bill by the other place in the heat of those moments, is: who do we decide to save? I will briefly talk through which amendments we are supporting and why, as the Minister has done.

I welcome very much, as I have throughout its passage, the immense changes to the Bill. It is unrecognisable from the day it started, which I do not know if anyone can remember; it seems so long ago. The spirit in which the Bill has been forged—that is how it feels—has always been to seek amendments and to work to improve it, and my comments will continue in that exact same spirit as we seek to continue to amend it.

Amendments 40, 41 and 43—I am sure nobody will be surprised to hear my views on migrant victims of domestic abuse—would allow migrant victims to access support and protection just like everybody else and just like I could. Without the amendments, victims will be left trapped in abusive households. It is as simple as that. The Government will seek to tell us that they have proposed a pilot project, which we have heard about today. I am pleased to hear that the pilot has gone to Southall Black Sisters, I believe in partnership with Birmingham and Solihull Women’s Aid—a place very close to my heart—but the specialist organisations and independent commissioners have all been very clear that the pilot is inadequate, as the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) alluded to.

Analysis by the domestic abuse sector suggests that thousands of victims could be left unprotected and unsupported under the pilot scheme. Students here studying, for example, might be raped, battered and abused by their partners. Thousands of students have this week talked on the Everyone’s Invited site about sexual assaults on campus. Foreign students would not be able to seek refuge in the same way that I can under the current rules in this country if they needed to escape.

This pilot is not good enough. It will only provide minimal, short-term support for 300 to 500 women. There is no money, for instance, for counselling, therapeutic intervention, interpretation costs, children’s costs and medical or travel costs. What happens, then, when the 501st victim visits? I can tell you what happens to the 501st victim, because it is what happens now. It is happening to Farah, who was routinely tormented and assaulted with a belt by her father and trapped in that abuse without access to public funds or support and protection. She said:

“I made many calls to the council and even the national domestic violence helpline and many other organisations for people who suffer domestic violence. They all said the same thing: I had no recourse to public funds, so they couldn’t and wouldn’t help me. Some of them even said it was the law not to help me. I guess that no recourse to public funds means that it’s okay for me to be violated physically and mentally abused by my father. I guess the Government approves of that.”

Lords amendment 40 establishes safe reporting mechanisms which ensure that all victims of domestic abuse feel able to come forward to the police. Perpetrators know at the moment that they can use immigration status as a weapon against vulnerable, frightened victims—“If you tell the police, you’ll get deported and you’ll never see the kids again. If you go to the police, they’ll lock you up in a detention centre.” I have seen this thousands of times.

At the end of last year, three police oversight bodies said that the data sharing with immigration enforcement was causing “significant harm” to the public interest. If victims cannot report, those perpetrators remain out there. We are leaving violent rapists and dangerous, violent men in our community, able to hurt people again and again. I listened to the Minister’s comments on this, and obviously I welcome the idea of a review. In terms of the idea that it is premature to ask for the law to be amended to protect these victims, I have stood in the House asking for this for at least four years. It does not feel premature for my constituents who had threats to kill and ended up in detention. It does not feel premature when I had to go to Yarl’s Wood to collect them.

I have to disagree with what the Minister said. These amendments do not ensure indefinite leave to remain for all victims of domestic abuse or allow some mythical path to dodge immigration processes. They are about getting victims out of an abusive and dangerous situation, on an equal footing to what any one of us in this House would expect for ourselves and our daughters. I also expect it for all my constituents.

Moving on to other serial offenders whom we currently leave on the streets and those victims who are at the highest risk of harm, Lords amendment 42 requires serial domestic abuse or stalking perpetrators to be registered on a database and accompanied by a comprehensive perpetrator strategy. The Labour party supports this amendment. Zoe Dronfield almost died when her ex-partner attacked her with a meat cleaver. Zoe spent weeks in hospital recovering from bleeding to the brain, a stab wound to her neck and a broken right arm inflicted during an eight-hour ordeal at the hands of Jason Smith. Zoe discovered after reporting her case to the police that Smith had abused 13 previous victims. There is a desperate need in this country to do something to identify, manage and monitor these high-harm perpetrators of stalking and domestic abuse. They would not have been met by current MAPPA. [Interruption.] The Minister claims that that is not true, but they were not in these instances.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
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I just want to clarify this, because it is an important detail. Category 3 of MAPPA is defined as “other dangerous offenders”. It does not matter whether that offender has committed section 18 grievous bodily harm or criminal damage, which, as the hon. Lady will know, is a much lower offence. It is the risk assessment of that defendant in the circumstances of the offence that matters and puts them in category 3. That is the point—it already exists.

Jess Phillips Portrait Jess Phillips
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If it already exists, why was Jason Smith allowed to go on and abuse 13 other people? It is not just Jason Smith, of course—it is the person who killed Hollie Gazzard, the person who killed Jane Clough and the person who killed Helen. The reality is that this is not working, and the victims in these instances, like Zoe Dronfield, have spoken very clearly, and the agencies have spoken clearly. They have asked us to look again and help to protect them.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
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Just to assist the House, as I hope I made clear in my speech, we know there have been horrific instances where, in the system itself, those risk assessments and the management have not been done properly. I think we are having a disagreement about whether putting in a new category will change that. We want to look, and we are doing so through the statutory guidance, at how these assessments are made on the ground. That is what will make a difference, not a statutory framework.

Jess Phillips Portrait Jess Phillips
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I can sympathise with what the Minister is saying, but I would ask the House and the Minister to sympathise with somebody on the frontline who has been watched again and again, through one multi-agency risk assessment conference after another, or a serious case review or a domestic homicide review. Again and again, the same thing is said—agencies do not speak to each other. The idea of amending the statutory guidance but not putting in place some legislative framework so that this has to occur is just more, “Oh, let’s see if we can get agencies speaking to each other again.” It just is not enough. It is not just me who thinks it is not enough. When I spoke to Zoe Dronfield herself this morning, she told me that she was devastated. In the heat of the Sarah Everard killing, she felt that the Government were listening, and today victims like her feel as though they have been let down.

The Government amendment in lieu is not enough. It is perfectly fine in its own right and the Labour party called for a perpetrator strategy in Committee, but it is not the same as what is proposed in Lords amendment 42. It is not even nearly answering the same question. Dangerous criminals are on our streets and in our homes, and repeating the same acts of violence and abuse over and over again, moving from victim to victim. Nothing in what the Government have proposed, I am afraid, has anywhere near enough teeth or will account for, identify and offer safety to the victims now dead at the hands of the most serial perpetrators. The amendments from the other place are strong, and I very much imagine that it will successfully push back. The Labour party stands ready to support it as it does so, and stands to support the victims.

Disabled victims are currently left out of the Bill. Lords amendments 1 to 3 change the definition of “personally connected” to reflect the lived experience of disabled victims of domestic abuse. Disabled people can be victims of domestic abuse by paid and unpaid carers, with whom they have close, intimate relationships. For victims, this abuse of trust and power is experienced in exactly the same way as that perpetrated by a mother, a father or a partner, so it should be recognised as such in the Bill. The expansion of the definition of “personally connected” will not dilute it, as has been suggested by the Government, but fortify it to protect those who right now are being domestically abused because they are dependent on another person in their lives. This is what disabled people have asked for, and I am sure we will see after today if the review proposed by the Government is satisfactory to those voices, who are the ones we must listen to in this.

Moving on to training of the judiciary and the accreditation of child contact centres, I want Members in this House to know that today they will be voting against making it mandatory for family court judges to be trained on domestic abuse. The Government are claiming that Lords amendment 33 threatens the independence of the judiciary. They have yet to elaborate, and the Minister did not elaborate on this point earlier. However, I shall assume—she can of course correct me if I am wrong—that she and those who sit behind her, both metaphorically and actually, are using the Constitutional Reform Act 2005, which gave the Lord Chief Justice responsibility for training. I am assured that those who tabled this amendment in the other place took legal advice on this exact thing, and they do not agree that it is unconstitutional, but think it fits very well with that Act.

The amendment was drafted by a peer who is a QC, and was accepted by the parliamentary Clerks. On Report, a number of significant legal minds voted in favour of the amendment, including QCs and the former Deputy President of the Supreme Court. I would very much welcome a copy of the Government’s legal advice. There is absolutely no desire on our parts to do anything that is unconstitutional. We are not even saying what the frame of the training has to be, just that it has to happen. The idea that the Lord Chief Justice would push back, saying it did not have to happen and was against the independence of the judiciary, is something, frankly, that we would want to push against.

The Government’s own harm review found that comments made by judges in the family court included, for example, that a woman could not be a victim of domestic abuse because she wore make-up to court. Judges also found that women were emotional and temperamental when they cried about their abuse in the court room. Who knew that we did not need the police, the courts or welfare for victims of domestic abuse? We should have just told women to pop on a bit of make-up, and that would have protected them from domestic abuse. That is essentially what is being said in our family courts: if a woman wears make-up, how can she be a victim of domestic abuse? That was not said by me but by a judge in our family courts, and that kind of attitude is not just insulting but dangerous, because terrible practice in our family courts leaves children alone with violent perpetrators. I am not offended by the sexism; I am frightened for people’s lives.

--- Later in debate ---
Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon
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The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. The shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Jess Phillips), made that point very well in her introduction. If there is a pattern—other Members across the Chamber have referred to this—there is a need for the police to be aware of that.

In reading through the Lords amendments, I noted that Lords amendment 39, after clause 72, highlighted that there must a prohibition on charging for the provision of medical evidence of domestic abuse. This should go unsaid, yet I understand the rationale behind highlighting this.

That brought my mind to the fact that the Bar Council had asked for the financial income limit as it pertains to legal aid to be withdrawn. Many Members have referred to legal aid. Legal aid expenditure on domestic violence cases has been cut by 41% in real terms, and has been declining ever since, with a 51% reduction. At the same time, I believe sincerely that this decline in funding cannot be attributed to a reduction in need, because the figures tell us something different. They tell us that there has been a 49% increase in domestic violence cases in the courts since 2012. Again, the situation since the start of the pandemic indicates that cases and reporting are likely to continue to increase even more so, meaning that we can expect a continued increase in the number of cases in court, with the UN—we cannot ignore it—calling domestic violence a “shadow pandemic”. That is a massive issue, which we must try to look at. Money is often controlled by the abuser. In terms of legal aid, it is clear that the victim must never be put in a position whereby they halt proceedings due to the lack of legal aid support. Legal aid is therefore a really important issue to those who are subjected to domestic violence.

I welcome many of the amendments that have come forward, such as Lords amendment 6 to amend clause 33, highlighting the need for domestic abuse protection orders to include a requirement not to

“come within a specified distance of any other specified premises”—

such as workplaces or, for example, even places of worship. Those are ones that I would be aware of and that change in the law is so important. In my constituency, over the years, I have honestly been heartbroken and righteously angry about the tales of intimidation from an abuser towards a victim in safe places, such as their local church and their workplace, and it is past time that churches and other places can legally prevent access in an attempt to intimidate. This provision is therefore necessary and I trust that it will soon become law.

Another issue that has come to me in my constituency office relates to the technological age that we live in. It is always great to be able see photos of my grandchildren—I have two grandchildren who have been born in lockdown, and I have seen one because we were able to have our cluster at Christmas. I have not seen the other one up close, except in a video—one thing I do know is that he has red hair; I am not quite sure where the red hair came from, as it is certainly not from my side of the family, but obviously there is some a few generations back somewhere—but I look forward very much to that time. However, I am desperately aware that there is a very real, very difficult and very disturbing downside of the no-hassle digital picture age, and that relates to revenge porn using very personal images. Every Member has spoken about that and I will, too, because I feel really annoyed and angry about it.

I have watched as my office staff have consoled young ladies whose ex-partners have threatened to disclose images, and their devastation is so very real and heartbreaking. The staff have a sadness in their faces as they know that unless an image is posted, very little can be done under harassment or other general laws, yet the distress is real; it is palpable—it could touch you and cut you. This behaviour is clearly another example of threat and control. It is right and proper that it is addressed in the Bill and I wholeheartedly support Lords amendment 35, which seeks to clarify that it is not okay to threaten the release of these images—by anyone, male or female. Sometimes we must remind ourselves that the release of any personal image without consent can be emotionally damaging for any person, no matter how seemingly confident they may be. Personal images are just that—intensely personal. I welcome the amendment’s reaffirming that no one can have the right to release an image of a personal nature without consent.

To conclude—I said I would be quick, Madam Deputy Speaker—it is difficult for one Bill to cover all the facets of the support and help that is needed for domestic abuse victims, but we must seek to get this right and ensure that the law supports every victim and does not further traumatise. I thank the Minister and the Government for their sterling efforts to deliver a Domestic Abuse Bill that really can protect.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
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Home should be a place of love and safety, but for 2.3 million adult victims of domestic abuse, and for their children, it is not. We all want this abuse to stop, and we want victims to live peaceful, safe and happy lives, and as I have said many times at this Dispatch Box, that is why this Government are bringing forward the Domestic Abuse Bill. The continued passage of the Bill marks an important milestone in our shared endeavour across the House to provide better support and protection for the victims of domestic abuse and their children. It is the culmination of over three years of work, although I rather liked the slip of the tongue by my right hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Mrs Miller) when she said it felt like two generations. I pay tribute in particular to my right hon. Friend, who as chair of the Joint Committee, set in train much of the work that has happened in this place and the other place when the Bill was in draft form. I thank her sincerely.

I also thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May) for championing the Bill, both as Home Secretary and as Prime Minister, and now—eminently, if I may say so—from the Back Benches. I also thank all right hon. and hon. Members who have contributed today. The Bill has been improved during the course of debate in both Houses. It was scrutinised properly and thoroughly by their lordships, whom I thank for their vital contributions. I do not know whether many other Bills have had a mere 86 amendments to them when they came back to this place. This is a sign of their lordships’ commitment. The Bill includes real measures to help victims of domestic abuse and, as we have heard, even beyond those relationships. It expressly recognises the harm and distress caused to victims by so-called revenge porn and threats to disclose such images.

The Bill also creates a new offence of non-fatal strangulation. My hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Laura Farris) did much in this place when the Bill was before us for scrutiny, along with the right hon. and learned Member for Camberwell and Peckham (Ms Harman) and my hon. Friend the Member for Wyre Forest (Mark Garnier), to campaign on the issues of rough sex and non-fatal strangulation. My hon. Friend asked me about consent in the amendment, and I want to try to clarify that in order to reassure people who may be watching. A valid defence of consent is available under the new offence only where the offence does not involve causing serious harm or where the perpetrator can show that they had not intended to cause serious harm or had not been reckless as to the serious harm caused. This provision reflects the current law as set out in R v. Brown and, indeed, in the rough sex clause that was passed earlier in the Bill’s progress. We have had to be, and tried to be, consistent with both of those provisions, and I hope that that reassures my hon. Friend.

I have listened carefully to colleagues who have raised the issue of the management of perpetrators. This is absolutely critical. I have talked in the past about the evolution of our understanding of domestic abuse. We look back on the days of the 1970s when brave campaigners for Refuge and other organisations started setting up refuges and talking about domestic violence. Our understanding and our efforts to deal with this have obviously moved absolute milestones in the decades since then, but one of the challenges that we will certainly be looking to address in the domestic abuse strategy is the management of perpetrators. I am delighted that we are now investing unprecedented amounts in perpetrator programmes, as announced in the Budget, because we have to prevent perpetrators from committing harm in the first place. Again, let me emphasise that the reason we find ourselves unable to accept that Lords amendment is that creating a separate category as envisaged in the Lords amendment does not get away from the need for the MAPPA authorities to make a judgment in individual cases as to whether a particular offender should be managed under the framework. I want to be clear that three categories exist in MAPPA. Category 1 covers registered sexual offenders. Category 2 covers any violent offender or other sexual offenders convicted of offences under schedule 15 to the Criminal Justice Act 2003 and sentenced to more than 12 months’ imprisonment. Category 3 covers any other dangerous offender. So on the sorts of horrific examples we have been hearing about, if there are convictions in the background of those offenders, these categories would cover some of the convictions that have been described. I say that, but I hope again that colleagues have appreciated that I have been very clear that there must be improvements in how the system works on the ground. That is why we have announced—we went into a little more detail in the “Dear colleague” letter—that we are going to revisit and refresh all relevant chapters of the MAPPA statutory guidance so as to include sections on domestic abuse, to ensure that agencies are taking steps to identify perpetrators whose risk requires active multi-agency management. We are ensuring that cases of domestic abuse perpetrators captured under categories 1 and 2 are included in the threshold guidance that is being developed. We will issue an HM Prison and Probation Service policy framework setting out clear expectations of the management of all cases at MAPPA level 1. This work on this new system, the multi-agency public protection system, will have a much greater functionality than existing systems, including ViSOR, enabling criminal justice agencies to share information efficiently and to improve risk assessment and management of MAPPA nominals. That is what will address the very understandable concerns that colleagues have raised in this debate.

I come to the final point I wish to touch upon, and I hope colleagues will understand why I am going to be quick. Hon. Members have raised questions and concerns about the issue of judicial training. My right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead and my hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Sir Robert Neill) set out the problems with the way in which Lords amendment 33 seeks to achieve that laudable aim, which we all agree with, of ensuring that the judiciary and magistrates must be trained well and, importantly, trained regularly. Referring back to the comments I was making earlier about the progress that has been made in the past few decades, let me say that, by definition, our understanding has grown, even, as some have said, during the passage of this Bill. Of course, that knowledge must continue to be deployed and trained. Domestic abuse is covered in all family law courses run by the Judicial College, and the debates held in the other place and in this place will I know—I have faith—have been watched and listened to very carefully by the President of the family court and others.

Jess Phillips Portrait Jess Phillips
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I admire the hon. Lady’s faith, but I would like something more than faith. The triumph of hope over experience will, I fear, leave us in the exact same position with the exact same problems. Faith is well and good—I have it in spades—but I would like to know about a monitoring process that will be done to review how well people are trained and how well this is working.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
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I am happy to help the hon. Lady. As I said in my opening remarks, the President of the Family Division has indicated that he will consider making recommendations regarding training, taking into account this Bill, the harm panel report, which, as she knows, is critical to the Ministry of Justice’s concerns in this area and the four recent Court of Appeal judgments in domestic abuse cases. I would argue that there is a real understanding among our independent judiciary of the need to make sure that they are equipped to ensure that justice is delivered—and delivered well—in the courtrooms over which they preside.

In summing up, let me reflect on the course of the Bill. Progress on the Bill has been characterised by a determination on both sides of the House to work constructively and collegiately. At every stage, we have endeavoured to focus on what can be done to help victims of domestic abuse and to ensure that the abuse can stop. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke put it, these are not our issues—these are not party political issues—but the issues of our constituents who are victims and of their children, and I know that each and every one of us has had that very much in mind in all our deliberations on the Bill.

I therefore commend the Bill and the amendments that the Government support to the House. I very much hope that we will be able to make real and meaningful progress and pass the Bill, so that we can get on with the job of helping the victims we all feel so strongly about.

Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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Before I put the Question, just a reminder that, should there be more than one Division, the doors will be locked after eight minutes in the first Division and, after that, after five minutes.

Question put, That this House disagrees with Lords amendment 1.

Domestic Abuse Bill

(Report stage)
Victoria Atkins Excerpts
Monday 6th July 2020

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Bill Main Page
Home Office

Brought up, and read the First time.

Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
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With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Government new clause 16—Special measures in family proceedings: victims of domestic abuse.

Government new clause 17—Special measures in civil proceedings: victims of specified offences.

Government new clause 18—Prohibition of cross-examination in person in civil proceedings.

Government new clause 20—Consent to serious harm for sexual gratification not a defence.

New clause 1—Pornography and domestic violence: research—

‘(1) The Secretary of State must commission research into the impact of pornography consumption on levels of domestic violence.

(2) The Secretary of State must lay the research before Parliament within 12 months of this Act being passed.”

New clause 2—Research into the incidence of domestic abuse within different living arrangements—

The Secretary of State must commission research on the incidence of domestic abuse in the context of different forms of relationship including marriage, civil partnerships and cohabitation, with special respect to both adult and child wellbeing and reporting to the House with this research and policy recommendations within 12 months of this Act becoming law.”

New clause 3—Report on domestic abuse incidence and sentencing—

The Secretary of State must provide a report to the House reviewing trends in the incidences of domestic abuse and sentencing for domestic abuse offences over the last ten years in England and Wales with a view to making policy recommendations including with respect to increasing both minimum and maximum sentences for domestic abuse offences and present to Parliament within the 12 months of this Act becoming law.

New clause 4—No defence for consent to death—

‘(1) If a person (“A”) wounds, assaults or asphyxiates another person (“B”) to whom they are personally connected as defined in section 2 of this Act causing death, it is not a defence to a prosecution that B consented to the infliction of injury.

(2) Subsection (1) applies whether or not the death occurred in the course of a sadomasochistic encounter.”

This new clause would prevent consent of the victim from being used as a defence to a prosecution in domestic homicides.

New clause 5—No defence for consent to injury—

‘(1) If a person (“A”) wounds, assaults or asphyxiates another person (“B”) to whom they are personally connected as defined in section 2 of this Act causing actual bodily harm or more serious injury, it is not a defence to a prosecution that B consented to the infliction of injury or asphyxiation.

(2) Subsection (1) applies whether or not the actual bodily harm, non-fatal strangulation, or more serious injury occurred in the course of a sadomasochistic encounter.”

This new clause would prevent consent of the victim from being used as a defence to a prosecution in cases of domestic abuse which result in serious injury.

New clause 6—Consent of Director of Public Prosecutions—

In any homicide case in which all or any of the injuries involved in the death, whether or not they are the proximate cause of it, were inflicted in the course of domestic abuse, the Crown Prosecution Service may not without the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions, in respect of the death—

(a) charge a person with manslaughter or any other offence less than the charge of murder, or

(b) accept a plea of guilty to manslaughter or any other lesser offence.”

This new clause would require the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions if, in any homicide case in which any of the injuries were inflicted in the course of domestic abuse, the charge (or the plea to be accepted) is of anything less than murder.

New clause 7—Director of Public Prosecutions consultation with victim’s family in domestic homicides—

‘(1) Before deciding whether or not to give consent to charging a person with manslaughter or any other offence less than the charge of murder in an offence of homicide in which domestic abuse was involved, the Director of Public Prosecutions must consult the immediate family of the deceased.

(2) The Lord Chancellor must make arrangements, including the provision of a grant, to enable the immediate family to access legal advice prior to being consulted by the Director of Public Prosecutions under subsection (1).”

This new clause would require the Director of Public Prosecutions to consult the immediate family of the victim before charging less than murder in a domestic homicide and provide the family with legal advice so they can understand the legal background.

New clause 8—Offence of non-fatal strangulation—

A person (A) commits an offence if that person unlawfully strangles, suffocates or asphyxiates another person (B), where the strangulation, suffocation or asphyxiation does not result in B’s death.”

This new clause will create a new offence of non-fatal strangulation.

New clause 9—Offence of non-fatal strangulation in domestic abuse context—

A person (A) commits an offence if that person unlawfully strangles, suffocates or asphyxiates another person (B) to whom they are personally connected as defined in section 2 of this Act, where the strangulation, suffocation or asphyxiation does not result in B’s death.”

This new clause will create a new offence of non-fatal strangulation in domestic abuse offences.

New clause 10—Prohibition of reference to sexual history of the deceased in domestic homicide trials—

If at a trial a person is charged with an offence of homicide in which domestic abuse was involved, then—

(a) no evidence may be adduced, and

(b) no question may be asked in cross-examination, by or on behalf of any accused at the trial,

about any sexual behaviour of the deceased.”

This new clause will prevent the victim’s previous sexual history being used as evidence to prove consent to violence in a domestic homicide case. This draws on the legislative measures in the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 to prevent rape defendants raking up or inventing complainants’ previous sexual history.

New clause 11—Anonymity for victims in domestic homicides—

‘(1) Where a person (“A”) has been accused of a domestic homicide offence and where the person (“B”) against whom the offence is alleged to have been committed has died in the course of sexual activity, no matter likely to lead members of the public to identify a person as B shall be included in any publication.

(2) The matters relating to a person in relation to which the restrictions imposed by subsection (1) applies (if their inclusion in any publication is likely to have the result mentioned in that subsection) include in particular—

(a) the person’s name,

(b) the person’s address,

(c) the identity of any school or other educational establishment attended by the person,

(d) the identity of any place of work,

(e) any still or moving picture of the person.

(3) If, at the commencement of the trial, any of the matters in subsection (2) have already appeared in any publication, the judge at the trial may direct that no further reference to any of these matters may be included in any publication.

(4) If any matter is included in a publication in contravention of this section, the following persons shall be guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale—

(a) where the publication is a newspaper or periodical, any proprietor, any editor and any publisher of the newspaper or periodical;

(b) where the publication is a relevant programme—

(i) any body corporate engaged in providing the programme service in which the programme is included; and

(ii) any person having functions in relation to the programme corresponding to those of an editor of a newspaper;

(c) in the case of any other publication, any person publishing it.

(5) For the purposes of this section—

“domestic homicide offence” means an offence of murder or manslaughter which has involved domestic abuse;

a “publication” includes any speech, writing, relevant programme, social media posting or other communication in whatever form, which is addressed to the public at large or any section of the public (and for this purpose every relevant programme shall be taken to be so addressed), but does not include an indictment or other document prepared for use in particular legal proceedings.”

This new clause will provide the victim of a domestic homicide with public anonymity.

New clause 12—Domestic abuse: report on incidence and sentencing—

‘(1) The Secretary of State must, within 12 months of Royal Assent being given to this Act, lay before both Houses of Parliament a report on—

(a) the incidence of domestic abuse in England and Wales since 1 January 2010, and

(b) sentencing for any offence where judgment was handed down after 1 January 2010 and it was alleged that the behaviour of the accused amounted to domestic abuse.

(2) A purpose of a report under subsection (1) shall be to inform a decision on whether or not to increase the minimum or maximum sentence for any offence where it is found the behaviour of the accused amounted to domestic abuse.

(3) “Domestic abuse” shall, for the purposes of this section, have the meaning given in section 1 of this Act.”

New clause 13—Screening for acquired brain injury in domestic abuse cases—

‘(1) A woman who has been the subject of domestic abuse shall, with her consent, be screened for traumatic brain injury, and other forms of acquired brain injury, including concussion.

(2) For the purposes of this section, a woman has been the subject of domestic abuse if—

(a) she is the person for whose protection a domestic abuse protection notice or a domestic abuse protection order has been issued, or

(b) she is the person against whom it is alleged that domestic abuse has been perpetrated when the accused is charged with an offence that amounts to domestic abuse within the meaning of section 1 of this Act.

(3) In the case of subsection (2)(a), the screening shall take place within two weeks of a domestic abuse protection notice or a domestic abuse protection order being issued.

(4) In the case of subsection (2)(b), the screening shall take place within two weeks of a charge being made for an offence where it is alleged that the behaviour of the accused amounts to domestic abuse within the meaning of section 1 of this Act.”

New clause 14—Acquired brain injury screening for female prisoners—

‘(1) All female prisoners must be screened for traumatic brain injury, and other forms of acquired brain injury, including concussion, within two weeks of starting their sentence.

(2) A purpose of the screening will be to assist in a determination as to whether a prisoner has been the subject of domestic abuse.

(3) If the screening shows that there is an acquired brain injury—

(a) an assessment must be made of whether such an injury has been acquired as a result of domestic abuse, and

(b) the prisoner must be given appropriate rehabilitation treatment and advice.”

New clause 19—Anonymity of domestic abuse survivors in criminal proceedings—

‘(1) Where an allegation has been made that a relevant offence has been committed against a person, no matter relating to that person shall during that person’s lifetime be included in any publication if it is likely to lead members of the public to identify that person as the survivor.

(2) Where a person is accused of a relevant offence, no matter likely to lead members of the public to identify the person against whom the offence is alleged to have been committed as the survivor shall during the survivor’s lifetime be included in any publication.

(3) This section does not apply in relation to a person by virtue of subsection (1) at any time after a person has been accused of the offence.

(4) The matters relating to a survivor in relation to which the restrictions imposed by subsection (1) or (2) apply (if their inclusion in any publication is likely to have the result mentioned in that subsection) include—

(a) the survivor’s name;

(b) the survivor’s address;

(c) the identity of any school or other educational establishment the survivor attended;

(d) the identity of any place where the survivor worked;

(e) any still or moving pictures of the survivor; and

(f) any other matter that might lead to the identification of the survivor.

(5) At the commencement of a trial at which a person is charged with a relevant offence, the judge may issue a direction for lifting the restrictions only following an application by or on behalf of the survivor.

(6) Any matter that is included in a publication in contravention of this section must be deleted from that publication and no further reference to the matter may be made in any publication.

(7) If any matter is included in a publication in contravention of this section, the following persons shall be guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale—

(a) where the publication is a newspaper or periodical, any proprietor, any editor and any publisher of the newspaper or periodical;

(b) where the publication is a relevant programme—

(i) any body corporate or Scottish partnership engaged in providing the programme service in which the programme is included; and

(ii) any person having functions in relation to the programme corresponding to those of an editor of a newspaper;

(c) in the case of any other publication, any person publishing it.

(8) For the purposes of the section—

“publication” means any material published online or in physical form as any well as any speech, writing, website, online news outlet, social media posting, relevant programme or other communication in whatever form which is addressed to the public at large or any section of the public;

a “relevant offence” means any offence where it is alleged by the survivor that the behaviour of the accused amounted to domestic abuse;

“survivor” means the person against whom the offence is alleged to have been committed.”

This new clause provides lifetime press anonymity for survivors of domestic abuse, and reflects similar protections for survivors of sexual assault enshrined in the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1992. It prevents identifiable details from be published online or in print, and creates a new offence for breaching this anonymity.

New clause 21—Register for domestic abuse—

‘(1) The Secretary of State must arrange for the creation of a register containing the name, home address and national insurance number of any person (P) convicted of an offence that constitutes domestic abuse as defined in section 1 of this Act.

(2) Each police force in England and Wales shall be responsible for ensuring that the register is kept up to date with all relevant offences committed in the police force’s area.

(3) Each police force in England and Wales shall be responsible for ensuring that P notifies relevant police forces within 14 days if they commence a new sexual or romantic relationship.

(4) A failure to notify the police in the circumstances set out in subsection (4) shall be an offence liable on conviction to a term of imprisonment not exceeding 12 months.

(5) The relevant police force shall have the right to inform any person involved in a relationship with P of P’s convictions for domestic abuse as defined in section 1 of this Act.”

This new clause would require that any person convicted of any offence of domestic abuse as defined in section 1 must have their details recorded on a domestic abuse register to ensure that all the perpetrator’s subsequent partners have full access to information regarding their domestic abuse offences.

New clause 22—Recourse to public funds for domestic abuse survivors—

‘(1) The Immigration Acts are amended as follows.

(2) In section 115 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 after subsection (10) insert—

“(11) This section does not apply to a person who is a victim of domestic abuse in the United Kingdom who provides evidence in one or more of the forms set out in section [Recourse to public funds for domestic abuse survivors] of the Domestic Abuse Act 2020.”

(3) In paragraph 2(1) of Schedule 3 to the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 after sub-paragraph (b) insert—

“(ba) to a person who is a victim of domestic abuse in the United Kingdom who provides evidence in one or more of the forms set out in section [Recourse to public funds for domestic abuse survivors] of the Domestic Abuse Act 2020, or”.

(4) In section 21 of the Immigration Act 2014 at the end of subsection (3) insert “or if P is a victim of domestic abuse”.

(5) In section 3 of the Immigration Act 1971 after subsection (1) insert—

“(1A) The Secretary of State may not make or maintain a condition under subsection (1)(c)(ii) on leave granted to a victim of domestic abuse in the United Kingdom who provides evidence in one or more of the forms set out in section [Recourse to public funds for domestic abuse survivors] of the Domestic Abuse Act 2020; and it is not a breach of the immigration laws or rules for such a victim to have recourse to public funds.”

(6) For the purposes of this section, evidence that a person is a victim of domestic abuse may consist of one or more of the following—

(a) a relevant conviction, police caution or protection notice;

(b) a relevant court order (including without notice, ex parte, interim or final orders), including a non-molestation undertaking or order, occupation order, domestic abuse protection order, forced marriage protection order or other protective injunction;

(c) evidence of relevant criminal proceedings for an offence concerning domestic violence or a police report confirming attendance at an incident resulting from domestic abuse;

(d) evidence that a victim has been referred to a multi-agency risk assessment conference;

(e) a finding of fact in the family courts of domestic abuse;

(f) a medical report from a doctor at a UK hospital confirming injuries or a condition consistent with being a victim of domestic abuse;

(g) a letter from a General Medical Council registered general practitioner confirming that he or she is satisfied on the basis of an examination that a person had injuries or a condition consistent with those of a victim of domestic abuse;

(h) an undertaking given to a court by the alleged perpetrator of domestic abuse that he or she will not approach the applicant who is the victim of the abuse;

(i) a letter from a social services department confirming its involvement in providing services to a person in respect of allegations of domestic abuse;

(j) a letter of support or a report from a domestic abuse support organisation; or

(k) other evidence of domestic abuse, including from a counsellor, midwife, school, witness or the victim.

(7) For the purposes of this section—

“domestic abuse” has the same meaning as in section 1 of the Domestic Abuse Act 2020;

“victim” includes the dependent child of a person who is a victim of domestic abuse.

(8) Within 12 months of this Act being passed, the Secretary of State must commission a review into the operation of the provisions in this section.

(9) The Secretary of State must lay before Parliament a report setting out the findings of the review.”

This new clause seeks to ensure that certain provisions under the Immigration Acts – including exclusion from public funds, certain types of support and assistance and the right to rent – do not apply to survivors of domestic abuse. There will be a review into the operation of this provision.

New clause 23—Commissioning specialist domestic abuse services for victims and perpetrators of domestic abuse—

‘(1) It is the duty of relevant public authorities in England and non-devolved relevant public authorities in Wales in the exercise of their functions to commission sufficient specialist services for all persons affected by domestic abuse regardless of status.

(2) To ensure compliance with the duty under subsection (1) public authorities must—

(a) regularly assess population and support needs changes in their area;

(b) take account of any strategy to end violence against women and girls adopted by a Minister of the Crown; and

(c) co-operate to discharge the duty.

(3) The Secretary of State may issue regulations making provision for the resolution of disputes between public authorities relating to the discharge of the duty under subsection (1).

(4) In relation to the provision of domestic abuse support as defined by section 54(2), each relevant local authority may discharge the duty under subsection (2)(a) through compliance with its obligations under section 54(1)(a).

(5) In performing the duty under subsection (1) a relevant public authority must secure sufficient specialist services for (among others) the following persons—

(a) any victim of domestic abuse aged over 18;

(b) any child aged under 18 who experiences or witnesses domestic abuse;

(c) any person aged over 18 who exhibits abusive behaviour towards another person to whom they are personally connected;

(d) any child aged under 18 who exhibits abusive behaviour towards another person to whom they are personally connected.

(6) In performing the duty under subsection (1), a relevant public authority must where necessary secure specialist services designed to meet the particular needs of a group that shares a status to ensure appropriate and effective service provision.

(7) In this section—

“abusive behaviour” is behaviour that is abusive within the definition in section 1(3).

“domestic abuse” has the meaning given by Part 1 of this Act.

“personally connected” has the meaning given in section 2 of this Act.

“relevant public authorities” are public authorities with statutory functions relevant to the provision of specialist services, including but not limited to—

(a) Ministers of the Crown and Government departments;

(b) local government in England;

(c) NHS Trusts in England;

(d) Police and Crime Commissioners;

(e) prison, police and probation services.

“status” means a status for the purpose of Article 4(3) of the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, and combined forms of any such status.

“specialist services” include but are not limited to the following when provided in connection with domestic abuse, whether provided by a public authority or any other person or body—

(a) protective measures and action taken to protect persons against domestic abuse;

(b) residential accommodation, including refuge services and other relevant accommodation and support as defined in section 54(2);

(c) counselling and other support;

(d) advocacy services;

(e) access to welfare benefits;

(f) perpetrator programmes;

(g) financial support;

(h) legal services;

(i) helplines;

(j) services designed to meet the particular needs of a group that shares a status to ensure appropriate and effective service provision, including separate or single-sex services within the meaning given in Part 7 of Schedule 3 the Equality Act, and “communal accommodation” within the meaning given in paragraph 3 of Schedule 23 to the Equality Act 2010.

“victims of domestic abuse” includes—

(a) persons towards whom domestic abuse is directed and

(b) persons who are reasonably believed to be at risk of domestic abuse.”

This new clause would establish a statutory duty on relevant public authorities to commission specialist support and services to all persons affected by domestic abuse. This includes refuge and community-based services; specialist services for groups with protected characteristics; services for children and young people; services for perpetrators.

New clause 24—Proceedings under the Children Act 1989—

‘(1) Part I of the Children Act 1989 is amended as follows.

(2) In section 1 (the welfare of the child) after subsection (2B) insert—

“(2C) Subsection (2A) shall not apply in relation to a parent where there has been domestic abuse which has affected the child or other parent.

(2D) Evidence of domestic abuse may be provided in one or more of the forms set out in regulation 33(2) of the Civil Legal Aid (Procedure) Regulations 2012.”

(3) Part II of the Children Act 1989 is amended as follows.

(4) In section 9 (restrictions on making section 8 orders) after subsection (7) insert—

“(8) No court shall make a section 8 order for a child to spend unsupervised time with or have unsupervised contact with a parent who is—

(a) awaiting trial, or on bail for, a domestic abuse offence, or

(b) involved in ongoing criminal proceedings for a domestic abuse offence.

(8A) In subsection (8)—

“unsupervised” means where a court approved third party is not present at all times during contact with the parent to ensure the physical safety and emotional wellbeing of a child;

“domestic abuse offence” means an offence which the Crown Prosecution Service alleges to have involved domestic abuse.””

This new clause seeks to change the presumption that parental involvement furthers the child’s welfare when there has been domestic abuse. It also prohibits unsupervised contact for a parent awaiting trial or on bail for domestic abuse offences, or where there are ongoing criminal proceedings for domestic abuse.

New clause 25—Effective protection and support for all victims of domestic abuse—

‘(1) The Secretary of State must take steps to ensure that all victims of domestic abuse, irrespective of their status, receive—

(a) equally effective protection against domestic abuse, and

(b) equally effective support.

(2) In this section—

“status” includes a status for the purpose of Article 4(3) of the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence and any combined forms of such status.

“victims of domestic abuse” includes persons who are reasonably believed to be at risk of domestic abuse.”

This new clause ensures all victims of domestic abuse are protected, regardless of their status, in line with Article 4(3) of the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention).

New clause 26—Victims of domestic abuse: leave to remain—

‘(1) The Secretary of State must, within 3 months of this Act being passed, lay a statement of changes in rules made under section 3(2) of the Immigration Act 1971 (“the immigration rules”) to make provision for leave to remain to be granted to any person subject to immigration control who is a victim of domestic abuse in the United Kingdom.

(2) The statement laid under subsection (1) must set out rules for the granting of indefinite leave to remain to any person subject to immigration control who is a victim of domestic abuse in the United Kingdom; and the statement must provide for those rules to be commenced no later than one month of the laying of the statement.

(3) The Secretary of State must make provision for granting limited leave to remain for a period of no less than 6 months to any person eligible to make an application under the immigration rules for the purposes of subsection (2); and such leave shall include no condition under section 3(1)(c)(i), (ia), (ii) or (v) of the Immigration Act 1971.

(4) The Secretary of State must make provision for extending limited leave to remain granted in accordance with subsection (3) to ensure that leave continues throughout the period during which an application made under the immigration rules for the purposes of subsection (2) remains pending.

(5) Where subsection (6) applies, notwithstanding any statutory or other provision, no services shall be withheld from a victim of domestic abuse solely by reason of that person not having leave to remain or having leave to remain subject to a condition under section 3(1)(c) of the Immigration Act 1971.

(6) This subsection applies where a provider of services is satisfied that the victim of domestic abuse is eligible to make an application to which subsection (3) refers.

(7) The Secretary of State must, for the purposes of subsection (5), issue guidance to providers of services about the assessment of eligibility to make an application to which subsection (3) refers.

(8) In this section—

an application is “pending” during the period—

(a) beginning when it is made,

(b) ending when it is finally decided, withdrawn or abandoned, and an application is not finally decided while an application for review or appeal could be made within the period permitted for either or while any such review or appeal remains pending (meaning that review or appeal has not been finally decided, withdrawn or abandoned);

“person subject to immigration control” means a person in the United Kingdom who does not have the right of abode;

“provider of services” includes both public and private bodies;

“services” includes accommodation, education, employment, financial assistance, healthcare and any service provided exclusively or particularly to survivors of domestic abuse.”

This new clause would make provision in the immigration rules for the granting of indefinite leave to remain to migrant survivors of domestic abuse and limited leave to remain to a survivor who is eligible to make an application for indefinite leave to remain.

New clause 27—Victims of domestic abuse: data-sharing for immigration purposes—

‘(1) The Secretary of State must make arrangements to ensure that personal data of a victim of a domestic abuse in the United Kingdom that is processed for the purpose of that person requesting or receiving support or assistance related to domestic abuse is not used for any immigration control purpose without the consent of that person.

(2) The Secretary of State must make arrangements to ensure that the personal data of a witness to domestic abuse in the United Kingdom that is processed for the purpose of that person giving information or evidence to assist the investigation or prosecution of that abuse, or to assist the victim of that abuse in any legal proceedings, is not used for any immigration control purpose without the consent of that person.

(3) Paragraph 4 of Schedule 2 to the Data Protection Act 2018 shall not apply to the personal data to which subsection (1) or (2) applies.

(4) For the purposes of this section, the Secretary of State must issue guidance to—

(a) persons from whom support or assistance may be requested or received by a victim of domestic abuse in the United Kingdom;

(b) persons exercising any function of the Secretary of State in relation to immigration, asylum or nationality; and

(c) persons exercising any function conferred by or by virtue of the Immigration Acts on an immigration officer.

(5) For the purposes of this section—

“consent” means a freely given, specific, informed and unambiguous indication of the victim or witness, by an express statement of that person signifying agreement to the processing of the personal data for the relevant purpose;

“immigration control purpose” means any purpose of the functions to which subsection (4)(ii) and (iii) refers;

“support or assistance” includes the provision of accommodation, banking services, education, employment, financial or social assistance, healthcare and policing services; and any function of a court or prosecuting authority;

“victim” includes any dependent of a person, at whom the domestic abuse is directed, where that dependent is affected by that abuse.”

This new clause would require the Secretary of State to make arrangements to ensure that the personal data of migrant survivors of domestic abuse that is given or used for the purpose of their seeking or receiving support and assistance is not used for immigration control purposes.

New clause 28—Enabling access to abortion in abusive relationships—

‘(1) The Abortion Act 1967 is amended as follows.

(2) At the end of section 1 add—

“(5) Subsection (3) of this section shall not apply to the termination of a pregnancy by a registered medical practitioner who is of the opinion, formed in good faith, that the woman is unable to access treatment for the termination of pregnancy in a hospital or a place approved by the Secretary of State under subsection (3) by reason of the abusive behaviour of a person with whom the woman is personally connected within the meaning of section 2 of the Domestic Abuse Act 2020.””

In cases of domestic abuse where a woman seeking an abortion is subject to coercive control, this new clause would remove the legal requirement for attendance at a hospital or licensed premises in order to access lawful abortion services.

Amendment (a), line 4 after “apply to the” insert “medical”

Amendment (b), line 6 after “faith,” insert

“that the pregnancy has not exceeded nine weeks and six days and”

Amendment (c), line 10 at end insert—

‘(3) This section may not take effect until the Government has conducted an inquiry into the safety, number, and impact of abortions carried out under the temporary coronavirus crisis provisions where the place of abortion was the woman’s home, and has laid a Report on this before Parliament.”

New clause 30—Local Welfare Provision schemes—

‘(1) Every local authority in England must deliver a Local Welfare Provision scheme which provides financial assistance to victims of domestic abuse.

(2) The Secretary of State must issue guidance on the nature and scope of Local Welfare Provision schemes and review this biannually in consultation with the Domestic Abuse Commissioner and other such individuals and agencies the Secretary of State deems appropriate.

(3) The Chancellor of the Exchequer must provide local authorities with additional funding designated for Local Welfare Provision, to increase per year with inflation.

(4) For the purposes of this subsection “domestic abuse” is defined in section 1 of the Domestic Abuse Act 2020.”

This new clause would allow victims of domestic abuse to access a local welfare assistance scheme in any locality across England.

New clause 31—Guidance: Child maintenance—

‘(1) The Secretary of State must issue guidance relating to the payment of child maintenance where the person with care of the child is a victim of domestic abuse.

(2) Guidance issued under this section must take account of—

(a) the potential for the withholding or reducing of child maintenance to constitute economic abuse under section 1(4) of this Act;

(b) the need for enforcement action to prevent non-payment; and

(c) the difficulties faced by victims of domestic abuse in obtaining evidence to support an application for a variation of a child maintenance calculation.

(3) The Child Maintenance Service must have regard to any guidance issued under this section when exercising a function to which the guidance relates.

(4) Before issuing guidance under this section, the Secretary of State must consult—

(a) the Domestic Abuse Commissioner, and

(b) such other persons as the Secretary of State considers appropriate.

(5) The Secretary of State must publish any guidance issued under this section.”

This new clause would require the Secretary of State to issue guidance to the Child Maintenance Service to tackle the problem of abusers continuing economic abuse by withholding or reducing child maintenance payments.

New clause 32—Assessment and management of serial and serious domestic abuse and stalking perpetrators—

Within six months of the commencement of this Act, a Minister of the Crown must lay a report before both Houses of Parliament reviewing arrangements for assessing and managing the risk presented by serial and serious harm domestic abuse and stalking perpetrators.”

New clause 33—Monitoring of serial and serious harm domestic abuse and stalking perpetrators under MAPPA—

‘(1) The Criminal Justice Act 2003 is amended as follows.

(2) In section 325 (Arrangements for assessing etc risk posed by certain offenders) —

(a) in subsection (1), after ““relevant sexual or violent offender” has the meaning given by section 327” insert—

““relevant domestic abuse or stalking perpetrator” has the meaning given in section 327ZA;”;

(b) in subsection (2)(a), after “offenders” insert “(aa) relevant domestic abuse or stalking perpetrators,”.

(3) After section 327 (Section 325: interpretation) insert—

“327ZA Section 325: interpretation of relevant domestic abuse or stalking perpetrator

(1) For the purposes of section 325—

a person (“P”) is a “relevant domestic abuse or stalking perpetrator” if P has been convicted of a specified offence and meets either the condition in subsection (2)(a) or the condition in subsection (2)(b).

(2) For the purposes of subsection (1), the conditions are—

(a) P is a relevant serial offender;

(b) a risk of serious harm assessment has identified P as presenting a high or very high risk of serious harm.

(3) An offence is a “specified offence” for the purposes of this section if it is a specified domestic abuse offence or a specified stalking offence.

(4) In this section—

“relevant serial offender” means a person convicted on more than one occasion for the same specified offence; or a person convicted of more than one specified offence;

“specified domestic abuse offence” means an offence where it is alleged that the behaviour of the accused amounted to domestic abuse within the meaning defined in Section 1 of this Act;

“specified stalking offence” means an offence contrary to section 2A or section 4A of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.

(5) Within six months of the commencement of this section, a Minister of the Crown must lay a report before both Houses of Parliament reviewing the interpretation of the term “relevant domestic abuse or stalking perpetrator” for the purposes of section 325.

(6) A report under subsection (5) must give specific consideration to arrangements for assessing and managing the risks of domestic abuse or stalking posed by perpetrators convicted of offences other than a specified offence.

(7) Subject to a report under subsection (5) being laid before both Houses of Parliament, a Minister of the Crown may by regulations amend this section.”

This new clause amends the Criminal Justice Act 2003, which provides for the establishment of Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (“MAPPA”), to make arrangements for serial domestic abuse or stalking perpetrators to be registered on VISOR and be subjected to supervision, monitoring and management through MAPPA.

New clause 34—Threat to disclose private photographs and films with intent to cause distress—

In the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015, after section 13 insert—

“33A Threat to disclose private photographs and films with intent to cause distress

(1) It is an offence for a person to threaten to disclose a private sexual photograph or film of a person to whom they are personally connected without the consent of an individual who appears in the photograph or film if the threat is made to either—

(a) the individual who appears in the photograph or film, or

(b) another individual who is intended to tell the individual who appears in the photograph or film,

(2) But it is not an offence under this section for the person to threaten to disclose the photograph or film to the individual mentioned in subsection (1)(a).

(3) For the meaning of “consent” see section 33(7)(a).

(4) A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable —

(a) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years or a fine (or both), and

(b) (b) on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or a fine (or both).

(5) (5) For the purposes of this section, “personally connected” has the same meaning as in section 2 of the Domestic Abuse Act 2020.”

New clause 35—Duty to co-operate: children awaiting NHS treatment—

‘(1) The Commissioner must within 6 months after section 14 comes into force issue a request under that section to the NHS bodies in England mentioned in subsection (2) to co-operate with the Commissioner to secure that the objective set out in subsection (3) is met within 12 months after that section comes into force and continues to be met.

(2) The bodies are—

(a) every clinical commissioning group established under section 14D of the National Health Service Act 2006, and

(b) every other NHS body in England (as defined in section 14(7)) whose co-operation the Commissioner thinks is necessary to secure that the objective set out in subsection (3) is met.

(3) The objective is that where a child affected by domestic abuse has been referred for NHS care or treatment in the area (“Area A”) of a clinical commissioning group as a result of being so affected moves to the area (“Area B”) of another clinical commissioning group, the child receives that care or treatment no later than it would have been received in Area A.”

New clause 36—School admissions—

‘(1) The Secretary of State must, within six months after this section comes into force, secure that the school admissions code issued for England under section 84 of the Schools Standards and Framework Act 1998 (“1998 Act”) contains such provision as the Secretary of State considers necessary to achieve the objective set out in subsection (5).

(2) The Secretary of State must secure that the Commissioner is consulted about any proposed provision under subsection (1).

(3) The Welsh Ministers must, within six months after this section comes into force, secure that the Welsh Government school admissions code issued under section 84 of the 1998 Act contains such provision as the Welsh Ministers consider necessary to achieve the objective set out in subsection (5).

(4) The Welsh Ministers must secure that the Commissioner is consulted about any proposed provision under subsection (3).

(5) The objective is that—

(a) oversubscription criteria for admission to any school to which the school admissions code applies give the same priority to children falling within subsection (6) as to looked-after children (within the meaning of section 22(1) of the Children Act 1989), and

(b) the Code contains appropriate guidance about admission of children who have moved home to avoid domestic abuse or who are otherwise affected by domestic abuse.

(6) A child falls within this subsection if the child—

(a) is in the care of, or provided with accommodation by, a body exercising a function in respect of children affected by domestic abuse which, if the body were a local authority, would be a social services function of the kind mentioned in section 22(1)(b) of the Children Act 1989, or

(b) has moved home as a result of being affected by domestic abuse.”

Amendment 3, clause 1, page 1, line 15, after “abuse”, insert “(see subsection (4A))”

This amendment would provide the ability to further define specific abuse.

Amendment 25, page 2, line 3, after “that” insert

“, unless A believed they were acting in B’s best interest and the behaviour in all the circumstances was reasonable,”

This amendment is alternative to Amendment 1. It clarifies that economic abuse has to be unreasonable and not cover incidents of the withholding of money where it is intended to be in a person‘s best interest – e.g. someone caring for another or the partner of a gambling addict who gives consent. This amendment uses similar wording to the defence for controlling and coercive behaviour.

Amendment 1,  page 2, line 3, after “effect”, insert “without permission, consent, necessity or any other good reason”

The aim of this amendment would be to specify that economic abuse has to be deliberate and unreasonable not just the withholding of money, for example, with lawful authority or good reason – e.g. someone caring for someone or the partner of a gambling addict who gives consent etc.

Amendment 2,  page 2, line 5, leave out “acquire, use or maintain money or other property” and insert

“maintain their own money or personal property”

The aim of this amendment would be to specify that economic abuse must involve the person’s own money and not the lawful property of someone else.

Amendment 4,  page 2, line 6, at end insert—

‘(4A) “Psychological, emotional or other abuse” includes but is not limited to—

(a) parental alienation, false allegations of domestic abuse by A against B, or

(b) A deliberately preventing B having contact with their child or children for no good reason.”

This amendment gives specific examples of domestic abuse – parental alienation, false allegations of domestic abuse and the prevention of contact with a parent for no good reason.

Amendment 24,  page 2, line 6, at end insert—

‘(4A) “Psychological, emotional or other abuse” includes but is not limited to—

(a) parental alienation, or

(b) A deliberately preventing B having contact with their child or children for no good reason.”

This amendment is alternative to Amendment 4. It gives specific examples of domestic abuse – parental alienation and the prevention of contact with a parent for no good reason.

Amendment 5, page 2, line 6, at end insert—

‘(4B) “Parental alienation” is defined as a child’s resistance or hostility towards parent B which is not justified and is the result of psychological manipulation by parent A.”

This amendment defines parental alienation.

Amendment 6, page 2, line 7, leave out subsection (5)

This amendment removes the potential creation of two victims of a single act of abuse.

Amendment 7,  page 2, line 10, leave out subsection (6)

This amendment is consequential upon Amendment 6.

Amendment 11, clause 6, page 4, line 3, after “the” insert “objective”

This amendment aims to ensure there is no bias and that pre-conceived notions do not form part of the identification of domestic abuse process.

Amendment 12,  page 4, line 8, after “abuse” insert “;

(e) a gender-neutral approach to domestic abuse”

This amendment would recognise explicitly that domestic violence affects everyone regardless of their sex.

Amendment 13,  page 4, line 23, at end insert—

“(h) monitoring the estimated number of actual victims of domestic abuse compared to those prosecuted for such offences according to the sex of the victim and making recommendations to address any differences in outcomes between the sexes;”

This amendment would make sure that male and female perpetrators of domestic abuse are prosecuted in similar relative numbers.

Amendment 14,  page 4, line 23, at end insert—

“(i) monitoring the estimated number of actual victims of domestic abuse in same sex relationships by gender.”

This amendment would ensure that those in same sex relationships are separately monitored in line with the gender neutral approach to domestic abuse.

Amendment 40, clause 7, page 5, line 2, leave out “the Secretary of State” and insert “Parliament”

This amendment changes the provision enabling the Commissioner to report to the Secretary of State to one enabling the Commissioner to report to Parliament.

Amendment 41,  page 5, line 5, leave out subsections (3) to (5) and insert—

‘(3) The Commissioner must ensure that no material is included in the report which—

(a) might jeopardise the safety of any person, or

(b) might prejudice the investigation or prosecution of an offence.

(4) The Commissioner must send a copy of any report published under this section to the Secretary of State.”

This amendment is linked to Amendment 40.

Amendment 15, clause 11, page 6, line 38, after “Board”)” insert

“through an open recruitment process”

This amendment would ensure that members of the Advisory Board are appointed via an open recruitment process.

Amendment 19,  page 7, line 7, after the first “of” insert

“each of (a) male and (b) female”

This amendment would ensure that different people separately representing the interests of male and female victims are appointed to the Advisory Board.

Amendment 46,  page 7, line 7, after “abuse” insert—

“in England;

“(aa) at least one person appearing to the Commissioner to represent the interests of victims of domestic abuse in Wales”

This amendment would require representation for domestic abuse victims in Wales, ensuring that both the interests of domestic abuse victims in England and Wales are equally addressed.

Amendment 20,  page 7, line 9, after “with” insert

“each of (a) male and (b) female”

This amendment would ensure that different people separately representing the interests of male and female organisations are on the Advisory Board.

Amendment 16,  page 7, line 11, leave out paragraph (c)

This amendment would remove the necessity for a representative of health care providers to be on the Advisory Board to make space for representatives of both male and female victims/groups.

Amendment 17, page 7, line 14, leave out paragraph (d)

This amendment would remove the necessity for a representative of social care providers to be on the Advisory Board to make space for representatives of both male and female victims/groups.

Amendment 44,  page 7, line 21, after “abuse” insert “;

(g) at least one person appearing to the Commissioner to represent the interests of charities and other voluntary organisations that work with victims of sexual violence and abuse that amounts to domestic abuse in England”

This amendment will add a representative of sexual violence and abuse specialist services in a domestic context to the Commissioner’s advisory board.

Amendment 18, page 7, line 24, leave out subsection (6)

This amendment is consequential upon Amendment 17.

Amendment 42, clause 13, page 8, line 16, leave out from “must” to “on” and insert “report to Parliament”

This amendment changes the requirement for the Commissioner to submit an annual report to the Secretary of State to a requirement to report to Parliament.

Amendment 43,  page 8, line 25, leave out subsections (3) to (5) and insert—

‘(3) The Commissioner must arrange for a copy of every annual report under this section to be laid before Parliament.

(4) Before laying the report before Parliament, the Commissioner must ensure that no material is included in the report which—

(a) might jeopardise the safety of any person, or

(b) might prejudice the investigation or prosecution of an offence.”

This amendment is linked to Amendment 42.

Amendment 21, clause 55, page 36, line 11, after the first “of” insert

“each of (a) male and (b) female”

This amendment would ensure that different people separately represent the interests of both male and female victims on the domestic abuse local partnership boards.

Amendment 22,  page 36, line 15, after “with” insert

“each of (a) male and (b) female”

This amendment would ensure that different people separately represent the interests of both male and female organisations on the domestic abuse local partnership boards.

Amendment 45,  page 36, line 22, after “area” insert “;

(h) at least one person appearing to the authority to represent the interests of charities and other voluntary organisations that work with victims of sexual violence and abuse that amounts to domestic abuse in its area”

This amendment adds a representative of Sexual Violence and Abuse specialist services in a domestic context to the Local Authority’s advisory partnership.

Government amendments 27 to 29.

Amendment 26, page 46, line 38, leave out Clause 64.

Amendment 8, clause 67, page 51, line 12, leave out paragraph (b)

This amendment is consequential upon Amendment 6.

Amendment 23,  page 51, line 15, at end insert—

‘(4) If it transpires that the local authority has been given incorrect information or that it has taken into account false allegations of domestic abuse as the basis for granting a tenancy, it must revoke the secure tenancy within 7 days of receiving this information by giving the tenant 28 days notice to quit in addition to passing on such information to the police, where they are not already involved, as soon as is practicable thereafter.”

This amendment makes provision for someone who has made false allegations of domestic abuse to lose the home they gained under these false pretences.

Amendment 35, clause 68, page 51, line 28, at end insert—

‘(2A) The Secretary of State must issue guidance under this section which takes account of evidence about the relationship between domestic abuse and offences involving hostility based on sex.

(2B) In preparing guidance under subsection (2A) the Secretary of State must require the chief officer of police of any police force to provide information relating to—

(a) the number of relevant crimes reported to the police force; and

(b) the number of relevant crimes reported to the police force which, in the opinion of the chief officer of police, have also involved domestic abuse.

(2C) In this section—

“chief officer of police” and “police force” have the same meaning as in section 65 of this Act;

“domestic abuse” has the same meaning as in section 1 of this Act;

“relevant crime” means a reported crime in which—

(a) the victim or any other person perceived the alleged offender, at the time of or immediately before or after the offence, to demonstrate hostility or prejudice based on sex,

(b) the victim or any other person perceived the crime to be motivated (wholly or partly) by hostility or prejudice towards persons who are of a particular sex, or

(c) the victim or any other person perceived the crime to follow a course of conduct pursued by the alleged offender towards the victim that was motivated by hostility based on sex;

“sex” has the same meaning as in section 11 of the Equality Act 2010.”

Amendment 47,  page 51, line 28, at end insert—

‘(2A) The Secretary of State must issue separate statutory guidance on domestic abuse that also constitutes teenage relationship abuse and such guidance must address how to ensure there are—

(a) sufficient levels of local authority service provision for both victims and perpetrators of teenage relationship abuse,

(b) child safeguarding referral pathways for both victims and perpetrators of teenage relationship abuse.

(2B) The guidance in subsection (2A) must be published within three months of the Act receiving Royal Assent and must be reviewed bi-annually.

(2C) For the purposes of subsection (2A), teenage relationship abuse is defined as any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening behaviour, violence or abuse, which can encompass, but is not limited to psychological, physical, sexual, economic and emotional abuse, including through the use of technology, between those aged 18 or under who are, or have been in a romantic relationship regardless of gender or sexual orientation.”

This amendment would place a duty on the Secretary of State to publish separate statutory guidance on teenage relationship abuse. The statutory guidance would cover not just victims of teenage domestic abuse but extend to those who perpetrate abuse within their own teenage relationships.

Amendment 9,  page 51, line 30, leave out from “that” to the end of line 31 and insert

“victims and perpetrators of domestic abuse in England and Wales are both male and female.”

This amendment removes the sex specific reference to females, to include male victims of domestic abuse and reflect the fact that both men and women are perpetrators of domestic abuse.

Government amendment 30.

Amendment 10, page 51, line 31, after “female”, insert

“and this should in no way exclude male victims from the protection of domestic abuse legislation and services for survivors.”

This amendment is an alternative to Amendment 9.

Government amendments 36, 37, 31, 32, 38, 33, 34 and 39.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
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Homes should be places of love and safety, but for 2.4 million people across the country they are not. We want the abuse to stop, and we want victims to live, peaceful, safe and happy lives. That is why the Government are bringing forward this Domestic Abuse Bill.

Domestic abuse does not just affect adults. It affects the children living in abusive households too. The Government have always recognised the devastating impact that domestic abuse has on a child who sees, hears or experiences it. Indeed, the need to consider the effects on children runs through the Bill, through the draft statutory guidance and in our non-legislative work. As I hope is acknowledged, our approach throughout the extensive scrutiny of the Bill has been to listen, and that is exactly what we have done. We have listened carefully to my right hon. Friends the Members for Maidenhead (Mrs May) and for Basingstoke (Mrs Miller). We have listened to my hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Nickie Aiken) in Committee, as well as other Members across the House, including the hon. Member for Blaydon (Liz Twist), who have encouraged us to do more. I am, therefore, pleased to introduce new clause 15 to the Bill, which states that children who see, hear or experience domestic abuse are victims.

As with the statutory definition in clauses 1 and 2, we expect the new clause to be adopted more generally by public authorities, frontline practitioners and others responding to domestic abuse. Indeed, it is vital that locally commissioned services consider and address the impact of domestic abuse on children.

We have also listened to the harrowing experiences of victims going through the family and civil courts. It is vital that victims of domestic abuse are supported to give their best evidence in court and to minimise the distress that this can cause. The Bill on introduction already ensured that victims of domestic abuse are automatically entitled to special measures in criminal proceedings, meaning that they can, for example, give evidence from behind a screen or via a video link. New clauses 16 and 17 now extend that automatic eligibility to victims giving evidence in family and civil proceedings.

In May last year, the Ministry of Justice established a panel of experts to review how the family courts deal with the risk of harm to children and parents in private law children’s cases involving domestic abuse and other serious offences. The panel received more than 1,200 submissions and the report was published just a couple of weeks ago. The submissions highlighted that many victims of domestic abuse feel extreme anxiety about appearing in the family court and coming face to face with the perpetrator. Anyone who has tracked the progress of this Bill, or who has worked with and listened to victims outside the confines of this Chamber, will know just how terrible some of those experiences can be. The panel has recommended that the provisions in the Bill concerning special measures in the criminal courts should apply to all private law children’s cases in which domestic abuse is alleged. New clause 16 does that, and new clause 17 achieves the same in civil proceedings.

However, we have gone further with regard to civil proceedings, as new clause 18 prohibits cross-examination in person where such cross-examination by the perpetrator is likely to diminish the quality of the witness’s evidence or would cause significant distress to the witness. This new clause also prevents the victim from having to cross-examine the alleged perpetrator in person, with counsel being appointed by the court, if necessary. In each scenario, such cross-examination can serve to re-traumatise victims and, again, prevent them from giving their best evidence in court. Cross-examination in person is already prohibited in the criminal courts. The Bill, on introduction, extended the prohibition to the family courts and, on the recent recommendation of the Civil Justice Council, we will now ensure that the bar applies across all courts. These changes will have a profound impact on victims in all our constituencies who are seeking justice.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I wholeheartedly support everything that the Minister has said, but one additional factor that can make it more difficult for a victim of domestic violence to feel secure in this system is that they have had a brain injury which might not have been diagnosed. So all the anxiety, loss of memory and loss of executive function may be completely misunderstood by many other people around her. Is it not time that we made sure, as my new clause 13 would do, that all victims of domestic violence and abuse are screened for acquired brain injury?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
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6 Jul 2020, 4:50 p.m.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. I, of course, pay attention to the fact that he has had a long-standing campaign on this matter. I have looked carefully at his proposals, and the Government have two chief concerns. The first is that any clinical need of the individual must, of course, be a matter for doctors. I would be very worried about making a blanket application for anyone who is a victim of domestic abuse, not least because we know that, as clause 1 sets out, domestic abuse can take many forms and is not just restricted to physical violence. So I believe that the correct way to deal with the very important point he raises is to enable clinicians to make that judgment. The second point relates to screening. I understand that the UK screening authority would have to consider whether such a universal programme should be introduced. I believe that it has looked at this relatively recently and has concluded that the evidence is not there. If I may, I will return to the text of my speech now. I will hear his arguments develop during the course of this afternoon and comment further if need be.

On the subject of justice, one of the most chilling and anguished developments in recent times has been the increased use of the so-called rough sex defence. This is the subject of the last of the Government’s new clauses on Report, new clause 20. Before I develop the argument for the new clause, I would like to pay particular tribute to the right hon. and learned Member for Camberwell and Peckham (Ms Harman) and my hon. Friend the Member for Wyre Forest (Mark Garnier), who have been unrelenting in their work to secure justice for victims about whom the most difficult and violent claims can be made by defendants in the course of a criminal trial. They have been absolutely committed in their campaign to clarify the law. Indeed, I seem to remember that my hon. Friend raised this issue in the first Second Reading debate in October, which reminds us all of the journey that this Bill has had. They have called on the Government to codify the law in relation to the use of violence in consensual sadomasochistic sexual acts and the so-called rough sex defence. I am incredibly grateful to them for their continued and constructive engagement on this important and sensitive issue. I also note the support that Members across the House have given to these provisions, and I thank everyone for their work on this.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

6 Jul 2020, 4:51 p.m.

The Minister is setting the scene very clearly regarding what is important and what we wish to see happening, and I congratulate her on that. The increase of this type of activity by some 11.6% on worldwide internet traffic has concerned me. This is not just about getting at people individually; it is also about getting at the people who are the drivers who make it happen. What has been done to ensure that those who buy into that system—some might do so inadvertently, but they none the less find themselves in a difficult situation—and who make it available and make it happen can be caught?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
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6 Jul 2020, 4:52 p.m.

If I have understood the hon. Gentleman correctly, he is not just addressing the use of this so-called defence in our courts but reflecting on the wider impact of pornography, particularly internet pornography, on violence towards women and girls in particular. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce) will be raising this in her speech and if I may I will respond to her in that part of the debate, but I very much take on board his point.

The hon. Gentleman will know that part of the problem that has emerged in the last 15 to 20 years is that, whereas in the old days cases were reported freely in the newspapers and so on, such cases are now also reported on the internet. In that regard, I must pay particular tribute to the family of Natalie Connolly, who have suffered in more ways than anyone can really contemplate. I am pleased—and I hope they are satisfied—with the developments that have resulted from the hard work of the right hon. and learned Member for Camberwell and Peckham and my hon. Friend the Member for Wyre Forest. I hope that Natalie’s family are satisfied with what we have reached in this Bill.

We have been clear that there is no such defence to serious harm that results from rough sex, but there is a perception that such a defence exists and that it is being used by men—it is mostly men in these types of cases—to avoid convictions for serious offences or to receive a reduction in any sentence when they are convicted. As my right hon. Friend the Lord Chancellor indicated on Second Reading, this area of law is extremely complex. It is therefore important that anything that is placed in the Bill does not have unintended consequences. In acting with the best of intentions, we do not want to inadvertently create loopholes or uncertainties in the law that can then be exploited by those who perpetrate such crimes.

If I may, I would just like to take a moment to thank my friend the Under-Secretary of State for Justice, my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Alex Chalk). As the co-Minister on the Bill, he has brought all his legal expertise to the consideration of how we can address the mischief and the upset, which we all want to address, in a way that does not have unintended consequences.

Robert Neill Portrait Sir Robert Neill (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

6 Jul 2020, 4:55 p.m.

May I join the Minister in doing that? This issue has bedevilled criminal law cases going back to the 1920s and 1930s. The attempt in the past has been to fit appropriate legal protections within the framework of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861. It is particularly to be welcomed that we have now moved away from that rather antiquated straitjacket and have something that is fit for purpose. The work the Government and my hon. Friends have done is immeasurably important to legal practitioners, as well as to victims.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
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6 Jul 2020, 4:55 p.m.

I am happy to take that intervention and I thank my hon. Friend, the Chair of the Justice Committee, for his support.

In new clauses 4 and 5, the right hon. and learned Member for Camberwell and Peckham and my hon. Friend the Member for Wyre Forest have, broadly, sought to codify the principles set out in current case law in this area, namely that which resulted from the case R v. Brown. That case involved a group of men who participated in sadomasochistic activities. We have taken up the challenge set by the right hon. Lady and my hon. Friend and, working closely with them, have tabled new clause 20 to achieve just that. More specifically, the new clause aims to make it clear that consent to serious harm for sexual gratification is not a defence in law. The new clause codifies, and therefore restates, the general proposition of law expressed in the case of R v. Brown, which is that a person may not consent to the infliction of serious harm and, by extension, their own death. Those interested in such matters will note that we have been careful to preserve the position in relation to sexually transmitted infections, but we have done so in a way very much in keeping with current case law. I hope that the House has been reassured that new clause 20 achieves the objective of providing the confirmation and clarification of the law requested.

I am very conscious that many Back Benchers wish to speak—sadly, many have put in to speak but will not be called due to the level of interest in this important piece of proposed legislation—but, if I may, I will take a little time to address an issue that I know is of great importance not just to those of us in this place, but to those who work in the world of tackling domestic abuse and, of course, to the victims themselves. That is the issue of migrant women, in particular migrant women who have no recourse to public funds. If I may, I will deal with new clauses 22, 25 and 26 in this part of my speech.

I hope hon. Members received a “Dear colleague” letter this morning from me and the Under-Secretary of State for Justice, my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham, explaining our position. We are absolutely committed to doing what we can to support all migrant victims of domestic abuse as victims first and foremost. In 2012, we introduced the destitution domestic violence concession—the DDVC—to support migrant victims of domestic abuse who are living in this country on the basis of certain partner visas. Such people have come to the UK with the intention of living here permanently with the reasonable expectation of obtaining indefinite leave to remain. The DDVC is not available to people who enter the country on other visas, such as visitor, student or work visas, or, indeed, to anyone who is here illegally. This is because in order to obtain such visas they will have confirmed that they are financially independent and therefore require no recourse to public funds, and their stay will be for a defined period of time. They do not, therefore, have a legitimate expectation of securing indefinite leave to remain. Simply extending the DDVC to all migrant victims is therefore not the way to address the needs of migrant victims who currently cannot claim under that scheme. We need to find a way of ensuring that they have adequate support, rather than provide a pathway to indefinite leave to remain or a blanket lifting of the no recourse to public funds condition.

Last July, we committed in our response to the Joint Committee that scrutinised the draft Bill to review the Government’s response to migrant victims of domestic abuse. We published the findings of that review last week. Despite our call for evidence to support the review, there is currently a lack of evidence to demonstrate which cohorts of migrants are likely to be most in need of support, the numbers involved and how well existing arrangements may address their needs. Without clear information that identifies the groups of migrants who may be most in need of support, it is not possible to ensure that any additional funding or support services are targeted correctly and effectively.

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Yvette Cooper Portrait Yvette Cooper (Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford) (Lab)
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I welcome the points that the Minister has made on other topics, but on this one, if she wants to do further research and investigation why not just lift the provisions and requirements on no recourse to public funds in the meantime, until the research is completed and she has more information about what she wants to do next?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
- Hansard - -

The right hon. Lady makes a point that I know would, at first blush, be attractive, but the problem is that we do not have that bedrock of evidence. We are coming to the Dispatch Box with an open heart, and I hope that it is acknowledged across the House that that has been our approach throughout the Bill proceedings. I do not know whether she has had a chance to read the report that we published last week into the work that the Home Office has done. There has been some very good work by charities, through the tampon tax funding and so on, but we are unable to put in the figures that we need to in order to undertake the sort of reform that she is urging upon us. We must have the data to ensure that anything that we are putting forward in the longer term best meets the needs of victims and is sustainable.

A person who comes to this country on, for example, a six-month visitor visa falls under one of the categories that one of the witnesses gave evidence to the Joint Committee on, in the evidence that was given to us as part of this review—the Southall Black Sisters. The right hon. Lady will know that people on visitor visas, who may be here for six months, will have made representations to the Home Office specifically on their financial circumstances, and we want to ensure that we can treat such people fairly and give them access to the help that they need. It is why we are very keen to focus on support rather than to follow the urgings of others that we deal with immigration status before we look at support. We want to help these victims to access help first and foremost as victims.

The pilot programme is to determine how we ensure that victims can obtain immediate access to support, and that any future strategy meets the immediate needs of victims and is fit for purpose. Support for migrant victims is a very important issue for all of us. We recognise that, which is why we are committed to launching the pilot project as quickly as possible. We are currently reviewing the options for implementing the pilot and expect to make further announcements in the summer, ahead of its launch in the autumn. We must resist the urge to act before we have the evidence on which to base comprehensive proposals, to ensure that measures are appropriate.

As I say, I want to give plenty of time to Members to debate the Bill at this important stage of its scrutiny. Before I do, I thank hon. Members—I hope I do not speak too soon—for the very constructive, collegiate approach we have taken, all of us, on this Bill. I know some very different viewpoints may be held on particular issues that will be debated in this Chamber this afternoon, but I know that the House will keep at the forefront of its mind that we are debating this Bill because we all want to help victims of domestic abuse and we all want the abuse to stop.

Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
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As the Minister has said, there is a lot of interest, not surprisingly, in wanting to take part in this debate. For the first four non-Government contributors, I will allow seven minutes, and thereafter the limit will be five minutes. Even with that, I am afraid not everybody is going to get in.

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I turn to an issue on which I seek specific reassurance from the Minister—new clause 28, which I am sure will be debated at length today. I have a great deal of respect for the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Dame Diana Johnson), but my view is that this Bill is simply not the right place for that debate. It would permit different treatment for women who were victims of abuse from that of other women. It would potentially require clinicians, over a telephone consultation, to determine whether a patient was a victim of abuse, possibly opening up those clinicians to subsequent legal challenge. I do believe that we must return to this issue in this House—we must have a thorough and full debate on abortion rights—but today is not the time to do so.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
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My right hon. Friend knows that in recent days a range of views have been expressed, including by two Royal Colleges, on new clause 28 and what it seeks to achieve. Indeed, there are difficulties with the new clause. The Government therefore consider that the right way forward is to undertake a public consultation on whether to make permanent the current covid-19 measure allowing for home use of early medical abortion pills up to 10 weeks’ gestation for all eligible women. Does that reassure her?

Caroline Nokes Portrait Caroline Nokes
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

6 Jul 2020, 5:47 p.m.

I thank my hon. Friend for that commitment and look forward to the consultation coming forward. It is important that we have the opportunity to look further at how these emergency regulations have worked during the period of covid and that we understand how they can assist women. I am sure that my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor will say something about this in his closing comments. I do not know whether the appropriate place is via new legislation or via the consultation that my hon. Friend referred to, but there is clearly a real need for debate and for this House to be able to express its view and understand the issue thoroughly.

The hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Jess Phillips) spoke with her usual forcefulness, and she will know that I have found common ground with much of what she said. I welcome her support for the broad direction of the Bill. I also welcome her comments about the need for us to find a mechanism to support migrant women who are the victims of domestic abuse. I have said this previously in the Chamber and I have no doubt that I will say it again. I vividly recall sitting around a table with my hon. Friend the Minister; my hon. Friend the Member for Charnwood (Edward Argar), who was then in the Ministry of Justice; the noble Baroness Williams, who I think was the Victims Minister; Southall Black Sisters and other charities; and the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley, who I always regard as an expert on these matters. There was consensus around the room that we have to find a way to treat the migrant victims of domestic abuse as victims first. I am sure that there are differences of opinion—as there were in the room that day—as to how we best do that. I very much hope that the pilot projects of which my hon. Friend the Minister has spoken will be able to provide us with the data that we need so that we can find a long-term, enduring solution to help, and help effectively, victims of domestic abuse who are here perhaps with no legal public funds or with insecure immigration status that means they are dependent on their partner for their right to be in the UK.

Whether it is the much-needed changes that are to be introduced in respect of the family courts—I welcome new clauses 16, 17 and 18—or other measures, it is crucial that we find a way to make our court system support the victims of domestic abuse. We must find a mechanism whereby it supports the children who might otherwise be obliged to come into contact with perpetrators. I welcome the fact that we are moving to a position wherein the legal process will no longer be able to perpetuate abuse.

My hon. Friend the Minister has worked hard on the Bill, and I welcome the changes that have been introduced. I commend her for having made such enormous progress. It has been a difficult journey for a Bill much delayed. We are not there yet, but I sincerely hope that our noble Friends in the other place do not delay the process much further. I commend my hon. Friend her for her very hard work.

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Fiona Bruce Portrait Fiona Bruce
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I will come on to that; I thank the hon. Gentleman for his contribution.

I want to quote someone who works regularly with victims of domestic abuse. She says:

“This proposal in reality is actually a gift to male abusers who want their partners to abort.”

New clause 28 will not help abused women. It could put them in a worse position, and it is dysfunctional. I tabled amendments (a), (b) and (c) to illustrate that fact. I want to thank the hon. Member for Belfast East (Gavin Robinson) and my right hon. Friends the Members for Basingstoke (Mrs Miller) and for Gainsborough (Sir Edward Leigh) for underlining and accepting that. Amendments (a) and (b) address the fact that there is no 10-week gestation limit, which is potentially dangerous, and that this potentially includes surgical abortions outside clinically approved settings, which is similarly concerning. Amendment (c) relates to the vital need for some sort of review of the current emergency legislation before any extension of the legislation is brought forward. I thank the Minister for her proposal of a consultation. Will she confirm that it will be a proper inquiry?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
- Hansard - -

I emphasise that the Government are neutral on the very sensitive topic of abortion, but I hope that my hon. Friend and others across the House who hold a range of views—genuine views—on this topic will take comfort from the fact that the Government intend to launch a public consultation, as I outlined in my earlier intervention, and I thank her for her work.

Fiona Bruce Portrait Fiona Bruce
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

6 Jul 2020, 6:59 p.m.

I thank the Minister for that. On that basis, I will not press amendment (c) to a vote, and nor will I press amendments (a) and (b), because they have achieved their purpose, which was to point out the flaws of new clause 28.

Mr Speaker has—quite rightly, for constitutional reasons—ruled new clause 29 as out of scope. This is a domestic abuse Bill; it should not be hijacked by those continuously campaigning on another issue and constantly looking for opportunities in this place to add badly worded amendments to Bills with unforeseen implications and complications.

We have already seen the outcome of such an approach with the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019. This House should, I hope, be very wary of repeating that. I support the Government’s endeavours to tackle domestic abuse: let us ensure that that is the focus of this Bill.

--- Later in debate ---

One in four women experience domestic abuse in their lifetime. Two women a week are killed at the hands of their partner or ex-partner. Three women a week die by suicide as a result of the abuse they have experienced. Two million people experience domestic abuse in England and Wales every year. I make no apology for restating those shocking statistics, but let them remind us all why we are here. With a strong Domestic Abuse Bill, strengthened on Report, we will be able to prove that inaction, apathy and ignorance will finally come to an end once and for all.

Victoria Atkins Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Victoria Atkins)
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It is fair to say there were moments in the past two and a half years where I did not quite believe that I would be able to stand at the Dispatch Box and deliver the winding-up of the Bill’s Report stage, so it is a genuine pleasure to be here doing exactly that.

We have seen extraordinary contributions from across the House, not just in this debate but over the history of this Bill and its progress through Parliament. We have heard from Members who have bravely given their own experiences of the abuse they themselves suffered, whether that was the hon. Member for Canterbury (Rosie Duffield), who moved us all on Second Reading in October last year or, indeed, my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mark Fletcher), who brought to the Chamber his own experiences as a child living in an abusive household. Those are but two examples; there are, sadly, many, many more examples we have heard, both through the direct experience of colleagues, but also through the experiences we have all tried to bring into the Chamber.

There are people we know as soon as their names are said—names such as Clare, Rachel and Holly. We know their stories. If one thing can be drawn from today’s debate and the progress of this Bill, it is that we do not just talk about them and the experiences they endured and the experiences that were forced on them, but that we talk about the legacy their lives have had. Their legacy is written throughout this Bill.

As the Minister, I have to, of course, try to respond to the many points that have been made in the debate, and I apologise that I simply will not be able to do so. To give some indication of just how much cross-Government working there has been on the Bill, as well as the work in Parliament, there are now seven Departments—and counting—working on it. During briefing sessions for the Committee sage, the officials briefing me had to have a queueing system because they could not all fit on a conference call. That gives an idea of how many people have been involved in the Bill, and I thank each and every one of them, because I will not have the honour of doing so on Third Reading.

I will jump now to some of the substance of today’s debate. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Jess Phillips) and many Opposition Members, as well as my right hon. Friends the Members for Maidenhead (Mrs May) and for Basingstoke (Mrs Miller) and the hon. Member for Edinburgh West (Christine Jardine), raised—understandably and rightly—support for migrant victims. I reiterate the Government’s commitment to helping victims and to the support for migrant victims scheme, which I announced on Second Reading. We expect to make announcements in the summer about this. We will be working with charities. We are working with the domestic abuse commissioner—I spoke to her about this only on Friday. We want this scheme to have the trust and involvement of everyone who is as concerned about migrant victims as we are. We are aiming to publish the framework of the scheme ahead of Lords Second Reading, and we very much hope that everyone will feel able to support it.

Jess Phillips Portrait Jess Phillips
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

If the approximately 3,630 women who we imagine might want to access this scheme a year breaches the £1.5 million that the Government have allocated, will the Government turn people away, or will they make more funds available?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
- Hansard - -

The hon. Lady has rather set out the problem we have, which is measuring the number of women. She will know that we already help around 2,500 women under the DDVC. She will also be aware that, alongside the pilot project, we have the tampon tax funding, which is continuing. I very much see the two schemes running in tandem.

The hon. Member for Edinburgh West has tabled new clause 27, which concerns the firewall. She will know that the police are facing a super-complaint relating to police data sharing for immigration purposes and that there is a judicial review outstanding. Obviously, we have to wait for those cases, but in the meantime we are working with the National Police Chiefs’ Council to ensure that the guidance it issues does the job that is required, so I ask her not to press the new clause.

Members across the House dealt with new clause 23. We all want to support domestic abuse victims and their children, regardless of where they reside. We must, however, ensure that any new statutory duties are properly considered, costed and robust. The new duty on tier 1 local authorities in part 4 of the Bill is the product of extensive consultation and engagement with local authorities and sector organisations. The same cannot be said of new clause 23. The Government are committed to gathering this evidence, and I am grateful to the domestic abuse commissioner for agreeing to lead an in-depth investigation on this. We have to be able to understand where services are and are not provided, to identify best practice and to consult fully with our charities, local authorities and other important parties before considering any statutory commitments. Any new duty must also be properly costed, taking into account existing provision. We expect the commissioner to set out her recommendations in a report under clause 7, and as those who have been following closely will know, we and others will then have 56 days in which to respond. We will act on this, and we will respond promptly.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant
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Will the Minister give way?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
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If I may, I will make some progress.

The hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley in particular raised new clause 24, and she urged us to act on this—we are doing so. Alongside publishing the family harms panel report, we published the Government’s implementation plan for that report. The Under-Secretary of State for Justice, my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Alex Chalk), is acting on the advice of the panel, which gave careful consideration to the issue of the presumption of contact. The panel concluded that an urgent review of the presumption should be undertaken—it did not conclude that we should legislate immediately. My hon. Friend is beginning this work. He is convening the Family Justice Board this month, and we hope and anticipate that this work will be completed by the end of the year. We share the sense of urgency, and we will act on it.

The right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper), the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee, raised new clauses 32 and 33, and new clause 21 has also been raised during the debate. On new clause 21, there was compelling testimony from several witnesses who gave evidence in Committee against the introduction of a separate register, as proposed in new clause 21, because that might diminish, rather than increase, safety. However, we are very conscious of the concerns that the right hon. Lady and others have raised.

We continue to work to keep the effectiveness of risk management processes under regular review, as well as to modify the processes in accordance with emerging evidence and good practice. For example, the College of Policing is testing a revised domestic abuse risk assessment process, with a view to rolling out an improved model across all police forces. Individual forces are also trialling enhanced risk assessment models, and there will be an evaluation of the new stalking protection orders as well. So there is work to be done, and we will very much keep it under review.

My right hon. Friends the Members for Romsey and Southampton North (Caroline Nokes) and for Basingstoke both raised important cases of threats to disclose—indeed, my hon. Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Ruth Edwards) raised this as well—and we very much understand their concerns. Threats to disclose, regardless of the connection between the offender and the victim, can in many circumstances already be captured by a range of offences. However, the Law Commission is conducting a review of the law relating to the non-consensual taking and sharing of intimate images with a view to assessing the currency of the law. In the meantime, we are working with the College of Policing to ensure that the police have all the information they need to make the right charges and arrests, where appropriate.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Will the Minister give way?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
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I will in a moment, if I may.

The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Dame Diana Johnson) introduced new clause 28, and may I thank the House for its thoughtful consideration of this new clause? As I set out earlier, the Government consider that the right way forward is to undertake a public consultation on whether to make permanent the current covid-19 measure allowing for home use of early medical abortion pills up to 10 weeks’ gestation for all eligible women. In answer to the question she asked earlier, I can confirm that we will keep the current covid-19 measures in place until the public consultation concludes and a decision has been made. I understand that the hon. Lady has been good enough to indicate that, in those circumstances, she will not push the new clause to a vote. I thank her and other Members for their consideration and their responses.

Very quickly, my hon. Friend the Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce) and my right hon. Friend the Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Sir John Hayes) raised important issues regarding research. As Minister for Women, I commissioned research into the impact of pornography on attitudes towards women and girls. This research is to be published soon, so I invite my hon. Friend and other hon. Members who are concerned about this to save their fire for the online harms White Paper and the research that will be published. Again, of course the Government will keep under review the concerns that my right hon. Friend raised in relation to the circumstances of domestic abuse.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
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I know that the hon. Gentleman wants to intervene—very quickly.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Minister knows perfectly well that I do not want to divide the House on my amendments, because I want the whole of the House to be supporting women who have suffered acquired brain injury. Will she simply guarantee that she will meet me and other Members of the group before this goes to the House of Lords so that we can clear up any misunderstandings there may have been?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
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Yes. I am extremely grateful to the hon. Gentleman.

If I may, I am going to gallop to the finish. I thank all hon. Members for their contributions—whether remotely, or they are not even here at all—such as those of the right hon. and learned Member for Camberwell and Peckham (Ms Harman) and my hon. Friends the Members for Wyre Forest (Mark Garnier) and for Newbury (Laura Farris), who talked so movingly and rightly about the consequences of the rough sex provisions.

May I sum up by saying that this Bill is not just for the victims that we have heard about in this Chamber? It is for the victims that we have not been able to help in the past and it is for preventing the harm to victims in the future, including children, that we bring this Bill forward. This is a Bill in which we can all take pride. We are doing some great work with this, and I thank each and every hon. Member for their help in getting us to this stage.

Debate interrupted (Programme Order, 28 April).

Domestic Abuse Bill

(2nd reading)
Victoria Atkins Excerpts
Tuesday 28th April 2020

(1 year, 6 months ago)

Commons Chamber

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Bill Main Page
Ministry of Justice
Jess Phillips Portrait Jess Phillips (Birmingham, Yardley) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

28 Apr 2020, 12:08 a.m.

I want to thank everybody who has spoken in this debate. In a rare moment, I agreed with almost all of it. I think I will have a chat with the hon. Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) another time; we like our little chats. I want to pay a special tribute to the hon. Member for Hyndburn (Sara Britcliffe), who appears on the call list as a virtual maiden, which I just think is an absolutely brilliant thing to be called. Her speech was full of heart—it is very odd that I cannot look at her—but from one bloody difficult woman to another, I am sure she will have an impact in this place.

I want to thank Ministers and the officials of the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice, who have always been co-operative. I also pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea East (Carolyn Harris); I have worn leopard print in her honour today. She was my predecessor, and she acted with characteristic tenacity in the brief. Ministers will know how often I have fought for this Bill to progress. However, there is still such a long way for it to go for it to be truly groundbreaking. It wants to be that groundbreaking, and we have to allow it to be that.

Covid-19 has laid bare the lack of protection for women and girls from violence. The lockdown has allowed the public to imagine what it would be like if their home, a supposed place of safety, contained the danger they feared most. The Bill is of course about the long term, but we cannot ignore the crisis facing millions of people in this country today—a crisis that is threatening our precious domestic abuse sector. To all those working with victims of violence and abuse and with victims of coercion, both adult and children, I pay tribute. They deserve access to extra, emergency, ring-fenced funding, as laid out by my hon. Friend the shadow Home Secretary, and they deserve it now.

So far, the sector has not received a single penny. Not from the £2 million that was announced, or from the proposed £750 million. That money was needed weeks ago. That issue was highlighted today by the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee, and I could not agree more that the Minister must listen to the domestic abuse commissioner and the Victims’ Commissioner on this issue. We need a ring-fenced fund, and we need it now.

I pay tribute to the Mother of the House, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Camberwell and Peckham (Ms Harman), and the hon. Member for Wyre Forest (Mark Garnier) for their dogged campaign to end the rough sex defence and post-mortem abuse. I have heard some of the worst cases, and it never stops being alarming to listen to stories such as those we have heard today. They have my full support, and from this House I hope that the hon. Gentleman will pass on our love to Natalie’s family.

I praise my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley East (Stephanie Peacock) for her nominatively determined wallpaper background, and for her effort to continue the campaign of our friend, Gloria De Piero, to end the asset grabbing of attempted murderers. My hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Rosie Duffield) was as moving this time as she was last time, and I repeat the praise to the new hon. Member for Bolsover (Mark Fletcher). It helps so much for people watching these debates when people like them speak out.

In a strange moment today my hon. Friend the Member for Luton North (Sarah Owen), a firebrand union activist, joined forces with a Conservative ex-Prime Minister to call for better workplace measures and rights for workers. I am sure Ministers will be delighted to join in that union with them.

There is much to cheerlead in this Bill. I welcome proposals for a dedicated commissioner, not just in theory but in practice, and Nicole Jacobs is already breathing life into that position. I also welcome the long fought for statutory duty to ensure future sustainable accommodation-based services. I shall not retire just yet, even though we might have got that, but it is a change I have championed since I worked in refuge, let alone since I have been in this place. Finally, being able to stand here after four years and say that no perpetrator will be able to cross-examine a victim is a welcome relief.

As the Bill progresses, however, I do not want to give the impression that there are not areas that will be contentious. There are currently huge gaps in what the Bill proposes. Members across the House, including the right hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May), the hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton), my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Vicky Foxcroft), and, movingly, the hon. Member for Bolsover all highlighted gaps in the Bill regarding children. The Bill cannot simply be words written on goatskin in some attic in Parliament that Ministers lean on to prove how much they are doing.

For every part of the Bill I will ask how it would have helped or hindered the victims and their children whose hands I have held over the years. Which of those victims have we forgotten? The only qualification for access to support, housing, refuge, social security, and police protection for victims of domestic abuse in this country should be this: are you human? The issue of migrant women’s access to support was raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott), my hon. Friends the Members for Brent Central (Dawn Butler), for Nottingham North (Alex Norris), for Erith and Thamesmead (Abena Oppong-Asare), and for Ilford South (Sam Tarry), and by no means only by Labour Members. Across the House, the issue of no recourse to public funds was raised again and again. We cannot pass a Bill that discriminates against migrant women, or that has a blind spot about the effect of domestic abuse on the children who live with it. Currently, the Bill would not change the lives of those groups for the better.

The past few weeks have shown that we are a community. How can it be that there are care workers, NHS workers and key workers serving the public right now in this crisis who would not be equally protected if they needed to escape abuse? Surely it is about all of us, or it is about none of us. Let the new Bill reflect that.

I am troubled that in this area the Home Office is currently in the middle of a review into migrant women. The gaps are already well known. The right hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mrs Miller) spoke about how migrant women were an issue raised in the report by the Joint Committee, and they remain an issue today. Yesterday, a report by the Home Affairs Committee stated that migrant women are still an issue. This is not something new that we do not know about, or that needs to wait for a review. We need to act now. How can this House or the other place possibly scrutinise and seek to change the Bill without the outcome of this review or the Family Justice Board review? Surely the Minister can see that this seems back to front and that, actually, political will says that she can act today.

The hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Joy Morrissey) and my hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark (Neil Coyle) made eloquent cases for the priority housing need, and I hope that Ministers heard their calls, because I am certain that they will only get louder as we head to Committee.

Although we welcome the statutory duty on housing support, 70% of known victims of domestic abuse accessing support do not receive it in a refuge setting. The vast majority of support for domestic abuse victims and their children happens in the community, and the Bill is currently not addressing those needs. These are the women whose names I read out each year. The high-risk women on that list are served by our community services and our independent domestic violence advisers. The domestic violence protection orders regime proposed in the Bill, which seeks to place more of the burden on the perpetrator rather than the victim, is incredibly welcome. However, there must be an agreed set of standards in this area and a proper Government strategy on how we manage perpetrators. It has been done in a wild west fashion in the past, and that needs to change. Without that, these orders will, at best, not change people’s lives, and, at worst, place them in further danger.

The Lord Chancellor and my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow (Stella Creasy), who we could actually hear when she thought we could not, mentioned Claire Throssell, and I am grateful that they did. I have to ask: what does this Bill offer to Claire Throssell and the mothers of the other 19 children murdered by known violent perpetrators following decisions in the family court? For three years, Claire has told her story to us policy makers, yet I do not see the loss of Jack and Paul reflected back at me in this Bill. I hope that I will. Many Members spoke ably about their experience of the family courts, but, alone, the changes to cross-examination are not enough to make it better. They would not have saved Jack and Paul.

My hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham North did a great job of giving voice to victims. I ask the Minister to ensure that, during the Bill Committee evidence sessions, we can hear the voices of victims such as Claire Throssell. I ask her to assure me that that will be the case.

Standing at the Dispatch Box in this Chamber, making my closing speech to a handful of people and a few more on computer screens, I am reminded more than ever that the decisions that we make in this room have huge consequences on the lives of the British public. Sometimes the decisions that we make here determine who lives and who dies. This is one of those moments. I hope that Ministers will work with us to make this Bill everything that it can be. This is the first major legislative Bill of a post-covid-19 world. Let it help all those who need it. Let it reflect who we want to be.

Victoria Atkins Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Victoria Atkins)
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28 Apr 2020, 12:01 a.m.

I thank all Members who have contributed to today’s debate. I also thank those Members who tried to contribute but, because of the new procedures, were unable to speak. I thank each and every one of the 87 Members who put their names forward.

The harrowing stories that we have heard today underline the horror of domestic abuse and the devastation that it leaves in its wake. Time after time—not just today, but in debating previous iterations of the Bill—we have heard stories of families shattered and of lives torn apart or even ended by this terrible crime.

One of the most moving speeches today was, of course, that of my hon. Friend the Member for Wyre Forest (Mark Garnier), who talked incredibly emotionally about Natalie and her family, and the experiences that Natalie had before she died. I went to his constituency to meet Natalie’s family, the Andrews, and they set out to me very clearly the journey of domestic abuse that Natalie had suffered before that fateful night. I know that my hon. Friend wanted to include in his speech the sentence that this perpetrator got for his behaviour—a mere three years and eight months for that course of conduct. It was a case that I am sure will live with many of us for a very long time indeed.

Another speech that I would like to highlight for its power was that of my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mark Fletcher), who brought to the Chamber his perspective as a child living in an abusive household. Many Members have raised the plight of children living in abusive households, which I will deal with in more detail in due course, but I want to thank him for being brave in laying those experiences before us in the Chamber. It does help victims; I know that for a fact.

The speech made by the hon. Member for Canterbury (Rosie Duffield) on the Bill’s last Second Reading was one of those parliamentary moments that those of us who listened to it will remember for a great deal of time. One of the most moving aspects of her speech today was setting out the wall of support that she has received and the network of women who have risen to support her. I wish her and that network all the very best.

Other Members set out the experiences of their constituents most eloquently. My hon. Friends the Members for Cities of London and Westminster (Nickie Aiken) and for Brecon and Radnorshire (Fay Jones) and the hon. Member for Luton North (Sarah Owen) really did justice to their constituents. If these stories are difficult to listen to, they are unimaginable to live through. In all their stark horror, those stories and all the stories that we know through the experiences of our families—or, indeed, in our own families—and of our friends, colleagues and constituents show us why this Bill is so urgently needed.

We all understand this. It is to the credit of all the parties that the Bill enjoys cross-party support. I know that there will rightfully be discussions about various aspects of it in due course, but it is to our collective credit that the parties can unify around this Bill. I would like to thank the hon. Member for Swansea East (Carolyn Harris) for her work in her previous role, and I welcome the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Jess Phillips) to her position. I spoke to her this week, and she said that it was the only job she would accept— I absolutely believe her, so I am delighted for her.

I am conscious that I have to sit down by 6.34 pm, otherwise the Bill falls. We do not want that to happen, so forgive me if I do not address all the points that have been raised. I will write and put a copy in the Library to answer the detailed points that Members have raised.

I must take the trouble to mention the maiden speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Hyndburn (Sara Britcliffe). It is a rather extraordinary experience to want to pay tribute to colleagues but not be able to see them in the Chamber. She described herself as the youngest MP, the first female MP for her constituency and the first Member of Parliament to make a virtual maiden speech—what an extraordinary set of achievements. I was so grateful for her speech, because she told us movingly about the struggles that her mother had with substance misuse and the terrible loss that she endured as a child. I can only say to her that I think any mother watching her today would have been extraordinarily proud. I also pay tribute to her father, who had to step into the role of sole parent in such difficult circumstances, and wish him a very happy birthday, which he is having to celebrate alone in these circumstances.

I thank the hon. Member for Belfast East (Gavin Robinson) for his steadfast support for the Bill. We have had to remove some sections from the Bill because the Assembly is back, but I pay tribute to him for his contributions to the Bill thus far, and to the Northern Irish Assembly and the Minister there, who I hope will be bringing legislation forward quickly.

We have worked tirelessly to ensure that the risks of domestic abuse in the covid-19 crisis are understood and met. We must be clear with anyone contacting us regarding domestic abuse cases that social distancing does not prevent people from leaving their homes for a place of safety if they need it because they live in an abusive household. Since social distancing came into force, we know that domestic abuse charities have reported a surge of activity in people contacting helplines and accessing web-based services, and we are working closely across government and the charitable sector to ensure that vulnerable people can access the support they need.

Local authorities have access to a £3.2 billion support fund to bolster their services, and the right hon. Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) and my hon. Friend the Member for East Surrey (Claire Coutinho) both raised a point about refuge accommodation in the circumstances. The Under-Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, my hon. Friend the Member for Thornbury and Yate (Luke Hall), wrote to local authority leaders yesterday about domestic abuse services and has suggested help with additional accommodation sources, should local authorities require that.

Other colleagues have mentioned the report by the Home Affairs Committee on that topic, and I very much thank the Committee for its report. I want to reassure Members about the actions we are taking. We have been working closely with the domestic abuse commissioner to ensure that frontline charities will receive a share of the £750 million charitable support package announced by the Chancellor. I cannot go into details at this point, but we are actively working on it. Of course, we have also announced £2 million in addition to that to support technological capability for domestic abuse services, and a further £600,000 from the Ministry of Justice to allow victim helplines to stay open longer. The national campaign, which I know many hon. Members have been kind enough to join, was launched by the Home Secretary earlier this month to raise awareness of domestic abuse and help victims to access support.

Many colleagues have raised the topic of migrant victims. We understand the problems that such victims face, and we are absolutely committed to ensuring that all victims of domestic abuse are treated first and foremost as victims, regardless of their immigration status. As part of our response to the Joint Committee’s report, we undertook to complete a review. We have now completed the evidence gathering phase of the review, including focus groups and a final call for evidence from the sector, but if we are to put in place new support mechanisms, we need a clearer evidence base so that it can be targeted properly to meet the needs of those for whom it is intended. That is why today I am announcing that later this year we will invite bids for grants from a £1.5 million pilot fund to cover the cost of support in a refuge or other safe accommodation. We will use the pilot to assess better the level of need for that group of victims and to inform spending review decisions on longer-term funding. We aim also to publish a full response to the Joint Committee’s recommendation ahead of Report, and we will of course take into account the comments made during this debate.

Another large topic for discussion was that of children. My right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May), who did so much in her previous role to spearhead this legislation, my hon. Friends the Members for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton) and for Bolsover (Mark Fletcher), and the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Sam Tarry), all described the impact that domestic abuse can have on children. It is vital that we recognise that in the statutory functions of the domestic abuse commissioner. Indeed, the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Vicky Foxcroft) and my hon. Friend the Member for Wantage (David Johnston) both explained about ACEs and the impact that domestic abuse has on them. One of the key functions of the commissioner will be to encourage good practice in the identification of children affected by domestic abuse and the provision of protection and support. Clause 66 places a duty on the Home Secretary to issue guidance on the effect of that.

I wanted to move on to the gender definition and mention my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) and the hon. Member for Nottingham, South (Lilian Greenwood), but I think I will be denied the time to do that. So, in closing, this debate has shown the House at its very best. Across the country, far too many people are experiencing the awful reality of domestic abuse. There is not a single constituency untouched by this terrible crime. Bringing an end to this awful crime is our collective responsibility. Legislation alone cannot provide all the answers, but where it can, the Government are steadfast in our determination to see this Bill enacted and implemented as quickly as possible.

To those suffering today, I can say only this: you are not alone. Help is available, and we will do everything in our power to protect you. I commend the Bill to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Domestic abuse bill (Programme)

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 83A(7)),

That the following provisions shall apply to the Domestic Abuse Bill:

Committal

1. The Bill shall be committed to a Public Bill Committee.

Proceedings in Public Bill Committee

2. Proceedings in the Public Bill Committee shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion on Thursday 25 June 2020.

3. The Public Bill Committee shall have leave to sit twice on the first day on which it meets.

Proceedings on Consideration and up to and including Third Reading

4. Proceedings on Consideration and any proceedings in legislative grand committee shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion one hour before the moment of interruption on the day on which proceedings on Consideration are commenced.

5. Proceedings on Third Reading shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at the moment of interruption on that day.

6. Standing Order No. 83B (Programming committees) shall not apply to proceedings on Consideration and up to and including Third Reading.

Other proceedings

7. Any other proceedings on the Bill may be programmed.—(Mr Marcus Jones.)

Question agreed to.

Queen’s recommendation signified.