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The terrifying facts of this case and other incidents of domestic violence demonstrate the importance of ensuring that the response to the needs of victims of domestic violence is handled earlier and effectively, to reduce the risk of incidents like this occurring, as the
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right hon. Lady pointed out. She will appreciate that I have been advised that I cannot talk about the handling of individual cases, including this one, but I will outline the comprehensive improvements that have been made by the Thames Valley police force to its handling of domestic violence.

At the outset, I assure the right hon. Lady that I should, of course, be happy to meet her in my office to discuss matters that it is not possible to raise now. Stalking is one of those matters, and I look forward to her contacting me so that we can organise such a meeting.

In addition, I shall outline a wide range of measures that the Government have instigated through the national delivery plan for domestic violence. Sweeping changes in case handling have been made across the criminal justice system, including in the police, the Crown Prosecution Service and the courts. Those changes will aid victims and help to prevent cases such as those in the Thames Valley area and beyond. The plan also highlights action to ensure the early identification of victims and perpetrators. In addition, it offers focused support for victims and the better management of perpetrators.

This debate gives me an opportunity to say a few things. As a new Minister at the Home Office, I was shocked when I was briefed on the scale of the problem that we face. For instance, the House will be appalled to learn the following: that, on average, two women a week are killed in the UK by a male partner or former partner; that in 2003-04 nearly 40 per cent. of all female homicide victims were killed by their current or ex-partner, compared with about 5 per cent. of male homicide victims; that about one in four women and one in six men have been victims of domestic violence since the age of 16, although women are clearly likely to suffer greater injury and be classed as chronic victims; that 89 per cent. of those suffering four or more attacks are women, and that one incident is reported to the police every minute. Moreover, as the right hon. Member for Maidenhead noted, there were more than 14,000 such incidents in the Thames Valley area in 2004-05.

In addition to the human suffering that is caused by domestic violence, the costs to our economy are staggering. In 2001, domestic violence in England and Wales was estimated to cost a total of £23 billion, of which £3 billion was spent on public services and£2.7 billion was absorbed by employers and workers. The cost of human and emotional suffering was putat £17 billion. In addition, the criminal justice system spent £1 billion on domestic violence cases, and£300 million was spent by civil legal services.

In 90 per cent. of incidents involving domestic violence, children are in the same or the next room. Domestic violence also has worrying links to pregnancy: 30 per cent. of domestic violence starts during pregnancy, and existing violence often escalates. Domestic violence accounts for 17 per cent. of all violent crime in the UK. I am sure that the right hon. Member for Maidenhead probably knows those facts better than I do, but they are another reason why we should welcome the opportunity that this debate gives us to state them in the House.

Those statistics tell a terrible story, as is highlighted by the case at the heart of this debate, but that story is
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made far worse when we realise that behind each statistic is a life, and often many lives. Those lives are damaged and sometimes destroyed by the cruel and barbaric acts that are committed—and as a man I have to say this—mainly by men. I recognise that men and same-sex couples also experience domestic violence, but women are far more likely to experience physical or sexual violence at the hands of men.

However, I wish to reassure the House that the Government are facing up to our responsibilities, and I should like to outline some of the major steps that we are taking to respond to this most insidious of crimes in all parts of the country, including in the Thames Valley area. The Government take domestic violence very seriously, and that is why we have set up the inter-ministerial group on domestic violence. It is chaired by Baroness Scotland, and draws ministerial membership from across all the major Government Departments. The group performance manages the delivery plan and monitors its progress quarterly.

As the right hon. Lady noted, we passed the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004 in November of that year. The biggest overhaul of domestic violence legislation for 30 years, that Act gives tough new powers to the police and the courts to tackle offenders, while ensuring that victims get the support and protection that they need. We hope that that protection will help people across the country, including in the Thames Valley area.

The 2004 Act gives greater protection to victims and children, and encourages them to stand up for their right to live without fear of violence. The measures that it contains have been rolling out in stages since March 2005.

I turn now to the specific concerns about Thames Valley police expressed by the right hon. Lady. I should like to reassure the House that that force have initiated a fundamental overhaul of their policies and procedures in response to domestic violence cases. The Thames Valley police domestic violence project is nearing completion; the main changes have been implemented and the force is consolidating the improvements in its routine business. After some of the awful things that we have seen and that she highlighted, I hope that lessons have been learned and I trust that such initiatives offer some comfort and reassurance.

The improvements include the establishment of public protection units throughout Thames Valley police. Those specialist units focus on protecting communities from the most dangerous offenders and provide expertise in cases involving the most vulnerable members of our society. The force’s existing domestic violence units have been incorporated in the public protection units and augmented with additional investment and resources. Specialist domestic violence officers now review all domestic violence incidents.

A comprehensive structured risk assessment process has been implemented. All operational officers have received training in identifying domestic violence cases and in the use of the risk indicator tool to assist their investigation and management of the case. Every case is assessed by a specialist domestic violence unit officer to ensure that high-risk cases are identified early—a point made by the right hon. Lady—and given added priority and resources.

17 May 2006 : Column 1109

We need to ensure that action on stalking is included in those procedures. The right hon. Lady asked about guidance in such cases. The Association of Chief Police Officers has issued police forces with guidance on harassment, which includes stalking, so the right hon. Lady can be reassured about that issue.

The changes in the Thames Valley force are part of a much wider overhaul that has been instigated in all police forces. In November 2004, ACPO issued comprehensive guidance to all forces in England and Wales, including Thames Valley, about the investigation of domestic violence cases, including Thames Valley. The accompanying training programme covers identification and flagging of cases of domestic violence by the police; officer response at the scene of the incident to protect victims and to gather evidence; managing the investigation and building a prosecution case; protecting the victim as the case progresses through the criminal justice system; and how to engage effectively in multi-agency working. I was most interested in the information from America provided by a relative of the family about multi-agency working. Perhaps the right hon. Lady and I could discuss that further when we meet. The police alone cannot tackle domestic violence; it requires a partnership response, although I am very aware that turning those words into reality is something else again.

Mrs. May: Before I comment on that point, I apologise to the Minister for not welcoming him to his new post in the Home Office.

The San Diego experience is one of the interesting points that I should like to discuss with the Minister. The scheme was set up on a voluntary basis and has managed to get around many of the administrative barriers that can get in the way of a multi-agency approach, which then fails to operate properly, as the Minister said.

Mr. Coaker: I thank the right hon. Lady for her welcome. We can certainly discuss the issue she raises. I am well aware that bureaucracy sometimes gets in the way of service delivery and in cases such as these we need to make sure that what we say in an office translates into reality on the ground for people who suffer, or may suffer, domestic violence.

The training programme that I outlined is a major initiative in each police force area, including Thames Valley, and a target has been set to ensure that every operational officer in every police force in England and Wales will be a graduate of the programme by 2008. To complement it, every new recruit in every force will be trained about domestic violence as part of their mandatory training, as they have been since April 2005. Again, Thames Valley is obviously included in that
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programme. Such training is crucial to changing the culture—changing awareness and attitudes. All those things are important and will take longer than a training programme, but the programme is vital none the less.

I welcome the fact that my hon. Friend the Member for Slough (Fiona Mactaggart) is present in the Chamber. She has also taken a keen interest in these matters, including when she was a Home Office Minister, and we are building on much of the work in which she was involved.

Every police force in England and Wales now also has a domestic violence co-ordinator—so the Thames Valley police will have such a co-ordinator as well. That illustrates the fact that the Government and the police recognise that domestic violence is a serious crime that needs to be policed rigorously and effectively, but our commitment to tackling domestic violence does not stop there. To ensure that we capitalise on the improved policing policy, the Crown Prosecution Service has also created a domestic violence training pack for all its prosecutors. It, too, has set a target of having all prosecutors trained on the programme by 2008 and every CPS area, including Thames Valley, now has a domestic violence co-ordinator.

Last year, to strengthen the role of the criminal justice system further, the Government announced the development of 25 specialist domestic violence court systems, which will be in place by April 2006—so they are obviously just in place. There will now be at least one specialist domestic violence court area in every region of the country—obviously, including the Thames valley. In this context, specialist courts are not just about the practice of courts and their procedures; neither are they about tangible changes being made to existing courthouses: it is an approach that situates the court system and the criminal justice system as part of a community-wide response to domestic violence. Clearly, such arrangements may cover parts of the Thames Valley area.

I congratulate the right hon. Member for Maidenhead on initiating the debate. I am very happy to meet her to discuss what is clearly an issue of importance not just in the Thames Valley area but in the whole country and something about which we, as a country, need to do more. This was a terrible case; we must learn the lessons from it. Thames Valley police, as well as all other forces, have reviewed their procedures, and we must all hope that, in so far as possible, such tragedies are avoided in the future. I thank the right hon. Lady again for raising the issue; I am sure that we all need to do something more about it.

The motion having been made after Seven o’clock, and debate having continued for half an hour, Mr. Deputy Speaker adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned at twenty-nine minutes to Eight o’clock.

Deferred Division

Conventions (Joint Committee)

The House divided: Ayes 416, Noes 20.
Division No. 242]


Abbott, Ms Diane
Afriyie, Adam
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, rh Mr. Bob
Ainsworth, Mr. Peter
Alexander, Danny
Allen, Mr. Graham
Amess, Mr. David
Ancram, rh Mr. Michael
Anderson, Mr. David
Anderson, Janet
Armstrong, rh Hilary
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, Mr. Ian
Bailey, Mr. Adrian
Baird, Vera
Baldry, Tony
Balls, Ed
Banks, Gordon
Barker, Gregory
Baron, Mr. John
Barrett, John
Beckett, rh Margaret
Begg, Miss Anne
Beith, rh Mr. Alan
Bellingham, Mr. Henry
Benton, Mr. Joe
Benyon, Mr. Richard
Berry, Roger
Betts, Mr. Clive
Binley, Mr. Brian
Blackman, Liz
Blackman-Woods, Dr. Roberta
Blair, rh Mr. Tony
Blears, rh Hazel
Blizzard, Mr. Bob
Blunkett, rh Mr. David
Blunt, Mr. Crispin
Boswell, Mr. Tim
Bottomley, Peter
Bradshaw, Mr. Ben
Brady, Mr. Graham
Brake, Tom
Brazier, Mr. Julian
Brokenshire, James
Brown, Lyn
Brown, rh Mr. Nicholas
Browne, Mr. Jeremy
Browning, Angela
Bryant, Chris
Buck, Ms Karen
Burgon, Colin
Burnham, Andy
Burns, Mr. Simon
Burrowes, Mr. David
Burt, Lorely
Butler, Ms Dawn
Butterfill, Sir John

Byers, rh Mr. Stephen
Byrne, Mr. Liam
Cable, Dr. Vincent
Cairns, David
Cameron, rh Mr. David
Campbell, Mr. Alan
Campbell, Mr. Gregory
Campbell, rh Sir Menzies
Carmichael, Mr. Alistair
Caton, Mr. Martin
Chapman, Ben
Clapham, Mr. Michael
Clappison, Mr. James
Clark, Greg
Clark, Ms Katy
Clarke, rh Mr. Tom
Clegg, Mr. Nick
Clifton-Brown, Mr. Geoffrey
Clwyd, rh Ann
Coaker, Mr. Vernon
Coffey, Ann
Cohen, Harry
Cooper, Rosie
Corbyn, Jeremy
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Cousins, Jim
Crabb, Mr. Stephen
Creagh, Mary
Cruddas, Jon
Cryer, Mrs. Ann
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Mr. Jim
Cunningham, Tony
Curry, rh Mr. David
Davidson, Mr. Ian
Davies, Philip
Davies, Mr. Quentin
Devine, Mr. Jim
Dhanda, Mr. Parmjit
Dismore, Mr. Andrew
Djanogly, Mr. Jonathan
Dodds, Mr. Nigel
Donaldson, Mr. Jeffrey M.
Donohoe, Mr. Brian H.
Dowd, Jim
Drew, Mr. David
Duncan, Mr. Alan
Durkan, Mark
Eagle, Angela
Eagle, Maria
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs. Louise
Engel, Natascha
Ennis, Jeff
Evennett, Mr. David
Fabricant, Michael
Farron, Tim
Featherstone, Lynne
Field, rh Mr. Frank
Field, Mr. Mark
Flello, Mr. Robert
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Mr. Don
Foster, Mr. Michael (Worcester)
Francois, Mr. Mark
Gardiner, Barry
Garnier, Mr. Edward
Gauke, Mr. David
George, Andrew
Gerrard, Mr. Neil
Gibb, Mr. Nick
Gibson, Dr. Ian
Gidley, Sandra
Gillan, Mrs. Cheryl
Goggins, Paul
Goldsworthy, Julia
Goodman, Helen
Goodman, Mr. Paul
Goodwill, Mr. Robert
Gove, Michael
Gray, Mr. James
Grayling, Chris
Green, Damian
Greening, Justine
Grieve, Mr. Dominic
Griffith, Nia
Griffiths, Nigel
Grogan, Mr. John
Gummer, rh Mr. John
Gwynne, Andrew
Hain, rh Mr. Peter
Hall, Mr. Mike
Hall, Patrick
Hammond, Mr. Philip
Hammond, Stephen
Hanson, Mr. David
Harman, rh Ms Harriet
Harper, Mr. Mark
Harris, Dr. Evan
Harris, Mr. Tom
Harvey, Nick
Healey, John
Heath, Mr. David
Hemming, John
Hendrick, Mr. Mark
Hendry, Charles
Heppell, Mr. John
Herbert, Nick
Hermon, Lady
Hesford, Stephen
Heyes, David
Hill, rh Keith
Hillier, Meg
Hoban, Mr. Mark
Hollobone, Mr. Philip
Holmes, Paul
Hood, Mr. Jimmy
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Horam, Mr. John
Howard, rh Mr. Michael
Howarth, rh Mr. George
Howells, Dr. Kim
Hughes, rh Beverley
Hughes, Simon
Huhne, Chris
Humble, Mrs. Joan
Hunt, Mr. Jeremy
Hunter, Mark
Hutton, rh Mr. John
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Illsley, Mr. Eric
Irranca-Davies, Huw
Jack, rh Mr. Michael
Jackson, Mr. Stewart
Johnson, rh Alan
Johnson, Ms Diana R.
Jones, Helen
Jones, Mr. Martyn
Jowell, rh Tessa
Joyce, Mr. Eric
Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald
Keeley, Barbara

Kelly, rh Ruth
Kemp, Mr. Fraser
Kennedy, rh Mr. Charles
Kennedy, rh Jane
Khabra, Mr. Piara S.
Khan, Mr. Sadiq
Kidney, Mr. David
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Knight, Jim
Kramer, Susan
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Lait, Mrs. Jacqui
Lamb, Norman
Laws, Mr. David
Lazarowicz, Mark
Lepper, David
Letwin, rh Mr. Oliver
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Mr. Ivan
Lewis, Dr. Julian
Lilley, rh Mr. Peter
Loughton, Tim
Love, Mr. Andrew
Lucas, Ian
MacDougall, Mr. John
Mackay, rh Mr. Andrew
Mactaggart, Fiona
Mahmood, Mr. Khalid
Malik, Mr. Shahid
Malins, Mr. Humfrey
Mallaber, Judy
Marris, Rob
Marsden, Mr. Gordon
Marshall, Mr. David
Martlew, Mr. Eric
May, rh Mrs. Theresa
McCabe, Steve
McCarthy, Kerry
McCartney, rh Mr. Ian
McCrea, Dr. William
McDonagh, Siobhain
McDonnell, Dr. Alasdair
McDonnell, John
McFadden, Mr. Pat
McFall, rh Mr. John
McGovern, Mr. Jim
McGrady, Mr. Eddie
McGuire, Mrs. Anne
McIntosh, Miss Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKechin, Ann
McKenna, Rosemary
McNulty, Mr. Tony
Meale, Mr. Alan
Merron, Gillian
Michael, rh Alun
Milburn, rh Mr. Alan
Miliband, Edward
Miller, Mrs. Maria
Milton, Anne
Mitchell, Mr. Andrew
Moffat, Anne
Moffatt, Laura
Mole, Chris
Moon, Mrs. Madeleine
Moore, Mr. Michael
Moran, Margaret
Morden, Jessica
Morgan, Julie
Moss, Mr. Malcolm
Mountford, Kali
Mundell, David
Munn, Meg
Murphy, Mr. Denis
Murphy, Mr. Jim
Murrison, Dr. Andrew
Naysmith, Dr. Doug
Newmark, Mr. Brooks
Norris, Dan
O'Brien, Mr. Mike
O'Brien, Mr. Stephen
Olner, Mr. Bill
Öpik, Lembit
Osborne, Mr. George
Ottaway, Richard
Owen, Albert
Paisley, rh Rev. Ian
Palmer, Dr. Nick
Pearson, Ian
Penning, Mike
Penrose, John
Pickles, Mr. Eric
Plaskitt, Mr. James
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Bridget
Prentice, Mr. Gordon
Prosser, Gwyn
Pugh, John
Purchase, Mr. Ken
Randall, Mr. John
Reed, Mr. Andy
Reed, Mr. Jamie
Reid, Mr. Alan
Rennie, Willie
Rifkind, rh Sir Malcolm
Riordan, Mrs. Linda
Robathan, Mr. Andrew
Robertson, Hugh
Robertson, John
Robinson, Mrs. Iris
Robinson, Mr. Peter
Rogerson, Mr. Dan

Rowen, Paul
Roy, Mr. Frank
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Ruffley, Mr. David
Russell, Bob
Russell, Christine
Ryan, Joan
Salter, Martin
Sanders, Mr. Adrian
Sarwar, Mr. Mohammad
Scott, Mr. Lee
Seabeck, Alison
Selous, Andrew
Shapps, Grant
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Mr. Barry
Sheridan, Jim
Simon, Mr. Siôn
Simpson, Alan
Simpson, David
Singh, Mr. Marsha
Skinner, Mr. Dennis
Slaughter, Mr. Andrew
Smith, rh Mr. Andrew
Smith, Ms Angela C. (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
Smith, Angela E. (Basildon)
Smith, Geraldine
Smith, rh Jacqui
Smith, Sir Robert
Snelgrove, Anne
Soulsby, Sir Peter
Southworth, Helen
Spellar, rh Mr. John
Spink, Bob
Spring, Mr. Richard
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Steen, Mr. Anthony
Stewart, Ian
Stoate, Dr. Howard
Strang, rh Dr. Gavin
Straw, rh Mr. Jack
Stringer, Graham
Stunell, Andrew
Sutcliffe, Mr. Gerry
Swayne, Mr. Desmond
Swinson, Jo
Swire, Mr. Hugo
Syms, Mr. Robert
Tami, Mark
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, Ms Dari
Teather, Sarah
Thomas, Mr. Gareth
Thornberry, Emily
Timms, Mr. Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Touhig, Mr. Don
Tredinnick, David
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Mr. Paul
Turner, Mr. Andrew
Turner, Mr. Neil
Twigg, Derek
Tyrie, Mr. Andrew
Ussher, Kitty
Vaizey, Mr. Edward
Vara, Mr. Shailesh
Vaz, Keith
Viggers, Peter
Villiers, Mrs. Theresa
Walker, Mr. Charles
Wallace, Mr. Ben
Waltho, Lynda
Ward, Claire
Wareing, Mr. Robert N.
Watkinson, Angela
Watts, Mr. Dave
Webb, Steve
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Wiggin, Bill
Willetts, Mr. David
Williams, rh Mr. Alan
Williams, Hywel
Williams, Mark
Williams, Mr. Roger
Williams, Stephen
Willis, Mr. Phil
Willott, Jenny
Wilson, Mr. Rob
Wilson, Sammy
Winnick, Mr. David
Winterton, Sir Nicholas
Winterton, Ms Rosie
Woolas, Mr. Phil
Wright, Mr. Anthony
Wright, David
Wright, Mr. Iain
Wright, Jeremy
Wright, Dr. Tony
Wyatt, Derek
Young, rh Sir George

Bercow, John
Bone, Mr. Peter
Cash, Mr. William
Chope, Mr. Christopher
Dunne, Mr. Philip
Fallon, Mr. Michael
Hands, Mr. Greg
Hosie, Stewart
Howarth, Mr. Gerald
Jenkin, Mr. Bernard
Kawczynski, Daniel
Knight, rh Mr. Greg
Luff, Peter
MacNeil, Mr. Angus
Paterson, Mr. Owen
Redwood, rh Mr. John
Robertson, Angus
Robertson, Mr. Laurence
Salmond, Mr. Alex
Weir, Mr. Mike
Question accordingly agreed to.
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