When a survivor of domestic abuse reaches out for help, they should be treated as a human being and given the help that they need unconditionally. What is the Government’s priority? Do they care more about helping survivors of domestic abuse end that abuse and making them safe, or about catching and deporting migrants?
On day 3 of Report Stage of the Domestic Abuse Bill I said:
I support Amendment 67 and if it comes to a vote, the Green group will vote for it. It was a particularly nasty part of the Data Protection Act 2018, which contained provisions that allow the near-unlimited sharing of personal data for the purpose of immigration enforcement. A small group of us tried to fight that at the time, predicting problems as we see today. It was part of a trend by this Government towards turning every single person in this country into a border enforcement agent.
People are currently at great risk when they engage with any kind of public service that information will be passed on to the Government and used to deport them. This really should not be the case. When a survivor of domestic abuse reaches out for help, they should be treated as a human being and given the help that they need unconditionally. There should be absolutely no doubt in their mind that they will be helped and not harmed by accessing support.
Later in the debate I contributed: I am concerned by the Government’s hostile environment, which I have always found difficult to understand. It plays to a right-wing agenda with which I have no sympathy at all and poses a moral question as to what their aim is. What is the Government’s priority? Do they care more about helping survivors of domestic abuse end that abuse and making them safe, or about catching and deporting migrants, even where the only thing affecting their lawful residence in this country is the fact that they have fled an abusive relationship? I would very much like an answer.
Later in the debate I contributed: Over the past week, I have had several hundred abusive emails. Those men—virtually every single one was a man—felt that it was all right to send to my parliamentary account the most incredible abuse. I am well aware that some women MPs at the other end have this sort of thing all the time, sometimes thousands of emails every week. It is just staggering that these people think that they can write this abuse, send it and let someone else read it. I am absolutely astonished at this.
The problem is that misogyny is embedded in our society, and we have not dealt with it. The only way we can deal with it is through education, and this is education that starts with children—but it also starts with educating our police force. We have heard these stories about how the police just do not take it seriously, because they do not understand it. Just as there is a lot of misogyny in wider society, there is misogyny in the police. Many times, 20, 30 or 40 years ago, one would hear police officers saying about domestic abuse incidents, “Oh, it’s just a domestic.” It sounds very much as if they are not taking it seriously now, all these decades later.
I have said on several occasions that police forces should have mandatory training on how to recognise and deal with domestic violence. Some forces have done it and, where they have done it, it is noticeable that they have a better attitude to women, but we also see the prosecution and sentencing of male offenders increase dramatically. Nottinghamshire Police has had that training and improved its rate of prosecution of male abusers, and it behaved phenomenally well on Saturday night, when our dear Met police really messed up.
Here we have these amendments, which pose the question: how seriously do we want to take domestic abuse and domestic violence? There are processes in place administered by specialists for managing and monitoring serious sexual and violent offenders, and I do not understand why this apparatus is not being used for domestic abusers and stalkers. Lady Royall, said that best practice does not work, but why does it not work? I just do not understand. Perhaps the Minister can explain why it is not working.
It is high time that we got serious about domestic violence. The perpetrators should wear a label and have to disclose it with anyone they try to form an intimate relationship with, and they should be monitored and managed in line with the seriousness of their offending behaviour. These people are generally very unlikely to display one-off behaviours of domestic abuse and violence; these patterns of behaviour are totally engrained into their personality, for whatever reason. Perhaps they saw domestic violence as a child or perhaps there is some other underlying reason—but whatever it is, it happens and we have to protect women against it.
We can have all the support for the survivors that we possibly could, but it is infinitely preferable to have a world where there are no perpetrators, rather than supporting survivors. Without stamping out the behaviour of perpetrators or forcing serious consequences on their behaviour, we cannot stamp out the evil of domestic abuse—and, yes, I am afraid that it has to be in the Bill. First, most of us do not actually trust the Government to do it if it is not in the Bill. Secondly, if it is there it is visible, and people understand that it is being taken seriously—so I ask the Government to accept these amendments. Obviously, the Green group will vote for whichever are brought to a vote.
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