tough powers for the police and the courts to protect victims and
prosecute abusers, was set out today by home secretary David
Proposals in the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Bill, along
with a raft of other measures announced today that do not need
legislation, would strengthen the rights of victims and witnesses,
ensuring they receive the help, support and protection they need.
They build on the government's ongoing reform of the criminal justice
system, rebalancing the process in favour of victims and witnesses.
The Bill also contains two new measures to close legal loopholes and
deal with offenders who currently escape justice. Parents co-accused
of their child's murder would be unable to escape punishment by
remaining silent or blaming each other. Also, criminals who commit so
many crimes that they cannot be dealt with in one trial will no
longer escape full punishment - a particular problem in cases such as
theft, fraud, counterfeiting and internet child pornography.
The radical package of reforms includes: a penalty of up to five
years in jail for breaking a non-molestation order; giving courts the
power to impose a restraining order where a defendant has been
acquitted but the court believes the victim needs protection; a new
code of practice for victims giving them statutory rights for the
first time and a new independent commissioner for victims, giving
them a voice and influence at the heart of policy making.
Mr Blunkett said:
'Domestic violence is an abhorrent crime, which costs the lives of
two women every week, and accounts for almost a quarter of all
violent crime. This largely hidden, much under-reported crime tears
apart the lives of far too many families, terrorising and brutalising
them in their own home - the very place they should feel safe.
'The government is determined to tackle domest ic violence, and is
bringing forward the biggest reform of the law in this area in 30
years. I intend to make sure that victims get the help, support and
protection they need, and to make sure that the police and the courts
have the powers they need to convict and punish these offenders.
'Victims and witnesses need support, and I am committed to ensuring
that they get it. We are radically overhauling the criminal justice
system to rebalance it in their favour. The measures I have announced
today will build on those in the Criminal Justice Act. They will put
victims and witnesses at the very heart of the system - helping to
give them the confidence to come forward and report crimes, to give
them and their families the support they need, and to help convict
Constitutional affairs secretary Lord Falconer said:
'These proposals confirm the government's commitment to putting
victims at the heart of the criminal justice system. Victims of
domestic violence should be confident that the courts will put their
needs first and have the powers to give swift and effective
protection. The measures contained in this Bill will do just that,
making it easier for victims to seek and get help from abusive,
Solicitor general Harriet Harman said:
'There is no excuse for domestic violence. The Domestic Violence,
Crime and Victims Bill is a tough new law which will protect women
and offer violent men a choice: stop the violence or you will face
Measures in the Bill include:
- Significant new police powers to deal with domestic violence
including making it an arrestable, criminal offence to breach a
non-molestation order, with penalty of up to five years in prison.
- Making common assault an arrestable offence.
- Stronger legal protection for victims by extending the use of
restraining orders - giving courts the power to impose a restraining
order where the def endant has been acquitted but the court believes
an order is necessary to protect the victim.
- Providing a code of practice, binding on all criminal justice
agencies, so that all victims receive the support, protection,
information and advice they need.
- Allowing victims to take their case to the parliamentary ombudsman
if they felt the Code had not been adhered to by the criminal justice
- Setting up an independent commissioner for victims to give victims
a powerful voice at the heart of government and to safeguard and
promote the interests of victims and witnesses, encouraging the
spread of good practice and reviewing the statutory code.
- Amending the Harassment Act 1997 to ensure that victims have their
say if an application is made to change a restraining order that is
protecting them from abuse or harassment.
- Strengthening the civil law on domestic violence so that
cohabiting same-sex couples have the same protection as heterosexual
couples, and extending the availability of non-molestation orders to
couples who have never lived together or have never been married.
- Creating a new offence of familial homicide for causing or
allowing the death of child or vulnerable adult.
- Bringing in the Law Commission recommendation for a two stage
court trial to ensure that high volume crimes like fraud and internet
child pornography can be punished in full.
- Reform to defences to homicide - including provocation.
The government also announced today:
- The creation of a register of civil orders to allow the police to
check for outstanding orders against an alleged offender so they can
take immediate action to protect the victim;
- The allocation of £6,582,247 over three years to a number of national
and local projects and initiatives, including funding to help Crime
and Disorder Reduction Partnerships (CDRPs) improve local action to
tackle domestic vio lence.
- The launch of the joint government, Comic Relief, Refuge and
Women's Aid Federation of England 24 hour freephone Domestic Violence
helpline before Christmas.
1. The Bill is available at www.parliament.co.uk
2. 'Safety and Justice' the domestic violence consultation paper was
published in June. Consultation
ended on 12 September, and responses will be published shortly. The
provisions for victims in the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims
Bill build on the 'Justice for All' White Paper published on 17 July
2002 and the booklet 'A Better Deal
for Victim's and Witnesses' published on 21 November 2002 and the 'National Strategy for Victims
and Witnesses', published on 22 July 2003.
3. The Criminal Justice Act which also puts victims at the heart of
the criminal justice system received Royal Assent on Thursday 20
4. A summary of the responses to Safety and Justice are also
published today alongside the Bill and can be found at
5. The £6,582,257 allocation announced today, includes £6,134,247 to
fund local delivery over three years for each Government Office and
Wales and will fund a range of initiatives including domestic
violence co-ordinators. The funding announced is part of the £14m
announced by the Home Secretary in March to tackle domestic violence.
6. The remaining allocation will fund the following:
- £120,000 to the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transexual (LGBT) Helpline.
- £228,000 for the Watch Over Me Video. Following the success of the
first 'Watch Over Me' video launched by the Home Secretary to promote
personal safety after the death of Millie Dowler, the Home Office is
funding a second video which will address the issues of domestic
violence and forced marriage.
- £50,000 to the RESPECT - Perpetrator Helpline. The grant to
Respect (the National Association for Domestic Violence Perpetrator
Programmes And Associated Support Services) will provide a National
Perpetrator Helpline to address issues specifically related to
interventions with perpetrators focused on increasing the safety of
women and children experiencing domestic violence.
7. Domestic Violence accounts for almost a quarter of all violent
crime. British Crime Survey Claire Flood-Page and Joanna Taylor
(eds.), Crime in England and Wales 2001/2002: Supplementary Volume
(London: Home Office, 2003), p. 55.
8. The Law Commission's report, of October 2002, on the effective
prosecution of multiple offending considered the various problems
that can arise in cases where the offending conduct of the defendant
is repeated so many times that there are too many individual offences
to be accommodated in a single jury trial.
Previously, these sorts of cases could satisfactorily be dealt with
by means of specimen counts, in order to ensure that the trial would
be manageable for a jury. Upon conviction, the judge would sentence
on the basis that the counts upon which the defendant had been found
guilty were samples of the much larger number of offences committed.
The defendant could thus be sentenced to a term commensurate with the
totality of his or her offending.
However, a recent Court of Appeal decision (Kidd & ors. (1998)) has
stopped this practice, on the basis that it improperly involves
sentence without trial. As a result, these sorts of cases must
currently be tried on a limited number of counts, in order to make
them manageable for a jury. This has the grave consequence that the
vast majority of such offending cannot now be prosecuted and
sentenced, due to the insurmountable difficulty of prosecuting tens,
or even hundreds, of individual counts. The offender thus escapes
appropriate sanction. Under the new proposals, there would be a
general right of appeal against the judge's decision to grant a
prosecution application t o use the two stage procedure, and the judge
would be required to give a reasoned verdict where the second stage
resulted in further convictions.
9. The provisions contained within the Bill complement the
government's ongoing commitment to improving services for victims of
crime. The government has already:
- Introduced a national telephone helpline for victims (through
- Introduced a support service for victims and witnesses in
magistrates' courts to match the service already provided in the
Crown Court (through Victim Support);
- Introduced victim personal statements (in October 2001);
- Improved payments made by the criminal injuries compensation
scheme to the victims of sexual offences;
- Given victims in serious cases the right to be consulted about the
release plans of their offenders.
- Implemented the deployment of Family Liason Officers by the police
in homicide cases;
- Established Multi Agency Protection Panels - the police, probation
and others working together to ensure protection for individual
- Implemented special measures making it easier and safer for
vulnerable and intimidated witnesses to give evidence
- Established a new Victims' Advisory Panel (in March 2003) to
provide a victim perspective at the heart of policy making.