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PUTTING VICTIMS FIRST:THE DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, CRIME AND VICTIMS BILL

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The Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Bill will today enter the ...
The Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Bill will today enter the

House of Commons for the first time. Home secretary David Blunkett

will introduce the Bill, which provides for the biggest overhaul of

domestic violence law in 30 years, heralding tough powers for the

police and the courts to protect victims and prosecute abusers.

Proposals in the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Bill will

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 home secretary will also announce new measures to be taken

forward following a public consultation on compensation and support

for victims of crime. These are:

* Making offenders pay more towards compensation and support for

victims through:

- Making wider use of court compensation orders.

- Making criminals and those who commit anti-social behaviour pay

back to their communities by placing a surcharge on criminal

convictions, fines and fixed penalty notices for criminal offences.

This will exclude parking offences, all civil penalty notices and non

endorsable motoring offences. On speeding, we intend to penalise only

the most serious and persistent offenders.

* Introducing a right for the Criminal Injuries Compensation

Authority to recover money from offenders.

Mr Blunkett said:

'I feel proud and privileged to bring forward this legislation today.

These reforms are long overdue. The effect of crime on the lives of

its victims can be devastating. Victims and witnesses need support,

and I am committed to ensuring that they get it.

'This Bill is a crucial part of the government's determination to put

victims at the heart of the criminal justice system. It will help put

law-abiding citizens first and ensure that victims have the justice

system on their side. It represents the most radical overhaul in

domestic violence legislation for 30 years. It builds on widespread

consultation, including with victims themselves. This Bill is shaped

by their views.

'Domestic violence is an abhorrent crime, which costs the lives of

two women every week, and accounts for 1 in 5 of all violent crime.

This Bill will ensure that victims get the help, support and

protection they need, and that the police and the courts have the

powers they need to convict and punish these offenders.

'A Victims Fund will put more money into services such as practical

support, information and advice to victims of rape and sexual

offences, road traffic accident victims and those who have been

bereaved as a result of crime. We want to provide more funding to the

voluntary sector and communities to meet local needs. I have already

dedicated£4m from the proceeds of crime to this fund. The

measures we are announcing today will further help to ensure that

offenders contribute more to supporting victims.

'I realise that legislation alone is not enough. That is why we are

tackling the root causes of crime, through record police numbers and

concerted action to tackle problematic drug use and anti-social

behaviour so fewer people are likely to become victims of crime. The

chance of becoming a victim of crime is now the lowest in 20 years.

We are also investing£650m on support for victims.

'Collectively these measures, along with legislation such as the

Criminal Justice Act, the Sexual Offences Act and this Bill will

ensure that victims feel able to come forward and can be confident

that when they do they get the help, support and protection they need

to rebuild their lives, as well as helping to convict the guilty.'

Notes

1. The consultation paper 'Compensation and Support for Victims of

Crime' was published on 12 January 2004. The consultation period lasted three months.

2. 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 a 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 defendant has been acquitted but the court believes

an order is necessary to protect the victim from harassment.

* 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

agencies.

* 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 Protection from Harassment Act 1997 to ensure that

victims have their say if an application is made to vary or terminate

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.

3. 'Safety and Justice' the domestic violence consultation paper was

published in June 2003.

Consultation ended on 12 September 2003, and the summary of responses

was published in December 2003. 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.

4. The Criminal Justice Act which also puts victims at the heart of

the criminal justice system received Royal Assent on Thursday 20

November.

5. Domestic Violence accounts for 18% of all violent crime. Jon

Simmons and Trisha Dodd (eds.) Crime in England and Wales 2002/3

(London: Home Office, 2003), Table 5a, p.84.

6. The provisions contained within the Bill complement the

government's ongoing commitment to improving services for victims of

crime. The government has already:

* Invested£36m over three years to roll out the 'no witness,

no justice' programme nationally. This will provide dedicated witness

care units across England and Wales, bringing police and the Crown

Prosecution service together for the first time to jointly meet the

individual needs of victims and witnesses;

* Earmarked£4m from the proceeds of crime to help support

victims of sexual offences;

* Introduced victim personal statements (in October 2001);

* 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 of the police, probation

and others working together to ensure protection for individual

victims;

* 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.

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