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Friday, 07 July 2017

Prison terms for domestic violence should be served in full, peers told

Written by Trevor Mason

Perpetrators of domestic violence should serve a full prison sentence rather than being released early, the House of Lords has been told.

Tory Baroness Manzoor said society must have "zero tolerance" of domestic violence and abuse and called for the law to be strengthened.

She said those found guilty of offences should serve a full prison term instead of being released halfway through.

Opening a short debate on government plans to support victims, Lady Manzoor said domestic abuse of older people was also a hidden issue.

Welcoming plans for a Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill, she said: "More victims are coming forward and seeing justice than ever before. But there is still a long way to go."

Labour former Lords leader Baroness Royall of Blaisdon said the police and judicial system were still failing victims of stalking, which was rightly known as "murder in slow motion".

She called for mandatory police training and a register of serial stalkers and domestic violence perpetrators to help tackle the problem.

Victims' commissioner and Tory peer Baroness Newlove said she had met with male victims of domestic abuse.

Far from being meek and mild "the victims I spoke to were ex-SAS and military men," she said. When one went to report the crime, a policeman said: "If you give her a belt you can claim self defence."

Lady Newlove said: "What are we coming to, to think that a victim of crime goes to an agency to be given support, only to be given such horrendous advice by a police officer. It's totally disgraceful."

Home Office minister Baroness Williams of Trafford said release on licence did not mean offenders were being let off lightly. If licence conditions were breached they could be returned to custody.

Lady Williams said the vast majority of victims were women but men suffered too. Prosecutions and convictions were at record levels but there were two million victims of domestic abuse every year in England and Wales, which was "two million too many".

She said the Government was consulting widely on the forthcoming legislation, which would establish a domestic abuse commissioner to "stand up for victims" and hold agencies to account.

Lady Williams said a report published on Wednesday by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Her Majesty's Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate found the police response to stalking and harassment allegations "just not good enough".

They were devastating crimes, which caused great distress to victims and "it is absolutely unacceptable they are being left to live in fear".

Lady Williams said the law was being strengthened and would include a new civil stalking protection order to protect victims "at the earliest possible stage" but there was more to do.

She said Home Secretary Amber Rudd would be speaking to police leaders about what action needed to be taken to improve the situation.

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2017, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Niall Carson / PA Wire.