The Law and Domestic Violence Offenders

Meeting: 
MQT on 2017-08-10
Session date: 
August 10, 2017
Reference: 
2017/3314
Question By: 
Len Duvall OBE
Organisation: 
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
The Mayor
Category: 

Question

Worryingly, there has been a rise in the number of domestic offences with almost 150,000 crimes being committed this year alone. Current legislation on domestic violence means that the onus is often on the victim of an abusive relationship to report a change of address or with prospective partners to check an individual's record with police. In contrast, for sexual offenders the obligation is on the offender to notify their local police force with details held on the 'sex offenders list'. In order to protect people and their families, do you think the law should be changed to introduce a serial 'domestic abuse offender' list or something similar which makes the offender have to notify the local police force about a change of address?

Answer

Answer for The Law and Domestic Violence Offenders

Answer for The Law and Domestic Violence Offenders

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Assembly Member Duvall, let me begin by thanking you for your focus on this aspect of tackling violence against women and girls.  A core commitment of the Police and Crime Plan was a refresh of the current Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) Strategy.  The Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime, Sophie Linden, has already begun this work and a new Strategy will be published in November this year.

 

We are keen to ensure that victims are both protected and supported and view anything that reduces the burden on victims as positive.  In refreshing the Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy, we will be bringing together partners to discuss a number of topics and we will raise your suggestion, Assembly Member Duvall, for discussion at one of our consultation workshops.  It is key for us that victims and survivors form the basis of this Strategy’s development and as such we will ensure that your suggestion is also canvassed with our victim-survivor consultation groups, too.

 

As well as considering new measures, we of course must also ensure we are making full use of the range of existing legislation.  As I stated in my plan, perpetrators of violence against women and girls are for a variety of complex reasons not being effectively dealt with.  We must develop effective interventions for perpetrators that minimise repeated patterns of abuse and ensure we have support for victims and their families.  Domestic abuse, as you will be aware, is one of the most complex, disturbing and insidious types of offending.  We know this has historically been an under-reported crime for a whole range of reasons and I am clear that we must consider these statistics and their meaning very carefully.  Those going through this awful experience often will find it difficult to report, often because of family ties.  An increase in reporting could be a sign of increased confidence to report, which should mean more victims and survivors get access to help and support.  However, it is vital we do not allow assumptions about increases in reporting to mask any actual increases in offending or severity of offending.

 

In closing, I want to make this point.  It is clear the MPS is facing an unprecedented level of need for their services.  Investigating domestic abuse and safeguarding survivors is a complex and intensive process and it is essential that the MPS has the resources it needs to do the best possible job.  The Government has to act now and start funding the MPS properly for the vital work it has to do.

 

Len Duvall AM:  Thank you very much, Mr Mayor, for the way that you answered the question.  This piece of research that I have issued today and why I have come to the conclusion about the register came out of an awful tragedy that occurred in a park in Lewisham where the perpetrator of the crime - which was the murder of a five-year-old boy - had been sentenced to a life sentence of a minimum of 18 years.  If you look back into his previous issues, the previous issues in terms of domestic violence were: an attack on a 13-year-old boy, punching and kicking him as he tried to protect his mother; knocking an ex-girlfriend unconscious as she refused to lend him a phone and her then requiring surgery to fix her jaw; and throttling a new partner when she told him that he could only have a duplicate birth certificate of his son.  There are numerous other violent crime aspects that this individual has been involved with.

 

It just seemed to me that we are doing a lot in the MPS.  You are doing a lot, you have identified in the Crime Strategy and your new domestic violence [Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy in November will no doubt push that further, but there are gaps in these cases and there are some inconsistencies, which we cannot blame authorities for but as evidence emerges of why I come to the view about a register.  It would be simpler to understand, easier for the police to use, but puts the onus on offenders.  Whilst the Government is considering further legislation through the courts, Clare’s Law [The Domestic Abuse Disclosure Scheme] has helped in terms of allowing family as well as potential victims to ask  for information from the police if they have suspicions.  We need something to track these men of violence.  We need something to deal with the repeat offenders.  Now, the police are carrying out an operation at the moment where they are tracking 400, but it is only an operation and it will be interesting to see what arises out of that and the lessons learned.

 

Equally, there are little-known tools arising from antisocial behaviour that I would ask you to look at, which is the issue around Criminal Behaviour Orders (CBOs).  Now, they are very complex, Mr Mayor, and they are bureaucratic.  I think that is why the police do not use them, but they are in existing legislation.  If they were used on some of the most extreme cases, they may help the police in tracking until we can further action.  It might be appropriate that, in terms of discussions you have, you look in terms of either amending the legislation, or making CBOs domestic violence-friendly in easing the pressure on the paperwork that the police have to complete.  It would only enact once they have been through the criminal court process, but it would give the desired outcome similar to the register for the interim until we have a register.  If you could look into that, I would be grateful, Mr Mayor.

 

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Can I just say, Chair, and can I just thank the work that Len has done in this area?  Can I just reassure him that we are looking at how we can use the legislation we currently have?  Assembly Member Duvall referred to the 400 of the most prolific offenders and the Dauntless+ work being undertaken.

 

Just to reassure Assembly Member Duvall about the use of CBOs, he is right.  They can be used to place restrictive measures upon offenders and he will be as pleased as I was to hear that this year a Dauntless+ offender was issued with a CBO with the condition that he must inform the local police station of the details of any address at which he lives or resides for longer than 28 consecutive days and the name of any new partner within 14 days of commencing the relationship.  He is right to remind the police via me that actually sometimes the legislation it is there; it is using it in a new way.

 

The good news is the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the police are working closer together than ever before, but I take on board the comments he has made and will make sure Sophie [Linden, Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime] and the Commissioner [of Police of the Metropolis] are well aware of them.  We will look at how we can feed this into our strategy.