David Cameron vows to consider creating domestic violence offence
Prime minister promises to look into issue in the wake of Hollie Gazzard’s murder by her ex-boyfriend.
David Cameron has said the government will look into creating a separate offence of domestic violence, as he acknowledged the UK needs to “get to grips” with the problem. The prime minister commented when he was asked on BBC Gloucestershire about the case of Hollie Gazzard, who was stabbed to death by her ex-boyfriend in February. She had previously contacted police about her partner’s violent and threatening behaviour, and there is now a review by the Independent Police Complaints Commission is reviewing the force’s handling of her complaint.
The government created the offence of stalking in 2012, but some charities have been pushing for a specific crime of domestic violence that would allow sentences to reflect whether domestic abuse, both physical and psychological, was part of a pattern of behaviour.
In February, a cross-party group of MPs tried to get through the Commons a domestic violence bill that would have criminalised abusive forms of behaviour that are not currently offences, including coercive control.
It failed to progress but Cameron gave hope to campaigners on Friday when he said the government would look into whether a separate offence is needed.
Asked about making domestic violence a specific crime in the wake of Gazzard’s murder, Cameron said: “We are looking very carefully at this. Of course domestic violence is a crime: if you beat someone, if you abuse someone, if you abuse them psychologically, if you stalk someone, if you threaten, those are all individual crimes. There’s a question about whether we need to have a specific offence as well – and we’re very happy to look at that.
“But I think the most important thing with domestic violence is to make sure that the police have the training and the understanding, so that when they get a call, they don’t think, ‘Well, it’s a domestic, it’s inside the house, there’s nothing I can do.’ It’s a really important area of crime that we’ve got to get to grips with in our country.”
He added: “We’re trying to make sure that people can give evidence in a more sympathetic way. Every part of the criminal justice system needs to understand what domestic violence is all about so that [is] the police you report it to, the witness support that you have to deal with and then of course the court case where it can be very harrowing to relive your trauma all over again. So every part of that chain needs improvement, and that’s what we’re trying to put in place.”
According to the Home Office, more than million women and 700,000 men in the UK said they had experienced some form of domestic abuse last year. Two out of three incidents involved repeat victims and two women are killed by a partner or ex-partner each week.
Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, has also highlighted how prosecutions for domestic and sexual violence have dropped even though reported crimes are going up.
Despite being asked about domestic violence, Cameron was not questioned about the case of David Ruffley, the Tory MP who received a police caution for assaulting his ex-girlfriend in March. The MP is to face a disciplinary investigation conducted by the party’s chief whip, Michael Gove, after a complaint was sent to the party by the Very Rev Frances Ward, the dean of St Edmundsbury Cathedral, who said he should step down.
Ward, a friend of Ruffley’s former partner, said the woman had “winced in obvious pain” when they hugged in greeting a few days after the incident and told of how frightened she had been of his “rage and violent behaviour”.
The Conservative party had previously maintained that the matter was dealt with at the time by police. However, a spokesman said on Thursday that Gove would now launch an investigation into Ruffley’s conduct.
- The Guardian,