News – Politics – Starmer makes it his ‘personal mission’ to tackle domestic violence

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Keir Starmer has vowed to make it his “personal mission” to stand up for victims of domestic violence, after a collapse in the number of charges brought for the crime.

The Labour leader said that as the director of public prosecutions he had witnessed “the devastating impact domestic violence has on victims and their families”, and how abuse often escalated into other forms of serious violence.

Speaking at a conference held by the domestic abuse charity Women’s Aid, Starmer promised to use his own experience to crack down on the crime and said Labour would create a domestic abuse register for abusers convicted of serial domestic abuse and stalking.

He also promised the party would end the “postcode lottery” faced by victims, by putting rape and domestic abuse specialists in every police force in England and Wales, and would install domestic abuse specialists in 999 control rooms at peak times.

Labour has also promised tougher sentences for rape, stalking and domestic murder, including a minimum sentence for rape of seven years and whole-life tariffs for rape, abduction and murder as well as fast-tracking for rape cases.

Reports of domestic abuse have risen rapidly in the past decade, and are up almost 120% on 2015 figures.

Crime figures from the Office for National Statistics show that more than 915,000 cases were recorded in the year ending September 2022, a significant increase from the 421,185 recorded between April 2015 and March 2016. Despite the increase, the number of people charged for domestic abuse has almost halved since 2015 and the number of victims dropping out of cases has increased.

“When cases do move to trial, they’re delayed for years because of backlogs in the courts,” said Starmer. “I’ve seen first-hand the toll it takes on victims to wait for justice; it’s not only unjust and unfair, it’s harmful. This government is completely missing in action, millions are left paying the price, it frustrates me, and I want to fix it.”

The Labour leader highlighted the action he took to tackle violence against women and girls as DPP, including his support for the introduction of Jane’s Law in 2012. The law, which allows the Crown Prosecution Service to appeal against the bailing of defendants, was supported by Starmer in response to the murder of Jane Clough, an A&E nurse, who was stabbed 71 times by her violent ex-partner while he was awaiting trial for her rape in 2010.

Starmer said he would always have “profound respect” for her parents, John and Penny, who campaigned for the change.

“Jane, her daughter, her parents and all who knew her were horribly let down by the system. Tackling violence against women and girls is deeply personal for me,” Starmer said.

“It’s why safer streets will be one of the core missions of my Labour government. It’s completely intolerable that 97% of sexual abuse victims never saw a charge against their attacker last year. I was so shocked when I was told the figure that I asked my team to check it. Sadly, it’s true.”

On Tuesday the Labour leader shared a stage with Victoria Derbyshire and former Spice Girl Melanie Brown – who has talked about the abuse she suffered in her marriage – at the conference held by Women’s Aid.

Starmer said it was “inexcusable” that fewer abusers were being prosecuted and convicted for their crimes.

“Our criminal justice system has been left broken and no longer serves the victims it is designed to protect,” he said. “With my Labour government, victims will be put back at the heart our system, so they don’t have to wait years for justice and are better supported by the police and authorities when they bravely report their abuser.”

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