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Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 June, 2003, 17:02 GMT 18:02 UK
Domestic violence plans unveiled
domestic violence
One in four women will be a victim of domestic violence
Home Secretary David Blunkett has unveiled new government plans to give greater support and protection to victims of domestic violence.

The consultation document pledges to increase links between agencies such as the police, courts, social services and the NHS to better protect victims.

Earlier Mr Blunkett toured an advocacy and advice service for victims of family violence in north London.

Proposals in the consultation document include anonymity for victims in court, where appropriate, in an attempt to encourage them to testify.

Register of offenders

Another measure would be a register of offenders convicted of domestic violence.

This would be available for the police and other agencies but not the public.

Mr Blunkett told the Commons he was determined to crack down on the "evil crime" of domestic violence.

He said: "One woman in every four will experience domestic violence in their lifetime.

"Every single minute of every day a domestic violence assault is reported to the police.

"It can occur irrespective of background or circumstance, race or gender, but it is predominantly women who suffer.

"The government is determined to do more to tackle this evil crime which devastates families and ruins lives."

Home Secretary David Blunkett
Home Secretary David Blunkett

The measures are designed to give victims greater confidence to come forward and report domestic violence.

More safe houses and women's refuges will also be proposed.

And wife-beaters who break non-molestation court orders will get a criminal record.

The consultation document represents the first major changes in domestic violence legislation in 30 years.

Ministers want it to be debated before firm proposals are drawn up.

It is expected that tougher anti-stalking injunctions against offenders will be proposed and that victims will be asked to "play their part" and report domestic violence crimes earlier.

Anonymity is currently only given to those who complain that they have been sexually assaulted or raped.

We need to do more to protect women and we need to make it clear to people that beating your wife is a criminal offence
Solicitor General Harriet Harman

More than a quarter of murder victims are women killed by a partner or former partner.

Every murder involving domestic violence may be reviewed to see if the death could have been prevented.

The "crime of passion" defence for men and women who kill their partners may also be changed, to ensure murder in the home is treated as seriously as other types of killings.

Ministers are said to believe that too many men who kill women in the home are convicted of the lesser offence of manslaughter rather than murder.

The suggested changes will be discussed before new legislation is introduced later in the year.

Harriet Harman
Harriet Harman has called for changes to the law

The Solicitor General Harriet Harman, who joined Mr Blunkett on his visit to meet victims at the Camden Safety Net, said domestic violence was a very serious problem.

"We need to do more to protect women and we need to make it clear to people that beating your wife is a criminal offence which is unacceptable," she said.

Another of the government's proposals is to keep women and their children in their own homes rather than a refuge, and instead to "move the perpetrator out of the situation".

Figures show victims only contact the police after an average of 35 incidents have taken place.

But domestic violence accounts for nearly a quarter of all violent crime, according to the 2001/2002 British Crime Survey, with one in six men suffering attacks.

The BBC's Sue Littlemore
"Although most victims of domestic violence are women, it can happen to anyone"



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