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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 January, 2004, 13:59 GMT
Help for domestic violence victims
Domestic violence (posed)
Domestic violence accounts for 25% of all murders in Britain
A new pilot project which aims to help victims of domestic violence prosecute their abusers has been launched in south Wales.

The initiative is part of a UK Government promise to overhaul laws relating to domestic violence.

The test, which is being held in Caerphilly, is one of two such projects in the UK which will look at ways of ensuring abusers are charged and victims get the help they need.

If successful, the project will be used as a model for others in Wales and England.

One of its main benefits is that the Crown Prosecution Service will employ someone to deal solely with issues of domestic violence.

There is no excuse for domestic violence
Solicitor General, Harriet Harman

And a watchdog, in the form of a lay advocate, will be employed to speak up for the interests of crime victims.

The advocate will represent the victim in any communications with criminal justice agencies, and provide a personal point of contact.

"There is no excuse for domestic violence, which each year sees 120 women and 30 men killed by their partner," said Solicitor General Harriet Harman.

She said a new bill being debated by Parliament gave violent men the stark choice of stopping the abuse, or facing prison.

"I am confident that the work planned under the Gwent Pilot Project will have a significant impact in working to stamp out domestic violence."

Silent suffering

The scheme aims to make people feel more confident in coming forward to report domestic violence.

Hilary Stacey, who took her husband to court claiming 25 years of domestic abuse, said the legal fight had been "a turning point" for her.

"I think it was showing him I wasn't going to take any more and standing up for myself - I became stronger," she said.

"Victims of domestic violence have suffered in silence for far too long," said Christopher Woolley, from the Crown Prosecution Service in Gwent.

Hilary Stacey
Hilary Stacey said she suffered 25 years of abuse

"The project aims to give them a voice.

"It will help tackle the under reporting of domestic violence, whilst providing help and support to reduce the number of complaints that are withdrawn."

Jan Pickles, from the Cardiff Women's Safety Unit, welcomed the move, saying over half of the murders of women in south Wales were by their partners or ex-partners.

"Each of those murders is costing us 1.1m, so it is much better we spend money at the front end in preventing these murders from happening," she said.

The government has said it is determined to overhaul the system and bring about the biggest reform of the law in this area in 30 years.

Under measures contained in the new Domestic Violence Bill, people suspected of domestic violence offences could face court orders keeping them away from their partner.

Ministers also want to prevent parents accused of killing their children from escaping prosecution if it cannot be shown which parent committed the crime.

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