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Tuesday, 22 October, 2002, 03:42 GMT 04:42 UK
'More prosecutions' for domestic violence
A third of murders in England and Wales are "domestic"
Crown prosecutors are to be urged to press on with prosecutions in cases of domestic violence, even if the victim wants the case dropped.

Solicitor General Harriet Harman is backing the move as part of a range of measures to crack down on domestic abuse.

Domestic violence
One-third of all murders in England and Wales are "domestic"
Two women in England and Wales killed by partner or ex-partner each week
Most are killed after repeated, escalating violence
Source: Home Office
"It is about where the public interest lies when the victim is insisting the case be dropped," she will tell a police conference on domestic violence on Tuesday.

"She might want to forgive him, but the next time he assaults her she could be killed.

"Even if she has left him... he is likely, unchecked, to just go on to assault his next partner and she might end up dead."

One-third of all murders in England and Wales are classed as "domestic", with between one and two women killed by partners or ex-partners every week.

Murder reviews

The government wants to make it clear to both the victim and the attacker that the assault is a crime, not just a private matter.

"If you commit assault at home you are every bit as much a criminal as someone who assaults a stranger in the street," Ms Harman will say.


We need to understand better how to evaluate risk, to know the danger signs

Harriet Harman
She will also say there should be an automatic review of every case where a woman was murdered by her partner.

The review - similar to inquiries carried out after child murders - would draw together all the agencies involved, to compare notes on why the death was not prevented, and how to avoid a similar incident in future.

Ms Harman says such killings are "avoidable", provided the danger signs are spotted early on.

'Pattern of behaviour'

"We know that it is rarely the first time he's attacked her, it is the culmination of a pattern of behaviour. We need to understand better how to evaluate risk, to know the danger signs," she will say.

"It is already apparent that when a mother threatens to leave home with her children she is in particular danger.

"So murder reviews are not about blame, but about finding out what can be done to prevent similar tragedies."

Ms Harman will also back giving victims of domestic violence anonymity in court - as is the case with rape victims.

She will also support tougher restraining orders to stop perpetrators harassing their victims.

The government is currently consulting on these and other measures against domestic violence for a forthcoming criminal justice bill.

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