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EDITIONS
 Monday, 30 December, 2002, 11:36 GMT
Neighbours 'must report domestic abuse'
Violence victim posed by model
Many victims are too scared to report abuse
Neighbours should report men who attack their partners to the police, a leading minister has said.

Solicitor General Harriet Harman said a change in attitude towards domestic violence was long overdue.

Harriet Harman
A man who beats his wife is a violent criminal - he's not a perfectly upstanding citizen who happens to beat his wife

Harriet Harman

She said it was vital the whole community took responsibility, rather than turn a blind eye to women's suffering.

The government is set to unveil fresh plans for tackling domestic violence in the spring.

In an interview with the Independent, Ms Harman said: "If we see someone burgling your neighbour you don't think 'shall I intervene?'

"A man who beats his wife is a violent criminal - he's not a perfectly upstanding citizen who happens to beat his wife.

"He's a criminal in the same way a burglar is. Only worse because it's violence."

Lenient sentences

Many people felt uncomfortable reporting something they viewed as a private matter, Ms Harman said.

She told the newspaper: "If they are friends, they might beg them not to go to the police or confide in them about the fact that they have been hitting their wife."

The government's approach could include urging Neighbourhood Watch committees to report suspected incidents of abuse.

Ms Harman and her boss, the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith QC, have also begun referring sentences they believe to be too lenient to the Court of Appeal.

A spokesman for the Home Office told BBC News Online: "We will be bringing forward consultation proposals on tackling domestic violence by spring next year.

"Following that legislation will be introduced, parliamentary time allowing."

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