Monday, 24 March 2014

Labour candidate calls for Action on Domestic Violence

Cat Smith, prospective Labour
Parliamentary Candidate for
Lancaster & Fleetwood
Calls for new league tables to be published to help victims of domestic abuse to avoid a 'postcode lottery' when it comes to getting justice have been backed by Labour's parliamentary candidate for Lancaster and Fleetwood.

Cat Smith is backing the suggestion made by shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper as new figures showed that the number of 'high risk' referrals received for people in the Lancaster district by the charity Empowerment had increased.

The charity, formed by the amalgamation of the Lancaster and Blackpool branches of Women's Aid, helped 164 people classed as 'high risk' in 2012/13. But it clocked up 163 such referrals in the first three quarters of 2013/14 alone.

Figures produced by Labour show that while the number of reports of domestic violence to police in Lancashire rose by 10% between 2010/11 and 2012/13, the number of cases referred to the CPS dropped by 10.9%. The number of prosecutions fell by 8.6% and the number of convictions declined by 5.3%. This might suggest that whilst more victims may believe that the system will be more prepared to meet their needs, in practice resources are too thinly stretched.

Ms Smith, who recently became a trustee of Empowerment, supported the call for the regular publication of national league tables showing this data.

She also backed Ms Cooper's call for the creation of a national Violence Against Women and Girls Commissioner.

Ms Smith said: "More than 30,000 reports of domestic abuse were made to Lancashire Police in 2012/13 - and there were 838,000 across the country.

"The scale of the problem is truly shocking and it is of real concern to see that the number of high risk cases being referred to Empowerment in the Lancaster district has increased under this Government.

"Publishing figures on a regular basis will help to concentrate minds on the improvements needed in different areas and end the postcode lottery we see across the country at the moment when it comes to getting justice for victims.

"This should be supported by the creation of a commissioner-type role with the power to raise standards and recommend changes in the law. Domestic abuse ruins people's lives and causes utter misery. We must do more to help victims."

Dee Conlon, deputy chief executive of Empowerment, supported the proposals:

"Data is crucial and I support the idea of a commissioner too. I've worked in domestic abuse for 12 or 13 years now and have seen the way provision has changed. Proper coordination is essential to ensure we don't end up with this kind of postcode lottery in provision of services."

Ms Conlon added that she was delighted that Ms Smith had joined Empowerment as a trustee.

"I know Cat Smith was previously involved in Lancaster and District Women's Aid and this is an issue she is passionate about. It's really exciting that she is prepared to contribute some expertise and help us to make decision about how we develop services in the future."

Ms Conlon said the new women's refuge which opened in Lancaster last April had already helped 40 families and that there had been a 'huge demand' for the service.

Lancaster & District Women's Aid work with women and children who are experiencing or recovering from domestic violence and abusive relationships and who are dealing with its effects and consequences. The Lancaster & District Women's Aid website is at http://ldwa-support.org/. Calls can be made in complete confidence to 01524 389637.

See also last week's news item: Lancashire introduces ‘Clare’s Law’

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