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End of Term

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

article for Christian Socialist.

We are moving towards the end of the 2003 /4 Parliamentary session as I write this, with the Bill to ban hunting with dogs dominating the media.  The work on a number of other important Bills goes on largely unnoticed, including the Civil Partnership Bill, the Mental Capacity Bill, the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Bill and the Children Bill.  These Bills will have an impact on many more people but the mainstream media are just not interested - no change there then.


The Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Bill is the first legislation on this area for nearly 30 years and owes a great deal to the many women MPs who kept campaigning on the issue. It is shocking that on average two women a week die as a result of domestic violence. The Bill will make it easier for perpetrators of domestic violence to be arrested and for the victims to remain in the family home. Domestic Homicide Reviews will now be held in all situations where a woman has died to learn the lessons. Breach of a ‘Non-Molestation Order’ will be a criminal offence. The Bill also establishes a Commissioner for Victims and Witnesses, with the aim of ensuring that their needs are placed at the heart of our criminal justice system.


This Bill also tries to tackle other issues - two adults in a household where a child or vulnerable person has died have been able to blame each other and ensure that neither can be charged with murder, resulting in them being convicted on lesser charges. A new offence of causing or allowing the death of a child or vulnerable adult seeks to ensure that the information on which person is responsible for the death is likely to be more forthcoming or in the absence of that information both parties can be charged with this serious offence.


The genesis of the Children Bill is the tragic murder of 8 year old Victoria Climbie and last years Green Paper entitled Every Child Matters. Specific measures include the appointment of a Children’s Commissioner for England, a new duty for authorities to co-operate in addressing the needs of children and better information sharing between organisations such as health, education and social services. The failure to share information has been found to be a regular feature in the deaths of children from child abuse or neglect.


The Government wants to see Children’s Trusts established in every area to bring together all those working with children and ensure better co-ordination of help and support to the most vulnerable. Local authorities will be required to appoint a single Director of Children’s Services to ensure that the responsibility for achieving this rests on the shoulders of one person. In the past responsibility has been spread leading to people avoiding accepting blame for tragedies that should not have happened.


Many of these measures interest only those who work with these issues. Although I support a ban on hunting and want to see the matter brought to a conclusion, legislation such as the Children Bill and the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Bill will make a much greater impact on society and should make us proud of our Party and Government.


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