19:32, May 28 385 0 theguardian.com

2017-05-28 19:32:03
Tories pledge new law over domestic violence directed at children

Theresa May has pledged to create a new aggravated offence when domestic violence is directed towards a child, in order to allow perpetrators to be punished for longer.

She also confirmed that a Tory government would introduce a statutory definition for domestic violence and establish a special commissioner to stand up for victims.

“We will launch a relentless drive to help survivors find justice and increase the number of successful prosecutions. This hidden scandal, that takes place every day in homes across Britain, must be tackled head on,” said May. “And we must respond to the devastating and lifelong impact that domestic abuse has on children, who carry the effects into adulthood.”

She argued that the Conservative party had delivered “real steps towards tackling domestic violence” over seven years, but wanted to go further.

The Tory manifesto promised to support victims to leave abusive partners and to review the funding for refuges.

However, the Labour party has analysed domestic violence rates since 2009, with an increase in violence against women perpetrated by their acquaintances. There has been a levelling off of violence against women by strangers and a fall in violence against men.

Sarah Champion, the shadow women’s minister, has campaigned against the loss of 17% of specialist refuges for domestic violence victims in England since 2010.

Diana Barran, the chief executive of the charity Safe Lives, welcomed the decision to appoint a domestic violence and abuse commissioner. “We need a practical and visible commissioner who can work with specialist services, local commissioners, policy makers and crucially with survivors,” she said. “The commissioner needs to have both the legitimacy and resources to drive forward change.”

She said only one in five survivors contacted the police, so any future response must go beyond the criminal justice system “and ensure that survivors and their children can live safely at home and rebuild their lives”.