Home Secretary Alan Johnson announces new powers on domestic violence

Author: By David Hughes and Joe Churcher, Press Association

Mr Johnson said the contest would be a “fight for this country’s future” and
attacked the “born to rule arrogance” of the Tories.

He also announced new police powers to ban violent men from their own
neighbourhoods to allow abused partners to seek help and support.

Mr Johnson said Labour had to “defend our record, explain our vision, display
our unity” in the run-up to the election.

Labour had an “excellent record to defend” on crime, whereas the Tories had
seen crime rise while they were in power and had opposed new measures
proposed by the Government.

“They have the unenviable record of having failed on crime in government and
in opposition.

“John Wayne in their rhetoric, Woody Allen in their actions.”

Mr Johnson, frequently tipped as a possible successor to Gordon Brown,
lavished praise on the Prime Minister.

He said: “I am enormously proud of our record over the last 12 years. In
education, in health, tackling discrimination, establishing basic rights for
working people, making our society safer, healthier and fairer.

“Gordon Brown has been integral to all of these achievements and he has led
the way in addressing the biggest global economic and political challenges
of our age.

“As we approach a General Election, we have to persuade the British public to
do something they have never had the opportunity to contemplate before – to
give a fourth term to a Labour Government.

“We need to persuade all those who have supported Labour in the past, perhaps
even campaigned for Labour, but who became discouraged or disillusioned that
now is the time to come back and join us because this coming political
battle really is a fight for this country’s future.”

David Cameron’s Tories promised an Age of Austerity and a “Notting Hill
version of laissez faire”, he warned.

Winning a standing ovation from the conference, Mr Johnson said the Tories’
“born to rule arrogance, anti-European, anti-trade union, hostile to public
services, throws its shadows across the difficult years ahead.

“Only Labour can resist its advance by persuading the British people that we
remain united behind our leader, clear in our vision and worthy of their
trust.”

Outlining the new domestic violence measures, Mr Johnson said police often
found themselves “powerless”.

The new Domestic Violence Protection Orders, to be trialled in two areas, will
apply for up to a fortnight in a bid to prevent women having to flee to
emergency accommodation such as refuges.

Instead they would be offered help and advice by caseworkers on the options
open to them if they left the relationship – including securing a
longer-term injunction.

Mr Johnson said: “It was Labour that introduced specialist domestic violence
courts, and we need to be proud of that, and helped put 720 fully trained
independent domestic violence advisers in place.

“More arrests are being made and conviction rates are rising.

“But the police tell us they often find themselves powerless to stop the
aggressor – in a domestic violence situation – from returning to the
property straight away, putting the victim at risk of more violence.

“That has to change.

“That is why I am bringing forward measures to allow the police to issue
Domestic Violence Prevention Orders to stop the aggressor from returning not
just to the house but to the whole immediate area and forcing him to remain
out of the vicinity for a set period.

“During this time, support will be provided for the victim including
counselling and practical options for getting away from a violent partner.”

Under the present law, only those arrested and charged with an offence can be
barred – either through bail conditions or by the victim seeking an order in
the civil courts.

In future, officers who did not have enough evidence to charge a suspect but
believed a woman remained in danger would be able to seek a DVPO – citing
evidence from neighbours, family and friends and any history of abuse.

Breaching the orders – which have been recommended by a review being carried
out by Wiltshire Chief Constable Brian Moore and are based on an Austrian
model – could lead to a prison sentence.

Sandra Horley, chief executive of Refuge, said: “These new orders will protect
women from further risk of domestic violence if they are implemented
effectively.

“We hope the Government will underpin these positive initiatives with the
funding and training needed to ensure this and, in doing so, alter radically
the number of women whose lives are blighted by domestic violence.”

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