Sir Keir Starmer: Wales could lead world on tackling domestic violence
Sir Keir Starmer, former director of public prosecutions, said Wales could become a world leader in dealing with domestic violence and sexual offences if a proposed bill is passed by the Assembly. Speaking at an event hosted by Welsh Women’s Aid in Pontcanna, Sir Keir said countries such as Canada and France are dealing well with women’s issues but Welsh proposals were even more promising.
He said: “The bill is a real step in the right direction. A number of other countries will be looking at the model and saying, ‘could we do something like that?’”
The Government is consulting on the Violence Against Women Bill until 22 February and the exact details of what it will contain are not yet public.
Sir Keir said the biggest challenge facing the system is the unwillingness of victims to come forward in the first place and he believed the bill could help with that.
“They don’t come forward because they either fear they won’t be believed or they don’t think the criminal justice system can deal with the abuse they’ve suffered,” he said.
“When people do come forward the way they are supported is critically important.
“More victims retract allegations of domestic violence than for any other offence. Sometimes they don’t feel supported, sometimes they feel they can’t go through with it.”
But Sir Keir said the bill could help to change that.
“It is trying to bring together the various strands of work and give clear leadership on these issues,” he said.
“It is a step in the right direction but it needs an attitude shift to go with it if it is to succeed.”
He highlighted that women who make allegations of domestic abuse or sexual violence are less likely to believed than victims of other crimes.
“If you are the victim of a burglary and you go to a police station and report it the assumption is that you are a victim.
“The perception with domestic violence has been the other way around but in a 17 month period when I was director of the CPS we prosecuted 5,500 cases of rape and 35 cases of false allegations.”
He said part of this attitude change would come through governments showing they treated those crimes seriously.
“What this bill does is to make it absolutely clear that this is an important priorty and puts in place the platform on which a much better service can be built.
“That is very important and it does put Wales in a very special position.” Sir Keir Starmer speaks on domestic violence and the proposed Welsh legislation: