Domestic abuse is responsible for a third of all violent crime in the UK – but its new commissioner has been left out of a new crack team assembled by Boris Johnson to make Britain safer.
Now 20 of the UK’s leading domestic abuse charities are calling on Boris Johnson to make tackling gendered violence a priority as part of a government crackdown on violent crime.
In an open letter, published exclusively by HuffPost UK, charities including Refuge, Women’s Aid and the End Violence Against Women Coalition urged the prime minister to tackle the “national crisis” by giving the domestic abuse commissioner a seat at the table of his new cross-Whitehall violent crime taskforce. HuffPost UK understands the group is comprised of ministers, but that commissioners for different crime areas can be invited to specific sessions.
Johnson announced in January he would aim to cut violent crime by 20%, vowing to “cut the head off the snake” of criminal gangs running county lines drug operations, according to reports by The Times.
But campaigners are concerned that domestic abuse isn’t being taken seriously enough as part of these initiatives, despite more than a third of violent crime in the UK being domestic.
“The question of how we stop men killing women and children will be fundamental to the success of your commitment to reduce serious violence,” the charities wrote.
“Including the domestic abuse commissioner will not only provide a vital evidence basis for your work – it would send a strong message that this government understands the nature and scale of the violence women and girls face, and will not tolerate it.”
Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott told HuffPost UK she supported the group’s calls for greater action on domestic violence.
“The campaigners have raised an important point. The huge level of domestic violence and the fact that it largely goes unpunished is a scandal,” she said. “If the government is serious about tackling violent crime, then domestic abuse must be included in the taskforce’s remit and expertise.”
Fiona Mackenzie, founder and chair of We Can’t Consent To This and co-signatory of the letter, told HuffPost UK the omission of the domestic abuse commissioner from efforts to tackle violent crime was “rather extraordinary”.
“If the government is actually serious about cutting violent crime, then it’s obvious to us that cutting domestic violence is key to that,” she said.
“The domestic abuse commissioner needs to be part of this work, and we’re hoping her rather extraordinary omission from the violent crime taskforce will be righted immediately.”
Johnson’s new committee on criminal justice will reportedly include home secretary Priti Patel, who appointed Nicole Jacobs as the government’s domestic abuse commissioner in September to “act as a voice for those who need it most.”
The independent Office of the Domestic Abuse Commissioner, which is still being established, will be made a statutory body and publish reports on its findings.
Adina Claire, Acting co-CEO of Women’s Aid, said: “The link between violence against women and girls, and rising levels of serious violence and knife crime, is clear. We need an integrated response to tackle this serious issue.”
It comes with the long-awaited domestic abuse bill due to receive its first reading in parliament. The legislation, if passed, would give the government greater powers to tackle the issue, including recognising economic control as abuse and reviewing the controversial “rough sex” defence for murder.
A No.10 spokesperson said: “The prime minister has made a clear commitment to tackling serious and violent crime in all forms, including domestic abuse.
“We are taking swift action to combat this horrific crime and support victims.
“Earlier this week the government set out an enhanced version of the landmark Domestic Abuse Bill to Parliament, to give even more protection to victims and punish perpetrators.”