EXCL Furious MPs hit out as Theresa May's domestic violence plan delayed until after Christmas
Ministers have been warned that vulnerable women and children could be left "unsafe" over Christmas because of fresh delays to a long-promised crackdown on domestic violence.
Campaigners had hoped that the draft Domestic Abuse Bill - originally pledged in the 2017 Conservative manifesto and the Queen’s Speech almost 18 months ago - would be unveiled before the end of this year.
A consultation on the plans - which Theresa May promised would help “put an end to this abhorrent crime for good” - closed more than seven months ago.
It has now been confirmed that the draft bill will not be published until the new year - prompting angry claims that ministers are too focused on Brexit to do anything else.
The Home Office said it remained "absolutely committed" to the plan to tackle a "devastating" crime.
But Jess Phillips, who chairs the all-party parliamentary group on domestic violence, told PoliticsHome: "This is another delay on the Domestic Abuse Bill. The Government is showing again and again that it cannot govern in a time of Brexit."
The Labour MP added: “This should not be held up and delays are not minor matters of bureaucracy - they are people's lives.
"Every delay is another woman failed in the family court, another child left without services, another woman left unsafe."
Labour's Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott meanwhile said the "repeated delays" to a plan once expected to be finalised in November were "unconscionable".
The opposition frontbencher told PoliticsHome: "There are a great number of issues related to the prevention of domestic violence, support for victims and prosecutions of perpetrators.
"But this government has failed to deliver on any of them. Serious action on all of these is long overdue."
And Liberal Democrat Wera Hobhouse demanded to see the the Government's plan to tackle an "abhorrent and unthinkable crime" before MPs head off for their Christmas break.
The party's communities spokesperson told this site: "In 2017-2018 there were two million people who were victims of domestic abuse. That shows just how urgently-needed a Domestic Abuse Bill is.
"Sadly, however, this Conservative government is so bogged down in its own Brexit mess that legislation is being delayed time and time again. Every delay puts more people at risk.
"Ministers must bring forward the Bill now. Not only that, but Liberal Democrats want more funding for refuges and rape crisis centres, as well as a new national rape crisis helpline to support victims and increase the chances of convictions."
'ONCE IN A GENERATION'
As part of the plans, the Home Office is looking at new ‘Domestic Abuse Protection Orders’ which could see abusers electronically tagged and ordered to undergo mandatory drug and alcohol treatment.
Perpetrators of domestic violence could also be handed tougher sentencers where their crimes affect children.
Meanwhile a new dedicated 'Domestic Abuse Commissioner' would be hired “to hold the government to account” on its efforts, while the definition of domestic abuse will be widened to include economic abuse, in which perpetrators use their financial power to limit and control their partner.
Campaigners are also hoping to see a ban on abusers being allowed to subject their victims to harrowing cross-examinations in family courts.
A similar proposal was included in the separate Prisons and Courts Bill - which itself ended up being scrapped when Mrs May called the 2017 snap election.
A Whitehall source confirmed that the plan would not be published before Christmas, but said it was expected "soon" in the new year.
A Home Office spokesperson said: "Domestic abuse is a devastating crime that shatters lives and this Government is determined to transform the response in order to prevent abuse, support victims and their children, and pursue perpetrators.
“We remain absolutely committed to publishing our draft landmark Domestic Abuse Bill and have already begun the recruitment process for an independent Designate Domestic Abuse Commissioner, who will be responsible for monitoring the provision of domestic abuse services and providing national leadership on domestic abuse issues.”
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