View from Westminster: It baffles me how Geoffrey Boycott could have been honoured

News Desk (18 September, 2019) Columnists

Dropping the Domestic Abuse Bill, knighting abusers and slashing funds for refuges is not the way to tackle the tide of domestic violence

31615Harriet Harman

The news that cricketer Geoffrey Boycott is to get a knighthood in Theresa May’s resignation honours has caused consternation and condemnation, writes Camberwell and Peckham MP Harriet Harman…

The court heard he viciously attacked his girlfriend holding her down and punching her 20 times in the face. The picture of her bruised face and black eyes were there for all to see. Though he pleaded not guilty he was convicted in 1998. But he’s never accepted the conviction and continues to deny it to this day.

Singling out a perpetrator of domestic violence for one of our highest civic awards sends out a terrible message. It says to women that their bruises and broken bones don’t matter. It says to men you can still be seen as an exceptionally good guy even if you’ve beaten your girlfriend black and blue.  At a time when we are still fighting against the culture that excuses or condones domestic abuse that is terrible.

It is baffling that this domestic abuser should have been honoured by Theresa May.  She wanted her commitment to tackling domestic violence to be one of her key legacies.  She introduced the Domestic Abuse Bill.  Now the Boycott honour has overshadowed it. Imagine the Queen being put in the position of having to bring her ceremonial sword down on to the shoulder of a convicted woman-beater!

And domestic violence is a growing problem. Domestic homicide reached a new high last year with 173 people killed by their partner or former partner – nearly all the victims women, nearly all the killers, men.

But despite this, councils are having to scale back their vital services to support women and children seeking to escape violence.  The Tory government has cut almost half of Southwark Council funding since they took over in 2010. And as a result their spending on refuges for victims has had to be cut.

The Domestic Abuse Bill introduced by Theresa May in July had wide cross-party support and I together with hundreds of victims and charities had worked with the Government to develop the new measures in the Bill.  These included establishing a Domestic Abuse Commissioner, ending the cross-examination of victims by their abusers in family courts and imposing a duty on all local councils to provide accommodation-based refuge for domestic violence victims. I also planned to bring forward an amendment to ensure the government gives councils a ringfenced pot of money for these services and to end the defence whereby a man can excuse his violence by saying it was a “sex game gone wrong”.

But now that Boris Johnson has taken over as Prime Minister, and Parliament has been shut down, the Bill has been lost.

When the House of Commons gets back on October 14th it is up to Boris Johnson to bring  the Bill forward again. We all hope he will. But it will have to start its journey through Parliament from the beginning again meaning yet more delay.

Dropping the Bill, knighting abusers and slashing funds for refuges is not the way to tackle the tide of domestic violence.   The Government is paralysed by Brexit. But Brexit is not the only thing that matters. Women’s lives are being lost!

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