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  1. ITV Report

Theresa May to oversee new domestic violence law

Theresa May has announced she is to directly oversee work to develop a new law to tackle domestic violence.

The Domestic Violence and Abuse Act will aim to address a lack of clarity in existing laws while also raising public awareness of the problem.

Number 10 said it hoped that the new measures will change see the current "unacceptable" situation of some areas of the country putting more effort into tackling domestic violence than others.

The Prime Minister said the issue is a "key priority" for the government and the plan had the potential to "transform the way we think about and tackle domestic violence and abuse".

Mrs May, who said she had attached "personal importance" to the issue while at the Home Office, will oversee a cross-government effort to improve the situation.

Mrs May said thousands of people are suffering at the hands of abusers. Credit: PA

The moves come amid concerns in Number 10 that the legal system often lets down victims.

Describing domestic violence and abuse as "life-shattering and absolutely abhorrent" the Prime Minister insisted the government's new approach would deliver a system that increased convictions.

She said: "There are thousands of people who are suffering at the hands of abusers - often isolated, and unaware of the options and support available to them to end it.

The work, which is expected to take up to 18 months, will also hear the views of victims, charities and legal experts.

Mrs May said the government needs to build on the measures she introduced as home secretary including Domestic Violence Protection Orders and the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme.

The government will "ensure that no stone will be left unturned in delivering a system that increases convictions, and works better for victims", said Mrs May.

There were over 100,000 prosecutions for domestic abuse between 2015 and 2016, with over 75,000 convicted, the highest volumes ever recorded.

The Prime Minister has said tackling domestic abuse is a key priority for the government. Credit: PA

Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders said: "Domestic abuse is a particularly distressing crime as it often occurs in the place where people should feel safest - their home.

"We welcome the programme of work the Prime Minister has announced in this important area and we will play a full part.

"A domestic abuse case is more likely to be prosecuted and convicted today than ever before.

"However, we know this crime is often under-reported and therefore any new initiative which encourages victims to come forward is to be applauded."

The initiative was also welcomed by charities and groups supporting victims.

Women's Aid chief executive Polly Neate said there "is scope to make the legal framework surrounding domestic abuse clearer and more comprehensive".

Refuge chief executive Sandra Horley said she hoped the new law "will bring the sea-change that is needed to give victims the protection they need and deserve, and end domestic violence once and for all".