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Campaigners slam Rees-Mogg over survivor evidence

FORCING survivors to attend Westminster to give evidence on the Domestic Abuse Bill is unacceptable and dangerous, a group of 18 womens’-rights charities warned yesterday.

Women’s groups wrote to Leader of the House Jacob Rees-Mogg urging him to drop the requirement for survivors to give views in person, pointing out that it breaches Covid-19 government guidelines. 

Having been debated at a second reading in the Commons, The Bill has reached the committee stage and will be scrutinised next week.

Requiring survivors to give evidence in person is discriminatory as it excludes women who cannot attend due to childcare issues or disabilities, according to the groups, which include Refuge, Womens’ Aid and Southall Black Sisters.

Their letter reads: “As ‘experts by experience,’ their views and insights are essential for effective scrutiny of this important legislation.

“However it is unacceptable, in the context of the coronavirus pandemic, that survivors will be required to do so in person because the committee will be operating in physical form only.”

Mr Rees-Mogg announced last week that he is set to move away from the “virtual” Parliament model after recess.  

Women’s Aid acting co-chief executive Nicki Norman said: “This requirement is unsafe for survivors, especially for women from BME communities and those with disabilities.

“It will put survivors and staff supporting them at risk and force them to breach current government guidance.”

Southall Black Sisters director Pragna Patel, said: “In a context where facilities exist for participants to give evidence remotely, there is no justification for the requirement.”

The public bill committee is due to report back to Parliament on June 25. 

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