Neighbours told to inform on wife-beaters

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The Independent Online

Neighbours who witness husbands beating their wives are to be told to turn them in to the police under the Government's plans to eradicate domestic violence.

Neighbours who witness husbands beating their wives are to be told to turn them in to the police under the Government's plans to eradicate domestic violence.

The move is part of a range of measures to tackle violence against women and could lead to Neighbourhood Watch schemes to identify wife- beaters in the community.

In an interview with The Independent today, the Solicitor General, Harriet Harman QC, argues that the change in attitude is needed to ensure that domestic violence becomes the responsibility of the community as a whole, and not something to which any citizens can turn a blind eye.

She said: "If you see someone burgling your neighbour, you don't think, 'Shall I intervene?' A man who beats his wife is a violent criminal – he's not a perfectly upstanding citizen who happens to beat his wife. He's a criminal in the same way a burglar is. Only worse, because it's violence."

Ms Harman said getting a neighbour to report something they might regard as a private matter raised difficult issues. She said: "If they are friends, they might beg them not to go the police or confide in them about the fact they have been hitting their wife."

She said she thought that Neighbourhood Watch administrators across Britainknew of people who were guilty of beating their partners but had chosen to remain silent. "We have managed to change our view about people who harm children. Now we must start taking the same approach with violence against women."

Women's groups welcomed the idea of getting neighbours to report domestic violence. Frances Burton, chairwoman of the Association of Women Barristers, said: "It's about time that domestic violence became an issue for the community to deal with. It's something that has been happening with child abuse for many years."