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UK Politics

Theresa May scraps power to ban domestic abusers from victims' homes

A scheme to protect women from domestic abuse by removing violent partners from the family home is being scrapped by the Government as part of its drive to cut public spending.

Under the so-called "go orders" planned for England and Wales, senior police would have been given the power to act instantly to safeguard families they considered at threat.

Violent men would have been banned from their homes for up two weeks, giving their victims the chance to seek help to escape abuse.

But Theresa May, the Home Secretary, has decided to halt the scheme, which was due to be piloted this autumn and be rolled out nationwide next year, The Independent has learnt.

She has told charities that she had taken the decision to save money and because of worries about the legislation setting up the orders. The Home Office is under pressure to cut at least £2.5bn from its annual budget of £10bn.

David Hanson, the shadow policing minister, accused the coalition Government of seeming "happy" to allow potential victims to become actual victims.

"Domestic violence should be a priority for ministers. It has been a hidden crime for far too long," he said. "The first duty of a government is to protect its citizens."

Mr Hanson said he was tabling urgent Commons questions demanding to know the reason for the decision, and whether police had been consulted.

David Chaplin, a spokesman for the NSPCC children's charity, said the organisation was "deeply disappointed" by the move.

He said: "We strongly supported the orders. They would have given some vital respite to the victims of abuse."

A Home Office spokeswoman said Mrs May had made clear she regarded tackling violence against women as a priority. "However, in tough economic times, we are now considering our options for delivering improved protection and value for money," she added.

Plans for Domestic Violence Protection Orders – modelled on similar schemes in Switzerland and Austria. – passed into law in April. Although they were championed by the former home secretary Alan Johnson, they received the support of all main political parties.

They were aimed at intervening in cases where police were worried about violent behaviour within a household, but did not have enough evidence to bring a criminal charge.

An officer of inspector rank or above would have the power to order a perpetrator from a property and the immediate area for up to 14 days. They were to be piloted in the West Midlands and Wiltshire from October and introduced nationally next year.

Breach of the orders could have led to criminal prosecution for contempt, potentially leading to a jail sentence.

Supporters argued that that allowed women to stay in their homes rather than flee to a friend's home, or a refuge, to escape their abuser. Although 750,000 incidents are reported to the police each year, fewer than one-third of them result in criminal charges.

The Home Office said it continued to provide funding for domestic violence advisers to support victims through the court system and Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conferences which bring together police, probation and other professionals to consider how best to protect victims.

Case study: 'Women need time to escape violent husbands'

Domestic violence victim, aged 32

"I was attacked and battered by my boyfriend for nearly two years before I finally decided enough was enough.

He was an alcoholic and the smallest thing would set him off. Once he beat me because he did not like the way I had parked the car. Another time he had an argument with my daughter and took it out on me.

It would happen twice a month and I would often call the police. They would usually ask him to leave, but he would just sit on the garden wall and the police said they couldn't do anything because he was not committing any offence, it was still a domestic argument. He could then come back to the house just a few minutes after they had left.

I had been with him for four years and it felt like he was in control of me. I finally found the courage to leave him after he attacked me when I was pregnant. He kicked me in the stomach and I feared that I had lost the baby.

I went to court and took out a molestation order which means he cannot come near the property or speak to me about anything other than his daughter.

I think giving the police the power to keep violent partners away from their partners for two weeks would have been very helpful.

It used to be very frustrating that my partner would come back to my house just hours after I had called the police and there was not much I could do. When I felt in danger I knew there were things I could do, people I could phone, but I could never do it when he was around. I am sure other women who are now in the situation I was in feel the same.

But if I knew he would not be back for two weeks it would have given me time to do something. I might have been able to get the help I needed sooner."