MP Naz Shah - whose mother was jailed for killing her abuser - speaks passionately on tackling domestic abuse

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A Yorkshire MP whose mother was imprisoned for 14 years for killing the man who abused her has spoken movingly in a debate on domestic abuse.

Bradford West MP shared her experiences in the House of Commons yesterday as politicians debated the Domestic Abuse Bill.

Labour MP Naz Shah. Photo: James Hardisty

Labour MP Naz Shah. Photo: James Hardisty

The Bill seeks to give better protection to those fleeing violence by placing a new legal duty on councils to provide secure homes for them and their children.

It would also introduce the first legal Government definition of domestic abuse, which would include economic abuse and controlling and manipulative non-physical behaviour.

A domestic abuse commissioner to champion survivors is also proposed.

Ms Shah spoke about her mother's experience of domestic abuse and said there is need for greater recognition of abuse in minority communities.

Naz Shah (left) pictured as a young woman campaigning for her mother's release. Photo: Archive

Naz Shah (left) pictured as a young woman campaigning for her mother's release. Photo: Archive

The Labour MP added: "In some instances, there are women who experience that much abuse and the services weren't there and they were driven to kill as a result of the abuse that they had.

"27 years ago there was such a woman who killed her partner who was someone who abused her and went to prison for 14 years and that woman was Zoora Shah - she was my mother."

Ms Shah said had there been people from her mother's ethnic background involved in the subsequent legal proceedings "her outcome might have been very different, the outcome for my life might have been very different and that of my siblings".

She added: "When we are taking things into account - where we're putting £300,000 into BAME specialist services - that is not enough.

Zoora Shah, mother of Naz Shah. Photo: Archive

Zoora Shah, mother of Naz Shah. Photo: Archive

"We need much more for those women - that specialist service - to understand the experiences of migrant women, the experiences of women who do not have English language, we need specialist services."

Zoora Shah came to Bradford in the 1970s after an arranged marriage to but was subject to violence and abuse until eventually her husband, and Ms Shah's father, left the family.

There were no refuges available for Asian women and Zoora was shunned from her community, so when she was befriended by Mohammed Azam, who offered to put a mortgage on a house in his name, she was grateful.

However unbeknown to her, Azam was a drug dealer and gangster and although married he used his financial control over Zoora to sexually enslave her.

Naz Shah (24, left) and sister Fozia (17), demonstrate outside the High Court following the rejection of an appeal by their mother, Zoora Shah, against her conviction. Photo: Ben Curtis./PA

Naz Shah (24, left) and sister Fozia (17), demonstrate outside the High Court following the rejection of an appeal by their mother, Zoora Shah, against her conviction. Photo: Ben Curtis./PA

Zoora sent then 12-year-old Ms Shah to Pakistan to protect her from Azam.

Eventually having had enough, Zoora put a poison bought in Pakistan in Azam's food, and he died.

She was charged with murder and attempted murder and a number of other offences but at her 1993 trial refused to give evidence of her abuse as she feared it would bring shame on her family.

She was found guilty and jailed for life with a tariff of 20 years.

Ms Shah campaigned with Southwell Black Sisters for her mother's freedom. A 1998 appeal was rejected but in 2000 Lord Bingham, then Lord Chief Justice, accepted the new evidence and reduced her tariff to 12 years. She was finally released in 2006 but Ms Shah has continued to campaign for others in similar positions.

In the same debate Tory MP for Shipley Philip Davies said parental alienation should be seen as a form of domestic abuse.

Philip Davies said it was a "growing phenomenon" and "leads to suicide amongst people" as he called for its inclusion in the Bill.

Mr Davies said he had been "increasingly troubled" by the levels of parental alienation where one parent tries to turn the children against the other parent, using their child as a "weapon in their dispute".

He said: "I think that where there is no good reason for a parent to remove the contact of that child from the other parent, I think that parental alienation should in itself be seen as a form of domestic abuse."

He added: "I think that when a child is deliberately turned against the other parent for no good reason, that should be included in the definition of domestic abuse."

Mr Davies added that when people make a false allegation of domestic abuse, the Government should consider that to be a form of domestic abuse in the legislation.

He said: "That is one of the most terrible things that somebody could be wrongly accused of."

Mr Davies said he wanted to try and stop the idea that "domestic violence is a gender based crime, it is not."

He added: "We will be doing a huge disservice if we were to run away with that idea and make this piece of legislation work only on that basis.

"Men are perpetrators of domestic violence, men are victims of domestic violence. Women are perpetrators of domestic violence, women are victims of domestic violence."

He added: "We in this House have a duty to treat everybody equally before the law and I hope that - it doesn't matter whether the perpetrator is a man or a woman, they should face the full rigour of the law and whether the victim's a man or a woman, they should have exactly the same safeguards by this House."

He went on: "So let's not say - this isn't gender based violence, this is unacceptable violence by all sorts of people and we should treat them all equally before the law."

Intervening, Tory chairwoman of the Women and Equalities Committee Maria Miller said: "He needs to accept the facts that women are more affected by domestic violence than any other group."

And later Tracy Brabin, MP for Batley and Spen said women were twice as likely to suffer as victims of domestic abuse and men were more likely to be perpetrators. She said the gendered nature of domestic abuse could not be ignored.

Yorkshire mother Claire Throssell, whose two sons were killed by their father, visited the Commons to listen to the debate.

Liberal Democrat MP Angela Smith (Penistone and Stocksbridge) again recounted in the Commons the tragedy involving her constituent, and said: "I only wish the honourable member for Shipley (Philip Davies) was in his place to listen."

MPs heard Jack, 12, and Paul, nine, were "enticed" up to the attic after being promised trains and track to build a model railway during a visit to their father - who then lit 16 separate fires around the barricaded house.

Ms Smith hailed Ms Throssell for her bravery and campaigning to reform the family courts.

She said: "We need access to special measures in those courts to separate survivors from the perpetrators, special protection rooms, entrances, exits, we need screens and video links."

Ms Smith said the Bill provides for this in the criminal courts but it needs to be amended to extend such measures to the civil and family courts.

Diana Johnson, MP for Hull North, added: “When I became the MP in Hull North I was told you can fill the local football stadium which holds 25,000 with all the domestic abuse perpetrators in the city and I was told that in a class of 30 pupils you could expect three or four to be living with domestic abuse at home.”

She said police in Hull respond to around 800 calls to domestic abuse a month.