British Telecoms is applying to remove 17 public phone boxes in West Northumberland.

Whilst I understand that BT has to balance its books and that the removal of public telephone boxes may assist them in this aim, I wonder if the corporation realises that this action may endanger lives.

I live in a rural part of Northumberland and, for a number of years, worked with victims of domestic abuse, in this case, mainly women.

A perpetrator of abuse will usually seek to isolate the victim and many of the women I saw found themselves living in an area where they knew nobody and where mobile phone reception was either poor or non-existent.

I found that one of the most sparsely populated areas of population in the west of Northumberland had the highest per capita incidence of domestic abuse.

Frequently a woman’s access to a mobile phone is tightly controlled.

Local GPs and other medical workers are marvellous but often they cannot prevent a perpetrator insisting on being with the victim when the latter has an appointment.

In addition, living in close-knit communities meant that the victim is often nervous of medical centre staff knowing her.

Discussions about using the local phone box in an emergency often led to the victim saying she was not allowed a bank card so could not us the phone.

She did not know that 999 calls are always free and this was particularly the case if the woman was not raised in this country.

I’m sure BT can find a way to offset the cost of public telephones against their corporate charity funding. In this way lives could well be saved.

If victims know that they have options when leaving an abusive relationship they are more likely to do so.

The phones may never be used for this purpose but we wouldn’t remove a lifebelt from beside a river or lake just because it was never used would we.