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Consular Assistance : Murder And Manslaughter

Volume 591: debated on Thursday 22 January 2015

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office provides consular support to bereaved families and friends in approximately 70 cases of murder and manslaughter annually. It is essential that the support provided by my officials at this most tragic and difficult of times is as good as it can be and for that reason my hon. Friend the Member for Boston and Skegness (Mark Simmonds) then a Foreign Office Minister announced that there would be a review of consular policy in this area, Official Report, 27 January 2014; Vol. 574,c 20WS.

That review is now complete and I am today placing a copy in the Library of the House. The review sets out our commitments to improving the service we provide. This will include setting up a new and specialist Access to Justice unit within our consular directorate, focused on these cases, as well as a renewed focus on consistency and clearer communication.

The review was based on feedback from bereaved families and friends and those who work to support them, including parliamentarians, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s partners and its own consular staff. It is important to note that many people praised the service provided by caseworkers in London and teams at our overseas posts, in particular the high level of empathy that consular staff had shown. The Foreign Affairs committee also concluded in November last year that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office “should rightly be proud” of the work of consular staff.

Nonetheless, there are areas where we can make improvements and new ways in which we can provide support and these are identified in this review. I will be taking a close interest in its implementation and in the work of the new unit and I have given instructions that there should be an update on progress by June 2015. I hope that through this work those sadly affected by murder and manslaughter overseas will receive the consistently excellent support that they need and that consular staff aim to provide.

The review document can be viewed at: http://www.parliament.uk/writtenstatements

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