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Written Statements

Volume 711: debated on Wednesday 30 March 2022

Written Statements

Wednesday 30 March 2022

Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office

Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal: UK Judges

British judges have played an important role in supporting the judiciary in Hong Kong for many years. Since 1997 judges from other common law jurisdictions, including the UK, have sat on the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal as part of the continuing commitment to safeguarding the rule of law.

However, since Beijing's imposition of the national security law in 2020, our assessment of the legal environment in Hong Kong has been increasingly finely balanced. China has continued to use the national security law and its related institutions to undermine the fundamental rights and freedoms promised in the joint declaration. As national security law cases proceed through the courts, we are seeing the implications of this sweeping legislation, including the chilling effect on freedom of expression, the stifling of opposition voices, and the criminalising of dissent.

Given this concerning downward trajectory, the Foreign Secretary has agreed with the Deputy Prime Minister and Lord Chancellor, and the President of the UK Supreme Court Lord Reed, that the political and legal situation in Hong Kong has reached the point at which it is no longer tenable for serving UK judges to participate on the Court of Final Appeal. As such Lord Reed and Lord Hodge submitted their resignations to the Hong Kong authorities today. We are grateful for their service, and that of their predecessors.

The UK remains committed to stand up for the people of Hong Kong, to call out the violation of their rights and freedoms, and to hold China to their international obligations.


Home Department

Domestic Abuse Plan

Today, I am pleased to announce we are publishing the new cross-Government tackling domestic abuse plan.

The plan sets out the Government's vision to drive down domestic abuse and domestic homicide cases. And ensure that those who experience domestic abuse get the support they need.

It was developed using responses to the tackling violence against women and girls call for evidence, which included the brave and harrowing testimonies of domestic abuse victims and survivors. These were invaluable in the development of the plan. It is also closely aligned with the tackling violence against women and girls strategy and shares the same four pillars:

Prioritising Prevention, which includes measures to identify and address the root causes of domestic abuse, including teaching children about healthy relationships.

Supporting Victims, which sets out a wide-ranging package of support for victims and survivors, including a minimum of £15.7 million per annum ringfenced for community-based services supporting victims and survivors of domestic abuse and sexual violence, with the offer of multi-year funding for providers to aid delivery of high-quality support. In addition, there will be a minimum of £81 million to fund 700 independent domestic violence advocate and independent sexual violence advocate roles, with more funding for an additional 300 roles to be confirmed later this year. The pillar also includes a commitment to review whether the existing statutory leave provisions do enough to support domestic abuse victims and survivors.

Pursuing Perpetrators, which, along with the wider plan, delivers the statutory requirement to produce a strategy for the prosecution and management of domestic abuse perpetrators. The approach it outlines is uncompromising and unrelenting. It involves electronic monitoring, £75 million for perpetrator interventions and research, as well as a commitment to explore tougher ways of managing perpetrators including the creation of a register of domestic abusers.

A Stronger System, which explains how we will identify more cases, improve co-ordination and collaboration between agencies, and improve our data on and knowledge of domestic abuse. This will be done through up to £7.5 million investment in interventions in healthcare settings, trialling the innovative Ask for ANI codeword scheme in Jobcentre Plus offices and reforms to Domestic Homicide Reviews (DHRs), including steps to increase the number of suicide cases referred for DHRs.

Today, we are also publishing updated versions of the violence against women and girls national statement of expectations and violence against women and girls commissioning toolkit. These documents will support local areas in commissioning effective support services.

We are also publishing a supporting male victims document today in recognition of the specific challenges which may be faced by men and boys who experience crimes considered violence against women and girls, including domestic abuse.

The tackling domestic abuse plan has been laid before Parliament as a Command Paper (CP 639). The national statement of expectations, the commissioning toolkit and the supporting male victims document will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses. All documents will be made available on



Parole System: Public Protection

Today, the Government are publishing the “Root and Branch Review of the Parole System: The Future of the Parole System in England and Wales”.

As Secretary of State for Justice, I am committed to protecting the public and improving victims’ experience of the criminal justice system. The parole system has a critical part to play in ensuring both aims are met; it prevents criminals that continue to pose a threat from leaving prison and helps victims to feel they have the information they need and a voice in the process. So, it is paramount to maintaining public confidence that our parole process functions effectively. In recent years, a number of decisions to release offenders who have committed heinous crimes have led to a loss of public confidence in the parole system. People have questioned how safe it really is to release certain offenders and why those recalled to prison were allowed to leave in the first place. I share these concerns, which is why I am determined to refocus the system to put public protection at the forefront of all parole decisions.

I want to see the parole process take a more precautionary approach when it comes to decisions affecting public protection. In particular, in cases which involve those who have committed the most serious crimes, it is right that Ministers should provide a measure of oversight and be able to intervene more directly in decisions on release. The key proposed reforms set out in this review will ensure public protection is the overriding consideration for release decisions.

The current release test used by the parole board has moved away from Parliament’s original intention. A court judgment in the case of Bradley in 1991 stated that the role of the Board is to

“carry out a balancing exercise between the legitimate conflicting interests of both prisoner and public”.

The statutory test has therefore changed over time to become a “balancing exercise” between public protection and the rights of the prisoner. We will revise the test to reinforce it, so its overriding focus is on public protection.

At present, 5% of all parole board members come from a law enforcement background. We will increase substantially that number, because those with operational law enforcement experience have greater first-hand experience in dealing with serious offenders and the risk they present. This will ensure a greater focus on public protection.

The review also announces our intention to introduce ministerial oversight over parole decisions to release serious offenders in the top-tier of higher risk cases. That top-tier will be defined as offenders serving sentences for murder, rape, terrorism and causing or allowing the death of a child. Where the parole board has directed release, the Secretary of State will be able to review the release decision of any “top-tier” cohort offender. We will further consider the details of the procedural mechanism and set out two options in this review for how this power could operate in practice.

Alongside this is the Government commitment to increase victim participation in the parole process. For the first time, we will allow victims to attend a parole hearing in full should they wish to do so. In addition, we will require the board to take account of submissions made by victims and allow for victims to ask questions in those submissions.

The review also outlines the new process on the transfer of life and other indeterminate sentenced prisoners to open prison conditions. Similar considerations of risk and public concern arise here, and in December 2021,1 changed the process to introduce a ministerial check on such decisions, delivering greater oversight to the process in the interests of public protection and public confidence.

Protecting the public is this Government’s top priority and the proposals in this review will reinforce public safety and increase confidence in our justice system. As we continue to develop policy and begin legislating, we will consider fully the impact of the proposals and have due regard to the requirements of section 149 of the Equality Act 2010.