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New measures to allow ratification of Istanbul Convention

Government announces measure as part of Domestic Abuse Bill

The government has announced that it will introduce new measures to protect women and girls from crimes committed overseas as part of its Domestic Abuse Bill.

The new legislation would be the final step to enable ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women, known as the Istanbul Convention.

Measures to be included in legislation will extend 'extra-territorial jurisdiction' so that certain offences committed by British citizens can be prosecuted in UK courts regardless of where they take place in the world.

Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, said:

"This government has always been clear that we will ratify the Istanbul Convention and a Domestic Abuse Bill will allow us to deliver on that, demonstrating how we are driving international action to end violence against women."

Despite record numbers of prosecutions and convictions, there are still two million victims of domestic abuse every year in England and Wales.

Although the UK already complies with most aspects of the Istanbul Convention in the United Kingdom, legislation is required for extra-territorial jurisdiction to cover offences committed by British citizens overseas. This will be included in a Domestic Abuse Bill.

The Prime Minister announced her intention to introduce a draft Domestic Abuse Bill earlier this year to ensure that victims have the confidence to come forward safe in the knowledge that the state and justice system will do everything it can to both support them and their children, and pursue their abuser. The Queen's Speech set out how a draft Bill will establish a Domestic Violence and Abuse Commissioner, define domestic abuse in law, and ensure that if abusive behaviour involves a child, the court can hand down a sentence that reflects the devastating life-long impact that abuse can have on them.

The government noted that in most respects the UK is already compliant with, or goes further than, the convention requires, but there remains one outstanding issue in relation to extra-territorial jurisdiction (ETJ) which must be addressed. Article 44 requires that all signatories take the necessary legislative measures to establish ETJ over any offence established in accordance with the convention.

There are still a number of these offences, including rape of an over 18 and sexual assault where ETJ does not yet apply. For this, further amendments to domestic law are necessary to comply and will require primary legislation to be introduced in England and Wales, as well as in Scotland and Northern Ireland. We will seek to do this for England and Wales through a Domestic Abuse Bill.