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Domestic Abuse: Homicide

Question for Ministry of Justice

UIN HL1804, tabled on 7 July 2021

To ask Her Majesty's Government (1) what are the terms of reference, and (2) what is the planned process, for the Lord Chancellor’s review of sentencing in domestic homicide cases; and what plans they have, if any, to hold a public consultation on this matter.

Answered on

21 July 2021

The Lord Chancellor committed to reviewing sentencing in cases of domestic homicide earlier this year and I am pleased that the first stage of this review, an analysis of data, sentencing remarks and outcomes of relevant domestic homicide cases from the past two years, is well underway. We are hopeful that the review will be complete by the end of the year.

The first stage of the review is focused on achieving an improved understanding of current sentencing practice, before moving to a second stage which will consider whether any changes to the law are necessary, and if so, what those changes should be. This initial stage will examine how the sentencing legislation and guidelines have been applied, including in cases where a weapon is and is not taken to the scene, and where victims of domestic abuse have killed their abuser. It will also consider how aggravating and mitigating circumstances are taken into account, the use of current defences to charges of murder and manslaughter, and whether there appear to be gender disparities in case outcomes and how the guidelines are being applied.

Following this initial stage, the Lord Chancellor intends to appoint an independent expert, with the relevant experience and knowledge in this field, to oversee a more detailed phase of consideration and consultation. Their role will be to consider the findings of the initial case review and data analysis and use that as the basis for identifying potential areas for reform and delivering recommendations for change to the Lord Chancellor.

Once the independent expert is in place, we will work with them to finalise the scope and approach for this second phase of the Review, including issues of consultation. Engagement with key stakeholders will be critical and the Lord Chancellor is keen that they have the opportunity to provide their input in helping shape the recommendations. He has already met with both the Victims Commissioner and Domestic Abuse Commissioner to discuss the review as a first step.