Factsheet on extraterritorial jurisdiction – GOV.UK

What are we going to do?

The law extends the jurisdiction of UK courts so that, where appropriate, UK nationals and residents who commit certain violent and sexual offenses outside the UK can be brought to justice in the UK.

We welcome the government’s commitment to extend extraterritorial jurisdiction to offenses that are routinely committed in the context of domestic violence or VAWG.

Women’s Aid, response to government consultation on domestic violence

How are we going to do this?

The law extends the jurisdiction of the courts:

  • in England and Wales to relevant offenses committed outside the United Kingdom by a British national or a person ordinarily resident in England or Wales;
  • in Northern Ireland to the relevant offenses committed outside the United Kingdom by a British national or a person ordinarily resident in Northern Ireland: and
  • in Scotland to the relevant offenses committed outside the United Kingdom by a British national or a person ordinarily resident in Scotland.

Background

The Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (“the Istanbul Convention”) provides binding standards in international law to prevent violence against women. against women and domestic violence, protect the victims and punish the perpetrators.

The UK signed the Istanbul Convention in June 2012 and the government is committed to ratifying it as soon as possible.

Article 44 of the Istanbul Convention requires the UK to be able to prosecute the criminal acts set out in the Istanbul Convention when such acts are committed outside the UK by a British national or a person who usually resides in the UK. This is called extraterritorial jurisdiction.

The UK already has extraterritorial jurisdiction for offenses that cover some of the criminal conduct set out in the Istanbul Convention, such as forced marriage and sexual offenses when the victim of the offense is under 18. But we need to change national law to adopt extraterritorial jurisdiction. on offenses covering other criminal behavior set out in the Convention before it can be ratified.

With the provisions of the Domestic Abuse and Civil Proceedings (Northern Ireland) Act 2021 – which introduces a new domestic violence offense in Northern Ireland with a similar provision for extraterritorial jurisdiction – the provisions of this Act will satisfy in all of the UK to the jurisdiction requirements of Article 44..

What behavior does the Istanbul Convention oblige the UK to criminalize?

The behaviors set out in the Convention include psychological, physical and sexual violence as well as criminal harassment, forced marriage and female genital mutilation.

UK courts already have extraterritorial jurisdiction over the following offenses required by the Istanbul Convention:

  • murder and manslaughter in most (but not all) cases (section 35);
  • sexual offenses (including those required by the Convention) when the victim of the offense is under 18 years of age (article 36);
  • forced marriage (article 37); and
  • female genital mutilation (Article 38).

The law extends extraterritorial jurisdiction to other offenses required by the Istanbul Convention, including murder and manslaughter in circumstances where the courts do not already have such jurisdiction and sexual offenses where the victim of the crime is 18 years of age or older.

Article 44 of the Istanbul Convention requires that domestic law be able to prosecute relevant offenses when committed outside the UK by a UK national or resident.

However, as with all criminal offenses, the decision to prosecute would rest with the competent prosecuting authority.

The general policy of the government on the jurisdiction of our courts is that criminal offenses are best dealt with by the criminal justice system of the state where the offense was committed. If an accused is not prosecuted in the State where the offense was committed, a prosecution would only take place in the United Kingdom if the accused were physically present in that jurisdiction (after extradition if necessary), there is sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction and it is in the public interest to prosecute.

Will these measures apply to the whole of the UK?

Yes. The law has separate provisions for England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, reflecting the separate body of criminal law in each jurisdiction.


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Thelma J. Longworth

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