Landmark moves to update the law on domestic abuse will be revived and a crackdown on foreign criminals introduced in the Queen’s Speech on Monday.
Boris Johnson’s government will commit to reintroducing the domestic abuse bill, which will create a new definition to make clear that abuse can be economic, emotional and coercive as well as physical.
It will also ensure victims are eligible for special measures in courts, such as giving evidence via video link rather than in person, enshrine the domestic abuse commissioner in law and make councils offer secure homes to those fleeing violence.
The bill, which was first introduced under Theresa May but did not make it through parliament before the latest prorogation by Johnson, forms part of a package of law and order measures.
However, with no Commons majority, it is questionable how much, if any, of the proposed legislation ministers can get through parliament before a general election.
Labour has dismissed the decision to hold a Queen’s Speech before the country goes to the polls as a “cynical stunt” and “a pre-election party political broadcast” for the Tories.
The legislative programme will feature a crackdown on foreign national offenders who return to the UK after being deported.
Foreign criminals who breach a deportation order by returning will now face “drastically increased” maximum sentences from the current six months. The average sentence is 10 weeks under this law.
The government is aiming to deter foreign offenders from coming back to the UK and to disrupt the activities of organised criminal networks who facilitate their return.
The laws will only affect the 400 or so people who breach deportation orders each year, but Home Secretary Priti Patel insisted it would make the country safer.
She said: “We have been a soft touch on foreign criminals for too long.
“The sentence for breaching a deportation order is far too low at the moment and many criminals conclude that it’s worth trying to get back in the country when all you get is a slap on the wrist.
“Deterring foreign criminals from re-entering the country and putting those that do behind bars for longer will make our country safer.”
The Queen’s Speech will also feature:
- laws to allow police to arrest criminals as soon as an Interpol red notice is issued, without having to apply a warrant, which takes 6-8 hours. This will only apply to fugitives wanted by the countries in the Five Eyes intelligence alliance and EFTA nations (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, US, Switzerland, Liechtenstein).
- The abolition of automatic half-way release for serious offenders who get standard fixed-term sentences, including those found guilty of rape, manslaughter and grievous bodily harm
- “Helen’s law” to place a legal duty on the parole board to reflect the cruelty of murderers who refuse to give the location of a victim’s remains when considering their release.
Johnson will put Brexit at the heart of his legislative programme, including plans to rush through parliament a withdrawal agreement bill if he manages to strike a deal at this week’s European Council summit, so that the UK can leave the EU on time on October 31.
The speech will include 22 bills, including measures to support the NHS, reform the railways and invest in science and infrastructure.
Diane Abbott, Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary, said: “It is hypocritical for the Tories to set out these plans when they were the ones who imposed cuts and let crime soar in the first place. Everything was cut, from schools, to the NHS, to the police, to mental health services. They all had terrible consequences.
“This Queen’s Speech is farcical. It is just an uncosted wish list which the government has no intention and no means to deliver, and nothing more than a pre-election party political broadcast.
“The home secretary is right that the Tories have been a soft touch for criminals, with policies that predictably led to more crime. We always argued that cuts have consequences, and now the Tories are trying to pretend the consequences have nothing to do with them.
“Labour in government will end austerity, and properly invest in our communities and transform society.”