Published On: 11th December 2023

On 7 December 2023, Liz Davies KC, instructed by the Public Interest Law Centre, submitted questions to Boris Johnson on behalf of Southall Black Sisters and Solace Women’s Aid.

Liz Davies KC questioned Boris Johnson on two areas: the messaging around the stay at home regulations and the lessons learned from the first lockdown.

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Stay at home messaging

The first question Liz Davies KC put to Boris Johnson regarded the messaging around the stay at home regulations where domestic abuse was only mentioned as an exemption to leaving home after January 2021.

Boris Johnson replied: “I think that you’re making a very good point, and I think in retrospect we should have given consideration to mentioning that issue explicitly earlier.  That didn’t mean we were silent or inattentive to the problem.  We put money into helplines almost immediately, I think in April.  We set up the Ask for ANI scheme, I think there was — so people could go -under the rules people could go out to the chemist, for instance.”

Liz Davies KC then asked Boris Johnson if the failure to mention domestic abuse in the stay at home messaging was compounded by a phrase on 23 March 2020 saying, “That’s all, these are the only reasons you should leave your home”.

Boris Johnson replied: “I hope that people would have understood that to report a criminal offence was also a reason to leave your home, but clearly it was something we should have — we should have made explicit.”

Lessons learned

The second question Liz Davies KC asked Boris Johnson was on the lessons were learned from the first lockdown and implemented for the second and third lockdowns in order to protect women and girls from domestic abuse.

Boris Johnson replied: “In addition to the investment in the helplines, which I think, as I say, began almost immediately, and the Ask for ANI scheme […]”. Liz Davies KC informed Boris Johnson that the Ask for ANI scheme was introduced in February 2021, and he replied that the Domestic Violence Bill went through the Commons in March or April 2020.

Liz Davies KC then stated that the Domestic Violence Bill had “nothing to do with lockdown,” to which Boris Johnson replied: “Well, it was actually, I think, a useful tool against DV, giving new statutory powers against coercive behaviour of one kind or another, and other measures. We put money into independent — I think right from the beginning of the government, we put more money into independent sexual violence advisers and independent domestic violence advisers, and across Whitehall — so people you could ring up or people who could, who would help you address the appalling issues that you face.  But what we also did across Whitehall was to try to solve what in my view is still a chronic problem, which is the inability of the criminal justice system to deal with crimes of rape, domestic violence, sexual violence of all kinds, and to get enough prosecutions.”

Find the full transcript at: