Attorney General Geoffrey Cox forced into apology after domestic violence 'joke'

The Attorney General, Geoffrey Cox. (Video/Photo courtesy of parliament.tv)
The Attorney General, Geoffrey Cox. (Video/Photo courtesy of parliament.tv)

The Attorney General, Geoffrey Cox, has apologised after making a comment concerning domestic violence in the House of Commons on Wednesday.

Mr. Cox was answering questions from other M.P.s on the legal advice he gave before Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, prorogued parliament last month.

The prorogation was ruled unlawful by 11 Supreme Court Judges in the Supreme Court in London on Tuesday.

Mr. Cox was responding to question put to him by Labour M.P. Clive Efford when he made the contentious comment.

"When was it that he first became aware that the advice that was given to Her Majesty the Queen, the Speaker of this House and this House itself about the reasons for prorogation, and that those reasons were not true?" asked Mr. Efford.

The Attorney General replied: "That is, if I may say so, what we used to call in advocacy terms a ‘when did you stop beating your wife?’ question – the reality is I don’t accept the premise of the question.

“There is no question that the Supreme Court found in any way that any advice that had been given was consciously or knowingly misleading."

Labour M.P. Emma Hardy then raised a point of order through the Speaker of the House, John Bercow, M.P.

"During that question and answer session the Attorney General made a joke about the phrase ‘when did you last stop beating your wife’," said Ms. Hardy.

“Now part of the reason people are so upset about the prorogation is because the domestic violence bill has fallen, as my honourable friend has just mentioned.

“Mr Speaker, can I seek your advice on how maybe the Attorney General can learn to moderate his language and not make jokes about domestic violence?”

Mr. Cox responded by apologising and offered an explanation for his choice of phrase.

“Let me say, if I’ve given offence, I certainly didn’t mean to," said the Attorney General.

“It’s an old saying at the bar - which simply relates to a cross-examination technique of asking a question that presumes the premise.

"And it’s the way in which we were taught. If I have given offence, I apologise," he concluded.