In an impassioned Westminster Hall debate, Martin Docherty-Hughes MP (SNP, West Dunbartonshire) spotlighted the ordeals of UK citizens imprisoned overseas.
He underscored the case of his constituent, Jagtar Singh Johal.
Docherty-Hughes began, “This is not the first time that I have risen to my feet in Westminster Hall to speak on this very subject.” He continued, describing the unexpected aspects of his role: “There are many parts of the job… dealing with constituents who are themselves in some sort of distress… is certainly one of those things that we cannot prepare ourselves for before being elected.”
The MP expressed concerns over the glaring gap between the support services families expect and the reality of what’s provided. Referring to the British passport inscription, he noted: “His Britannic Majesty’s Secretary of State requests and requires… to afford the bearer such assistance and protection as may be necessary.” He then argued, “prisoners… are the very definition of vulnerable people at the mercy of the state.”
Docherty-Hughes delved into the troubling case of Jagtar Singh Johal, detailing, “The circumstances of Jagtar’s arrest—being snatched off the street by unidentified men, held incommunicado, and then signing a confession… meant that the case got attention.” He cited the subsequent emergence of the “Free Jaggi Now” campaign as a beacon of hope.
Although acknowledging the consular prisons team’s commendable efforts, Docherty-Hughes lamented their lack of resources. He cited: “the de-prioritisation of consular budgets,” and pointed to the insights from the all-party parliamentary group on deaths abroad, consular services, and assistance. This report, he said, is “full of excellent recommendations to ensure that the importance of consular services is recognised.”
Closing his address, Docherty-Hughes was resolute in his call for change: “This Government… need to do much more to ensure that holders of that document receive ‘such assistance and protection as may be necessary.’”
Watch the debate in full here.