All 62 contributions to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 (Ministerial Extracts Only)

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Mon 15th Mar 2021
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
Commons Chamber

2nd reading Day 1 & 2nd reading - Day 1 & 2nd reading
Tue 16th Mar 2021
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
Commons Chamber

2nd reading Day 2 & 2nd reading - Day 2
Mon 5th Jul 2021
Tue 14th Sep 2021
Wed 20th Oct 2021
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage & Lords Hansard part one & Committee stage part one
Wed 20th Oct 2021
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - part two & Committee stage part two
Mon 25th Oct 2021
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - part one & Committee stage part one
Mon 25th Oct 2021
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - part two & Committee stage part two
Wed 27th Oct 2021
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - part one & Committee stage part one
Wed 27th Oct 2021
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - part two & Committee stage part two
Mon 1st Nov 2021
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
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Lords Hansard - part one & Committee stage part one
Mon 1st Nov 2021
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
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Lords Hansard - part two & Committee stage part two
Wed 3rd Nov 2021
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - part one & Committee stage part one
Wed 3rd Nov 2021
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
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Lords Hansard - part two & Committee stage part two
Mon 8th Nov 2021
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - part one & Committee stage part one
Mon 8th Nov 2021
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - part two & Committee stage part two
Wed 10th Nov 2021
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - part one & Committee stage part one
Wed 10th Nov 2021
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - part two & Committee stage part two
Mon 15th Nov 2021
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - Part 1 & Committee stage: Part 1
Mon 15th Nov 2021
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - Part 2 & Committee stage: Part 2
Wed 17th Nov 2021
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - part one & Committee stage part one
Wed 17th Nov 2021
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - part two & Committee stage part two
Mon 22nd Nov 2021
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - part one & Committee stage part one
Mon 22nd Nov 2021
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
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Lords Hansard - part two & Committee stage part two
Wed 24th Nov 2021
Wed 8th Dec 2021
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - Part 1 & Report stage & Report stage: Part 1
Wed 8th Dec 2021
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - Part 2 & Report stage: Part 2
Mon 13th Dec 2021
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - Part 1 & Lords Hansard - part one & Report stage: Part 1
Mon 13th Dec 2021
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - Part 2 & Lords Hansard - part two & Report stage: Part 2
Wed 15th Dec 2021
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - Part 1 & Lords Hansard - part one & Report stage: Part 1
Wed 15th Dec 2021
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - Part 2 & Lords Hansard - part two & Report stage: Part 2
Mon 10th Jan 2022
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - Part 1 & Lords Hansard - part one & Report stage: Part 1
Mon 10th Jan 2022
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - Part 2 & Lords Hansard - part two & Report stage: Part 2
Tue 25th Jan 2022
Mon 28th Feb 2022
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
Commons Chamber

Consideration of Lords amendments & Consideration of Lords amendments
Tue 22nd Mar 2022
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
Lords Chamber

Consideration of Commons amendments: Part 1 & Lords Hansard - Part 1
Tue 22nd Mar 2022
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
Lords Chamber

Consideration of Commons amendments: Part 2 & Lords Hansard - Part 2
Thu 31st Mar 2022
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
Lords Chamber

Consideration of Commons amendments & Consideration of Commons amendments
Mon 25th Apr 2022
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
Commons Chamber

Consideration of Lords messageConsideration of Lords Message & Consideration of Lords message
Tue 26th Apr 2022
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
Lords Chamber

Consideration of Commons amendments & Consideration of Commons amendments

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

(Limited Text - Ministerial Extracts only)

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2nd reading & 2nd reading - Day 1
Monday 15th March 2021

(3 years, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 Read Hansard Text

This text is a record of ministerial contributions to a debate held as part of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 passage through Parliament.

In 1993, the House of Lords Pepper vs. Hart decision provided that statements made by Government Ministers may be taken as illustrative of legislative intent as to the interpretation of law.

This extract highlights statements made by Government Ministers along with contextual remarks by other members. The full debate can be read here

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Priti Patel Portrait The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Priti Patel)
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I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Just one week after celebrating the achievement of women around the world on International Women’s Day, I would like to open this debate by once again expressing my sadness at the horrific developments in the Sarah Everard case. My heartfelt thoughts and prayers are with Sarah, her family and friends at this unbearable time. This is also a stark moment to reflect on what more we can do to protect women and girls against crime, and the events of the last few days have rightly ignited anger at the danger posed to women by predatory men—an anger I feel as strongly as anyone.

This Government were elected just over a year ago on a clear manifesto commitment to support the police and to keep our country safe. It is vital that we continue to deliver on that promise to the British people, and our commitment to law and order is having a real impact across the country. There are already over 6,600 more police officers in our communities, thanks to the unprecedented campaign to recruit an additional 20,000 more police officers. Our crackdown on county line drug gangs is delivering results, particularly in London, the west midlands and Merseyside. The police have made more than 3,400 arrests, shut down more than 550 deal lines and safeguarded more than 770 vulnerable people. Last year, we saw the UK’s biggest ever law enforcement operation strike a blow against organised crime, with over 1,000 arrests, £54 million of criminal cash seized, and 77 firearms and over two tonnes of drugs seized. The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill will go further still in our mission to back the police, to make our communities safe and to restore confidence in the criminal justice system.

We ask our brave police officers to do the most difficult of jobs—they run towards danger to keep us all safe—and that is why I have worked closely with the Police Federation in developing this Bill. I would like to pay tribute to the chair of the Police Federation, John Apter, for his constructive way of working since I became Home Secretary, admirably fighting for his members every single day. He has voiced his members’ concerns to me directly, and I have acted upon them.

This Bill will enshrine in law a requirement to report annually to Parliament on the police covenant, which sets out our commitment to enhance support and protection for those working within or retired from policing roles, whether paid or as volunteers, and their families. The covenant will initially focus on physical protection and support for families, officers and staff, and their health and wellbeing, with a duty to report in place to ensure parliamentary scrutiny.

Despite all that they do, emergency workers are still subject to violence and abuse. The statistics paint an alarming picture. There were more than 30,000 assaults on police officers in the year to March 2020, and over the past year we have all seen the reports of people deliberately coughing at our emergency workers, claiming to have coronavirus and threatening to infect them. There have been too many disgusting examples of police officers and ambulance drivers being spat at and violently attacked as they go out to work day after day to make sure that the rest of us are safe and cared for.

Gareth Johnson Portrait Gareth Johnson (Dartford) (Con)
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This Bill doubles the maximum sentence for an assault on emergency workers. Does the Home Secretary therefore share my astonishment at the irony that the Labour party will now be voting against that provision?

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Having personally spent much time with our frontline officers, the very people who put themselves in harm’s way to keep us safe, I think that is a really stark point, and a reminder of which party is backing the police and which party simply is not.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab)
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Will the Home Secretary give way?

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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I will in just a second.

Having personally spent time with those on the frontline, I have also seen the impact of these incidents on officers and on their families. We cannot tolerate such acts, which is why the punishment must fit the crime, and the Bill will double the maximum penalty for assaults on emergency workers from 12 months’ to two years’ imprisonment.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant
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I urge the Home Secretary not to play party politics with this particular bit. I introduced, as a private Member’s Bill, the legislation that she is acting on, and at the time I argued very strongly in favour of two years being the maximum sentence. I was dissuaded by the right hon. Member for Esher and Walton (Dominic Raab), who is now the Foreign Secretary; by the right hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May), the former Home Secretary; and by a lot of Conservative MPs, who did not want to support the legislation at all.

I need to be persuaded that the Government have used the legislation that is on the statute book at present. For instance, the Home Secretary refers, quite rightly, to people spitting at police officers. It is disgusting and it is a form of assault, but unfortunately the sentencing guidelines still have not been updated since the introduction of my legislation to make sure that spitting is an aggravating factor and will be treated as an offence.

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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There are many important points that I would be happy to debate about the police covenant and giving our police officers—the frontline men and women who keep us safe day in, day out—the protection that they and their family members deserve. The hon. Gentleman is right about the sentencing structure and guidance, but we have had support from the Crown Prosecution Service regarding the assaults that I have referred to, particularly over the last few months in relation to coronavirus, when we have seen spitting and assaults on officers.

This Bill is a criminal justice Bill as much as a policing Bill. It is an end-to-end Bill to ensure that the sentence fits the assault and the crime. The Bill will double the maximum penalty for assaults on emergency workers from 12 months’ to two years’ imprisonment, recognising that our officers and emergency workers should rightly be protected. Having spent much time with those on the frontline and seen the impact and the sheer volume of these incidents, I think it is right that we have that provision in this Bill.

The Government fully recognise the professionalism and skills of our highly trained police officers, and that includes the specialism of police drivers. Too often, they are driving in high-pressure situations pursuing suspects on the road while responding urgently to incidents. Through this Bill, we will introduce a new test to assess a police officer’s standard of driving. Should an officer be involved in a road traffic incident, this new test will allow the courts to judge their standard of driving against that of a competent and careful police constable with the same level of training, rather than that of a member of the public, which is how it stands at present.

The Government back the police and will never allow those with an extreme political agenda, such as those calling for the defunding or abolition of the police, to weaken our resolve when it comes to protecting the police. We back the police and will do everything we possibly can to make our community safer.

I have heard the call of the British public for safer communities, and that means cracking down on violent crime, which has a corrosive impact on towns and cities across the country. That includes gangs peddling drugs, as a result of which law-abiding citizens live in fear and, tragically, teenage children are stabbed to death. This senseless violence has absolutely no place in our society.

Toby Perkins Portrait Mr Toby Perkins (Chesterfield) (Lab)
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I support entirely the need to make sure that sentences fit the crime, but is not the reality that courts have huge backlogs and are reluctant to jail people who should be in jail, because they know that our prisons are overcrowded? Does not this Government’s failure on courts and prisons massively undermine what the right hon. Lady says about sentencing?

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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Absolutely not. The Government are determined in their resolve—through this legislation, and delivering on our manifesto commitments—to bring in sentences that fit the crime. This is an end-to-end criminal justice Bill. If the hon. Gentleman and hon. Members listen to this afternoon’s debate, they will hear about the measures that are being introduced, and about the Government’s longer-term response. That includes the wider work that the Government are undertaking with the courts and the CPS; the changes that we need to make not just to sentencing, but to our laws; and the support that we are giving to our police.

Edward Leigh Portrait Sir Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con)
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We do not want to waste police time. Over the years I have formed an unlikely alliance with people such as Peter Tatchell, particularly with the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, to ensure that we enshrine in law your ability, Madam Deputy Speaker, my ability, or anybody’s ability to insult people and cause offence. Thinking particularly of clause 59, will my right hon. Friend assure me that nothing in the Bill will have a chilling effect on the right to debate and, if necessary, cause offence?

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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When it comes to freedom of expression, my right hon. Friend knows my views and those of this Government. Prior to taking interventions I spoke about the corrosive impact of violent crime across our towns and cities. Tragically, too many young children—teenagers—have been stabbed to death in towns and cities of the UK. Such senseless violence has no place in our society. I have met too many mothers whose children have been murdered on the streets of our city, and I have seen the raw pain and distress of parents grieving for their child, and the utter devastation they are forced to endure.

We are proud that this Government have put more police officers on the beat, but tough law enforcement can be only part of the solution. We must do much more to understand and address the factors that drive serious violence, so that we can prevent it from happening in the first place. Through the Bill, we will introduce a serious violence duty, which will work to bring public bodies, including the police and local authorities, to work together as one, to share data and information across our communities, and work together to save lives. I thank many of my predecessors for their work on that, particularly my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromsgrove (Sajid Javid).

I make no apology for finding new ways to protect our communities and save the lives of our young people. Whenever lives are tragically lost as the result of serious violence, we must do everything we can to learn from what has happened. Homicides involving offensive weapons such as knives make up a large and growing proportion of all homicides, yet no legal requirement is currently placed on local agencies to understand what has happened after each incident. We are therefore introducing the requirement for a formal review to be considered, where a victim was aged 18 or over and the events surrounding their death involved the use of an offensive weapon. The new reviews will ensure that we learn lessons from such cases, and produce recommendations to improve our response to serious violence.

Every time someone carries a blade or a weapon, they risk ruining their own lives and those of others. Every stabbing leaves a trail of misery and devastation in its wake. Our new serious violence reduction orders will help the police to protect our communities better, by giving officers the power to stop and search those already convicted of crimes involving knives and offensive weapons. The orders will help to tackle prolific and higher-risk offenders, and help to protect individuals from exploitation by criminal gangs. That is exactly what I mean when I say that we are making our communities safer.

There will be concerns about disproportionality, but our aim is for these orders to enable the police to take a more targeted approach, specifically in relation to known knife carriers. Unfortunately, data from 2018-19 indicate that the homicide risk for young black people is 24 times higher than that for young white people. That is appalling. As long as young black men are dying and their families are disproportionately suffering, we cannot stand back, and I cannot apologise for backing the police when it comes to stop and search. The Government will work with the police to gather data on the impact of the orders to deliver real and lasting results.

Victims and witnesses must have the full protection of the law while the police conduct their investigations. We will reform the pre-charge bail regime to encourage the police to impose pre-charge bail, with appropriate conditions where it is necessary and proportionate to do so, including where there is a real risk to victims, witnesses and the public. We hope that that will provide reassurance and additional protection for alleged victims, for example in high-harm cases such as domestic abuse.

Peter Kyle Portrait Peter Kyle (Hove) (Lab)
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Since the Home Secretary’s Government first promised a victims Bill, there have been 1 million sexual offences and 350,000 rapes. This Bill is 300 pages long and barely mentions women or children. The explanatory notes do not mention women or girls once. Will she get to her feet and apologise finally for missing this fantastic opportunity to put victims at the heart of our criminal justice system?

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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I will take no lectures from the hon. Gentleman or the Opposition when it comes to supporting victims. As the former chair of the all-party parliamentary group on victims, I and this Government have absolutely put victims at the heart of all our work, as have my predecessors in all their work.

Peter Kyle Portrait Peter Kyle
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Asleep on the job.

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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The hon. Gentleman can yell from the Back Benches, but it is important to remember that when it comes to protecting victims, there are many victims of different offences and different crimes. I think he and all Members of this House should recognise that this Bill will absolutely provide additional protections for victims in high-harm cases such as domestic abuse and many other cases.

These reforms will be named Kay’s law in memory of Kay Richardson, who was tragically killed following the release of her husband under investigation, rather than on pre-charge bail, despite evidence of previous domestic abuse. It is impossible to imagine the impact of such an horrific crime on the victim’s loved ones, and we all have a responsibility to do all we can to prevent more victims and more families from suffering as they have. That is the point and the purpose of this Bill—it is an end-to-end Bill.

Before Opposition Members start to prejudge any aspect of this Bill and this Government’s work on victims, there will be plenty of time to debate this Bill. There will also be plenty of time to debate the role of victims and how the Government are absolutely supporting victims.

An essential responsibility and a duty on us all is protecting our children. I am truly appalled and shocked by each crime and every case of hurt and harm against young people from sexual abuse and exploitation. It is impossible to comprehend the motivation of those who perpetrate offences against children, and we have been reviewing the law in this area carefully to ensure that any changes we make are the right ones. Through this Bill, I intend to extend the scope of the current legislation that criminalises sexual activity with a child under the age of 18 by people who hold defined positions of trust to include faith leaders, sports coaches and others who similarly coach, teach, train, supervise or instruct a sport or religion on a regular basis.

This issue has some brilliant and long-standing champions. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Chatham and Aylesford (Tracey Crouch), who even throughout her recent cancer treatment worked with me to ensure that we address this significant issue. I also thank the hon. Member for Rotherham (Sarah Champion), who continues to stand by the many victims who were abused as youngsters and who were failed and ignored by those who should have supported them. I also thank Baroness Grey-Thompson for her tireless work on this issue.

Through this Bill, we will also introduce an important measure to help bring closure to families whose loved ones have gone missing. The House will know the horrific case of Keith Bennett and the struggles his family have gone through to find his body since his murder. In 2017, the police believed they had a further lead when it came to light that Ian Brady had committed papers to secure storage before his death, but a gap in the law meant that the police were unable to get a search warrant to seize those papers.

I know this is an important issue—indeed, it has been raised by the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper) and others. I am therefore introducing new powers enabling officers to seize evidence that they believe may help to locate human remains outside of criminal proceedings, such as in missing persons cases, suicides and homicide cases where a suspect is known but cannot be convicted, such as where the suspect themselves has died. As I said to Keith’s brother, Alan, when I met him recently, I am absolutely determined to give the police all the powers they need to access any evidence that could help them to bring some closure in cases such as Keith’s. While I cannot guarantee that a loved one will be found, I can make sure that families are provided with every avenue that our legal system will allow in the pursuit of justice. This is why we emphasise the need to make our communities safer, and that is exactly what the Bill does.

The right to protest peacefully is a cornerstone of our democracy and one that this Government will always defend, but there is, of course, a balance to be struck between the rights of the protester and the rights of individuals to go about their daily lives. The current legislation the police use to manage protests, the Public Order Act 1986, was enacted over 30 years ago. In recent years, we have seen a significant change of protest tactics, with protesters exploiting gaps in the law which have led to disproportionate amounts of disruption. Last year, we saw XR blocking the passage of an ambulance and emergency calls, gluing themselves to a train during rush hour, blocking airport runways, preventing hundreds of hard-working people from going to work. Finally, I would like to gently remind the House that on one day last year many people across the country were prevented from reading their morning newspapers due to the tactics of some groups—a clear attempt to limit a free and fair press, a cornerstone of our democracy and society.

The Bill will give the police the powers to take a more proactive approach in tackling dangerous and disruptive protests. The threshold at which the police can impose conditions on the use of noise at a protest is rightfully high. The majority of protesters will be able to continue to act and make noise as they do now without police intervention, but we are changing it to allow the police to put conditions on noisy protests that cause significant disruption to those in the vicinity. As with all our proposals, the police response will still need to be proportionate. The statutory offence of public nuisance replaces the existing common law offence. Our proposals follow the recommendations made by the Law Commission in 2015. The threshold for committing an offence is high, with any harm needing to affect the public or a cross-section of the public and not just an individual.

We must give the courts the tools to deal effectively with the desecration of war memorials and other statues. Through the Bill, we will toughen the law where there is criminal damage to a memorial by removing the consideration of monetary value of damage. Those changes will allow the court to consider the emotional and sentimental impact, not just financial, so that the sentence can reflect the severity of harm caused. For what it is worth, that does not just mean statues. It will cover a range of memorials with low monetary but high sentimental value, for example gravestones, war memorials, roadside tributes to people killed in car crashes and the memorials to people who have been murdered, such as the Stephen Lawrence memorial. I would like to thank my hon. Friends the Members for Stoke-on-Trent North (Jonathan Gullis) and for Bracknell (James Sunderland) for their important work on this issue.

I am also clear that no one should have to put up with disturbances and disruptions on their doorstep. Unauthorised encampments can create significant challenges for local authorities, and cause distress and misery to those who live nearby. As we pledged in our manifesto, we will make it a criminal offence to live in a vehicle on land without permission and we will give the police the power to seize vehicles if necessary. I can assure the House that the new offence has been framed in such a way to ensure that the rights of ramblers and others to enjoy the countryside are not impacted.

Lloyd Russell-Moyle Portrait Lloyd Russell-Moyle (Brighton, Kemptown) (Lab/Co-op)
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What consideration has the right hon. Lady given to the rights of generations of Travellers and Gypsies, who have often been around longer than some of our property laws, who might want to pull up on a roadside for a night? What consideration of their rights has been given in the Bill, which will automatically criminalise them?

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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The hon. Gentleman will be aware that there was an extensive public consultation on this issue and all those points were considered at the time.

Aaron Bell Portrait Aaron Bell (Newcastle-under-Lyme) (Con)
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The Home Secretary may remember coming to visit Wolstanton Marsh in my constituency during the election campaign. Residents around Wolstanton have long suffered as a result of the unauthorised encampments on the marsh. Will she join me in welcoming what the Bill will do for them? This is a manifesto pledge delivered.

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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I recall a visit to my hon. Friend’s constituency, and he is right. Many colleagues, and many members of the public through the public consultation, made the point that unauthorised encampments cause misery and harm to those in the local communities affected by them. There have been many discussions with colleagues across the House on this point, and with local authorities, which more often than not bear the brunt of the costs and consequences, alongside the police.

In September, my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor published a White Paper setting out our vision for a smarter approach to sentencing, and now we are introducing legislation to establish this in law. We need a system that is robust enough to keep the worst offenders behind bars for as long as possible, but agile enough to give offenders a fair start on their road to rehabilitation. Sexual and violent offenders must serve sentences that reflect the severity of their crimes, helping to protect the public and give victims confidence that justice has been served. These offences are committed predominantly against women. Through this Bill, rapists and other serious sexual predators sentenced to a standard determinate sentence of four years or more will henceforth serve at least two thirds of their sentence in custody. Rapists sentenced to life imprisonment will similarly serve longer in custody before they are considered for release on licence. The Bill also strengthens the framework for the management of sex offenders. In particular, we are legislating so that courts can attach positive requirements to a sexual harm prevention order or a sexual risk order so that, for example, a perpetrator can be required to attend a behavioural change programme.

The measures in this Bill build on those in the Domestic Abuse Bill, which will return to this House after Easter. Among the changes we have brought forward in the Lords is a new offence of non-fatal strangulation and the criminalising of threats to disclose intimate images. I know that these additions to the Bill will be welcomed by the right hon. and learned Member for Camberwell and Peckham (Ms Harman) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Romsey and Southampton North (Caroline Nokes). We have had discussions already this afternoon about violence against women and girls and what more we can do; these measures are fundamental to restoring confidence in the criminal justice system.

We also recognise that the reoffending rate for children is high, and that is why we are taking forward measures to provide courts with stronger alternatives to custody. In the Bill, we are providing custodial sentencing options for the most serious crimes, alongside alternatives that will allow youth offenders to be effectively managed and rehabilitated in the community. That will ensure that judges and magistrates are able to make the most appropriate decisions in the best interests of the child and of the public. In recognition of the fact that children now in custody are much more likely to have complex needs, we will introduce measures to enable the trialling of secure schools. They will be schools with security rather than prisons with education, and they will have education, wellbeing and purposeful activity at their heart.

The courts play a fundamental role in our criminal justice system. During the pandemic, we have seen the benefits of enabling participation in proceedings remotely or by live video or audio link. We want to put these temporary provisions on a permanent footing, giving judges better options to support the effective and efficient running of their courts and underpinning the principle of open justice. Our aim is to modernise our courts and tribunals so that there are more opportunities to attend and observe hearings remotely, shorter waiting times and less unnecessary travel. I can assure the House that these advantages will never be taken from the right to a full hearing in court. This will always be available where needed, and where the court considers it to be in the interests of justice. Trials will continue to take place in court. We also want to further improve accessibility to our justice system for people with disabilities.

Peter Kyle Portrait Peter Kyle
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At the moment, if somebody suffers a sexual assault or rape, they will wait two years before they have their moment in court. Will the Home Secretary agree to amend the Bill so that people who are victims of rape or sexual assault will be fast-tracked straight into the court system and will no longer have to wait two years?

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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It is absolutely right that we look at every single measure and approach to ensure that victims of rape receive justice. As the hon. Gentleman will know, the rape review is taking place and will soon be published.

We want to improve accessibility to our justice system for people with disabilities. Reasonable adjustments can be made for most people with disabilities to enable them to complete jury service. However, the law has to date prevented deaf people who require the services of a sign language interpreter from having an interpreter in a jury deliberation room with them. We are changing that to ensure that all deaf individuals are able to serve as jurors unless the circumstances of a particular case mean that it would not be in the interests of justice for them to do so.

As I said at the beginning, this Government were elected on a clear manifesto commitment to keep our country safe. That is what the British people rightly expect, and that is what this Bill will deliver, by supporting the police, by preventing and cutting crime and by restoring confidence in the criminal justice system, because giving people the security they need to live their lives as they choose is an essential part of our freedom. As we emerge from the coronavirus pandemic, we will build back safer and increase the safety and security of our citizens. This Bill will enable us to do exactly that, and I commend it to the House.

Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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I should inform Members that we will start with a time limit of five minutes, but it will go down very quickly to three minutes.

--- Later in debate ---
Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds
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Absolutely. The cancellation of that workstream is entirely wrong. I say to the Home Secretary that the offer is open on that. The letter has been sent to the Home Office; reply and engage with us on the Opposition Benches.

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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I am actually not aware of that workstream being cancelled or the letter, so I would be more than happy to come back to the House and follow up with the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Hove (Peter Kyle).

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds
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I am grateful for that, and when the Home Secretary returns to the Home Office, I would be grateful if she could dig out the letter and respond. That would be extremely useful—it was sent on 29 January, for reference.

--- Later in debate ---
Chris Philp Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Chris Philp)
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The shadow Home Secretary should well know and should honestly tell the House that the maximum sentence for rape is life.

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I asked the Home Secretary earlier in the statement to tell me how many people convicted of rape were actually sentenced to life imprisonment, and she could not answer the question. The answer is hardly any. Ninety-nine per cent. of reported rapes do not even get close to a court, and then we hear the Minister trying to come to the Dispatch Box to boast about the rape statistics—absolutely appalling.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

(Limited Text - Ministerial Extracts only)

Read Full debate
2nd reading & 2nd reading - Day 2
Tuesday 16th March 2021

(3 years, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 Read Hansard Text

This text is a record of ministerial contributions to a debate held as part of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 passage through Parliament.

In 1993, the House of Lords Pepper vs. Hart decision provided that statements made by Government Ministers may be taken as illustrative of legislative intent as to the interpretation of law.

This extract highlights statements made by Government Ministers along with contextual remarks by other members. The full debate can be read here

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Robert Buckland Portrait The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice (Robert Buckland)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

As the right hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy) said, it is an honour to close this debate and to follow other right hon. and hon. Members. This two-day debate has been an opportunity, first of all, for all of us to pay tribute to the memory of Sarah Everard, her loved ones and the wider community, who have expressed their shock, revulsion and anger at what has happened and at the wider issues, too.

When we talk about safety, each and every one of us has a responsibility. When women all too often feel unsafe, it is the wrong response to say to them, “Stay indoors. Don’t go out alone.” Instead of questioning the victim, we have to deal with the perpetrator. When I think about how far we have come, I sharply remind myself of how far we still have to go. I look around this House and think of colleagues from all parties—some of whom are no longer here—with whom I have had the honour to work on a cross-party basis on issues such as stalking, child abuse and coercive control. I am proud of that work, and I know that they are, too. The Domestic Abuse Bill, which is coming to the end of its progress through both Houses, has in many ways been Parliament at its very best.

The events of last week have no doubt acted as a catalyst. Society is speaking. The response to the reopened call for evidence on the Home Office’s violence against women and girls strategy has now received more than 120,000 submissions in just three days. Society is speaking, and it is for all of us to be up to the level of events.

The Bill, on which I have worked for many months—from well before the sentencing White Paper that I published in September last year—is not just the fulfilment of a manifesto commitment, important though that is; it lies at the very heart of the mission of this Government. It is another milestone along the road to creating a higher degree of public protection for victims of crime—and that very much includes women and girls. I had hoped—in fact, I believed—that we were going to be able to work with Members across this House not on the principle of the Bill but perhaps on the detail. Imagine my disappointment to hear that the Labour party has decided to oppose the Bill on Second Reading.

Let us remind ourselves of what Second Reading is all about: it is not about the detail of the Bill—whether it can be amended, improved, honed, polished or added to, as we have seen with the Domestic Abuse Bill—but about the principle. With the greatest of respect to Opposition Members, what beggars belief is that they think that now is the time to turn unity into bitterness and partnership into strife—[Interruption.] I can tell the right hon. Member for Tottenham that I am afraid that is what I have been hearing across the House. It is as if, somehow, we have descended into two nations once again, speaking past each other and not engaging in the way that we did on the Domestic Abuse Bill. To say that I am perplexed and disappointed is an understatement.

But then I read today’s Order Paper, and sadly all seems to be revealed, because we have not one reasoned amendment—we will vote on the one moved by the right hon. Member for Tottenham—but two from the Labour party. The Front-Bench amendment, which has a few names attached to it, makes a brief reference to the law on protest but, on analysis, does not really offer any solid reasons that are differences in principle in respect of Second Reading. The other reasoned amendment, which has been signed by 42 Labour party Members, offers much more direct resistance. It is clear that in principle those signatories are very much opposed to the Bill. There, frankly, lies the heart of the dilemma for the right hon. Gentleman and the Labour party: they are trapped between parts of their party that oppose, in principle, sensible, reasoned, proportionate measures that develop the law in a mature way, and the vast majority of the public, who want us to work together in the national interest. I am afraid that it looks as if party interests are being put before the national interest. It gives me no pleasure at all to say that, but I am afraid that that is what it looks like—not just to those on the Government side of the House, but to the country.

Let us look at what we did on the Domestic Abuse Bill. By working together, we moved mountains.

David Lammy Portrait Mr Lammy
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Will the Secretary of State give way?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

No, I will not give way to the right hon. Gentleman. I do not think I can do justice to the number of inaccuracies, generalisations and false assertions—inadvertent assertions, I will concede—that were made by him and, I am afraid, by other Opposition Members. They are concocting—

David Lammy Portrait Mr Lammy
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Will the Secretary of State give way?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

No, I will not give way.

Opposition Members are concocting synthetic arguments in objection that just do not stand the closest scrutiny. They are inadvertently—I will say “inadvertently”, because I will give them, of course, that courtesy—misstating some of the key provisions of this Bill.

Let us start with the juxtaposition pf sentencing for rape and criminal damage. The starting point for the lowest category of the offence of rape, as set out by the Independent Sentencing Council, is five years. With aggravating factors and different categories of offending, rape offenders will receive, and very often do receive, substantially longer sentences, leading up to those for campaigns of rape, where sentences of in excess of 20 years, or even life sentences, will be imposed, because the maximum penalty for rape is life imprisonment.

David Lammy Portrait Mr Lammy
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Will the Secretary of State give way?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

No, I will not give way.

In this Bill, we are making sure that those who commit offences such as rape spend more of their time in prison. We are ending Labour’s automatic halfway release provisions for people who receive sentences of over four years for offences such as rape and section 18 grievous bodily harm, and we are making sure that they serve two thirds of their term of imprisonment.

Turning to criminal damage, the relevant Act is now 50 years old, and for those 50 years the statutory maximum has been 10 years where the value of the damage is over £5,000. The changes in relation to criminal damage of memorials simply remove the previous restriction on the mode of trial and allow the full range of those powers to be used up to that maximum. We are simply giving the courts greater discretion as to how they sentence such offenders, taking into account the emotional and community impact of those offences.

We had, I thought, cross-party support on these measures. Indeed, back in the summer, the right hon. Member for Torfaen (Nick Thomas-Symonds) publicly backed our proposals. He said that he would work to support such efforts in Parliament. Now he is opposed. Why? Why the change? What is going on here? I will tell Members what is going on.

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds (Torfaen) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Will the Secretary of State give way?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

No, I will not give way. I will explain what is going on, and then I will let the right hon. Gentleman in.

I would suggest that what has happened here is the result of a conflation with the covid regulations and their interaction with the right to protest, which the Labour party did not oppose—it voted in favour of those on occasions or did not oppose them. They have conflated those arguments with measures in the Bill that long predate what happened on the weekend—those regrettable scenes that we all saw and were upset and appalled by. They are now conflating those issues with the issues relating to this Bill. There is no relation between the two, and I would love to hear an explanation from the right hon. Gentleman.

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful to the Secretary of State for giving way. Last year, the Government spoke about additional protection for war memorials. We all understand the value of war memorials. What we did not agree to, and I have never agreed to, is locking up people for 10 years for damaging all memorials, including those of slave traders. That just sums up everything that is wrong with the Government’s approach. They could have worked with us. They did not. They have created division.

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is a very nice try from the right hon. Gentleman, for whom I have the utmost respect, but it does not cut the ice. We know what has happened here. It is a party in panic that is weaving, twisting and wobbling because its internal management problems are far more important than the public interest. That is the truth. Here we are, at the end of a two-day debate, with the Labour party, which I concede has a proud record in supporting the police and maintaining law and order, now voting against measures to strengthen sentencing for rapists, burglars, drug dealers, sex abusers, killer drivers. All of that is being opposed by the Labour party. Let me tell Labour Members the price of that for their party.

Peter Kyle Portrait Peter Kyle
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Will the Secretary of State give way?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

No, I am not going to give way.

Much has been said about the excellent campaigns run by Labour Members. I pay tribute to the hon. Members for Barnsley East (Stephanie Peacock), for St Helens South and Whiston (Ms Rimmer) and for Rotherham (Sarah Champion), with whom I have worked very well over the years on issues relating to child abuse. Imagine the impossible position that those doughty campaigners have been put in by their Front Benchers. They are now having to vote against the very measures that they campaigned for so assiduously. That is a terrible predicament for them to be put in. It is a disgrace, and the Labour Front Benchers should hang their heads in shame.

There have been in this debate many constructive and important contributions, and I want to in the minutes that I have left—

Wes Streeting Portrait Wes Streeting
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Unlike yours.

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

They don’t like it when the truth is explained to them. They think that they have the moral high ground on all these issues. Well, I can tell you that there is no monopoly on morality in this place.

Before I deal with the excellent contributions from Members across the House, may I deal with the canard about “annoyance”? Much has been made about the somehow strange use of a word that is seen as a massive infringement on the civil liberties of men and women across this country, yet a brief perusal of the Law Commission’s report of 2015 tells us that the law has developed for centuries with phrases like “annoyance”. It is a part of the common law on public nuisance. The members of the Law Commission—they were all very good members; there was Lord Justice Lloyd Jones as he then was, and Professor David Ormerod, who is well known as an excellent academic in these fields—recommended that the law needed to be codified. The law had been restated with reference to the use of the word “annoyance” by none other than the late and noble Lord Bingham when he was in the House of Lords. He set out the law very clearly. Clause 59 amounts to no more than a reiteration of the excellent work of the Law Commission. To say anything else is, frankly, once again a confection, a concoction and a twisting of the reality.

I want to deal with the question of abuse in a position of trust. I pay particular tribute—I think all hon. Members will agree with me—to the outstanding work of my hon. Friend the Member for Chatham and Aylesford (Tracey Crouch). It has been a pleasure to see her back here. She spoke earlier. I think she has now gone home, but we all wish her well. She has, with great tenacity, campaigned to make sure that we make these provisions a reality.

I also pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Richard Graham). He asked a particular question about driving instructors. He will see in the Bill that there will be provision, by way of statutory instrument, to allow an amendment of the law to extend to further categories of occupation. It is important that there is a clear evidence base. We are dealing with young people who are transitioning to adulthood—they are 16 and 17 years of age—and it is quite clear that the evidence on sports coaches and religious leaders, sadly, did point to a need to change the law. I pay tribute to my hon. Friends and to my noble Friend Baroness Grey-Thompson for their excellent work.

On causing death by dangerous driving and causing death by careless driving while under the influence of drink or drugs, my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May) deserves our thanks and praise for pressing her Bill. I know she has welcomed the provisions. In the context of memorials, I thank my hon. Friends the Members for Bracknell (James Sunderland) and for Stoke-on-Trent North (Jonathan Gullis) for pressing their case with extreme prejudice and alacrity and for succeeding on the provision.

The Home Office parts of the Bill were outlined very well by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary yesterday. In summary, I would say that important public health duties are being extended in relation to serious violence. I have long held the view that it is only by bringing together the local agencies that we truly get ahead of the trends in serious violence and in prevention, which is of course nine tenths of what we need to be doing.

The Chair of the Justice Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Sir Robert Neill), made a weighty contribution to the debate, rightly pointing to the extra investment in alternatives to custody. At the heart of the approach I am taking as Lord Chancellor is enhancing and improving community sentencing. It has long been clear to me that we need to make sure that sentencers have a proper choice of robust community alternatives.

Wes Streeting Portrait Wes Streeting
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I asked whether the Lord Chancellor could explain to my community why someone who was in a position of trust—deputy manager of a care home—who peddled kids to deal drugs across the country got a prison sentence of only four years. What is he going to do about that?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The hon. Gentleman knows that matters dealt with in court are matters for the independent judiciary, but I will look at the case, because it is vital that we make sure that those who are involved in organised crime and abuse—that is what that case sounds like to me—are properly dealt with, and that the wider issues are addressed. I share his concern.

Peter Kyle Portrait Peter Kyle
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Will the Lord Chancellor give way?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Not at the moment.

I am particularly pleased to thank my hon. Friend the Member for North Wiltshire (James Gray), who represented the family of Ellie Gould, the murder victim of whose case I think everyone in this House is fully aware. It is important to take on board the points he made about domestic homicide. I have spoken elsewhere about the importance of getting the balance right when it comes to the categories of murder. I committed to a review—I did that last week—and I will bring before the House further information on the content of that important review.

In the minutes left, I am pleased to commend to the House a radical new approach to the way in which we deal with young people—children—who are incarcerated in the secure estate. The days of locking them up and forgetting about them absolutely have to end; we all agree on that. That is why the measures to clarify the legal framework surrounding new secure schools will allow a complete change in the way in which we deal with, support, rehabilitate and educate children in our care. Schools with security will have education, wellbeing and purposeful activity at their very heart. As ever, I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Rob Butler) for his constructive suggestions and his work as a member of the Justice Committee.

Let me outline on the record the important provisions in the Bill relating to unauthorised encampments. Many right hon. and hon. Members have raised the issue. It is a real concern for many of our constituents.

Steve Baker Portrait Mr Steve Baker (Wycombe) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The pages of the Bucks Free Press attest to the sheer scale of the costs to our green spaces and our communities of unauthorised encampments. Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that on this issue and on protests, the Opposition are refusing to engage with legitimate limits on both freedoms?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My hon. Friend puts it very well. This is all about balancing the rights of Traveller communities to use authorised encampments and to enjoy the lifestyle that they have chosen, and the rights of householders not to have their local communities despoiled. That is what we are seeking to do. The Bill, in my strong submission, allows that balance to be maintained and enhanced.

The Bill is part of our wider approach to making the criminal justice system smarter, and to keeping our streets safe from the worst criminals, while giving offenders opportunities to turn their life around. We can rebalance the justice system. We can restore faith in it, which has sadly been in decline for too long. The Bill is a welcome step forward, and I commend it to the House.

Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Eleanor Laing)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Order. We require social distancing in the Chamber at all times, please.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

--- Later in debate ---
19:00

Division 238

Ayes: 225


Labour: 197
Liberal Democrat: 11
Democratic Unionist Party: 8
Independent: 4
Plaid Cymru: 3
Social Democratic & Labour Party: 2
Alliance: 1
Green Party: 1

Noes: 359


Conservative: 359

The list of Members currently certified as eligible for a proxy vote, and of the Members nominated as their proxy, is published at the end of today’s debates.
--- Later in debate ---
19:10

Division 239

Ayes: 359


Conservative: 359

Noes: 263


Labour: 196
Scottish National Party: 47
Liberal Democrat: 11
Independent: 4
Plaid Cymru: 3
Social Democratic & Labour Party: 2
Alliance: 1
Green Party: 1

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill (First sitting)

(Limited Text - Ministerial Extracts only)

Read Full debate
Committee stage
Tuesday 18th May 2021

(3 years, 1 month ago)

Public Bill Committees
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 Read Hansard Text Amendment Paper: Public Bill Committee Amendments as at 18 May 2021 - (18 May 2021)

This text is a record of ministerial contributions to a debate held as part of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 passage through Parliament.

In 1993, the House of Lords Pepper vs. Hart decision provided that statements made by Government Ministers may be taken as illustrative of legislative intent as to the interpretation of law.

This extract highlights statements made by Government Ministers along with contextual remarks by other members. The full debate can be read here

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Before we begin, I have a few preliminary announcements. First, let me ask you to switch any electronic devices off or to silent mode. I remind you that Mr Speaker does not allow tea or coffee to be consumed during sittings of this Committee. This is really difficult, but you have to try to observe the social distancing arrangements and sit only in the places that are marked. I ask you to wear a face mask when you are not speaking, unless you are medically exempt. Space is a bit tight in this room, so people just have to observe social distancing and try to make it as easy for people as possible as they are moving around.

Today we will consider, first, the programme motion on the amendment paper. We will then consider a motion to enable the reporting of written evidence for publication and then a motion to allow us to deliberate in private about our questions, before the oral evidence session. In view of the time available, I hope that we can take all those matters without debate. Before we hear evidence from our first panel, we will have a short briefing from the Parliamentary Digital Service on cyber-security, which is of particular concern to members of this Committee because we are dealing with matters relating to the police and criminal law. The programme motion was discussed on Monday by the Programming Sub-Committee for this Bill.

Victoria Atkins Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Victoria Atkins)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I beg to move,

That—

(1) the Committee shall (in addition to its first meeting at 9.25 am on Tuesday 18 May) meet—

(a) at 2.00 pm on Tuesday 18 May;

(b) at 11.30 am and 2.00 pm on Thursday 20 May;

(c) at 9.25 am and 2.00 pm on Tuesday 25 May;

(d) at 11.30 am and 2.00 pm on Thursday 27 May;

(e) at 9.25 am and 2.00 pm on Tuesday 8 June;

(f) at 11.30 am and 2.00 pm on Thursday 10 June;

(g) at 9.25 am and 2.00 pm on Tuesday 15 June;

(h) at 11.30 am and 2.00 pm on Thursday 17 June;

(i) at 9.25 am and 2.00 pm on Tuesday 22 June;

(j) at 11.30 am and 2.00 pm on Thursday 24 June;

(2) the Committee shall hear oral evidence in accordance with the following Table:

Date

Time

Witness

Tuesday 18 May

Until no later than 10.30 am

The National Police Chiefs’ Council

Tuesday 18 May

Until no later than 11.25 am

The Police Superintendents’ Association; The Police Federation of England and Wales

Tuesday 18 May

Until no later than 2.45 pm

The Centre for Justice Innovation; The Centre for Social Justice

Tuesday 18 May

Until no later than 3.30 pm

Jonathan Hall QC, the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation; HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services

Tuesday 18 May

Until no later than 4.15 pm

Local Government Association; The Association of Police and Crime Commissioners

Tuesday 18 May

Until no later than 4.45 pm

Doughty Street Chambers; Garden Court Chambers

Tuesday 18 May

Until no later than 5.15 pm

Youth Justice Board

Tuesday 18 May

Until no later than 5.45 pm

The Bar Council

Thursday 20 May

Until no later than 12.15 pm

National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders; Unlock

Thursday 20 May

Until no later than 1 pm

The Victims’ Commissioner

Thursday 20 May

Until no later than 2.45 pm

The Children’s Society; Community Justice Scotland

Thursday 20 May

Until no later than 3.30 pm

The Association of Youth Offending Team Managers

Thursday 20 May

Until no later than 4.15 pm

The Law Society

Thursday 20 May

Until no later than 5 pm

Howard League for Penal Reform; Criminal Justice Alliance; Women in Prison; Sentencing Academy

Thursday 20 May

Until no later than 5.45 pm

Professor Colin Clark, University of the West of Scotland; Amnesty International UK; Liberty



(3) proceedings on consideration of the Bill in Committee shall be taken in the following order: Clauses 1 to 10, Schedule 1, Clause 11, Schedule 2, Clauses 12 to 42, Schedule 3, Clause 43, Schedule 4, Clauses 44 to 47, Schedule 5, Clauses 48 to 51, Schedule 6, Clauses 52 to 66, Schedule 7, Clauses 67 to 73, Schedule 8, Clause 74, Schedule 9, Clauses 75 to 97, Schedule 10, Clauses 98 to 100, Schedule 11, Clauses 101 to 127, Schedule 12, Clause 128, Schedule 13, Clause 129, Schedule 14, Clauses 130 to 134, Schedule 15, Clause 135, Schedule 16, Clauses 136 to 156, Schedule 17, Clauses 157 to 161, Schedule 18, Clauses 162 to 168, Schedule 19, Clauses 169 to 171, Schedule 20, Clauses 172 to 176, new Clauses, new Schedules, remaining proceedings on the Bill;

(4) the proceedings shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at 5.00 pm on Thursday 24 June.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon South (Chris Philp), and I are both delighted to serve under your chairmanship, Mr McCabe. I welcome to the Committee my hon. Friends, on the Government Benches, and hon. Members across the room. I am sure that we can expect some lively debates in the days and weeks of scrutiny ahead.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That, subject to the discretion of the Chair, any written evidence received by the Committee shall be reported to the House for publication.—(Victoria Atkins.)

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Copies of written evidence that the Committee receives will be circulated to members by email and made available in the Committee Room.

Resolved,

That, at this and any subsequent meeting at which oral evidence is to be heard, the Committee shall sit in private until the witnesses are admitted.—(Victoria Atkins.)

--- Later in debate ---
None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Thank you. I have got to switch to the Minister, Victoria Atkins. If there is time, I will come back to Sarah Jones.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Thank you. Like Sarah, I will try to ask quick questions and I would welcome quick answers. First, on the police covenant, I would like to clarify that the covenant applies to officers, staff and volunteers in the police service, and to those who have left as well as those currently serving. Is that correct?

Assistant Commissioner Hewitt: That is right.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q In relation to the serious violence duty, we all acknowledge that we cannot arrest our way out of the problem, particularly with the emergence of county lines. Do you welcome the efforts under the duty to get all the relevant local agencies, including local councils, health services and educational services, to work together to draw up a plan to prevent serious violence in their local areas?

Assistant Commissioner Hewitt: Yes, I welcome that very much. In some senses, that was previously there. When you look, in particular, at the work that has been done by violence reduction units in the past year to 18 months—a couple of years, in fact—getting all the relevant agencies in the local area to focus on and prioritise reducing violence, and play their part, is the way to reduce levels successfully. We can never do that purely by enforcement. This is a really important opportunity to bring all those groups together and focus on violence in their local area.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Importantly, that also brings transparency to collective efforts to tackle serious violence, because the plans and processes will be transparent, and the public will be aware of what is happening locally.

Assistant Commissioner Hewitt: The fact that it is a partnership is really important as well.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q On public order, we heard mention earlier of the phrase “serious annoyance” in clause 59. That brings the common law offence of public nuisance on to the statute book. Chief Constable, could you help us understand why the police want us to put that common law offence on to the statute book? Could you also explain the derivation of the wording, particularly that phrase “serious annoyance”? In other words, the history of the common law offence of public nuisance over many centuries has included that phrase. It may not mean the same in legal terms as it does in common parlance.

Chief Constable Harrington: We did ask for public nuisance to be made statutory. A Law Commission report from 2015 clearly set out more broadly some of the benefits of doing that. The report refers to:

“serious distress, annoyance, inconvenience or loss of amenity; or is put at risk of suffering any of these things”.

The measure would be for more unusual kinds of protest activity that are not a march. Historically, people have hung off gantries of cranes, where there is serious inconvenience and loss of amenity.

Importantly, making it statutory establishes two things. First, the rules are very clear to those who have to use and understand the legislation. The common law is good, but it is steeped in decided cases and judgments that are often difficult to extract for non-lawyers. It allows Parliament to be clear about what the phrases mean, and to give guidance to policing and the public on what is intended. From a policing perspective, where we have intelligence or information, it allows us to act in advance to prevent some of those issues, where proportionate and necessary. That is the difference that it makes. We are working from the Law Commission report in 2015, which states a number of benefits. We see those as very important for those reasons.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q To clarify, that phrasing has derived not from Home Office officials or Ministers dreaming it up on the back of an envelope; it follows many centuries of legal development, culminating in the 2015 report by the Law Commission.

Chief Constable Harrington: Yes, that is the Law Commission’s summary of what that should be. That is where that phrase appears. We welcome the clarity; making it part of statute allows for phrases such as that and others to be clearly defined for us and for the public.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q My final question is on the extraction of information from digital devices. Particularly in the context of sexual offences, we have an understanding of the impact that searching and seizing digital devices, sometimes for very long periods of time, can have on complainants and their willingness to start and support the police in an investigation and on the attrition rate, where complainants withdraw from cases as they progress. What is your understanding of the framework and code of practice set out in the Bill? What will that do to help complainants in future, particularly in relation to sexual offences, although it will apply across the board?

Assistant Commissioner Hewitt: As I alluded to, it is critical to have a clear code of practice and framework to ensure the extraction to be proportionate and necessary for that investigation, and to be very clear about timelines, how that will be done and how the victim—or the complainant—will be treated throughout. This has been a very challenging area for us. Having that certainty and clarity of the guidelines will help to ensure that everybody understands the process. As I said, the ability for us to do that as quickly as we can, to deliver the evidence we need, is really important to maintain confidence, as you say, for people to come forward, and to maintain those complainants throughout the process, to reduce the attrition levels.

Chris Philp Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Chris Philp)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q As always, it is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr McCabe. I join other members of the Committee in thanking the police for their service in the difficult circumstances over the past year.

I have two brief questions. The first relates to the proposed increase in the penalty for assaulting an emergency worker from 12 months to two years. Does the police service welcome that change? Do they think that it will potentially deter people from attempting to assault officers in the discharge of their duties?

Assistant Commissioner Hewitt: Yes, we welcome that change very much. It is sad to report that we have seen a steady increase in assaults on emergency workers, primarily police officers. In the month up to 14 March this year, there was a 19% increase on the previous year in assaults on emergency workers, predominantly police officers.

We have done an enormous amount of work in the service; we did an officer and staff safety review process, which is working to improve the safety of our officers and staff. We have worked closely with the Crown Prosecution Service, which has been supportive in achieving charges where officers or staff are assaulted in the course of their duties. I think the increase in the sentence is positive, provided, of course, that those sentences are handed down when people are found guilty at court. We are supportive of that, because it demonstrates the seriousness and the importance of the fact that, although our officers and staff protect the public and do dangerous things, they should not expect routinely to be assaulted.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

We completely agree, thank you. My final question relates to out of court disposals. There are proposals in this Bill to simplify the number of out of court disposals from six to two. That has been trialled, I think, in three forces over the past few years—

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Order. Minister, I am very sorry to interrupt you, but we are out of time. We will have to save that question for another witness or another occasion. I am afraid that brings us to the end of the Committee’s allotted time to ask questions. I thank our witnesses on behalf of the Committee. Apologies, Minister, but we are on a pretty tight schedule.

Examination of Witnesses

Chief Superintendent Paul Griffiths and John Apter gave evidence.

--- Later in debate ---
None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Okay; that is fine.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Thank you to you both for all the work that your organisations have done in the past 12 months and, in particular, in relation to the police covenant in the Bill, which I think is welcomed by everybody. Mr Apter, how do you propose to support chief constables to ensure that the outcomes of the covenant are felt by all officers, former officers and staff, and their families?

John Apter: I think we are pushing on an open door. Policing has changed significantly over the past decade or so, and it is the same with chief constables, who may previously have been reluctant to get certain wellbeing initiatives into place. There is wholesale agreement that the covenant will be a positive thing for policing.

The issue we have at the moment is that although we know the principles of the covenant, we do not really know what exactly will be in it. Chief constables know me very well, and I, on behalf of the organisation, will be holding them to account, but I genuinely think that it will be a partnership. Perhaps that is naive, but if, as expected, the legislation allows the covenant to be enshrined in law, I will be saying to chief constables very clearly, “This is not something you can cherry-pick. This is in legislation. This is to benefit our colleagues, staff, volunteers and so on. It is not a nice-to-have; it is an essential.” So they will be held to account, but in fairness I think it will be a productive partnership.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Thank you. Let me move on to protests, because Parliament is particularly interested in scrutinising those measures. Mr Griffiths, you mentioned gold and silver commanders, who are in charge of the police reaction to some protests. Could you give us a little more understanding of what those roles mean, the responsibilities they have, and the training and experience that those officers will have had before they are able to become gold and silver commanders?

Chief Superintendent Griffiths: Most of them have probably worked their way through the hierarchy of public order command systems, from right at the frontline, following through to supervisory and management roles, but not necessarily in all cases. There is a detailed training command course for public order leads, which embodies everything that you would expect: to understand the tactics necessary when utilising public order, seeking the appropriate advice and guidance, understanding the law and the community, and all the different aspects of decision making that are so important to understand how best to corral a crowd or deal with a peaceful protest.

They will learn how to deal with everything from small, minor protests with just some shouting, to some of the challenges that, sadly, we have seen in the past 12 months, where they have faced attacks by missiles, etc. The training is detailed. I have absolute confidence in some of the public order commanders. We have to understand that they are called to make really difficult judgment calls, balancing human rights of individuals and the recognition of their own staff and the public. They make difficult decisions in a short space of time. It is a credit to them as individuals and to the training processes that allow them to do that.

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Minister Philp?

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Thank you. Based on your response to Alex Cunningham’s question, you may not be able to answer this, but I wanted to double check. Do you have any view on the proposals to reform out-of-court disposals, in particular to simplify the current six kinds of caution down to two kinds of caution, which has been trialled in three force areas over the past few years?

Chief Superintendent Griffiths: You are right to clarify that. Unfortunately, we have not been consulted on that particular aspect. If I can provide written evidence, we will explore a response and get back to you.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Thank you. In that case, my only other question relates to the proposal to double the sentence for the assault of an emergency worker from 12 months to 24 months. Do you welcome that, and do you think it would have a deterrent effect on people who might decide to try to assault your officers in the course of their duties?

John Apter: Absolutely, the risk of a custodial sentence would be a meaningful deterrent, as well as everything else. As I said, it is about the training and equipment that officers and staff have. But I go back to my earlier point: the increase in sentencing will mean nothing if the sentencing guidelines do not allow the courts to use those powers effectively. Far too often, my colleagues feel that the wider criminal justice system lets them down. We need to address that, as well as increase sentences. Yes, I believe that it would be a deterrent.

Chief Superintendent Griffiths: It is very much welcome and supported. There is a hope that it will be a deterrent. We recognise that any sort of assault on emergency workers has a complex and dynamic number of factors that may cause that situation to arise. We must do everything in our power to eliminate or minimise every aspect of those factors. Hopefully, it will have a deterrent effect, and will send a very strong message from Parliament to emergency workers to say, “You are valued for what you do. We support you, and you should not have that sort of risk when trying to carry out your duties.” We will review the situation over time, to see what the deterrent effect is, but we are grateful for the support that Parliament proposes.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Thank you. It may be worth you engaging with the Sentencing Council once the legislation passes, to ensure the sentencing guidelines reflect the seriousness of the offence, and that the sentences in practice reflect Parliament’s intention.

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Now is a good time to draw this session to a close. I thank the witnesses for their evidence this morning.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill (Second sitting)

(Limited Text - Ministerial Extracts only)

Read Full debate
Committee stage
Tuesday 18th May 2021

(3 years, 1 month ago)

Public Bill Committees
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 Read Hansard Text Amendment Paper: Public Bill Committee Amendments as at 18 May 2021 - (18 May 2021)

This text is a record of ministerial contributions to a debate held as part of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 passage through Parliament.

In 1993, the House of Lords Pepper vs. Hart decision provided that statements made by Government Ministers may be taken as illustrative of legislative intent as to the interpretation of law.

This extract highlights statements made by Government Ministers along with contextual remarks by other members. The full debate can be read here

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

I am afraid I have to strike a balance and I have to switch to the Minister, for his questions. I am sorry.

Chris Philp Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Chris Philp)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Thank you, Mr McCabe. To pick up on the questions asked by the hon. Member for Stockton North (Alex Cunningham) about minimum sentences, we have minimum sentences in very rare circumstances at present. Can you give the Committee your views about the pros and cons or the considerations we should have in mind if any proposals are made to increase the range of circumstances or offences to which minimum sentences might be applied?

Adrian Crossley: So that I understand the question and I answer it properly, are you asking what merits we would need to see in order for there to be an expansion of minimum tariffs in sentencing? Is that what you mean?

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Or the risks. What are your views about the principles of the possibility?

Adrian Crossley: My own view is that judicial discretion should be king. I have not done any huge research into this, but in my view and from my practice, sentencing guidelines have become very prescriptive and they almost railroad judges into decisions. Judges always have parameters to work within, but what is before the court is often something that is necessarily unique. Minimum sentencing can shackle decision makers who are acutely aware of the facts in front of them.

The only benefit I see is in cases where there are overwhelming public interest concerns that mean that a minimum tariff would adequately address a specific mischief and would undo it. If I were to see that, I would regard that as a pro for minimum sentences. I would need to see an evidence base that that would achieve that.

Phil Bowen: I agree with what Adrian says. In general, a lot of the evidence from, for example, the United States on mandatory minimums is not encouraging, but I see an argument for Parliament identifying particular crimes of concern and putting those in place. We should be clear that the deterrent effect of that is likely to be pretty mixed. The evidence is pretty mixed about whether that kind of thing really does deter future crime, but I can see the public need for the Government to be seen to respond to public desires around particular signal crimes. That is why, although I do not reject them out of hand, I agree entirely with Adrian that judicial discretion is extraordinarily important because judges will know the facts of the case much better than the press or the public watching on.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q In relation to the proposals to make curfews potentially longer and more flexible, do you think that will make community sentences potentially more effective and might, furthermore, potentially reduce reoffending?

Phil Bowen: I think the emphasis in the Bill and the White Paper on flexibility around the use of electronic monitoring is the strongest part of the proposals. What the Ministry seems to be doing, which I think is right, is to encourage probation officer discretion and the flexible use of electronic monitoring powers, both to control people where there is need for further control, and to loosen up things where they are doing well. Part of the problem with electronic monitoring to date has been far too rigid sets of curfews without the ability for probation officers to vary them while people are on community sentences. I certainly support that.

In terms of providing for longer periods of electronic monitoring, I can see cases where that may well be useful. The only note of caution that I would suggest to the Committee is that the evidence base suggests that for younger people—in particular, young adults who live at home and people assessed as low risk—longer periods of electronic location monitoring can have a backfire effect. In other words, it can lead to increases in reoffending. All that really means is that the Bill provides the powers that it does, and it is then the job of the probation service to use those powers as flexibly as possible and in line with the evidence.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Thank you. I was going to ask about problem-solving courts, but I think that was covered adequately in earlier questions. I think Minister Atkins has some questions.

Victoria Atkins Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Victoria Atkins)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q This is a quick question for Mr Crossley. The CSJ has obviously done a lot of work over the years on gang crime and on the many levers we can try to use to address it. What is the CSJ’s view of serious violence reduction orders, namely the piloting of stop-and-search orders for known—in other words, convicted—knife offenders aged over 18?

Adrian Crossley: This policy actually has its origins in the CSJ. We are obviously very supportive of the serious violence reduction order. Just for clarity, and so I can answer that more fully, this is a post-conviction order. We regard it as being part of the wider system. We do not regard it as a stand-alone solution to knife crime in our country.

We see a very significant increase, not just in possession of weapon offences, but of violent offences perpetrated with the use of a weapon. What is clear to us is that we need to do something about that which is robust enough to challenge the mindset of someone leaving their home with a weapon. We draw from the group violence intervention models piloted in Boston in the US under Operation Ceasefire, which create a sort of pull-push effect. We really want to deter people from being able to leave the home feeling that they are safe walking around with a weapon. They should know that they are much more likely to attract police attention if they are on these orders. At the same time, in the sentencing court, we would hope that the order would be able to include other, positive provisions—perhaps even a knife crime behaviour order. Real intervention, engaging young people and pulling them away from that sort of offending can also have a pull effect away from that kind of offence.

I should say that currently, as it is being piloted, it is only for adults. Our view is that knife possession is pervasive across a number of age groups: it is particularly concerning when young people are carrying knives. We would like to see this scheme really being rolled out, so that we can intervene early when people are younger, to see that we do everything we can to take knives off the street and keep people safer.

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

As it is 2.45 pm, we had better call this session to an end. I thank the witnesses for the evidence they have given to the Committee.

Examination of Witnesses 

Jonathan Hall QC and Matt Parr gave evidence.

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None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

I am going to have to stop you there. I will switch to the Government side and Victoria Atkins.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Thank you. First, Mr Hall, I would like to understand how the measures relating to MAPPA in clause 162 will improve public protection and the management of terrorist offenders.

Jonathan Hall QC: First of all, it means that anyone who is a risky offender—whatever they were put inside for, whether they were sentenced for a terrorist offence or were sentenced for a non-terrorist one but are in fact a risk—can be managed under MAPPA. The law as it stands states that someone must be a risk based on their offending.

To take the example of a fraudster who went to prison and was then dangerously radicalised and became a terrorist risk, their risk would not in fact flow from their offending. Clause 162 cures that, so that anyone who is identified as a terrorist risk may be manged under MAPPA. That is a good thing, because the authorities found it quite hard to deal with that cohort of people.

The other thing that clause 162 does is to make it very clear that people can provide information to MAPPA without having to do what they used to do when I carried out my review, which was to look for information gateways in, for example, the Children Act 1989 or the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, because they did not feel that there was a clear basis for them to share information with MAPPA. As you will understand, the key thing about managing terrorist risk is that all the right information should be receivable. Clause 162 cures that point as well.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

In other words, dealing with the reality presented by a very small number of the most dangerous offenders—dealing with that reality, rather than being constrained by the fact that they committed a fraud offence in the past, rather than a terrorist offence.

Jonathan Hall QC: Exactly.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Thank you. May I clarify something, Mr Parr? Please forgive me if this was my mishearing or misunderstanding. You asked a series of questions in relation to the public order measures and at one point, I think, used “significant”, rather than “serious”. You said that HMIC had looked at the risk of serious disruption and so on. Is that correct? Did I understand you correctly?

Matt Parr: There were four tests in the law as it stands, one of which is “serious disruption”. Clause 55, I think, changes that to “significant disruption”, among some others. It is a general lowering of the bar.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q I must confess that I cannot see that wording—perhaps we can take this up afterwards. Clause 55(6) talks about

“serious disruption to the activities of an organisation”,

or,

“serious disruption to the life of the community.”

That is the wording in clause 54 as well. As you will understand, clauses 54 and 55 are about ensuring consistency between moving protest and static protest. We heard from police witnesses this morning that one can flow into the other very easily, and back again.

May I also ask about clause 59? That places the common law offence of public nuisance on the statute book. Does the inspectorate have any views on that, or has it made any recommendations on it previously?

Matt Parr: Not previously, but we did in the report we put out in March. That was one of the five proposals that the Home Secretary asked us to comment on in particular. Our view was that we agreed with what the Law Commission recommended back in 2015, I think. We concluded, for much the same reasons as they did, that that was a sensible thing to do. In summary, we thought that protesters deserve to know where they stand, and that there was no harm in making the rules clearer than they are. It was supporting the Law Commission’s proposal.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Thank you very much indeed.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q May I start by asking Matt Parr if you have any views on the proposals for out-of-court disposals, in particular to simplify the current number of out-of-court disposals, cautions and so on from six down to two, following the pilot that took place in three force areas?

Matt Parr: I am really sorry. I have not looked at that. I cannot give you an answer, I am afraid.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Not to worry; no problem at all.

Let me turn to Jonathan, if I may, going back to clause 108, which Alex Cunningham was asking about. This is in relation to prisoners sentenced for non-terrorist offences who are deemed to become high risk in the course of their sentence. To clarify, is your understanding of the clause the same as mine—that the Secretary of State does not have the power to unilaterally ask for their prolonged incarceration, but instead the Secretary of State simply has a power to refer the prisoner to the Parole Board, which will then make the assessment of dangerousness? It is the Parole Board that makes the decision, not the Secretary of State; the Secretary of State simply refers. Is that your understanding as well?

Jonathan Hall QC: Yes. I have it in front of me. I think the point that Mr Cunningham was making is that it is the Secretary of State who refers it, but you are right: it is the Secretary of State who refers it, but ultimately it is the Parole Board that decides.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q I think Mr Cunningham said that the Secretary of State took the decision, so I was simply seeking to clarify that the Secretary of State refers but the Parole Board decides. Mr Cunningham also made a point about the prospect of longer incarceration, and he quoted the Prison Reform Trust. Jonathan, can you confirm that no one can stay in prison for longer than the sentence handed down by the judge? What this is simply doing is potentially removing the release point, and removing the release point within a sentence— a sentence handed down by the judge that cannot be exceeded—is considered lawful and compatible with ECHR and other rights. Indeed, we have done it before, have we not, in changing the automatic release provisions in previous legislation?

Jonathan Hall QC: Yes, that is right. When the Terrorist Offenders (Restriction of Early Release) Act 2020—the emergency legislation that came in after the attack at Fishmongers’ Hall—transformed people from automatic release prisoners to people who would have to apply to the Parole Board at the two-thirds point, it had an effect on people who are currently serving. That was challenged in the courts by one of the affected prisoners, and the High Court concluded that it was consistent with article 7.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Exactly, and this would have a similar effect. I was the Bill Minister for that Bill, and I was delighted that the High Court found our legislation to be lawful and compatible with human rights.

The final point that Mr Cunningham raised was in relation to the potential for a cliff edge if somebody serves all of their sentence in prison and is not released early. He referred to the possibility of a cliff edge, which exists in various other contexts that you have referred to already. Am I right in saying that if the Government, the security services or the authorities are concerned about the risk that a particular prisoner might pose following release if they were released without licence conditions because they had served all of the sentence, it would be open to the security services, acting through the Secretary of State for the Home Department, to apply for a TPIM if they felt the threshold was met? That would be one option available if they wanted to manage risk, accepting that TPIMs are rarely used.

Jonathan Hall QC: You anticipated what I was going to say. Yes, that is available, but TPIMs are very resource-intensive, and they are very rarely used for that reason.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

That is an option. That is extremely helpful clarification.

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Does anyone else have any questions?

Alex Cunningham Portrait Alex Cunningham
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I misunderstood the line about the role of the Parole Board. I was concerned about what happens beyond the completion of the sentence. As the Minister says, the TPIM is used only in extremely rare circumstances, and it was unclear when that would apply and when it would not apply. Again, my concern is the cliff edge—somebody being released into the community without any licence conditions or further restrictions on their movements.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q To clarify, the serving of the full sentence is a matter for the Parole Board. It is open to the Parole Board to choose to release the prisoner after the automatic release point but before the end of the sentence, in which case there would be a period on licence between the release point and the end of the sentence. It does not follow automatically that they would be released with no licence period following, although it is possible.

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None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

I think we will switch to the ministerial side of the Committee.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q On the subject of unauthorised encampments, can you give us any insight about the harms and costs caused by unauthorised encampments in your local areas?

Alison Hernandez: I want to be really clear what we are all talking about. We are not talking about all Gypsies and Travellers.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Exactly.

Alison Hernandez: We are not talking about the travelling community. We are talking about a minority of people. I have examples in Exeter city where the local authority created a very nice site so that we could admit them quicker from where they were. It had everything that they needed and the facilities that they wanted, and it was in a nice, secluded spot. When the police went in to evict them, they decided not to go to that site that was available to them. They wanted to go to the next game that they wanted to play. Let’s be really clear about this: we are talking about a minority of people who do not want to abide by the law of this country. I believe we need this offence to support our communities and to send a very strong message: you do not do this type of behaviour.

I mentioned the £18,500 metal fencing created at Drumbridges roundabout to stop them accessing that land. They broke into that land. I have communities who will tell me that they have spotters who go ahead to break open the gates, so they will use the excuse that the gates were already open. All these sorts of things are happening. I have asked about CCTV—can we put it on the main sites where we have these things happening? It cannot be done, because of human rights—because it is where someone is living. Every place you turn to as a community to try to solve this problem is not available.

For me, harms are being caused. On Dartmoor alone, when they had an unauthorised encampment, it became absolutely huge. When these things get so huge, no one can move them on, because the amount of resource required to do so is immense. The bailiffs were going to cost £50,000 a day, and they would still need police back-up in order to do it. The cost is absolutely huge. There is something about sending a message through this Bill which tells the public that we are on their side and that we do not support people who do not want to abide by the law.

David Lloyd: I entirely agree with that. In Welwyn Garden City, we have a person who has almost been driven to the verge of bankruptcy because there was an unauthorised encampment which decided, at the same time, to take on industrial-level fly-tipping. It would cost about £150,000 to move those materials. That originally happened 18 months or two years ago. It is still there among all the woodland.

These people are at the end of their tether. The cost is not just monetary. I have people calling me who really are frightened because they have had large numbers of people on their own land and they feel intimidated and personally threatened. We need to do something about it. Much of it is about sending a message.

While I recognise that it is not helped, as I said earlier, by the fact that local authorities do not provide sufficient spots for Travellers to move on to—I recognise that is something we need to do—we also need to send a message that these people can be moved on if they are in an unauthorised place. We need to send that message out again, as Alison has said far more ably than me, so that the public recognise that we are on their side and we are on the side of the underdog.

Councillor Caliskan: All I would add is that I recognise that there are strongly held views, and we have councils who articulate exactly what colleagues on this panel have spoken about. It can be a huge cost to a local authority.

The best way to deal with these issues is through a collaborative approach, not just through agencies in a particular area, but also with the communities themselves who may be occupying the space. Something has got to give at some point, and an obvious solution is trying to identify space. Local authorities absolutely do not want to be encouraging criminality and disruption, not least because it costs a lot of money, but we could be going round and round in circles unless we find a long-term solution. I recognise that the Bill is an attempt to do that. All I would say is that in order for there to be a collaborative approach, alongside that there needs to be an approach that is about dialogue with communities, too. I do not think that contradicts anything that other panel members have said.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Just to assist the Committee, clause 61 focuses on the conditions whereby this offence can be committed. The phrases “significant damage”, “significant disruption” and “significant distress” appear to cover the descriptions given by Commissioner Hernandez and Commissioner Lloyd.

On the serious violence duty, where the Government are requiring local agencies to work together to draw together plans to tackle serious violence in their local areas, I am happy to reassure Commissioner Lloyd that clause 13 very much views police and crime commissioners and mayors with policing powers as having a convening role in that. What value do you think will be gained in your local areas from requiring these organisations—vital as they are, in their many ways, in tackling the serious violence that we hope to prevent—to get around a table and work together with schools and educational establishments, in particular, to ensure that we prevent serious violence?

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Very briefly, please, because we are almost out of time.

David Lloyd: Things that are asked for specifically and are required of us get done. This measure strengthens what many of us are already putting into our own police and crime plans. It is always better to place a duty on us, because that ensures that it gets done. We really do need to ensure that the scourge of serious violence is reduced. There are many parts of the country—thankfully not Hertfordshire—where this is out of control, and this measure will help.

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None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

We had better move to the Government side.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q I should declare that I am a door tenant at Red Lion Chambers. Mr Wagner, I will first deal with the issues you raised. Presumably you accept that freedom of speech and freedom to assemble are qualified rights.

Adam Wagner: Yes, of course.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q And presumably you accept—well, you tell me. Do you accept that the Public Order Act 1986 is a piece of legislation that has stood the test of time and should remain in law?

Adam Wagner: I think I would be neutral on that. It is a very wide piece of legislation. Every time I read it, I am pretty surprised at how wide it is already. What I am pretty clear about is that section 12 does not need to be widened.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q So the Public Order Act 1986 goes too far for your liking in some instances in section 12.

Adam Wagner: Well, potentially. The proof is often in the pudding. It depends on how the police use it and whether they are using it effectively. I have read the report from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services. I speak to a lot of police, and my experience is that they know they have a wide suite of powers when it comes to protest. What they struggle with, if you look at what has happened over the covid regulations, is deciding when to use them and what is proportionate. These are very difficult policing situations, and they are not necessarily solved by imposing widespread conditions that may lead to legal challenges, which may be successful. Successful policing of protests ultimately comes down to working with the protesters and civil society—hearts and minds stuff from the police. You saw that with the Sarah Everard vigil, and you see that with Extinction Rebellion and Black Lives Matter. I do not think you can really enforce your way out of some of the disruption caused by protest. It is really about allowing voices to be heard and being careful.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q And yet the 1986 Act, which you have described as very wide ranging, has permitted the protests that you have described by some of the organisations you have described—yes?

Adam Wagner: Well, in part. The Public Order Act was used quite extensively over the course of the Extinction Rebellion protests, and Black Lives Matter was under the covid regulations last summer. That was the power that was used, and those are much more extensive. The covid regulations are far too extensive. We saw there the problems when the police are given too much power, because then they have to make what are not really public order decisions but substantive political decisions about which protests they do and do not allow. That is the danger. I do not think it is a right-wing or left-wing issue; any Government should be worried about protests being limited by political decisions, rather than public order decisions.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Mr Wagner, just to be clear, you are the only person thus far in this Committee who has used the phrases “right wing” or “left wing”. Presumably you are pleased that in clause 54(3) the Government have introduced the objective test of a person of reasonable firmness in order to assist police officers making the very difficult decisions—as you yourself have said—under this part of the Bill. In other words, it is an objective test, rather than a subjective test.

Adam Wagner: I think the objective test would assist the courts; I do not think it would assist police officers. Anything that limits these powers is better than not, but I just think the powers themselves are too wide for the reasons I have set out. I do not think that helps anything. From a policing perspective, applying all those tests is not going to be easy anyway. Really, this is about the width of the powers overall as a package, rather than the reasonable firmness test or anything like that.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Chair, I am conscious of time. Mr Willers, I want to draw to your attention the drafting of clause 61. I hope that you would accept that it is very focused on Travellers or people in unauthorised encampments. In other words, they are seeking to reside or are residing on private land without the consent of the occupier. Proposed new section 60C(4) of the 1994 Act lays out conditions that have to be fulfilled in order for this particular offence to be satisfied, including “significant damage”, “significant disruption” and “significant distress”—yes?

Marc Willers QC: I do not think it would just be related to private lands—

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I accept that. There are provisions on common lands as well—you are quite right.

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

I think we had better let Mr Willers answer as we are going to run completely out of time.

Marc Willers QC: It covers private and public land, and common land, and you are right that the conditions are “significant damage”, “significant disruption” and “significant distress”. My comments earlier were about the fact that significant damage and disruption can be covered by other legislation. The “significant distress” point was one I made in the context of the fact that the occupier may have their own impression of “significant distress”, or may suffer significant distress because of an inherent prejudice towards Gypsies and Travellers.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

So what is appropriate distress—

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

I am really sorry Minister, but we are going to have to stop there because we are out of time allotted for this session. I thank you both for your evidence.

Examination of witness

Stephanie Roberts-Bibby gave evidence.

--- Later in debate ---
Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q I will not need all that time, because most of the points that I was going to raise have been helpfully raised already by colleagues. To return to the question of secure schools, I think you expressed in your answers at the beginning support for the proposed introduction of secured schools and gave a bit of flavour as to why you support them. Can you talk about the benefits that may be delivered by increasing the range of organisations that can be brought into the business of providing these services with the change being contemplated here?

Stephanie Roberts-Bibby: We would see the benefits very much related to the skills, experience and expertise that multi-academy trusts could bring into a secure school setting. As you may know, the secure estate is split into three different sections: secure training centres, secure children’s homes and young offenders institutions. The custodial element of those organisations is very strong and probably strongest in the YOIs and the STCs. The introduction of a very different model that accounts for children’s needs will not mean that they will not be secure; it will mean that they have a focus on education, mental health, and a trauma-informed approach to working with children who have complex needs, which is very much needed.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Do you have any particular observations on measures we might consider to reduce offending, either in the Bill or, indeed, beyond it?

Stephanie Roberts-Bibby: Gosh. We could probably provide you with a significant amount of evidence on that and I would very much welcome the opportunity to do that in writing to the Committee.

We would suggest coming from the perspective of the child first and using the evidence base that has been developed recently, which focuses on children, their personal and social identity and their strengths, rather than being deficit-based. The evidence, which equally applies to adults, is that if you look for good and build on good, much more is achieved than if you tell people that they are no use and no good and cannot contribute to society.

We know that with children, the earlier we intervene, the better—early intervention and prevention, and targeting services upstream. That is a challenge for youth offending teams at the moment. They have statutory caseloads and trying to balance intervening earlier is really difficult. Some local authorities manage to do that better than others. There is a massive evidence base and we can share the evidence after the Committee today.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q My final question is on the remand review. What is the Youth Justice Board able to do to support the remand review and its subsequent implementation?

Stephanie Roberts-Bibby: We have been working really closely with the Ministry of Justice on the remand review. We are very keen to understand the data better and to have a look at the trends across the country. One of the things we would really welcome as, dare I say, an amendment to the Bill is for there to be a decision why bail is and is not granted. There is still a lack of evidence on what needs to change for more children to remain in the community, and we want to avoid perpetuating cycles of evidence.

You asked about what more we could do around the remand review. There is certainly something more we could do around trying to knit the system together better, through our heads of regions constantly having discussions with the sector around remand. We are doing quite a lot of work at the moment on developing alternative models for accommodation. We are working across London. We are investing in a pathfinder project to try to develop a different model for children, to prevent them being taken into the secure estate on remand.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I think that covers everything I wanted to ask. Thank you for the work you are doing.

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

If you do wish to furnish the Committee with further written evidence to support your comments, that would be most welcome. I think Mr Cunningham had a further question.

--- Later in debate ---
Alex Cunningham Portrait Alex Cunningham
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Finally, what safeguards could the Government place in the Bill to ensure that clause 168 does not detrimentally impact fair trial rights?

Derek Sweeting QC: In the end, it will have to be managed judicially. I am not sure that we need to hem in the exercise of discretion in relation to that. There are already provisions in relation to what the judge must take into account when considering whether there should be remote participation. They are very difficult to apply to juries, by the way, but if they are followed, we will find that they involve a significant number of safeguards for the fair conduct of proceedings.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q A quick point of clarification. Mr Sweeting, in relation to clause 59, which is the statutory offence of public nuisance, you made reference to wishing there was a defence of reasonable excuse. I wanted to reassure you that it is in there, in subsection (3).

Derek Sweeting QC: Yes, I think my point was really about the suggestion that the statutory offence—these are the words—is to cover the same conduct as the existing common law offence of public nuisance but, yes, you are right that there is an offence of that sort in there.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q I have one or two brief points. Mr Sweeting, you discussed remote hearings already; have you or your members seen during the pandemic evidence that using video and remote hearings is any more convenient for participants, both advocates and witnesses, or that the proceedings are any more efficient than they would ordinarily be?

Derek Sweeting QC: Two questions. Is it more convenient? Certainly, during the pandemic it has been important to have a method of holding hearings when we have to socially distance. Under the circumstances of the pandemic, it was vital. Remote hearings have enabled the family jurisdiction in particular to keep on working from the word go—it never stopped. Using technology in those circumstances in remote hearings was extremely helpful. It was certainly convenient during the pandemic.

Is it convenient for everyone? During the pandemic itself, we had some opposing views. Counsel certainly found it convenient, but one or two participants in family proceedings publicly said that they felt detachment from the proceeding. We have to recognise that there are reasons for being cautious about making the assumption that if it is convenient for legal professionals and judges, it is also necessarily a good experience for users. Certainly, there are whole categories of users for whom, if they cannot get to court or if they have mobility problems, the ability to have a hearing remotely is going to be valuable. Of course, we have been in a big laboratory, and we have tested a lot of these things in a way that we that we would not have been able to do in the decades before the pandemic. We need to take forward the best of remote and carry on using it.

Are there disadvantages? Yes, I think there are. There are experiences that we have all heard about, which are salutary and should make us be cautious about just assuming that we can always do things as well if we are doing them remotely.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Thank you. You touched in one of your answers on the question of sentencing powers where a memorial—for example, a war memorial—might be desecrated, and you made some observations about the potential sentence length. It is the case, is it not, that sentences are always a matter of judicial discretion. Notwithstanding what the maximum may be, it will always be for the judge to decide what the appropriate sentence is, given the facts of a particular case. Is not the overriding consideration here that we are simply giving judges more discretion where a memorial may have a more symbolic value that goes beyond mere monetary value, and that we are simply recognising that in the statute?

Derek Sweeting QC: I am not sure that is right. The point that I was making is that the proposed amendment is to the mode of trial for a limited class of offences of criminal damage. That is the effect of the amendment. It removes the power for an offence involving a memorial to be tried in the magistrates court, however small the value of any damage. That was the point I was making earlier. I was really being asked whether that is a proportionate measure, and the point I was making is that there are some offences involving memorials where one would have thought that the magistrates’ powers are perfectly adequate, and it is not proportionate to require that matter to go to the Crown court.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Okay. Although of course, as I say, the magistrate has limited sentencing powers, and there might be some cases, might there not, where the desecration may be of a sufficiently serious nature that the magistrate’s maximum sentencing power of six months may be inadequate. On some occasions, therefore—not in every case necessarily—the increased sentencing power of the Crown court might be appropriate?

Derek Sweeting QC: Well, there might be, but equally there might be cases where it is wholly unnecessary to go to the Crown court. Since the definition of “memorial” extends to moveable items, removing a bunch of flowers from a memorial amounts to the offence. It is difficult to see why that merits a trip to the Crown court. It is well within the magistrate’s existing sentencing.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Is your understanding of the change that it makes it an either-way offence? Is it your understanding that it would be compelled to be held in the Crown court, as an indictable-only offence would be, or that it could be heard in either, as in an either way offence?

Derek Sweeting QC: My understanding that a mode of trial change is being contemplated under part 2.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q My final question relates, again, to judicial discretion. I am not talking about any particular offence; I am just asking in general terms. What are your general views about minimum sentences and how they interact with judicial discretion?

Derek Sweeting QC: There are obviously circumstances in which minimum sentences can be used. It is a matter for Parliament. You have to reflect on public disquiet and the need to make sure there is a sentencing regime that reflects the seriousness of offences. The general position is that if you have minimum mandatory sentences, you inevitably tie the hands of the judge to some extent. If you carry on extending that, you are making potentially significant inroads into judicial discretion. The lesson of sentencing is that cases generally need individual sentences because there are very complex differences between them. You were just making the point about judges having discretion to sentence according to the gravity and nature of the crime.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Thank you, Mr Sweeting. I have no further questions.

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Does anyone else have any further questions? I cannot see anyone. In that case, Mr Sweeting, thank you very much for your evidence to the Committee. I thank all witnesses who gave evidence today to the Committee. That brings us to the end of our oral evidence session for today. The Committee will meet again on Thursday to take further evidence. We will meet in this room at 11.30 am.

Ordered, That further consideration be now adjourned. —(Tom Pursglove.)

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill (Third sitting)

(Limited Text - Ministerial Extracts only)

Read Full debate
Committee stage
Thursday 20th May 2021

(3 years, 1 month ago)

Public Bill Committees
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 Read Hansard Text Amendment Paper: Public Bill Committee Amendments as at 20 May 2021 - (20 May 2021)

This text is a record of ministerial contributions to a debate held as part of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 passage through Parliament.

In 1993, the House of Lords Pepper vs. Hart decision provided that statements made by Government Ministers may be taken as illustrative of legislative intent as to the interpretation of law.

This extract highlights statements made by Government Ministers along with contextual remarks by other members. The full debate can be read here

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Thank you very much. Mr Philp.

Chris Philp Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Chris Philp)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Thank you, Sir Charles, and thank you everyone for joining us this morning and for the work that you do in trying to protect the public and rehabilitate offenders. We are all very grateful to you.

May I start with problem-solving courts? Clearly, as with so many things, it is important that the implementation is right; there are some things that work and some things that do not. Can you give your views on the things that have worked and the things that have not worked in problem-solving courts that we have tried in the past—I think there was one in Merseyside a few years ago—and the lessons that we might learn from problem-solving courts in the US, as we design and implement the pilot?

Helen Berresford: This is not something that we have significant expertise in at Nacro, in terms of learning from previous pilots. With any of these things, we have to understand, as you say, what has worked and what has not worked.

The point that we made earlier about the role of building judicial confidence, which was picked up on, is a really important one, and that confidence has to be central to problem-solving courts as we roll them out. Getting the right people involved and the right support functions is important. One of the important purposes—is it not?—of problem-solving courts is that you bring the right people into the discussions and keep them engaged.

I will just refer, for example, to community sentence treatment requirements. We know from our experience of what we have seen that engaging with the judiciary in that process has a really positive impact. That is one of the things we have seen and that we would like to see much more of in the roll-out of CSTRs, and I would say the same for problem-solving courts.

Sam Doohan: In addition to building interest and engagement in the judiciary, one of the other issues is also building interest and engagement among the local population. The courts need to be credible, both to offenders and to the local population. That is probably the biggest step that needs to be taken. If local people think that someone will effectively get just a slap on the wrist and that the problem-solving court does not solve the problem, they will not bother reporting minor crimes and, to some degree, neither will the police. It is very important that that credibility takes centre stage and that the whole process has some faith that its measures will actually be successful.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q You mentioned CSTRs, which obviously are referred to prominently in the White Paper. I strongly support them and want to see them being rolled out, because they treat the underlying causes of offending, in particular mental health problems, and drug and alcohol addiction.

First of all, do you share that analysis, particularly where a CSTR might be an alternative to a short sentence? If you do share that analysis, what do you think we can do to encourage the wider use of CSTRs, in addition to the extra money for the actual treatment that is being provided at the moment? I ask that because I would like to see them being used a lot more.

Campbell Robb: Yes, we would too, and I think the evidence suggests that when they are used properly they can have a significant effect, on both the addiction or the mental health issues that people are suffering from, and ultimately—we think in previous studies, but not recently—potentially on reoffending. So we are very supportive of them.

I think that, as you would expect us to say, they need to be part of a wider network that is available, ranging from wider drug treatment services, through the NHS and other public health bodies, to job opportunities. They are part of a holistic approach—part of a whole series of interventions that can help people.

On their use as an alternative to sentencing, we could not agree more. That is the work that Nacro does every day, with hundreds of people across the country. If we can use them to help support people through their mental health issues, or drug and alcohol issues, and keep them out of the criminal justice system, then absolutely; we could not agree more. We are very supportive and would want to work alongside to get more of them up and running as soon as possible.

I agree that having the judiciary, as well as the public, see them as a viable alternative is something we all need to work on once the Bill becomes an Act, so that we really get that buy-in and momentum behind them so that they can be used more widely.

Helen Berresford: We have seen an increase in their usage in the test sites. The only point I would add, without repeating my earlier comment, is that building judicial confidence will be an important part of this. That is a really important thing to learn from. Continually evaluating and learning as we roll these out will be really important, learning where they have worked and where they have not. If we can build that in, I think there is a really positive role for community sentence treatment requirements.

Sam Doohan: There is also an issue with building faith with offenders and the people who will potentially receive treatment. One of the concerns that we hear with these kinds of disposals is that people are worried that their criminal record will show that they have been in drug treatment or mental health treatment. In general, although not in the absolute, that is not a problem, because it will not show up and they will not have to disclose it. But people do not know that and they do not necessarily have a great deal of faith that it will not show up three, four or five years later, when they have turned their life around.

I mention that in particular because a DWP study from 2010, I think, found that the only group who, in employment terms, were discriminated against on a par with people with convictions were alcoholics and drug users. Therefore, ensuring that people understand the full ramifications of co-operating with a drug treatment programme—that it will be private, to a large degree, and that it will give them the opportunity to move on positively afterwards—would go a long way.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Thank you. Helen, you raised a point about the potential for custodial sentences following a breach of a community order. Does it reassure you that obviously that is a matter of judicial discretion, and that we expect judges to use custody only as a last resort—indeed, they are bound to do so? In order to ensure that community orders are complied with, judges need to have that option as a last resort. It is to be used rarely, but none the less it needs to be available, should it ever be required.

Helen Berresford: Our preference—and yours too, I hear—is very much about looking at community sentences, where they are more effective. If there is an option of custody, I think we really need to build that in as an absolute last resort, and it is worth looking at how we can ensure that is the case. Certainly, on a broader point, in the past we have seen increases in recall to prison, and in some cases people have been recalled for very minor breaches of their conditions, and nothing to do with committing a crime. It is really important that we ensure that is not what we are doing. If there is a condition about prison as a last resort, we have to make sure that it is for a very significant reason and that it is truly a last resort.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Thank you. I have one last question. Do the panel have any views on the principle of statutory minimum sentences?

Sam Doohan: Broadly speaking, statutory minimums cause problems. The reduction of judicial discretion means that cases cease to be individual and start to be set by central Government policy. Although it can be argued either way, depending on your taste, were we to follow an American model, where if you get three strikes and then a very long prison sentence for a relatively minor crime, under the current British criminal records system that would almost certainly be disclosed for life, and it would not just be a fairly stiff sentence for repeat offending; it would become a life sentence immediately. That is something always to be aware of when thinking about where we set not just sentencing guidelines, but sentencing minimums in particular. If the judge thinks that six months is appropriate, we should not be the ones to argue with that.

Campbell Robb: We agree that judicial discretion is paramount. We think that is a very, very important consideration. For any changes, it is important to be aware of that and to have an urgent space to see what impact those minimum sentences are having across the piece, in terms of numbers, time and then rehabilitation.

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

I thank our three witnesses for a very strong performance and for answering the questions so fully—it is much appreciated.

Examination of witnesses

Dame Vera Baird, QC, gave evidence.

--- Later in debate ---
Alex Cunningham Portrait Alex Cunningham
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Thank you very much for that. I think you have covered everything that I needed to cover.

Victoria Atkins Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Victoria Atkins)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Dame Vera, I want to roll back and put this set of clauses in context. Everybody acknowledges that there is a significant problem with the trust of victims of sexual violence in particular when it comes to the seizing of phones and digital evidence. There have been recent cases that we have heard about. In consequence, the Government have an ongoing end-to-end rape review, which is looking at every single stage of the criminal justice system. Following the last question, I would not for a moment want colleagues to think that this Bill is the Government’s answer to addressing the real and keenly felt concerns of rape victims and other victims of sexual violence.

On the point about digital divides, do you accept that there is a need to clarify the law on this? At the moment, we have the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996 and we have the Attorney General’s new guidelines, but presumably you accept that there is a need to set a framework in law in order to help and protect victims, and to protect the right of a free trial under article 6 of the Human Rights Act 1998?

Dame Vera Baird: I think national legislation to clarify the law about this is imperative, but it is just not this national legislation.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Okay. Within that context, we have to bear in mind the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996 and the Data Protection Act 2018. Do you accept that?

Dame Vera Baird: Yes, of course we have to do so. I am not sure you will be doing that with this power. I think there is a real human rights challenge here already, and I am pretty satisfied that there will be data protection challenges too. Yes, of course data protection is the law and it is important. I do not think this fulfils all your obligations under that either.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q All right. Clause 36(5)(a) sets out the conditions under which the power may be exercised—namely, that an “authorised person”, as defined elsewhere in the Bill, must reasonably believes

“that information stored on the electronic device is relevant to a purpose within subsection (2)”.

That wording of course comes from the 1996 Act, doesn’t it?

Dame Vera Baird: I do not know which it comes from, but “relevant” is no good, Minister. “Relevant” is not a reasonable line of inquiry. Somebody who comes across the letter from the lady in Northumbria might think that is relevant. I do not think that finding it is a reasonable line of inquiry. A reasonable line of inquiry in the CPIA is the right test, and this is the wrong test.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q All right, but do you accept that there is a test of relevance in terms of disclosure under the 1996 Act?

Dame Vera Baird: There is a test of a reasonable line of inquiry under the CPIA. That is the test, and that is very much a narrower test than the one in the proposed clauses. I have to say, because we narrowed it from relevance down to a reasonable line of inquiry in our amendments, the police were happy to accept that, so I am not sure why the Home Office wants it to be wider than the police want it to be.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q I will come back to that. The test in clause 36(5)(b) is that the authorised person must be

“satisfied that exercise of the power is necessary and proportionate”.

Again, that wording applies across the board in terms of criminal proceedings. Is that correct?

Dame Vera Baird: I have come across the terminology before, but it is highly subjective. Insufficient detail is gone into for it to have the meaning that it is important to have. I think it is a very good thing, if I may say so, Minister, that you have accepted that the backdrop against which we approach these clauses is a very, very undesirable one, where confidence has been lost by over-demands on vulnerable complainants’ personal data. It is hugely important therefore to put into the legislation every protection that can be put in, for fairness. Remember, there is a massive power imbalance in the relationship at the time of the requests—

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q I have long accepted that, Dame Vera. That is why we have the end-to-end rape review, which is ongoing, as you know. The reason I ask that is because one would not want the Committee to think that these clauses are the only measures being taken to secure the framework for extraction of digital devices. You will accept that the clauses set out that a statutory code of practice will accompany the Bill.

The codes of practice under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, for example, are vital codes of practice that are relied on in court. If a police officer does not meet the standards expected by that code when interviewing suspects, for example—if there is a significant breach—the entire prosecution can fall. Do you accept that although we are rightly looking at the wording of the clauses, just focusing on those would not give the full picture? We also need to consider the importance that the code of practice will have. It will deal with some of the practice points that you have raised.

Dame Vera Baird: I do not think it is the right analogy to compare any code of practice. Let me tell you, the code of practice under this is invisible or non-existent. Codes of practice are discussed though they are the answer to it all. The first thing to say is that they do not have the power of statute, and if the legislation goes through as it is now, that is what the police will likely rely on. Of course a statutory code of practice under PACE has the consequences that you described, Minister, but that is because if you break the code of practice under PACE, it impacts on the defendant. The defendant can say, “Oh, that’s been done unfairly and jeopardised my fair trial,” and a breach can even be the end of a prosecution. There is absolutely no power for a rape complainant to have a similar resolution of a breach of any code of practice in this legislation. They can breach the codes of practice until they are blue in the face, and it does not make any difference to the trial.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

But you accept—

Dame Vera Baird: That is a difference in power, is it not? That is an important point.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q No, it is a proper analogy, because they are both statutory codes of practice. Of course the police will have to abide by those codes of practice and will be held to account by the Victims’ Commissioner and others if they are seen to be failing those codes.

Dame Vera Baird: I am sure you accept the difference, though, Minister—

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

No—

Dame Vera Baird: There is no possible remedy or solution for the complainant that is analogous to the outright acquittal that can be a consequence of breaching the PACE code of practice, because that is about a defendant. This is about a complainant. What do you suggest would be the solution if the code of practice were breached in my case of rape and too much documentation was taken and disclosed? What is my remedy?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q The police force or the CPS are accountable for their conduct under the codes of practice. That is why the code of practice is in the Bill, not least because putting the sort of detail you seem to be suggesting in the Bill is not as responsive and flexible as putting it into a code of practice—by definition, changing primary legislation is not as responsive or flexible. These clauses are not the only factors to bear in mind when looking at the overall issue of digital devices. I will move on—

Dame Vera Baird: I would like to answer that, if I can. They are the only thing, because there is no sign of a code of practice. There is no draft code of practice at all. When I ask what my remedy would be as a rape complainant, you say to me that the police will be accountable, but how will they be accountable? It is not a crime and it is not a tort to break this code of practice, so what is the remedy if it is broken? It is not an analogy with the PACE code of practice. Do not over-rely on this code of practice, Minister. You and I share the aim of protecting complainants. Do not over-rely on a code of practice no one has ever seen and that does not have statutory form.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q This will not be operating in a vacuum. The police are of course accountable to police and crime commissioners, as you know as a former commissioner. The police are also accountable to Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary, and the police forces have their individual complaint processes. There are ways of accountability. I will move on—

Dame Vera Baird: If those routes really do exist, have they been working, Minister? I do not remember any complainant being able to come to me as a PCC and complain about an individual case. Let’s face it: the dire situation where the public, or at least this sector of them, have lost confidence in the police has occurred at the time when all of those bodies that can call them to account have been in play, and they have not called them to account.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q There are many aspects to public confidence, but that is why we are addressing this one aspect of it in the Bill as part of the Government’s overall work on the rape review and, as you said yourself, the victims law.

I will move on to unauthorised encampments. You were asked about the impact and you fairly conceded that residents can be victims in the context of unauthorised encampments. Clause 61 sets out the offence. The conditions that are laid down for the alleged commission of an offence include factors such as “significant damage”, “significant disruption” and “significant distress”. With your focus on antisocial behaviour, presumably you welcome the focus on those unauthorised encampments that result in those sorts of distressing conditions?

Dame Vera Baird: I would not want anyone to suffer from any of those, but causing damage—I do not know what that is. If you are on an unauthorised encampment and you have not got a lavatory so you dig a latrine, is that causing damage to the field? I think it depends how it is defined. I really cannot go much further than saying that unless there is proper provision of authorised encampments, you have two sets of victims. I quite agree with you that the people who are distressed, damaged or whatever by an unauthorised encampment are victims of that. There is no doubt of it—you have made your point—but I want you to take into account the difficulty of finding somewhere to camp in a lot of places, which forces people into an unlawful place. Of course, damage is not justifiable, but that is a factor to consider. I was so pleased when the NPCC appreciated that as well.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

So do you see it as inevitable—

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Order. I am afraid that brings us to the end of the time allotted for the Committee to ask questions. I thank the witness again for her evidence.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill (Fourth sitting)

(Limited Text - Ministerial Extracts only)

Read Full debate
Committee stage
Thursday 20th May 2021

(3 years, 1 month ago)

Public Bill Committees
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 Read Hansard Text Amendment Paper: Public Bill Committee Amendments as at 20 May 2021 - (20 May 2021)

This text is a record of ministerial contributions to a debate held as part of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 passage through Parliament.

In 1993, the House of Lords Pepper vs. Hart decision provided that statements made by Government Ministers may be taken as illustrative of legislative intent as to the interpretation of law.

This extract highlights statements made by Government Ministers along with contextual remarks by other members. The full debate can be read here

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Alex Cunningham Portrait Alex Cunningham
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Thank you. Hazel, your teams around the country do a tremendous job in the most difficult of circumstances. I hope you will pass on our thanks to them for the work they do. I would like to ask a general question. What do they consider to be the greatest challenges facing youth offending teams as they are trying to deliver adequate services for our young people?

Hazel Williamson: What YOT managers say to me is that the biggest challenge is around funding. Youth offending teams have absolutely reduced first-time entrants; we have reduced children and young people going into custody. We are also reducing the reoffending rates for many of our children and young people. The assumption, therefore, is that youth offending teams do not need to be funded as much as they were previously.

However, youth offending team managers have been saying for some time that just because the numbers have reduced does not mean that we are not working with a complex group of children and young people. For many youth offending teams, the numbers they are working with have not reduced; it is just that the children are in a different space and place. For example, we might not be working with as many children on statutory orders, but we will be offering some kind of prevention and diversion to keep them out of the criminal justice system.

It is not always the case that because first-time entrants are reducing and the numbers of children involved in the criminal justice system are reducing, youth offending teams are not doing the same amount of work they have always done. Funding is really an issue, as is understanding the context and the numbers of children that YOTs are trying to work with across the country.

Chris Philp Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Chris Philp)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Thank you, Hazel, for all the work you and your colleagues do across the country; I know that it is appreciated across the House. I have two brief questions. First, you mentioned the question of sentencing of people who were under 18 at the age of the offence, but over 18 at the point of sentence. You also made reference to maturity, as did the shadow Minister. Would you accept that, even if someone is over 18, the pre-sentence report can and does take into account maturity and the judge can reflect that in passing sentence?

Hazel Williamson: Absolutely, and we know that, but children and young people who commit those offences as children should still be sentenced as children. We can use the strength in our youth offending teams, because we have seconded probation staff working with us, so we can have quite a balanced report for those children and young people, and support them with the transition from youth offending teams into probation. Age and maturity should absolutely be considered across the whole system, but our children and young people who commit offences when under 18 should be sentenced as children.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q But should the court not sentence the person before the court, with regard to their maturity, condition and everything else at the point of sentence, rather than at a hypothetical time in the past?

Hazel Williamson: What we know about sentencing is that people will make significant changes between the time they committed the offence and where they are at any given point in time. We have been working with children who have been awaiting sentence in the Crown court, and who are now past their 18th birthdays. They will have made significant changes up to the point where they are sentenced, and they were still children at the time they committed that offence.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q If your point is that they can change, surely the pre-sentence report delivered at the point of sentence will reflect that change, and that would be the appropriate approach to take. We will no doubt debate that extensively during line-by-line consideration.

Secondly, some new youth sentencing options, and sentencing options more widely, are made available in the Bill. Can you give us some commentary on how youth offending services and courts can make a success of those new sentencing options?

Hazel Williamson: I assume you are referring to the intensive supervision and surveillance, intensive fostering, and GPS monitoring?

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Yes, for example.

Hazel Williamson: Okay. In terms of ISS, I have already indicated that its extension will require some resourcing. Intensive supervision and surveillance is already in place across the country for youth offending teams, and it is utilised to prevent children from receiving custodial sentences. I think that is already in place. There are concerns that the pilot of an ISS extended to 12 months did not give the results it needed to.

In terms of the intensive foresting arrangements, again, I go back to the fact that it is really resource-intensive and expensive, and it will require very close join-up with our local authority colleagues, who will be required to provide the foster carers to support it. On GPS—some trials have been taking place for GPS monitoring for our children and young people—there is some thought that it will certainly prevent some of our children and young people from being involved in those more violent crimes, and will reduce the risk of them being exploited. That is not the case from what we are seeing with children and young people who are subject to GPS monitoring and tagging. We also know that those children really struggle with the equipment, in terms of practicalities and charging the equipment. We know that GPS does not work for a lot of our children and young people in areas where it has been piloted.

As youth offending teams, we want to look for suitable and robust alternatives to custody for our children and young people. There is no doubt that it has to be done in partnership, but it will require some significant resourcing.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Okay, that is very helpful. Thank you very much.

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Hazel, thank you for that. When people ask—[Interruption.] Bloody hell, I am wrestling with my wretched mask—my mother-in-law made it and I wear it in honour and tribute to her. Hazel, when people ask me, “How should I prepare to give evidence to a Committee?”—be it a Select Committee or a Bill Committee like this—I shall say, “Watch Hazel Williamson.” That was crisp, concise and informative. It really was a masterclass, and it is appreciated by us all at the start of a very long afternoon. We are trying to find our next witness, who is being asked to appear 25 minutes early. If we cannot find our next witness, colleagues may go and have a cup of tea and stretch their legs. Thank you, Hazel.

Hazel Williamson: Thank you.

--- Later in debate ---
Alex Cunningham Portrait Alex Cunningham
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

That is great. Thank you very much.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Do you have any feedback from your members about how the use of remote hearing technology has worked during the pandemic? For example, I think we are now holding 20,000 remote hearings a week.

Ellie Cumbo: As I said earlier, it has been a story of great success in many ways, enhancing the convenience of all parties, including solicitors, particularly in relation to those types of hearings—administrative hearings— where it is only legal professionals talking to each other. Why on earth should you not use a remote hearing for that?

But it is not just an innate conservativism that prompts those concerns about whether it is working well for all types of hearings and all types of people appearing in those hearings. This is a significant change that is difficult to analyse—in fact, I believe the MOJ itself is still in the process of evaluating its success. We are keen participants in those discussions and are keen that our views are heard. Our views are that where such hearings enhance the interests of justice, we are in favour of them and, where they do not, we are not.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Yes, that seems very reasonable. The question of whether remote hearings are appropriate is ultimately a matter for the judge presiding over any given hearing. Do you share my confidence that the judiciary can be relied on to make the right decisions and permit remote hearings where appropriate and not where not appropriate?

Ellie Cumbo: Obviously we and our members have implicit confidence in the judiciary. We are great believers in the importance of our independent and expert judiciary. That is not to suggest that it is not possible to make their lives a little bit easier than the current provisions do.

There is guidance, as I referred to earlier, about where remote hearings are and are not appropriate, and it differs slightly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. That is not a comment on the judiciary but it is arguably a reason for further attention to be paid to how clear those messages are and how possible it is, with the best will in the world, for the judiciary to interpret them in a way that promotes the interests of justice.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Thank you.

Sarah Champion Portrait Sarah Champion
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Ellie, I asked you earlier whether you had any concerns about the Bill putting additional pressure on the judicial system. Does the Law Society have any other concerns about the Bill that you have not already mentioned?

Ellie Cumbo: No, I think I have had the opportunity to cover most of the things that the Law Society would want to. Perhaps I should have added into the conversation about pre-charge bail that we take the same view in relation to the removal of the presumption against bail: we understand the aim, but do not think this is the best way of achieving it. We would like to retain that presumption on the basis that it is still perfectly possible to use bail, but it can only be used where it is appropriate and proportionate to do so. We think that is an important safeguard.

--- Later in debate ---
Sarah Jones Portrait Sarah Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Thank you.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Jonathan, I will come to you first. A few minutes ago you were talking about the measures whereby a prisoner who becomes dangerous—or who might have become dangerous—can serve more of their sentence in prison, and you drew comparisons with powers exercised by previous Home Secretaries to set tariffs for live sentences. Is it right that you were making that comparison?

Dr Bild: Yes.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q You were. To be clear, do you agree that in fact the powers in the Bill are simply for the Home Secretary to make a referral to the Parole Board and that the assessment of dangerousness and decisions about release are made by the Parole Board, not the Home Secretary?

Dr Bild: Yes, I agree with that. I think the concern is the ability of a Secretary of State to have the power to intervene in the automatic release of a prisoner. That is the question. I agree that the ultimate decision will be made by the Parole Board, which is an independent tribunal, but there should probably be a bit more of a firewall between the Secretary of State and an individual prisoner’s sentence.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q But you accept that the decision is made by the independent Parole Board, not the Home Secretary.

Dr Bild: I do not know if it is going to be made by the Home Secretary or the Justice Secretary. Yes, I agree on the final decision for release, but the halting of the automatic release will presumably be done by the Secretary of State.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q The referral is made by the Secretary of State, but the decision is made by the Parole Board—that is the critical point. Will you confirm that your understanding is the same as mine: that the release will be delayed only if the Parole Board make an assessment of dangerousness? So, were we not to bring forward this measure, it would open up the possibility that dangerous prisoners might be released into the community before the end of their sentence, by which I mean the total sentence.

Dr Bild: I agree with you, but the issue you have here is that somebody who is dangerous could be released into the community under licence. If that person serves their entire sentence in custody, that same person, who may be even more dangerous by the end of their full sentence, will be released into the community with no licence conditions, no supervision and no support. So yes, I agree with you that it is safer for the extra time that someone is kept in custody, but it is less safe once they are released.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Although of course it is possible to undertake rehabilitative activities in prison. Is the judgment that we are discussing here not one that can be exercised by the Parole Board? The Parole Board might choose to have a prisoner serve the totality of their sentence in prison, but equally the Parole Board might choose to allow a release that is after the automatic release point but before the end of the sentence, still allowing the period on licence. Whether there is a period on licence would be a matter over which the Parole Board would have discretion by virtue of the time at which it decided release was appropriate.

Dr Bild: The Parole Board only has discretion in the sense that it has to follow its own rules. Therefore, it can release someone only when it is satisfied that they do not pose a risk to the public. The Parole Board would not be able to decide that now is a nice time to release someone and have a little bit of licence period; I assume that it would have to follow its rules. If it was not fully satisfied that the person is safe to release, I imagine that the Parole Board’s hands would be tied by its own rules.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q But of course, by exercising that power it would be preventing the release of a dangerous prisoner. I think the shadow Minister quoted—he may have mentioned it again today, and he certainly mentioned it previously—some commentary by third parties that later release is somehow inherently unjust or represents a deviation from the sentence handed down by the court. However, is it not the case that the sentence handed down by the court is the total sentence, and that the release point is essentially the administration of that sentence? Following the passage of the Terrorist Offenders (Restriction of Early Release) Act 2020, the High Court held last year that moving the release point was lawful, because it fell within the envelope of the original sentence. Would you agree with the High Court’s analysis of that situation—that it is lawful and consistent with human rights and common law?

Dr Bild: I would agree that that was the case last year in relation to the terrorism legislation, as I said earlier. I am not saying that it is not lawful, but I think that a different issue is engaged when a Secretary of State is making a decision on an individual case and not a blanket, “You have committed a certain offence, therefore this is your release arrangement.” That is the issue.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Thank you. For clarity, the Secretary of State makes a referral, but the decision is made by the Parole Board. I want to be absolutely clear on that point.

Let me move on. I want to ask a question to all the panellists, so perhaps the answers could be relatively brief, given that I am sure we are under time pressure. We had some debate some time ago in this session about the appropriateness of imposing minimum sentences, whereby Parliament specifies in statute that if someone is convicted of a particular offence, there is a minimum period of time that they must be sentenced to in prison, regardless of the facts of the individual case, and regardless of any discretion that the judge may wish to exercise. Can each panel member give the Committee their views on the appropriateness, generally, of statutory minimum sentences?

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Briefly, please.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

We have got three minutes.

Dr Janes: The problem with mandatory minimum sentences is that they do not allow the judge to take into account the specific characteristics, needs and circumstances of the person before them. We have already spoken about why those things are so important. [Interruption.]

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Do not all speak at once, but one of you please speak.

Dr Paradine: For us, it is the same as for Laura: minimum sentences, the lack of evidence of a deterrent effect, and the inflation of sentences across the board. We really do not believe that minimum sentences are the way forward, and there is so much evidence that that is not the way to go. It is misleading, and it will not do anything for public confidence. What will do so is sentences that actually work in preventing and reducing offending.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Would you also apply that analysis if the offence was something of the utmost gravity, such as rape?

Dr Paradine: Yes, because judges should have the discretion to apply to the case the sentence that is required. That is why we have judges, and that is why our system is as it is. There is no need for constant interference in the way that is proposed in the Bill.

Nina Champion: I agree with both Kate and Laura about the importance of looking at the individual circumstances of the case. I would also like to add that, in terms of racial disparity, we know that black people are more likely than white people to be sent to prison at Crown court. We know that black women are more likely to be given a custodial sentence. We know that these disparities exist. Even taking into account other factors such as the lack of an early guilty plea, we know that black people are disproportionately represented in terms of sentencing and being sent to custody, so this would disproportionately impact those groups.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Again, would you apply that analysis even in cases of exceptional seriousness, such as rape?

Nina Champion: Across the board.

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Dr Bild, last but not least.

Dr Bild: I agree with the other panellists. If there was any evidence whatsoever that mandatory sentences deterred people, there could be some justification for them, but in the complete absence of any such evidence, I see no reason to have mandatory minimum sentences. To pre-empt the question, that includes every single offence.

--- Later in debate ---
Victoria Atkins Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Victoria Atkins)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Mr Feeley-Sprague, you said in your evidence that the Bill criminalises an entire way of life in relation to unauthorised encampments. Under clause 61, which we are focusing on, an offence is committed only if one or more of the conditions mentioned in subsection (4), which include significant damage, significant disruption and significant distress to the owner and others, is satisfied. Why are those behaviours a way of life that needs to be protected?

Oliver Feeley-Sprague: I think in my answer, I said—if I didn’t, I should have—that it has the potential to criminalise a way of life. Some of the powers around returning to a site and seizing vehicles, when those vehicles might be your home, clearly do raise that prospect. I will repeat what I said about our experience as a human rights monitoring organisation: Gypsy and Traveller communities across this continent, across Europe, possibly even—

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Mr Feeley-Sprague, forgive me, but we are dealing only with England and Wales in this context. I just want to press you on that point: do you believe that significant disruption, significant damage or significant distress are behaviours that should be protected?

Oliver Feeley-Sprague: It depends on how you are defining that threshold of “serious”. I have seen little in the Bill that gives any indication of what threshold you are using to reach those determinations. It is true, as far as I am aware, that the Gypsy and Traveller community is one of the most persecuted groups in the UK, and they are persecuted across Europe.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q But this is not dealing with the whole of the Traveller community. As your colleague Professor Clark made clear, 70% to 80% of the Traveller community live in bricks and mortar, and therefore will not fall under this criterion of unauthorised encampments where significant damage, distress and disruption are caused. Can I ask the panel, then, what in their view is an acceptable level of distress for local residents to live under?

Gracie Bradley: I just want to echo what Olly said in respect of the fact that the threshold is not clearly defined. These definitions are vague, and they could potentially include a very wide range of issues. I would also add that the way the clause is drafted, it is not simply where significant disruption, damage or distress is caused; it is where there is a likelihood or a perception that it is likely to be caused. The offence can be committed by someone who is said to be likely to cause damage or distress. This is highly subjective, and may invite stereotypes and profiling based on the mere existence of an unauthorised encampment. Again, the issue is really about the breadth of the drafting, the lack of definition, and the fact that the mere threshold of likelihood may invite judgments that are based on stereotyping and profiling. That is what is really concerning about this clause.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Sorry, but you have not answered my question. What level of distress do you deem to be acceptable for local residents?

Gracie Bradley: That is a difficult question to answer. I do not have a firm answer to that, but I think that if you are taking into account the distress of local residents, you also have to take into account the fundamental right of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people to live a nomadic way of life. It is not an absolute in either direction, and when we are talking about a community that, as Olly has said, is one of the most persecuted in the country, we have to be really careful about introducing these really broad and vaguely defined measures that are likely to invite them to be stereotyped and discriminated against further.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q What level of damage would you be happy for local residents to live with?

Gracie Bradley: As I have already said, the issue is that we are talking about “likely to cause damage”. That is subjectively determined. There are some people who will be perceived as likely to cause damage; there are some people who, in another person’s mind, will not be. This is very subjective, and I do not think we can abstract it from the history of how people have been treated. I think Colin wants to come in.

Professor Clark: Yes, I can say something about this. In a sense, it is not even local residents; it is actually in the hands of the landowner or the licensee. That is one of the changes between, for example, the regulations in the law as contained in the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 and the current Bill—this is where there is a significant change. In the 1994 Act, it was the police who had that decision to make about when the action should be forthcoming. In this Bill, that right is given over to the landowner or the licensee, and in a sense it is up to the people who—to answer your question, Minister—own the land on which the Travellers are camped. The landowner would make a decision: “I now feel that this is disruptive, damaging and distressing, so therefore I will call the police and then issue the actions.” That is the issue at stake here.

I will just remind the Minister about the lack of movement on a national site strategy, around both permanent and transit sites and around the right number of pitches on those sites. A lot of these issues would go away and it would be far less expensive than a constant cycle of evictions. The economics of this, as well as the human rights aspects, are quite important.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Professor Clark, I am sorry but that is an offence, so it will be for a court to decide, and of course for the police and the CPS to make decisions to investigate and charge. Is £50,000-worth of damage to a piece of land acceptable, in the panel’s view? Is that a cost a landowner should bear? That is a historical constituency case that I had.

Professor Clark: What is the context? Without context that is an impossible question to answer.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Fly-tipping. A field was taken over by an unauthorised encampment and it cost £50,000 to clear it. Is that acceptable?

Professor Clark: There is legislation in place already to deal with fly-tipping, I believe. I do not think that there needs to be an enhancement of that legislation to the current law as it stands. There is legislation to deal with fly-tipping, whoever may cause it.

When sites come into being in local areas, it is not uncommon for other people to notice that it is Travellers coming in and use that as an excuse to fly-tip their own business-related waste, and then blame it on the Travellers. That comes back to the points that my two colleagues made about the dangers of invoking racialised stereotypes here and apportioning blame, when it is not those individuals who are to blame. Again, this is where we need to be careful about the way in which we use language and how this Bill goes forward.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q All right. Mr Feeley-Sprague, do you want to add to that before I move on to public protest?

Oliver Feeley-Sprague: Anybody responsible for causing £50,000-worth of damage to somebody’s property is committing a crime and, absolutely, people should be protected from that. To echo what the other panellists have said, I think you need to be very careful about further minoritising the Gypsy and Traveller communities. To answer your question bluntly, any form of significant damage of that nature is a crime, whoever does it.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Of course. On the public order provisions, does the Law Commission have a reputation for either not understanding human rights law or in some way working against the human rights law, of which we are very proud in this country?

Gracie Bradley: I am not sure that I understand what the question is getting at.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Does the Law Commission have a reputation for not understanding human rights law, or for somehow wanting to diminish people’s human rights?

Gracie Bradley: Not that I am aware of. I suppose what you are getting at is that codifying public nuisance in statute was a recommendation of the Law Commission, which is correct. In 2015, it did recommend that codifying public nuisance should be done, but it did not consider the application of public nuisance to protest.

The Law Commission noted that its proposed defence of reasonableness would increase cases where a person was exercising their right under article 10 or article 11 of the convention, but they also noted that it is somewhat difficult to imagine examples in which this point arises in connection with public nuisance. The Law Commission absolutely did not propose a maximum custodial sentence of a decade.

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Would any of the other witnesses like to respond to that question?

Oliver Feeley-Sprague: Just to say that I agree 100% with what Gracie said. That is my reading of what the Law Commission concluded in 2015. There are very specific qualifications about article 10 and article 11 rights needing to be protected under any changes of the law. By my reading, this Bill does exactly the opposite of that, so we should be extremely cautious.

Professor Clark: I think the Law Commission is fully cognisant of the rights and responsibilities of a healthy democracy. It understands questions of human rights and citizenship. I would not dare to suggest differently.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Good. I think that one witness this afternoon has mentioned the wording “serious annoyance”. Presumably you all accept that, in the context of public nuisance, that is a well-founded legal phrasing, which does not have the connotations that it may have in language outside of court; it has a very understood and settled meaning within legal definitions.

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

One of you can respond to that, if you would like to kick off.

Professor Clark: I can. What was the question?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

“Serious annoyance” is a phrase that has caught attention. In the context of public nuisance, that is a phrase that has arisen over centuries—I think I am right in saying that—of legal development and does not necessarily have quite the flippant meaning that it may have in day-to-day life outside of a court of law.

Professor Clark: Okay. I understand now—sorry. I think this comes back to the point that all three of us have made on the issues around terminology and definitions, and the use of them, and the ability to exercise discretion. You would like to hope, and expect, that moving forwards such expressions would take on their proper meanings in a legal context, but applied fairly and applied justly.

Given the overall nature of the Bill and what I said earlier about the impreciseness of the language and terminology, certainly in the case of part 4 with regard to unauthorised encampments, I think that is why a lot of outside bodies and organisations and non-governmental organisations have question marks.

However, I will hand over to Gracie, who might be better informed than I am on this.

Gracie Bradley: I am happy to pick this up. We know the legal genesis of that definition of “serious annoyance”, but of course the provisions in the Bill do not confine themselves to “annoyance”. If we look at clause 54, we see that conditions may be imposed that appear

“necessary to prevent the disorder, damage, disruption, impact or intimidation”—

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Forgive me—sorry. It is specifically in clause 59; that is the public nuisance clause, as recommended by the Law Commission. That is why I used that wording. It is in clause 59, not clause 54.

Gracie Bradley: I was not saying that it was in clause 59; I was picking up on another clause in the Bill, which contains language that is vague and concerning. But I can leave it there, if you want to stick with clause 59; I do not have anything to add on that.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q I will be very brief. It is a question for Gracie. I want to pick up on a point that you made, Gracie, in relation to unauthorised encampments and article 8. You suggested that the legislation might infringe article 8. However, paragraph 2 of article 8 says that interference by a public authority is “justified”—because article 8 is a qualified right, as you know—in the interests of, among other things,

“public safety…the economic well being…the prevention of disorder or crime…or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.”

Of course, unauthorised encampments of this kind do infringe

“the rights and freedoms of others”.

Thereby, I would suggest, article 8 is not engaged. Moreover, the right to enjoy one’s property is made very clear, is it not, in article 1 of protocol 1, which says that people are

“entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of…possessions.”

So, given what I have just said about paragraph 2 of article 8, and about article 1 of protocol 1, would you care to reconsider your article 8 analysis in relation to this clause?

Gracie Bradley: No. I think that what I said was that under article 8 it would likely be an unlawful interference, and I would disagree with your analysis that if it is proportionate, article 8 is not engaged. If the right can still be engaged, and a limitation may or may not be proportionate—

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Let me rephrase the question: would you agree that article 8 is not infringed?

Gracie Bradley: The point is that there is a balance to be struck; that is what happens with qualified rights. And I think the point is that the potential threshold at which these measures may be applied is so low, and the impact on Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people is potentially so distinct, that it would be disproportionate for the measure to be applied to them. What we are talking about, especially when we are talking about the potential seizure of vehicles in the context of nomadic Gypsy and Roma Traveller communities, is people potentially losing their homes entirely. If we are talking about people potentially facing a custodial sentence, that is a really significant interference with their article 8 rights, and it may have further implications—for example, what happens to their children if their caregivers are not available to them? Yes, I recognise that there may be interference in the life of the local community, but the point is that the threshold at which these measures may be invoked, and the impact on people who live in their homes and who have a nomadic way of life, is so significant that the way the Bill is drafted is disproportionate. In Liberty’s view, it also invites discrimination.

I recognise that the Committee is trying to get at the point about the wider community. It goes back to what Colin spoke about at the beginning and what numerous police forces have mentioned—that there is a lack of lawful stopping places, and that there is inadequate provision. I do not think we square this circle by getting into whose rights are more infringed on which side. The point is that what we need to get to is working constructively together to ensure that communities are provided for, and to make sure that there are enough stopping places and pitches. That is the way that we resolve this.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Do you place any weight at all on people’s protocol 1, article 1 rights to have “peaceful enjoyment” of their possessions? Do you place any weight on that at all?

Gracie Bradley: Of course—Liberty is a human rights organisation. As I am aiming to demonstrate, I am not dismissing that this is a qualified right, and that there are other things that hang in the balance on the other side. I have said there is a balance to be struck but, at the same time, the way the Bill is drafted means that it poses a disproportionate and really significant threat to the rights of Gypsy and Roma Traveller communities. They are a persecuted and minoritised community, and I do not think it is defensible for them to be targeted in this way, especially when there is a non-punitive solution, which is to ensure that there are adequate stopping places.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is not targeting that community expressly; it is targeting people who engage in a particular kind of behaviour, regardless of their identity—but I think I have taken this far enough.

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

I thank the witnesses on behalf of the Committee. Thank you for coming early and staying longer than your allotted 45 minutes, and I thank you for your evidence.

That brings us to the end of today’s sittings. The Committee will meet again at 9.25 am on Tuesday in Committee Room 14, in order to commence line-by-line consideration of the Bill.

Ordered, That further consideration be now adjourned. —(Tom Pursglove.)

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill (Fifth sitting)

(Limited Text - Ministerial Extracts only)

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Committee stage
Tuesday 25th May 2021

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Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 Read Hansard Text Amendment Paper: Public Bill Committee Amendments as at 25 May 2021 - (25 May 2021)

This text is a record of ministerial contributions to a debate held as part of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 passage through Parliament.

In 1993, the House of Lords Pepper vs. Hart decision provided that statements made by Government Ministers may be taken as illustrative of legislative intent as to the interpretation of law.

This extract highlights statements made by Government Ministers along with contextual remarks by other members. The full debate can be read here

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None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

I am going to call the Minister.

Victoria Atkins Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Victoria Atkins)
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Thank you, Sir Charles. It is, as always, a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship.

First, I thank Opposition Members for the constructive tone of the debate so far. I very much take the point that this covenant meets with the approval of all the parties represented here today and, I am sure, others as well. We are all conscious of the terrible incidents that members of the police force and the wider policing family have to endure on a daily basis, but we are also particularly mindful—reference has been made to this—of what they have had to endure and the services that they have had to provide in the past 12 months. It has been a very difficult time for the whole of society, and it is, I hope, no surprise to anyone that members of our policing family have been at the forefront of that and have been protecting us through these very difficult 12 months. I am therefore really pleased by the constructive tone of the debate thus far.

I am particularly grateful to the hon. Members for Rotherham and for Croydon Central for tabling these amendments and explaining their reasons for doing so. As I hope will become clear, we very much understand the motivations behind the amendments and, indeed, we have great sympathy with what they seek to achieve. We may just have different ideas of how to achieve them.

Let me put the clause in context. I am pleased that parliamentary counsel decided to put this clause at the very start of the Bill, because it is a significant Bill—the largest criminal justice Bill that Parliament has considered for some time—and I think it right that the police covenant is at the very start. It sets the tone for the rest of the legislation.

This clause will enshrine in law a duty on the Secretary of State to report annually to Parliament on the police covenant, which has been introduced with a view to enhancing support for the police workforce and their families—a very significant point. Even in this Committee Room, there are members of the policing family—they are not direct members themselves, but their fathers, mothers and so on have served in the service—and it is right that we include them in our consideration.

Sarah Champion Portrait Sarah Champion
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I appreciate the Minister giving way. She says, “and their families.” She has just done some exemplary work on the Bill that has become the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 and knows that a disproportionately high number of cases of domestic violence and abuse happen within the police world. One would hope that, were we able to tackle the root cause of that by addressing the trauma at the very beginning and putting support in place, the knock-on repercussions would be prevented, which I am sure she and I both really want.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
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I am extremely grateful to the hon. Lady. She is right: in the course of proceedings on that Bill, we examined the impact that domestic abuse has on members of the wider policing family. She is absolutely right, and I will come on to that point about the trauma, if I may. I do very much acknowledge it.

I will just explain the thinking behind the clause as currently drafted. The covenant takes the form of a declaration and is not set out in the Bill. In particular, the report must address the health and wellbeing of members and former members of the police workforce in England and Wales, their physical protections and support for their families. Over time, the report may deal with other matters addressed under the banner of the police covenant.

The clause is in the Bill because our police put themselves at risk on a daily basis, dealing with some of the most challenging, toughest and most heartbreaking situations—hon. Members have given examples of that during this debate. I will explain how the covenant came into being. We set out a frontline review, inviting police officers, staff and community support officers to share ideas, in order to change and improve policing. The results of that review identified the fact that more must be done to support the wellbeing of those across the policing community. We have therefore announced plans to establish a police covenant, to recognise the bravery, sacrifices and commitment of those who work, or who have worked, in policing. No member of the police workforce should suffer any disadvantage as a result of their role in policing, and the covenant will support that aim.

The examples that hon. Members have provided show, first, the challenges, difficulties and—actually—terror that officers must face on occasion. However, I also hope—I am grasping for silver linings—that some of the stories show the improvements in our collective understanding of the impact of trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder on mental health.

The example that the hon. Member for Rotherham gave of the officer who—I think she said that they were not even asked if they were okay, which, as the hon. Member for Garston and Halewood quite rightly said, should be only the beginning of the conversation; of course, much more must flow from that first question. However, the officer to whom the hon. Member for Rotherham referred had to leave the force in 1999. I hope that we all, as a society, have gained a better understanding of the impacts of trauma and so on on mental health since then.

Maria Eagle Portrait Maria Eagle
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Because the Minister has just said that trauma is now recognised, will she go the whole hog and include the word in her wonderful clause 1?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
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I am developing my argument, if I may. The reason I referred to that particular officer, although other examples were given, is that under the covenant, as it is drafted, that officer—as a former member of the police force—is covered by the covenant, and we very much want it to support not just serving members but those who have served and have since retired, or had to leave.

We now come to the nub of the issue—the inclusion of words in the legal framework, as set out in the Bill. We believe very strongly that the consideration of the impact of working with traumatised survivors on the morale and wellbeing of members and former members of the police force is already within scope of the clause, as currently drafted. It falls within the broad categories of health and wellbeing, as set out in clause 1.

Again, just to give the Committee some comfort and, indeed, I hope confidence in what we intend to do, our initial priorities for year one, which will be overseen and monitored by the police covenant oversight board and the police covenant delivery group, will include working towards ensuring that occupational health standards, including for mental health, are embedded in all forces; holding chiefs to account for providing the right quality and investment in their workforce; further consideration of a new chief medical officer for policing in England and Wales; working on a review to establish what is a good support model for families, drawing on established good practice and research from other sectors and international partners; and once that is agreed forces will be required to implement locally bespoke schemes in their local infrastructure. It will include development training for GPs around the role of the police, similar to the military veterans’ GP training, and development of pre-deployment mental health support provided to the police workforce, particularly in the light of the pandemic and the effect that it will have had on the police workforce.

Rather like the Domestic Abuse Act 2021, whereby in the definition we set out the very broad legal framework, and there were many examples of domestic abuse behaviour in those categories, which were then put into the statutory guidance. The wording, “health and wellbeing”, provides the legal framework. Within that, it is for the board, the delivery group and, ultimately, the Secretary of State, to include those matters in the report.

Sarah Champion Portrait