Baroness Brinton debates involving the Home Office during the 2019 Parliament

Mon 13th Dec 2021
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - Part 1 & Lords Hansard - part one
Wed 8th Dec 2021
Mon 22nd Nov 2021
Wed 17th Nov 2021
Wed 3rd Nov 2021
Wed 27th Oct 2021
Mon 25th Oct 2021

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Baroness Brinton Excerpts
Monday 17th January 2022

(7 months ago)

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Lord Haskel Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord Haskel) (Lab)
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My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, is taking part remotely. I invite the noble Baroness to speak.

Baroness Brinton Portrait Baroness Brinton (LD) [V]
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My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Russell, for his comprehensive introduction to this amendment and his explanation of the different types of stalking.

When Gracie Spinks was stalked and then murdered in June by a non-partner, her case was made infinitely worse by the behaviour of the police both before and after she died. In February, she had reported the worrying behaviour of Michael Sellers to her local police. Despite his behaviour escalating, she had no support from them. There are also issues about the behaviour of officers after her murder, and five have now been issued with IOPC disciplinary notices.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Baroness Brinton Excerpts
Lord Garnier Portrait Lord Garnier (Con)
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I am so glad to have the approbation of the noble Lords opposite, for whom I have the greatest respect—on their negotiated stopping site.

That is what I invite the House and the Minister to consider, and perhaps the Minister will respond in due course, saying why my idea is not quite as wonderful as I think it is.

Baroness Brinton Portrait Baroness Brinton (LD) [V]
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My Lords, I am a patron of the Traveller Movement. I thank the Minister for reaching out to those of us interested in this issue and I am sorry that the change in date meant that I was unable to attend. I also thank the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, for her dedicated work in co-ordinating the efforts of those of us who remain very concerned about these clauses in the Bill.

In Committee, we had a full debate on how the clauses on authorised encampments are a breach of the human rights of the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities to live a nomadic life. I thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord Garnier, because he has tried to propose a compromise regarding stopping sites. It certainly merits listening to, and I hope the Minister will take account of it.

In my contribution today, I wish to focus on just one area. Clause 63 also creates the right for the police to confiscate a vehicle that may be an individual and their family’s main residence. That confiscation would have the most extraordinary consequences, giving the police very strong powers that they do not have in respect of other people’s principal residences. If the police were to confiscate a vehicle under this clause, families would not only become homeless, but because they would be deemed to have become intentionally homeless, there is a possibility that their children would be taken into care, especially if there was no appropriate emergency accommodation locally. By doing that, parents may also not be able to move on to their next planned place of work.

I support Amendment 55ZC from the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, which protects individuals by preventing police confiscating their vehicles if it would make the individual owner, and their family, homeless.

The National Police Chiefs’ Council could not be clearer. It said:

“We believe that criminalising unauthorised encampments is not acceptable. Complete criminalisation of trespass would likely lead to legal action in terms of incompatibility with regard to the Human Rights Act 1998 and the Public Sector Equality Duty under the Equality Act 2010, most likely on the grounds of how could such an increase in powers be proportionate and reasonable when there are insufficient pitches and stopping places?”

In Committee, the Minister said that these clauses are not targeted at the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community, but it certainly looks that way, especially as the Government explicitly referenced Traveller caravans in the background briefing to the Queen’s Speech. The Government have also made it clear that they are not criminalising trespass more generally. Even if the outline of these proposals were in the Government’s manifesto, actions that target one particular community, infringing their human rights and giving the police powers that they have said repeatedly that they do not want, cannot be right. I hope that the Minister will rethink this deplorable legislation.

Baroness Whitaker Portrait Baroness Whitaker (Lab)
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My Lords, I apologise for not raising my eyes to the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, initially. Her remarks are well worth paying attention to.

I am flattered by the attribution of influence by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Garnier. I have taken a slightly different route, but his amendment is interesting. All the amendments in this group are aimed at resolving prejudice against and actual homelessness of the Gypsy and Traveller communities. They all deserve serious consideration. Amendment 57 in the name of my noble friend Lady Lister and the cosignatories of my amendment would deal with the underlying social situation of these fellow citizens, in particular the non-arrival of the strategy initiated quite some time ago by the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, when he was the very effective Minister responsible, and I think endorsed by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams.

I will speak to Amendment 55ZB in my name and supported by a distinguished cross-party group to whom I express my gratitude. I will move it to a vote if its thrust is not accepted by the Government. I am also grateful to the Minister for the meeting she gave several of us last week, when she said that the provision of the sites for Gypsies and Travellers was a planning matter and an amendment that dealt with that was not for this Bill. Indeed, it is a planning matter, as the police said in their evidence to the consultation on the Bill, but the trouble is that the lack of sites and consequent vulnerability of Gypsies and Travellers to summary eviction is inexplicably linked. Despite the noble Baroness’s assurance at our meeting that she would consult DLUHC on a way forward, I have heard nothing further.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Baroness Brinton Excerpts
Baroness Meacher Portrait Baroness Meacher (CB)
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My Lords, I rise to move Amendment 11, and speak to Amendments 22, 25 and 30. I thank the Minister for our very helpful meeting this morning, and for the detailed letter I received at 4 pm. I have carefully considered the points raised, and reread the letter to ensure I had understood it, but the basics facts remain the same—as I think the Minister realises—and I will do my best to explain them.

My comments also apply to Amendment 25, but I will focus on the three identical amendments to the three clauses. They ensure that disclosure of information by one public body to another under Part 2 of the Bill does not contravene data protection legislation. This is an incredibly important principle, yet the data sharing provisions in Part 2, as the Bill stands, would enable data protection legislation to be breached. Data protection legislation does permit information to be shared for the purposes of preventing crime, which is important too. If Amendment 11, along with identical Amendments 22 and 30, is passed, personal data could be passed to be police, but professionals could not be forced to do so against their professional judgment. That is the key principle we want to achieve.

The Minister’s letter says that the data shared under the duty is intended primarily to consist of aggregated and anonymous data, et cetera. But we have to focus on what the Bill says, rather than what our excellent Minister may intend. As I said to her this morning, if our Minister were Home Secretary, I might be content with the wording in the Bill, on this issue—I am not sure about everything else—as I have great respect for both our Ministers.

The Minister also says the duty applies to duty holders, not directly to front-line professionals, including youth and social workers. But it is these professionals who hold the information which the police may find helpful, not directors of social services, for example.

It is vital that, if we are to deal with serious violent crime, we do not undermine prevention work. It is therefore important that young people trust their teachers and youth workers. We believe these professionals must be able to exercise their professional judgment about whether it is more effective and important, in preventing serious violence, to be able to continue working with vulnerable and potentially dangerous young people to steer them away from drugs and crime, or to pass on information to the police. There will be times when the sharing of information with the police may be the first, and immediate, priority. However, if in the professional judgment of the teacher or youth worker working with the young people is the top priority, then she or he must be able to exercise that judgment, in my view.

The Minister is likely to argue that the modification of the disclosure of information legislation envisaged in the Bill is similar to that in other Bills and therefore should be accepted. We had a lengthy discussion on that issue this morning. On checking these other Bills it appears the context is quite different, as is the nature of the information that may be shared. The closest example is the Environment Act, which uses similar wording to that in Clause 9, under which information sharing may be required. However, in the Environment Act, this relates to whether public authorities are complying with environmental legislation; it has nothing to do with personal information for law enforcement purposes, which is an entirely different matter. The Medicines and Medical Devices Act only requires information to be shared without consent in a veterinary context—you cannot really ask a cow for her consent to pass on information about her. Therefore, this is not relevant to this Bill.

It seems the Government may not have drawn the right conclusions from the criticism of the Met Police’s gangs matrix system. As the Minister knows, Corey Junior Davis was murdered after his details in the Met Police’s gangs matrix were shared and fell into the wrong hands.

The system that produced that breach is being reproduced in the Bill. Surely, we will see replicated across the country other harms generated by the Met Police’s gangs matrix: young people losing college places that would probably have given them a route out of trouble; the application of eviction notices likely to lead them on a downward spiral of drugs and crime; and endless costly and pointless stop and searches, thereby undermining young people. We could also expect a repeat across the country of the discriminatory profiling that was inherent in the Met Police’s gangs matrix.

I very much welcome the Government’s acceptance of the need to respect the professional judgment of medical and social care personnel. All that we are asking for in the amendment and, indeed, the other two in the group is that the same respect for personal judgment be applied to teachers and youth workers as the Government now recognise should be given to doctors and others. Without these amendments, the work of the key public servants to prevent serious violence will be jeopardised, an issue that I should have thought the Government would be concerned about.

The Bill also gives the police the power to monitor compliance with the duty to require other bodies to share information with them, and it gives the Secretary of State enforcement powers to back those police powers. The amendment offers vital protection for professionals in exercising their judgment on how best to reduce serious violence by their clients.

The Minister has said that the collection of data is necessary in order to identify the kinds of serious violence that occur in an area and, so far as it is possible to do so, their causes, and then prepare and implement a strategy with bespoke local solutions. I am sure that the Minister knows that no personal information is required in order to do that. It is well established that anonymous data is sufficient to develop appropriate strategies. The draft statutory guidance says that most information will be depersonalised, but it does not say in what circumstances it will not. If it were clear that it was all about professional judgment, that would be fine—and that is what we are seeking.

These are incredibly modest amendments that, added to the government amendments, would go some way towards protecting the efficacy of our public services and enable young people to benefit from preventive and therapeutic interventions. These are the best hope of preventing serious violence over many years. We are not talking just about a one-off crime here. We are talking about the culture and style of life, and these public servants are working on the front line to try to divert these young people into education, training, jobs and so on. Instead of doing that, it is a huge thing to somehow divert those people into the criminal justice system. Punitive responses are never the right answer to vulnerability and deprivation—generally the backdrop to serious violence.

Baroness Brinton Portrait Baroness Brinton (LD) [V]
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My Lords, I thank the Minister and her officials in the Home Office and the Department of Health and Social Care for meeting me, the noble Lord, Lord Ribeiro, the General Medical Council, the British Medical Association and the National Data Guardian, and for listening carefully and agreeing that a patient’s personal information should not be disclosed under regulations made under Clauses 9, 15 or 16 by a health or social care authority, which currently includes a clinical commissioning group in England and a local health board in Wales, or under regulations made under those clauses. However, I wonder whether the Minister can help me and confirm that Clause 17, where the Secretary of State can instruct the transfer of information, even if a specified authority refused, will definitely not apply to patient data.

I am entirely supportive of the amendments in the group tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester and my noble friend Lord Paddick. While I am grateful that the Government have recognised that there is something particular about a patient’s personal health data, there still remains the issue relating to staff in a specified authority being asked to hand over personal data to the police and other bodies. There are some roles, such as youth workers and children’s home workers, where trust has had to be built up with the people who come to them. Any data relating to those at-risk people, whether potentially violent or potential victims, should not do anything to harm that relationship. As the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, has said, anonymised data can be used.

As we know from doctors’ and nurses’ ethical arrangements, there are exceptional times when it is important for such information to be passed to the authorities. I believe that we can rely on the workers in other sectors to see that responsibility. Amendment 24 specifically sets out the ethical and legal rules that should apply.

Finally, I believe that the Secretary of State should not have these powers, however rarely they might be used, so I also support my noble friend Lord Paddick’s Amendment 35.

Lord Bishop of Manchester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Manchester
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My Lords, I rise to support the amendments in my name and those of the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, and the noble Lord, Lord Paddick. I draw your Lordships’ attention to my interests in policing ethics and my work with the National Police Chiefs’ Council, as set out in the register. I trust that those interests assure your Lordships that I am a strong supporter of effective policing, not its adversary.

As an occasional statistician, I am also well aware of the power and utility of data. Good data, including on the risks of serious violence, can provide the evidence that allows the limited resources of our police forces to be directed to the particular challenges faced in different contexts and localities. Perhaps it is because I trained not as a lawyer but as a mathematician that I hold firmly to the maxim that, before one can begin to find the right solution, one has to have clearly defined the problem. I am not sure that these clauses, as presently drafted, fully pass that test.

If the problem is that there are occasions when the sharing of personal data will be necessary in order to detect or prevent serious violence, such powers already exist. Indeed, they go further than simply applying to certain public bodies. Like all of my right reverend and most reverend friends on these Benches, I am a data controller—a fancy title—handling often very sensitive personal information regarding clergy, church officers and children who are in the care of churches. I know my general duties regarding when I ought to disclose such data to police or others. When I need specific advice, I have access to my legal secretary, my diocesan safeguarding adviser and others. It is difficult to see what a new duty on some public bodies to share identifiable personal information will add to this.

Alternatively, if the problem is the need to collect and process data sets that allow the setting of more general policing priorities and interventions, it is difficult to see why that cannot be done in ways that remove all identifiable personal details and hence are entirely compliant with the GDPR and other data protection law. I struggle to see why there is a need to create an opt-out for the anonymised data that can drive better policing.

The amendments that I and others have put our names to would, I believe, strengthen the Bill, making it clear that it is seeking not to set aside data protection law but to allow anonymised data to be shared where this will produce better policing outcomes. They would reassure children, vulnerable people, victims of crime and others that their personal data will not be shared, beyond that which is already shared under existing legislation. They would allow youth workers, whether they are employed by the Church, local authorities or whomever, to continue to be trusted by those who come to them.

As has been alluded to, the noble Baroness, Lady Williams—who, were it not for the particular protocols of this place, I would be proud to refer to as my noble friend—has already accepted the principle that health bodies should not be compelled to share patient data. It is not a huge leap to extend that to other authorities.

Operation Warm Welcome

Baroness Brinton Excerpts
Thursday 25th November 2021

(8 months, 3 weeks ago)

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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The noble Viscount will of course appreciate that I cannot talk about individual cases at the Dispatch Box, but I appreciate his concern for his friend and his family. I would definitely appreciate the noble Viscount writing to me and then we can take the case forward.

Baroness Brinton Portrait Baroness Brinton (LD) [V]
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My Lords, NGOs are reporting that there is no co-ordination on cross-departmental issues relating to the two separate Afghan refugee schemes. They are telling us that any request is pointed to a different department: MoD points to FCDO, the FCDO points to the Home Office and it points to the Department for Levelling Up. It feels like nothing is getting done. Will the Minister undertake, as a matter of extreme urgency, that a publicly named Minister and civil servant be given responsibility for cross-departmental working relating to the Afghan refugee schemes?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I hope I can satisfy the noble Baroness in naming that Minister. It is my honourable friend Victoria Atkins, who is based in MoJ, DLUHC and the Home Office, and is responsible for the Afghan resettlement scheme.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Baroness Brinton Excerpts
Wednesday 24th November 2021

(8 months, 3 weeks ago)

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Moved by
292K: After Clause 170, insert the following new Clause—
“Desecration of a corpse
(1) A person (‘D’) is guilty of an offence if—(a) D acts with severe disrespect to a corpse, and(b) D knows that, or is reckless to whether, their acts are one of severe disrespect.(2) In subsection (1)(a), disrespect to a corpse includes but is not limited to—(a) dismembering a corpse, including—(i) removing or attempting to remove identifiable body parts such as teeth, or fingers;(ii) decapitation or attempted decapitation;(b) destroying or attempting to destroy a corpse by means or burning or the use of chemicals.(3) For the purposes of subsection (1)(a), whether an act is one of severe disrespect is to be judged according to the standard of the reasonable person.(4) A person is not guilty of an offence under this section if—(a) the act would otherwise be criminal under section 1 of the Human Tissue Act 2004,(b) the act is also a criminal offence under section 70 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 (sexual penetration of a corpse), or(c) the act is a lawful cremation under the Cremation (England and Wales) Regulations 2008.(5) A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable—(a) on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum or both;(b) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 years.”Member’s explanatory statement
The current common law offence of preventing a lawful and decent burial is rarely used. This amendment therefore creates a specific criminal offence of desecration of a corpse to address intentional acts of disrespect towards a deceased person’s remains.
Baroness Brinton Portrait Baroness Brinton (LD) [V]
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My Lords, Amendments 292K and 292L in my name seek to create a criminal offence of desecration of a corpse and concealment of a corpse. At present, there are only common-law offences of preventing a lawful burial and obstructing a coroner by concealing a body.

Marie McCourt, the mother of Helen McCourt, still does not know what happened to her daughter who disappeared on 9 February 1988, or where her body was hidden or disposed of. Marie is one of those extraordinary women who absolutely refused to stop looking for her daughter, even though Helen’s murderer, who was convicted on clear DNA evidence, has not only served his term in prison but been released on licence. Despite being pressed repeatedly by the authorities over the years, he has refused to say where Helen’s body was left or what happened to it.

Marie has been arguing for decades that the desecration and concealment of a corpse is an extra-heavy sentence on the victim’s loved ones. She has supported the families of many other victims who have seen their loved ones murdered but have no remains to bury, or have heard of unspeakable desecration of their bodies.

In 2015 Marie started to campaign for a change in the law for these killers, seeking to require them to reveal where their victims’ remains were before being considered for parole. In July 2019, she was successful in getting that law changed—but not in time for her daughter’s killer. Marie was not doing it just for her, her family or Helen’s friends. She does not want anyone else to go through the agony they have faced for over three decades.

Others have also spoken out: Coral Jones, Tony Cox and Lesley Rees are the parents and family members of April Jones, Lorraine Cox and Michael O’Leary, who were also not just murdered but had their bodies desecrated by their murderers. Some remains were dismembered and some were burned. These families have had the extra distress of not knowing what happened to part or all their loved ones’ bodies. For these families there is no closure. More recently, Sarah Everard’s remains were burned by her murderer—although in her case police were able to find her remains.

At present, with the common-law offence of preventing a lawful burial, and these days with excellent forensic skills such as those used by police and forensic staff in the Sarah Everard case, it is possible to identify not just remains but also links with the murderer. The common-law offence of obstructing the coroner by concealing a body is rarely used, and there are no consequences for a convicted killer who continues to conceal the whereabouts of a body. Some killers enjoy having this last part of control over their appalling acts. They know that most families will never have a day without reliving the distress of their loved one being murdered. Refusing to disclose what they have done with the body, or where they have concealed a corpse or partial remains, is a form of control.

I thank Marie McCourt, Fiona Duffy and Claire Waxman, the London victims’ commissioner, and her office, for helping to brief me this. There can be few things worse for a family than hearing that a loved one has been murdered. To then learn that their remains have been further abused or have never been found causes unimaginable distress. The current laws are inadequate and mostly not used by prosecutors. These amendments say that these two offences should become criminal offences where an offender has done an intentional act of disrespect towards the deceased person’s remains. The second amendment makes it a criminal offence for an offender to refuse to co-operate in the recovery of their victim’s remains. These offences will punish an offender who has committed these unspeakable acts beyond murder, and also perhaps begin to bring closure to grieving families. I beg to move.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lady Brinton for introducing these amendments, which we support. The “Helen’s Law” campaign has achieved a great deal by persisting in campaigning for victims and their families by ensuring that failure to disclose the whereabouts of a victim’s body can increase the killer’s time in custody. These amendments go further, as my noble friend has explained. She has worked with Helen’s mother, Marie McCourt, and others on these amendments, proposing to create specific offences of desecration of a corpse and concealment of a body.

These amendments address serious and real human suffering caused by preventing a victim’s family from recovering the body of their loved one, whose life has already been cruelly snatched from them. The proposed offences would respond to that cruelty in a way that may be inadequate in reducing the hurt, but at least they reflect the justified anger we all feel when killers compound their inhuman actions with further callousness and inhumanity. As my noble friend explained, the existing legislation is not only inadequate but rarely used. We support her amendments.

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I do not say that the Government will adopt the specific approach taken in this amendment, nor am I ruling out further future changes to the law on the desecration of a corpse after consideration of the evidence that emerges following recent events. I hope that the Committee acknowledges the ongoing work that is taking place to establish the facts to be learned from these recent events but that, given the reassurance that these matters are being considered, the noble Baroness feels able to withdraw her amendment.
Baroness Brinton Portrait Baroness Brinton (LD) [V]
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I thank all speakers for their thoughtful and moving responses to the difficult issues covered by these amendments. I particularly thank my noble friend Lord Paddick for his support; he was absolutely right to talk about the devastating, inhuman and callous behaviour that these two amendments attempt to codify. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, reiterated the key legal arguments and had information that I did not—that there have been at least 54 murder cases where this is relevant. I thank them both for their support.

The Minister says that Amendment 292L narrows the area from the common law equivalent and that the sentence is less. The problem is that the common law equivalent is never used. The reality is that many prosecutors do not recognise it, and noble Lords know that there are a number of times when prosecutors do not go for more serious charges to ensure that they get something through a court that a jury recognises. But it is important to understand that we are not proposing to repeal the common law offence. It is vital to understand that. The amendment deliberately did not propose repealing the common law offence expressly to keep it on the statue book and therefore give the courts full discretion to use it, if they so wish.

On Amendment 292K, the Minister said it is paramount that bodies should be treated with respect, and he is absolutely right. He also said that desecration to facilitate the hiding of the body is an aggravating factor, but too rarely has that been recognised. I am grateful that he used the word “may” in possibly considering these issues as part of the inquiry into the Tunbridge Wells case. I spoke on the Statement on this matter in your Lordships’ House, when it came up two or three weeks ago, and one of the problems with the current crime of necrophilia, which, from memory, has been on the books since either 2013 or 2003—I apologise for not remembering which—is that it has never been used. We have these cases that either are too embarrassing to deal with or have concerns from prosecutors that they will not get past a jury.

Will the Minister have a meeting with me to consider changing that word “may” and to see whether it is possible to include this in the inquiry? Despite the acts of the Tunbridge Wells case being different, the consequences remain the same for the families of the bereaved. In the meantime, I am content to withdraw the amendment and will consider whether to bring both back on Report.

Amendment 292K withdrawn.
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This is what the amendment is asking the Government to do. If we do not do it, stalking will stalk us and the Government Front Bench into the foreseeable future. The Minister is already very familiar with the shock troops who support the noble Baroness, Lady Lister of Burtersett, on the issue of immigration and citizenship fees, known under the banner of the “Lister terriers”. I give the Minister fair warning that the Royall-Brinton group—the noble Baronesses, Lady Royall and Lady Brinton—are gathering under the banner of “Stalk the stalkers”. There is far too much talking about stalking and not enough effective action, however genuinely hard Her Majesty’s Government have tried. I beg to move.
Baroness Brinton Portrait Baroness Brinton (LD) [V]
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My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Russell of Liverpool, has very ably set out the reasons why this amendment has been tabled, so I will be brief. Let me put it politely: the House will know that a number of us remain concerned that stalking is still not taken seriously by the Home Office, the Government and some parts of the criminal justice system. We know that training remains patchy, and that victims are still told they should be grateful for the attention of their stalker. That is why we tabled this amendment to create a stalking strategy—not for the first time; I have been tabling amendments on a stalking strategy for a decade—for training in recognising, and working in a truly multidisciplinary way to recognise, possible stalking perpetrators, and to let MAPPA professionals become involved at an early stage as soon as the possibility of fixated and obsessive behaviour emerges.

The noble Baroness, Lady Williams, told your Lordships’ House during the passage of the Domestic Abuse Bill, on consideration of Commons’ amendments, that the Government were consulting with different key parties in the criminal justice system to amend the guidance on MAPPA and to recognise and manage stalking. I thank her for sharing the proposed revisions to the statutory guidance. She said:

“Once the revised guidance is settled, we will promulgate it through a Written Ministerial Statement, and this will provide an opportunity to update the House on the delivery of the other commitments I have set out. Noble Lords talked about having some sort of debate in this place, perhaps after the Summer Recess.”—[Official Report, 27/4/21; cols. 2180-81.]

When will this be brought back to your Lordships’ House for such a debate?

The noble Baroness also said:

“We are also legislating already in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill to put beyond doubt the powers of duty to co-operate agencies to share information under MAPPA by clarifying existing information-sharing provisions. We are investing new resources to tackle perpetrators, with an additional £25 million committed this year.”—[Official Report, 27/4/21; col. 2182.]

I understand that that is not just stalking perpetrators but perpetrators of a range of serious crimes.

Despite her encouraging us to bring back stalking-specific matters to this Bill because they were not appropriate for the Domestic Abuse Bill, it is noticeable that there is still no sign of a stalking strategy. It is as if stalking protection orders, now passed, are the magic answer, when actually they are part of the toolkit for managing fixated and obsessive perpetrators who may not come under domestic abuse legislation. As the noble Lord, Lord Russell, demonstrated, the patchy application of SPOs is real evidence of the old problem continuing. The choice about how to apply the stalking laws remains with people inside the police and courts system.

In a case in Wales in the last two weeks, a man was charged with two incidents relating to stalking his ex-partner, but she had already moved home twice and it is evident from the case that this stalking had been going on for a considerable time. Can the Minister say what training is happening within all police forces and all the courts—family as well as criminal—and for social workers, among others involved in MAPPA?

It is 13 years since my stalker was convicted—after 100 incidents had happened—and close to 10 years since stalking was created as a separate offence from harassment, but people being stalked still have to face many issues in the system because there is no overarching strategy for dealing with stalking. It is time that there was.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Portrait Lord Hunt of Kings Heath (Lab)
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My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, has eloquently and bravely described on a number of occasions and brought home to us just how important it is to tackle stalking in an effective way. I also pay tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Newlove, who has been an inspiration during our discussions on these issues.

I will make just two points to emphasise the excellent speech by the noble Lord, Lord Russell. First, he mentioned the huge number of women who are victims of stalking and the disgracefully low number of prosecutions. The problem is not just the inconsistencies to which he and HM Inspectorate have referred. It is also clear that in too many police forces stalking is seen as a low-level nuisance behaviour issue rather than the serious crime it often is.

We know that a number of stalking perpetrators who potentially pose the highest risk to victims would not meet the threshold for the assessment and management of risk for a relevant domestic abuse or stalking perpetrator, as proposed under the MAPPA model. This is a big problem. As the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, which does so much fantastic work in this area, has identified, stalking is often not recognised as a crime. The level of risk to a victim is therefore inadequately identified and addressed, and this has the potential to put many lives in serious danger.

I refer the Minister to Dr Jane Monckton Smith’s 2017 study of 358 homicides, all of which involved a female victim and a male perpetrator. It revealed stalking behaviour as an antecedent to femicide in 94% of those cases. That demonstrates why it is so important to work on prevention and action in relation to stalking.

The noble Baroness responded at great length to our previous debate in Committee, setting out the proposals and the actions her department is taking. As the noble Lord, Lord Russell, said, in the end they do not really amount to a cohesive strategy that will actually start to take this seriously. I hope the Minister will perhaps agree to reflect on this between now and Report to see whether we can take this any further.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Baroness Brinton Excerpts
This leads me back to the issue of collecting information on those with GRCs. There has been much passionate discussion in recent years, particularly on social media, about how trans people are treated by the police and other parts of the criminal justice system. But because forces are not recording accurate sex data or data about people in possession of GRCs, much of this debate is based not on accurate information but on anecdote. This cannot be a sensible way to debate important societal problems or to develop effective policies for tackling them; hence the case for this amendment, which would give us reliable, timely, consistent national data about whether the victims and perpetrators of crimes are male or female—a question which presently cannot be answered with confidence. For these reasons, I commend this amendment to the Committee. I beg to move.
Baroness Brinton Portrait Baroness Brinton (LD) [V]
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My Lords, I wish to speak against this amendment, because on first reading it set off a number of alarm bells. But I say to the noble Lord, Lord Wasserman, that I listened carefully to what he said, to try to understand his arguments. For me, there are consequences for trans people in the amendment that no other group of people with protected characteristics would have to face in our society.

Those who have laid and spoken to amendments to this Bill against transgender people have repeatedly said there is a data collection problem. But I do not understand why the data needs to be collected by the police, given that for most crimes—whether the victim or the person being arrested, as set out in this amendment—being a trans person is just not relevant.

A parallel example would be requiring a disabled person to register with the police. I have chosen this example deliberately because, four years ago, I was physically attacked in my wheelchair at Euston station. For that incident, the wonderful British Transport Police recorded the crime as a disability hate crime—the crime, note, not the victim or the perpetrator. I would be appalled if every time I reported a crime thereafter—online fraud, for example—I had to say, “By the way, I’m disabled and I’m on your disability register.”

Rape offences are probably the only offences where the police need to know the sex of the offender because the legislation is dependent on the person’s genitals. It is otherwise not relevant information because the police do not need to know it. The noble Lord, Lord Wasserman, says that it is easy to add one section to the crime reporting information system—CRIS—but is it so easy? Adding just one extra category will take time and, for an existing reporting system, is usually very much more expensive than expected. Just ask the Government about the costs of adding the booster jab details to the Covid app, when they have thrown millions at IT during the pandemic.

I note that the amendment says that the above

“does not constitute an offence under section 22 of the Gender Recognition Act 2004”,

which prevents the disclosure of this protected information. On what grounds, then, is it acceptable to share people’s protected characteristics when the GRA says that is private information? In the context of personal information, can the noble Lord confirm whether the amendment complies with GDPR? I am not sure that it does, as it is not personal information that is essential to record.

I return to why the amendment was laid. Can the noble Lord, Lord Wasserman, answer some questions to try to explain the aims of his amendment? I will give a hypothetical example: a trans individual is subject to house burglary or to a street mugging unrelated to their gender. This amendment requires them, if they report that crime, to out themselves to the police. Why should they suffer that loss of privacy and human rights, and to what end? Why should trans people face such a disincentive to report crimes perpetrated against them? Why is this the one group of people being singled out as victims?

I have a second example. A trans person is arrested for being drunk and disorderly but they have been assaulted and in fact are suffering from concussion, which can give the same appearance. That would be a defence to any charge but they are required to out themselves upon arrest. Why? A key tenet of our law is that accused persons are presumed innocent and mostly have the same right to privacy and liberty as all citizens. That is different for criminals. The noble Lord, Lord Wasserman, referred two or three times to crimes and criminals but that is not what this amendment says. It concerns anyone who is arrested. What is the position of an accused person who refuses to provide the relevant information? The amendment does not make this clear. Would they be obstructing a police officer in the execution of their duty under Section 89(2) of the Police Act 1996?

A further real concern about this amendment, if enacted, is that it would prevent trans people coming forward to report being victims of crime as they would have to out themselves. Many would not be comfortable with disclosing that sort of information. It also implies that a gender recognition certificate is what defines gender, whereas many trans people do not have or want one of them.

The fundamental problem for me, though, is the labelling and targeting of trans people, either as victims or those arrested by the police, alone of any group in our society. While this amendment may not be being instructing them at this stage to wear a pink triangle on their jackets at all times, there would be a data pink triangle. It would set them apart from every other grouping in society. It sets a dangerous and unacceptable precedent. I hope the noble Lord will withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Morris of Yardley Portrait Baroness Morris of Yardley (Lab)
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My Lords, I have put my name to this amendment and I shall speak in support of it. I very much welcome the way in which the noble Lord, Lord Wasserman, presented the argument. He gave a lot of detail, and at this time of night I will not go over it again, but I want to emphasise one or two points.

To begin with, I say that I sort of understand the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, and I take them seriously, because anybody who thinks that any proposed legislation will discriminate against one group deserves to be heard and to have those questions explored. But at the core of this is the collection of data; we are an immensely data-rich society at the moment. Sitting here, throughout the debates this evening, there have been so many times when the argument that has been put forward has depended on the collection of data. Whichever public service you look at, whether it be education, health, the criminal law or whatever, much of the progress that we have made over previous decades has been because we have had the ability to collect data.

I am a woman, and I think that my sex has made many advances over the past decades because people arguing for legislation that has protected women, men, people with disabilities and people who are transgender have been able to make the case only because they have been able to collect the data. Unless you have the data, you are arguing vaguely about some impression about something that might happen, so I am deeply wedded to the idea of collecting data in the formation of public policy and the advancement of political ideas.

I think that is defensible, but I do not take for granted the fact that we do not give something up in the collection of that data. I will be honest. I am trustee of a number of charities, as I think everybody in this Chamber is. Every year, when I am asked to fill in the data declaration, I see another bit of data there. Sometimes, I think “Why do they want to know that about me?”, and the one I am saying that about at the moment is sexuality. I sit there, I tick the box that says “heterosexual”, and I think “What’s that got to do with me being a trustee of this body?” But I sign it, because I think that, on the whole, that declaration of bits of information about ourselves can be put to the common public good. If we were to look at charities, without declaring that information, how do we ever get to make the argument that women, or people who are black or from ethnic minorities, or from the gay community, are not represented on charities? Whether we like it or not—and I accept that it is difficult to come to terms with it sometimes—it is about the protection, rights and freedoms of individuals. But I would never say that we do not pay a price for the collection of this data, or that we must not continuously and constantly make sure that the data we are asking to be collected is in the public policy interest.

That is why I have come to this amendment and why I very much support the arguments that have been made. What the amendment asks is simply that we collect two bits of data, among others. One is the sex at birth and the other is any gender acquired during the lifetime of the person. Without that, I do not know how we can go on to develop public policy in the pursuit of those who have committed crime and of the public duty to protect those who have been victims of crime. Unless we have the data about how many of which groups there are, they will be ignored.

I have sat through a long and very interesting debate today. My noble friend on the Front Bench said that one of the most important things about the Bill before the Committee is that it is a Bill about protecting women and girls. I do not know how you do that unless you collect the data. We have heard about county lines and knife crime. Unless we collect the data to know that many of the people who are drawn in and persuaded to commit those crimes are young men, we cannot develop a suite of policies that support them. When we collect data about sex, it is entirely proper to ask about acquired gender as well. We must not conflate the two.

The problem at the moment is that different police forces are collecting data about sex at birth and about gender acquired at some other point and then conflating the two. We do not have the sequencing of data and information across police forces in this country that can enable us to make public policy. That is what this amendment is asking. It wants to disaggregate those, as the mover of the amendment has said.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Baroness Brinton Excerpts
We firmly believe that efforts to protect women who come into contact with the criminal justice system, or who are at risk of doing so, could benefit greatly from the existence and support of a specialist organisation dedicated to practical action, as well as to research and to giving advice to government on tackling the issues they face. The Minister has shown genuine and reflective commitment since he took office to improving the response of the criminal justice system to the particular problems it poses for women and girls. We suggest that establishing a women’s justice board could be the single most effective measure the Government could take to bring real and lasting help for women and girls who are currently let down by the system, or at risk of being so let down in the future. I beg to move.
Baroness Brinton Portrait Baroness Brinton (LD) [V]
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My Lords, I will speak briefly in support of Amendment 240A and to agree with everything my noble friend Lord Marks said. In particular, I echo his support for the work of the Youth Justice Board over the years.

Amendments earlier today have discussed the problems with the regime of youth offenders, and the Youth Justice Board has proved that this particular expertise is vital in a holistic approach to youth offending. A key element of that is the specialist training for all staff in contact with young people in the criminal justice system. The Youth Justice Board has very successfully reduced the number of young people in custody.

Many of the amendments to the Bill are about women, whether around violence against women and girls or the specific difficulties that women and girls face in the criminal justice system. Time and again, we have heard that different parts of the criminal justice system—police, courts, the Prison Service and probation —do not understand the particular problems that these women face. It is very important to note that the majority of female offenders have committed non-violent offences, and that a large proportion have suffered domestic and sexual violence or coercive control, usually at the hands of their partners.

The creation of a women’s justice board would mirror the principles behind the Youth Justice Board. It would oversee the key issues relating to prevention, custody and rehabilitation, and ensure that everyone in the justice system—not just the criminal justice system but also the family courts system—would receive specialist training.

One important area to consider is alternatives to custody. These should be consistently used, where appropriate, because evidence suggests that they work much better. There are benefits for the welfare of children; this should be considered when sentencing mothers and carers, to prevent the lives of their children being more disrupted. There is also evidence that this will reduce the chances of their children having problems at school and entering the criminal justice system themselves. The wider benefits of maintaining family and community links mean that female offenders’ rehabilitation will be more successful.

I know that the number of women offenders with custodial sentences has reduced, but this Government have placed the protection of women, especially those at risk from violence, at the heart of the Bill. The creation of a women’s justice board would be a key pillar in ensuring that women are given the support that they need to prevent them committing offences and to take into account their family responsibilities in considering custody and rehabilitation.

Lord Ramsbotham Portrait Lord Ramsbotham (CB)
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My Lords, I support Amendments 240A and 259C, so comprehensively introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames. Ever since the formation of the Youth Justice Board, I have been keen on the idea of a women’s justice board, with the accompanying offender management teams, particularly if it was matched by a Prison Service appointment of a director of women’s prisons—a change to the operational management structure of the Prison Service that the MoJ should consider, as I advocated to the Minister when debating an earlier amendment.

The Minister for Prisons and Probation could chair an executive board, consisting of the directors-general of the prison and probation services and the chairmen of the Youth Justice Board and the women’s justice board, obviating any need for Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service, which merely inserts a layer of bureaucracy into the executive board—in other words, between the Secretary of State for Justice and individual prison governors.

--- Later in debate ---
Baroness Butler-Sloss Portrait Baroness Butler-Sloss (CB)
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My Lords, picking up on what the Minister said about rehabilitation, this is a probing amendment; I have no intention of taking it further. However, there are a very considerable number of people who arrived in prison with drink and drug addiction. All too many of them pick up addiction—perhaps not drink but drug addiction—in prison. The trouble is that, when they leave prison, they almost certainly will not have had very much, if any, help. There are a few systems—but very few—and they are almost certain to reoffend because, once you are addicted to drugs or to drink, you are going to reoffend because you need the money.

There is a cycle of offences by vulnerable people who have taken up drink and drugs who may be committing drug offences but are equally likely to be committing offences of burglary, theft and other similar crimes. So I am suggesting that the Government put in place at least one residential unit as a pilot project. I know Governments like pilot projects; the great problem is to get them beyond the pilot. In this case, I would like them to get to first base, to a pilot project where a drug or drink addict—generally a repeat offender—should be sent to that residential unit as a probation order, with a requirement to stay there. If they do not want to go or do not stay the course, of course they have a sentence of imprisonment and go back to prison.

It really might help a considerable number of people. With any luck, it might reduce some of the prison population. So, although the up-front cost of such a residential unit would no doubt be expensive, I suspect it would become cost-effective in the long term. I am not certain that this is really appropriate for primary legislation, but I have put it here to nudge the Government into trying to do something. I beg to move.

Baroness Brinton Portrait Baroness Brinton (LD) [V]
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My Lords, I support the probing Amendment 242 from the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss. As the Minister referred to “juvenile” earlier, I remind the Committee of his views on heavy drinking: that it can be either a civilising force or the bane of civilisation. In society today, particularly in those who offend, it might be the latter.

The Liberal Democrats have long believed that the best treatment for drug and alcohol addiction is to treat it as a health emergency for the individual and society. As the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, outlined, there are already interventions in prison for those with addictions, whether drug or alcohol. But many are talking therapies, many of which, as a result of the pandemic, remain on the phone or on Zoom, and it is certainly true that we are hearing that offenders are finding that less effective.

The noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, is right: a custodial sentence is the right time to think about dedicating time and energy to a residential rehabilitation course, where there are no distractions or problems of cancellation or changes of prison where you cannot continue with the same course. The NHS Integrated Substance Misuse Treatment Service in Prisons in England report, published in 2018, says:

“The purpose of health care in prison, including care for drug and alcohol problems, is to provide an excellent, safe and effective service to all prisoners equivalent to that of the community—whether the aim is stabilisation, crisis intervention or recovery from dependence.”

The guiding principles are “Recovery”, “Reducing harm”, “Reducing deaths in custody” and “Reducing reoffending”.

Recovery is key, but the reality is that the numbers are not good. The last report from the Ministry of Justice Alcohol and Drug Treatment in Secure Settings: 2018 to 2019, shows that the current arrangements have mixed results. It reports that of 53,000

“adults in alcohol and drug treatment in prisons and secure settings”

in that year, around 65% started treatment and just under 60%

“left treatment in secure settings.”

The report says that only just over a quarter of those who were discharged after completing their sentence were free of dependence. The figures for young people receiving treatment, principally for alcohol and cannabis problems, are not dissimilar. Of those young people who left secure settings in 2018, under 30% completed their treatment successfully.

Continuity of care between treatment services is absolutely vital, and the proportion of adults successfully starting community treatment within three weeks of release was only a third. The intensity and focus of residential courses for people addicted to drugs and alcohol already has a higher success rate, and if attended near the start of their sentence could well mean that they have a real opportunity to learn to live with recovery.

Public Health England’s evidence review of drug treatment, published in 2015, says:

“The costs to society are significant. Latest estimates by the Home Office”,

in 2013,

“suggest that the cost of illicit drug use in the UK is £10.7bn”.

Of those costs, NHS costs are 1%, enforcement costs 10% and drug-related crime costs 54%. Public Health England’s review notes that, in all, around 50,000 people received drug treatment in prison in 2015-16. Nearly one-third had also received drug treatment in the community. The numbers are stuck. They are not improving.

The review makes two key points: waiting times to access a course and active steps taken to prevent a drop-out are significant in achieving a good outcome. This amendment proposes a mechanism that would not only prove beneficial to the offenders attending it, with a higher rate of success than the range of other interventions currently used, but would serve society and significantly reduce the costs of drug-fuelled crime.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Baroness Brinton Excerpts
This amendment makes it clear that it is only a police officer, with all the training that they receive, their local experience and their publicly validated authority and accountability, who can make this request as a matter of law. I beg to move.
Baroness Brinton Portrait Baroness Brinton (LD) [V]
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My Lords, I declare my interest as a vice-president of the Local Government Association. I am also a patron of the Traveller Movement and an officer of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Gypsies, Travellers and Roma. The noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, is a long-standing co-chair of that group, and it is a pleasure to follow her. I agree with everything she has said.

In this large group, I have added my name to Amendment 136 and to Clauses 62 and 64 stand part. I shall leave others to talk about the amendments, while I focus on the overall effect of those clauses and why they should not stand part of the Bill.

Since the mid-1990s, I have seen closely how society in our country manages its relationship with the Gypsy, Roma, and Traveller community. As chair of education in Cambridgeshire, we worked very closely with our Gypsy and Traveller community, and our schools, to make it easier for children to access school when their parents moved for work—usually, but not only, following the patterns of generations moving from farm to farm to work at whatever the seasonal needs required. The families that we knew found it hard to access education, and the difficult reception that they faced from very hostile communities meant that all too frequently, children were bullied, in and out of school. Our district council community officers worked closely with these families to support them. The most distressing things that I heard directly from families then are still true today, and possibly even worse, because now, adults, including teachers, abuse and bully Traveller families, and even children in school.

On Clause 62 on unauthorised encampments, it is worth remembering that well over a decade ago, local government was asked by the Government to provide more authorised encampments based on the planning needs of their own Traveller communities. The reality was that far too many councils not only did not create the number of encampments needed in their area but have closed other existing ones. As a result, it is harder for a family to find a pitch on an authorised encampment. Without a base, it is much harder to access services such as education, health and even work. It is a vicious circle that this clause makes much worse.

Friends, Families and Travellers conducted research into compliance with planning policy for traveller sites and assessed the need and supply of Gypsy and Traveller pitches in 2016, and again in 2019, analysing Gypsy and Traveller accommodation assessments and local plans from all planning authorities in the south-east of England. The most recent findings revealed shockingly low numbers, with only eight out of 68 local authorities meeting their identified need for Gypsy and Traveller pitches. There is a similar picture across the country.

Despite the statements of the Home Secretary, there was an overall 8.4% decrease in pitches on local authority Traveller sites between 2010-2020. As a result of these pressures, the Gypsy and Traveller community, working with local authorities and landowners, has created other solutions to managing encampments that have been developed over recent times, such as negotiated stopping, where arrangements are made on agreed stopping times and to ensure the provision of basic amenities such as water, sanitation and refuse collection.

Part 4 of the Bill contains some of the most hostile legislation seen against one community. The introduction of a new criminal offence where trespassers have the intent to reside will apply when a person is residing, or intending to reside, on land without consent and has been asked to leave by the occupier, their representative or the police; has at least one vehicle with them on the land; has caused, or is likely to cause, significant damage, disruption or distress; has failed to comply with this request as soon as reasonably practicable and has no reasonable excuse for doing so. Failure to comply without “reasonable excuse” can lead to the police exercising powers to seize a vehicle—and let us remember that that is someone’s home, with all their possessions in it—as well as imprisonment and a fine. All these measures are completely disproportionate, but the severity of the seizure of a home and possessions is extraordinary.

The impacts of these measures will be catastrophic for an individual and a family suddenly without a home or possessions and with potentially any family member over 18 years of age thrown straight into the criminal justice system. Beyond the immediate impact, this will also affect the welfare of the whole family and severely impact on the children, who would lose their home and could face children’s services interventions, possibly with the family breaking up.

These proposals are being put forward despite the existence of a range of other eviction powers for encampments, and despite the range of alternative solutions grounded in a humane and common-sense approach, such as the provision of more sites and stopping places. There are already a wide range of eviction powers for encampments, which can be exercised as swiftly as within an hour and which can be triggered if incidents of anti-social behaviour occur. These enable a response based on conduct, not on what a landowner might think is “likely”. The powers will disproportionately affect this minority and ethnic communities, and are likely to be in conflict with equality and human rights legislation, as the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, has outlined.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Baroness Brinton Excerpts
Baroness Bertin Portrait Baroness Bertin (Con)
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I thank the noble Lord for his intervention and absolutely agree. Of course, it would not solve the entire issue, but it would set us on the right path in sending that signal to the CPS, as well as to the police.

The multiagency, public health preventive approach is so important. Education plans, health plans and a more standardised perpetrator scheme would all be part of what this change could look like. It is important to note that the HMIC report that the Home Secretary commissioned warned that this duty, as it stands, would not go far enough in that regard.

The noble Lord, Lord Polak, mentioned in his speech at Second Reading that we need to make sure that such landmark legislation, the Domestic Abuse Act and this Bill, does not stand in isolation. We need to sustain the momentum of this ambition. Let us once and for all try to buck the trend of silo policy-making and bring together this work in a meaningful way.

As others have discussed in previous debates, it is right that the burden should not fall entirely on the police. I think we spoke about “broadening the base”, and that is why it is crucial that we get this duty right. Nevertheless, the specific policing response and the CPS response deserve a lot of attention. One-third of all violence reported to the police is domestic abuse related. This is not a small slice of their work. While their response to this crime has certainly improved over the past decade, and there are pockets of excellence and dedication, which we must acknowledge, there are still inconsistencies at every level in how the police respond to victims of domestic abuse and sexual offences, and shocking variations in how frequently—perhaps infrequently would be more appropriate—different forces use the protective powers available to them. I am sure that the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, will speak at length on stalking; some forces around the country seem entirely unaware that stalking protection orders are available to them, and this has to change.

Another statistic that shocks me is that three-quarters of all domestic abuse cases are stamped with “no further action”. We know from the rape review that was launched this year, and as the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, has pointed out, that that happens with so many incidents of sexual offences. It cannot continue. The lottery of standards among the 43 police forces in this country, and within individual forces, means it very often boils down to who picks up the phone or who responds to the call as to how victims are dealt with.

I will make one further point before I finish. As with other high-harm crimes, such as terrorism and organised crime, I believe strongly that violence against women and girls should be marked with a clearer focus, better funding, minimum standards and far more national co-ordination. This amendment is only part of the answer—of course it is—but it could be instrumental in starting that journey to greater consistency. Small actions taken together can make a big difference. While this amendment is relatively simple, its effects could ripple out.

Finally, you do not wake up one morning and become a murderer or a rapist; you work up to it. The horrific chain of events leading to Sarah Everard’s terrible murder laid this bare in the starkest of terms. We have to act to do all we can to stop this kind of behaviour in its tracks before it escalates and takes lives. There is an opportunity in this Bill, and we must take it.

Baroness Brinton Portrait Baroness Brinton (LD) [V]
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My Lords, before I speak to my Amendment 56, I will start by saying that I completely agree with everything that the noble Baroness, Lady Bertin, has just said. Amendment 56 adds to Amendment 55’s

“domestic abuse, domestic homicides and sexual offences”

the words “and stalking”, to be added to the definition of the serious violence prevention duty. As the noble Baroness identified, this is a keen interest of mine. I also support the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, pushing for a charging review for this range of crimes. Too often, they are either ignored or charged at a much lower crime rate.

The Minister will remember that, during the passage of the then Domestic Abuse Bill, many hours were spent looking at the typical progression of violence in obsessed perpetrators. Some of us asked the Ministers to look at the reverse structure of someone who had committed a crime of serious violence. All too often, the elements of behaviour were there from early on in their fixated behaviour. I understand that that is why the noble Baroness, Lady Bertin, and others have laid their amendment to ensure that this trajectory of behaviour starts to be monitored early; and it also recognises when domestic violence accelerates very quickly. Adding

“domestic abuse, domestic homicides and sexual offences”

is absolutely vital.

But I regret that stalking was not on the list in her amendment, and I will focus briefly on that. First, victims of stalking say that they often do not go to the police until around the 10th worrying event has happened. Shamefully, it often takes many more before stalking is taken seriously by the police. But many perpetrators of stalking, as I have said, progress in their fixated behaviour, and serious violence and homicide are too often evident.

The noble Baroness, Lady Bertin, referred to stalking protection orders. I was pleased when they were implemented, but they are far too sparingly used, and some victims are told, “That’s all you need. It’ll be fine now”. Yet injunctions still have to be taken out and cautions still have to be issued, and, all the while, their stalker’s behaviour is becoming worse and worse.

According to Dr Jane Monckton-Smith, stalking sits at point 5 of the eight points on the homicide timeline, due to the fact that risk to the victim escalates at the point of leaving an abusive relationship. Monckton-Smith’s 2017 study of 358 homicides, all of which involved a female victim and a male perpetrator, revealed stalking behaviour as an antecedent to femicide in 94% of the cases. These figures demonstrate how vital it is to work on prevention for stalking cases.

There is a misconception that stalking is almost exclusively perpetrated by people on former partners and, therefore, probably covered by domestic abuse. This is untrue. The real figure is closer to 50%. Too many victims of non-partner or former-partner perpetrators of stalking report that, the first time that they talk to the police, they are told that they are overreacting, and some, especially young women, are even told that they should be grateful for the attention.

So stalking victims are too often ignored, and that is worrying. There is no other word for it than “ignored”—I know. The man who stalked me and other colleagues—he stalked men, too—over a three-year period grew progressively more fixated. Among other very unpleasant acts, such as abusive anonymous letters and telephone calls, his violence was initially against property—breaking windows, pulling down signs and scratching cars—but, each time, it was a bit stronger, more aggressive and more distressing. It took well over a year and 130 incidents before the police started taking it seriously. But their attitude changed completely when, night after night, he started using a very large knife to slash tyres. Their forensic psychologist warned that they expected that he would start using that knife on his targets next. We all knew who the perpetrator was, and, finally, we saw that the police started to move. He was then arrested quickly, and he pleaded guilty.

More recently, in June this year, Gracie Spinks, who, like many stalking victims, was let down by police because they did not take any of the early reports and link them together, was murdered at the riding stables she worked at by a former colleague from a previous job. She had reported her concerns to police four months earlier. He had turned up unannounced at the stables. Separately, a bag containing knives, an axe, a hammer and a note saying “Don’t lie” was discovered very close to the stables six weeks before Gracie’s murder. That breadcrumb trail was all there, and it was typical of a serious stalker, too—the perpetrator profile is well known. Gracie’s father, Richard, has said that if only the police had connected the incidents, his daughter would not have died.

Neither Gracie’s nor my case would have been covered by Amendment 55. Stalking needs to be added to this section on the serious violence protection duty just as much as domestic abuse, domestic homicides and sexual offences.

Lord Polak Portrait Lord Polak (Con)
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My Lords, I am very pleased to add my name to Amendment 55 and pay tribute to my noble friend Lady Bertin for her leadership on these matters. I was also pleased to have worked with my noble friend, together with the noble Lords, Lord Rosser and Lord Russell of Liverpool, during the passage of the Domestic Abuse Bill.

The amendment in our names is an extension of our previous work. I shall not repeat and rehearse the reasons why it is important that the definition of serious violence for the purpose of the proposed serious violence prevention duty must include domestic abuse, domestic homicides and sexual offences. For me, it is straightforward, and I make a simple appeal to my noble friend the Minister, who was so instrumental in piloting the Domestic Abuse Bill through Parliament with such professionalism, dedication and patience. There is an opportunity to cement and build on that historic and vital legislation, to build on what was achieved, so that it can be possible for the serious violence strategy to recognise domestic abuse and sexual violence. Can it be possible for a serious violence strategy not to recognise them as forms of serious violence? It would be difficult to understand.

The Domestic Abuse Commissioner, Nicole Jacobs, has said that the Government risk missing an opportunity to make a “historic shift” in the handling of this problem. She went on to suggest that this amendment could deliver a step change, ensuring a focus not only on crisis provision but on early intervention and prevention measures to stop abuse occurring. I totally agree with her.

The Home Office’s draft guidance says that local areas “could” consider violence against women and girls as part of the new duty if they choose to. I am still trying to get my head around “could”. How about “must”? This short and succinct amendment is so important, and I just do not understand who could not support it.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Baroness Brinton Excerpts
Moved by
22: Clause 7, page 8, line 16, at end insert—
“(1A) In exercising the duty under subsection (1), no information may be shared by a specified authority, or an individual within a specified organisation, which breaches doctor/patient confidentiality as set out in the General Medical Council Ethical Guidance on confidentiality.”
Baroness Brinton Portrait Baroness Brinton (LD) [V]
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My Lords, I beg to move Amendment 22 and will speak to Amendments 48, 54, 61, 64, 68 and 71, which all cover doctor-patient confidentiality in Clauses 7 to 17 in Part 2, Chapter 1 of the Bill.

I particularly thank the General Medical Council, the British Medical Association, the British Psychological Society and the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy for their briefings. I also thank the noble Lords, Lord Patel and Lord Ribeiro, who have added their names to these amendments. Their knowledge of and expertise in the regulatory and practical reality of doctor-patient confidentiality is especially welcome. Bluntly, the requirement for a specified authority to hand over data to police and other bodies, as set out in the Bill, is in conflict with the requirement of doctors and those working with patient data to maintain doctor-patient confidentiality.

It is particularly disappointing that the issues I will raise, which I also raised at Second Reading, were covered in the GMC response to the government consultation on a public health response to serious violence in 2019. Unfortunately, not one of the serious issues the GMC raised has been dealt with since then, which makes me wonder if this is deliberate. I hope the Minister will be able to demonstrate that that is not the case.

Our amendments seek to protect a patient’s data as confidential to them and the healthcare professionals who look after them. Amendment 22 adds to Clause 7 to make it clear that, regardless of any other data from other public bodies, patient medical data is protected by rules of confidentiality. Amendment 48 adds the same provisions to Clause 8, Amendments 61 and 64 add these to Clause 15 and Amendment 68 adds them to Clause 16. Amendment 54 deletes CCGs and health boards in Wales from the list of specified authorities, thus removing entirely the duty on them to be part of the regulations in this Bill. Finally, Amendment 71 reiterates these exclusions from the powers that Clause 17 gives the Secretary of State on the direction of CCGs and health boards in Wales.

It is quite extraordinary that this Bill proposes that any Home Secretary can, at will, demand that doctors and other healthcare professionals must breach patient confidentiality, over and above their responsibilities of confidentiality to their patients and their commitments to their regulatory body. Part 2, Chapter 1 of the Bill, on functions relating to serious violence, would introduce a new legal duty for the relevant agencies

“to collaborate, where possible through existing partnership structures, to prevent and reduce serious violence”.

If enacted in its current form, the Bill, particularly Clause 16(5), may mean that health services are no longer confidential. I hope this is unintended.

The Bill explicitly sets aside the common law duty of confidentiality owed to all patients by all regulated health professionals. This will undoubtedly raise questions and concerns in the minds of doctors, who understand their responsibilities around patient confidentiality as a fundamental, ethical duty which is crucial to upholding the trust that lies at the heart of doctor-patient relationships.

Elsewhere, in countries where healthcare services are not seen as confidential, and where there is a resulting lack of trust in healthcare professionals appropriately protecting as well as sharing information, there are real consequences for the health of individuals, communities and wider society. The public health implications of individuals and communities not interacting with healthcare services and professionals are particularly urgent and concerning in the context of the ongoing global Covid-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, as drafted the Bill carries these risks.

This is not just a concern for doctors. If you stopped anyone in the street and asked them if the personal medical information they discuss with their doctor at their GP surgery or at a hospital could be passed on to any other public body, including the police, they would be astonished. The one thing they know, they say, is that doctors—which is shorthand for healthcare service professionals and their staff—absolutely have to keep their personal medical data confidential. The problem is that it is not clear in the Bill whether sensitive health information is properly protected from inappropriate disclosure to policing bodies. This is worrying on two levels. First, the data is still subject to the requirements of data protection law. Also, any decision to disclose personal medical data must take account of the common law duty of confidentiality owed to patients by their health professionals, however that information is held.

Healthcare professionals, including doctors, also have to respond to the ethical standards set by their regulatory body. As drafted, policing authorities can request patient information, including identifiable information, which clinical commissioning groups and health boards in Wales must provide to them. Whatever the merits of this requirement, CCGs and Welsh health boards can share identifiable patient information only if that information has, in turn, been actively shared with them by the health professional who holds that patient data.

Professional standards, as regulated by the General Medical Council and the Nursing and Midwifery Council, among others, mean that doctors and other healthcare professionals are able to release confidential patient information, in this case to a CCG or health board, where one of the following conditions is met: the patient gives their consent; the doctor judges that it is in the best interests of the patient to do so; the law requires them to disclose, which would not be the case here; or they judge that the common-law test for disclosure without consent would be met. The GMC guidance to doctors, Confidentiality: Good Practice in Handling Patient Information, is very helpful in setting out where these boundaries lie, but makes it clear that it must be the decision of the individual doctor because, rightly, the natural assumption must be that personal patient data must be kept confidential.

The Minister may argue that the organisational duty to share information with a police authority or individual police officer would not impose a duty on an individual health professional to make a disclosure to the CCG or to health boards in Wales. That is a fallacy. I have a word of warning for the Government: imposing the duty on CCGs and health boards will not make it easier for identifiable patient information to be readily obtained by a policing body. That is because all staff in CCGs, health boards and GP surgeries, as part of their admin, and hospital staff who are not regulated but are part of a healthcare team are also subject to confidentiality duties as part of their employment contracts. They access patient records as part of their role and, in so doing, they will have to comply with the Data Protection Act and those contractual obligations about ethical confidentiality. This means that even if the common-law duty to protect confidentiality is not part of their contract, because they are not regulated, the relevant staff member, at whatever level in the organisation, would still have a duty to comply with the request from a policing body. If the Bill were to pass unamended and, say, CCGs and health boards decided to abide by the law under the Bill, could they put pressure on staff to release those records that they have accessed by virtue of their role that breaches GDPR?

I have some questions for the Minister, to better understand how the Bill will not destroy the confidentiality of patient data. Will its provisions mean that authorities such as CCGs and health boards in Wales—and integrated care boards, following the passage of the Health and Care Bill next year—will no longer owe a common-law duty of confidentiality to their patients, clients and service users? Will this mean that health services are no longer confidential services? If a duty to provide identifiable information to policing bodies is introduced, what provisions will be made for possible recourse for a patient or service user who finds out that their confidential information was shared with the police and considers that they suffered some unfair or unjustifiable detriment as a result? Will this be dependent on them being able to make a claim that GDPR obligations had not been met by the data controller? Most importantly, what independent safeguards, such as court orders or use of the court, are available to stop or limit the sharing or use of personal information?

Will the Government remove provisions that state that disclosures of information to the police would not breach that duty of confidentiality owed by doctors and others to patients, clients and service users? Will the Government instead work with the professional regulation, with the profession, with patient groups and others to create statutory guidance to support any new duty to collaborate? If the Government seek to retain provisions which require specified persons to share information, would anonymised information be sufficient? Will the Government commit to amending the Bill to provide that policing bodies can only request anonymous information?

I appreciate that the Minister might not have all the information in front of her to answer these questions, so will she write to me with the answers and have a meeting with me and the noble Lords, Lord Patel and Lord Ribeiro, who have added their names to these amendments? I know that the noble Lord, Lord Ribeiro, apologises for not being able to be in his place this afternoon. I beg to move.

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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The detection and prevention of serious violence would be the relevant part, which also reads across to the Care Act 2014. There would have to be a public interest assessment and as I said, there is no mandation. But the body or doctor in question would, as the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, said, have to balance the importance of the prevention, detection, and reduction of serious violence with the disclosure of that information.

Baroness Brinton Portrait Baroness Brinton (LD) [V]
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken on these amendments, especially those who are doctors—the noble Lords, Lord Patel and Lord Kakkar—and those who are lawyers. The noble Lord, Lord Carlile, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, rightly pointed out the balance of decision-making that every doctor must strike. I too made that point in referring to the excellent GMC guidance on confidentiality and good practice in handling patient information. I apologise if my point was not clear. It is not that doctors do not have to navigate the boundaries of confidentiality, because they do and I am quite sure there are times when they can be improved, as I said. As my noble friend Lord Paddick and others have said, this Bill contains powers that appear to override these responsibilities, demanding that CCGs and health boards in Wales pass on personal medical information; however, the doctor who logged that data is unable to take part in any decision about it being passed on.

The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, explained the concerns of those of us who have signed these amendments about these duties, which clearly override a doctor’s choice in making such a decision. The noble Lord, Lord Patel, said that circumstances are vital, since under this Bill he, as a doctor, would not necessarily be consulted by the CCG in question before it passed on any sensitive data to the policing body. I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, for Amendment 48, the wording of which I will look at before any amendment is brought back.

The noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, and others talked about where the boundaries lie. We have heard repeatedly about the boundaries, but I want to pick up on my noble friend Lord Paddick’s question to the Minister. He asked her to point out to us exactly where in the Bill it sets the parameters for the GMC guidance and everything else we have discussed. I cannot find it, and nor can the GMC, the BMA and others who have briefed us. That is why we have tabled these amendments. We want this to be made clear. In a perfect world the data would be pseudonymised or anonymised, but we recognise that for some of these clauses that is inappropriate. Therefore, the doctor who has taken that medical information must be involved in any decisions.

I thank the Minister for the offer of a meeting and absolutely appreciate that this will happen. We understand that information will need to be shared between bodies—that is not the object of our amendment. We agree that the major issue is whether that information is identifiable and whether the doctor who made the original decision to record it is part of any decision about its being passed on. I completely understand the Minister’s concerns about Amendment 54. However, the question of the balance of the information being passed on—in this case, personal, confidential and identifiable medical data—clearly must be worked out more explicitly to give the registration bodies, doctors and nurses confidence that their use of the data will not be abused by others who may not have the full information required to address those difficult boundary issues. The doctor must have a say in any data being passed on.

I look forward to getting answers to my many questions in due course, so that we can all gauge who is making the decisions about the data being passed on and what level of information can remain confidential. I thank the Minister for her answers. I expect to return to this issue on Report and look forward to action in the meantime, such as meetings at which we can find those answers. For now, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment 22 withdrawn.