Debates between Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede and Lord Paddick during the 2019 Parliament

Mon 10th Jan 2022
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
Lords Chamber

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

Lords Hansard - Part 2 & Lords Hansard - part two
Thu 16th Dec 2021
Mon 13th Dec 2021
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
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Lords Hansard - Part 1 & Lords Hansard - part one
Wed 17th Nov 2021
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Domestic Abuse Bill
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Report stage & Lords Hansard
Wed 10th Feb 2021
Domestic Abuse Bill
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Committee: 6th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 6th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Tue 9th Feb 2021
Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill
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Domestic Abuse Bill
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Tue 26th Jan 2021
Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill
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Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Debate between Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede and Lord Paddick
Wednesday 12th January 2022

(1 week, 2 days ago)

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Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, I remind the House that at one stage in my police career I was the lead for the Metropolitan Police on restorative justice, working with Professor Larry Sherman. The evidence from that experience and other academic studies shows that the benefits to victims, in terms of allaying fear and victim satisfaction, and to perpetrators, in terms of engagement with the criminal justice process, and by being confronted, as the noble Lord, Lord Laming, has just said, by their offending behaviour, and in terms of reducing recidivism, are unequivocal.

The only objection to the amendment would be political, because restorative justice is wrongly perceived by those who do not understand the process as going soft on offenders; it is the opposite. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Laming, about short sentences. However, on the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, it does not necessarily have to be an alternative to prison in very serious cases. The important outcomes are victim satisfaction and the offender having to confront their offending behaviour.

The Minister may argue that people get a long time in prison in which to reflect on their wrongdoing. However, a colleague of mine did some research on street robbery and went to a young offenders’ institution to interview those who had been convicted and incarcerated for that offence. Many of those he spoke to did not understand why they were in the young offenders’ institution. The process was so detached from them—they just sat at the back of the court while other people spoke and dealt with the case, without their involvement at all. They genuinely did not understand why they were in prison. That is why restorative justice is important.

The question is: are the Government going to be led by the evidence and support this amendment, or are they going to object to it, based on misconceptions?

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
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My Lords, I, too, support the amendment. It is modest and worth while, and is another step down the road.

I remember that the noble Lord, Lord McNally, introduced the phrase restorative justice into the statute book. I cannot remember which piece of legislation it was but at that point he spoke perceptively when he said that it was going to be a long road to get restorative justice embedded within the criminal justice system, whether in terms of probation, YOTs or prison. He was right and the necessity for the amendment proves that because the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, gave a number of examples, including where the funding or initiatives have stalled and the momentum with restorative justice has been lost. From memory, the initial introduction of restorative justice was through a separate funding stream for YOTs to use these programmes. So I very much support the amendment. It needs constant activity and oversight by a Minister to get the restorative justice programmes embedded in the system as a whole.

One reason why what I am saying is perhaps more relevant than what some noble Lords have said is that I have some scepticism on the issue. I am happy to have a cup of tea with the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, to express my scepticism. While I support the amendment, it requires a long-term programme, and it is for the Government to make sure that that programme is implemented.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Debate between Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede and Lord Paddick
Lords Hansard - Part 1 & Lords Hansard - part one
Monday 10th January 2022

(1 week, 4 days ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, I do not intend to repeat the arguments that other noble Lords have made and those that I made in Committee; they are in the official record. Existing legislation and procedures, properly applied, are sufficient to ensure the safety and well-being of all prisoners and staff in our prisons in relation to transgender prisoners. I am sure that the noble Lord the Minister will confirm that.

Because I have said, in answer to a suggestion on Twitter, that I felt that the existing risk-based approach was best, I was sent a direct message on Facebook from somebody I have never heard from before saying, “Leave women’s rights alone you nasty little misogynist. We see you loud and clear. Trans rights simply means male rights. Enjoy your irrelevance MRA bigot”. Whatever MRA stands for, I have no idea. Of course, as the noble Baroness, Lady Fox of Buckley, has said, we need to consider the rights of women—of course we do—but transgender people also have rights, and their rights need to be balanced. The best way to do so is on a case-by-case basis.

The noble Baroness, Lady Meyer, and the noble Lords, Lord Cormack and Lord Farmer, talked extensively about transgender people who had not undergone gender reassignment surgery, or transgender women who are still physically men. There is nothing at all in this amendment about the physical state of transgender people; it applies in a blanket manner to every single transgender person. The fact is that every prisoner entering the prison estate is risk-assessed to ensure that they are not a threat to themselves or others, and they are then housed or segregated on that basis. If that assessment has been wrong on rare occasions in the past, the problem was not with the system, let alone with the law; it was a problem with implementation. I understand, however—and I am sure that the Minister will confirm—that that is no longer a problem. This amendment is not necessary and we oppose it.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
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My Lords, I too will be relatively brief. This debate is about balancing rights and balancing vulnerabilities, and I have been following it over months if not years. Unfortunately, I did not go to the teach-in organised by the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson. However, I have been to other events on Zoom where I have spoken to prison officers and the people involved in managing the situations discussed here. It is apparent to me that there has been an evolution in the prison officers’ and governors’ approaches. I have spoken to a number of them several times. I spoke to one women’s prison where transgender units operated for a period, and the way they were operated was later changed. I have to say the governors I spoke to seemed—I do not want to use the word “relaxed”—to think that they could manage the situation. That is what I was told, and I have every reason to believe in their professionalism in dealing with an evolving situation—as we have heard from noble Lords, there is an increase in trans prisoners; the figure of 20% since 2019 was mentioned.

I have visited quite a few prisons over the last 10 years and I am always impressed by the quality of the prison staff, the governors and the prison officers. The basis of my view is that I trust them to make the right decisions. I think they are dealing with very difficult circumstances and I think that they can manage risk. As the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, said, they have policies which have evolved over a period, which include the safety of the prisoners and the staff. I was pleased to hear that during the teach-in the Minister said that he is willing to support further research into this matter. It is an evolving situation, but for my part I am content that the current complex case boards that make these difficult decisions should continue to do their work.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Debate between Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede and Lord Paddick
Lords Hansard - Part 2 & Lords Hansard - part two
Monday 10th January 2022

(1 week, 4 days ago)

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Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, at last, much credit must go to the noble Lords, Lord Lexden and Lord Cashman, and to Professor Paul Johnson, but also to the Minister, who accepted the challenge from the noble Lords and ran with it. I understand the right honourable Priti Patel took little persuasion. Whether that is the Minister being modest or not, I have nothing but thanks and praise for all those involved.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
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My Lords, I feel privileged to come in at the tail-end of this six-year campaign. I have to say I found it very moving listening to my noble friend Lord Cashman and the noble Lord, Lord Lexden, who does me the privilege of taking an interest in my family history. I have followed his campaign on this matter as well. I also note the points he made about the position in Northern Ireland. It has been a six-year campaign—to use the words of my noble friend—to wipe away the stain on history. It seems to me these amendments are doing this. I also join in the praises from the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, of the Minister, who appears to me, as a latecomer to this, to have been with the campaigners every step of the way.

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, I am very pleased to support the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, in his amendment, to the extent that I have added my name. We had discussions between Committee and Report; we agreed that the actual assault was covered by existing legislation, but the preparatory acts in preparing these disgusting attacks on prison staff needed to be addressed. That is how we arrived at the revised amendment, and I am very happy to support it.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
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My Lords, I pay tribute to the noble Earl: he has been dogged in his pursuance of this and I understand he has had constructive discussions with the Minister. I look forward to what the Minister is going to say to, in the noble’s Earl words, flesh out the proposals in the White Paper, and how these may lead to greater support for prison officers. One specific question for the Minister is how they propose to monitor potting and whether it is done by somebody acting in extreme distress or whether it is part of a planned tactic, if you like, within the prison.

In conclusion, I repeat my tribute to the noble Earl—it appears to me that his time in the TA may have led to his having some empathy with prison officers. I do not know, but nevertheless I support his amendment.

Prisons Strategy

Debate between Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede and Lord Paddick
Thursday 16th December 2021

(1 month ago)

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Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
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My Lords, the prison strategy White Paper can most charitably be described as a missed opportunity to tackle the escalating prison crisis. While presenting the biggest prison-building programme in more than 100 years as a way to improve public protection, the strategy contains next to no credible solutions to the multiple problems plaguing our existing estate, which have made rehabilitation nigh-on impossible and have led to record levels of reoffending.

Unusually for a White Paper, the document contains very few direct legislative proposals and instead asks numerous consultation questions, many along the lines of:

“Do you agree with our … vision?”


Old ideas from previous papers are repeated and recycled, through the 76 pages of vague aspirations and feel-good gimmicks, such as resettlement passports and workforce drug testing. Yet key drivers of violence and instability, such as widespread squalor and the collapse in staff retention, morale and experience, are glossed over and ignored.

Worse, there is no recognition that government policies over the last decade have caused the current crisis, including cuts to staffing and other resources, leading to the degradation of pay, terms and conditions, a haemorrhaging of experience and the surge in violence, especially against prison staff. The paper’s headline pledge to recruit 5,000 new officers seems optimistic in light of the current recruitment and retention crisis and the lack of ministerial interest in the reasons behind the record resignations—from poverty pay to an unrealistic and cruel pension age of 68.

The long-promised prisoner education service gets a few mentions, but with no real detail apart from praise for the potential of in-cell technology. We agree that in-cell technology could be a game changer in rehabilitation and the whole incarceration experience.

One glimmer of hope, however, is the recognition that mass unstructured social time can make some prisoners feel unsafe and inhibit the ability of staff to manage the risks of violence and bullying. This is a key lesson from the pandemic that trade unions have consistently highlighted—as did the then Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland in July, when he insisted that there could be no going back to pre-Covid regimes. However, running smaller-scale regimes with higher staff-to-prisoner ratios will be at the discretion of governors, rather than required by national policy. As far as I can see, the strategy shows no understanding that such initiatives need significant staff investment and will be simply unsustainable with current staffing capacity.

Very little in this White Paper requires primary legislation: only the proposals to bring forward release dates, potentially—we debated this yesterday on the PCSC Bill—and to strengthen the powers of scrutiny organisations. What will all these extra prisoners do all day? The White Paper states that

“opening up the estate to employers”

will deliver a step change in the number of prisoners who work in prison. It seems likely that new legislation may be needed to create a presumption in favour of adapting the prison estate and regime to facilitate work in prison for appropriate prisoners. As important as a sense of satisfaction from doing a proper day’s work must be to prisoners, it seems unlikely that, with a minimum wage of £4 a week, they will earn enough to buy the things they need day to day in prison and also save for their release.

In praising prison officers as “hidden heroes”, the White Paper’s strategy commits to making

“the prison officer role one which is understood and valued in society in the same way that police and other core frontline roles are”.

But it concedes that attrition rates are simply too high, which is

“causing an unsustainable level of turnover in the system”,

leaving

“new staff feeling unsupported, contributing to a vicious cycle of staff dissatisfaction and lack of retention.”

Even the Prison Service’s new retention framework, referenced in the White Paper, admits that poor pay is a key driver to attrition and accepts that there are limits to what governors can do locally to improve pay and rewards. In other words, the solutions to the problem are well known; we are just seeing a lack of political will from the Government.

What about the existing teachers and how they will operate within the new prison education service? We are told that there will be two overriding strategic priorities: improving the numeracy and literacy of all prisoners, and incentivising them to improve their qualifications to increase their prospects of finding work. These are both admirable aims, but involve very different types of teaching, alongside additional resources and a break from the current private commissioning model, which is not recognised in the strategy document that I was reading earlier.

There is at least an admission that the current education system is not fit for purpose. The White Paper insists:

“Despite recent changes, the current quality of education provision is not good enough, with 60% of prisons in England receiving Ofsted grades of ‘Requires Improvement’ or ‘Inadequate’ over the last five years.”


However, the proposed solution is to

“work with our providers to improve the delivery and quality of training in prisons to drive year on year improvements to Ofsted grades, so they are much closer to those achieved by Further Education in the community.”

This is a laudable aspiration, but if it is not backed by new investment it will be an empty promise.

One area that will see a boost, thankfully, is in-cell technology. There is no question but that this could dramatically change learning and rehabilitation more widely, as well as help maintain and improve family engagement, and, of course, promote stability and good behaviour when used as a reward or incentive. Can the Minister say whether virtual visits via in-cell kiosks should be treated and charged as a phone call or as an in-person visit? Of course, in-person visits are free at the moment. Moreover, will Parliament, and indeed the public, get to express a view on this? It is a very specific question that I suspect parliamentarians would have a view on.

In reality, it is the probation service that is responsible for keeping new releases on the straight and narrow. The new strategy makes no mention of Transforming Rehabilitation, which was the failed probation privatisation experiment that caused so much misery.

To address the scandal of homelessness among prison leavers, the White Paper proposes extending

“a new provision of temporary accommodation and support for up to 12 weeks after release”

to all prison leavers, but it is not resettlement passports that new leavers need; it is front-door keys. Where is the commitment to helping them on to housing benefit with deposits paid in advance to trusted landlords?

The understanding that prisons

“cannot support rehabilitation unless they are safe, stable and secure”

is to be welcomed, as is the pledge to

“provide safer working conditions for staff”,

but the proposed

“new ministerial prison performance board that will hold the system and Governors to account for ensuring prisoners and staff are safe”

will have key performance indicators and “appropriate league tables”. The KPIs are

“security and stability; substance misuse and mental health; and resettlement and family ties.”

It is worrying that the crucial metric of staff safety seems to be missing from the KPI list. One simple way for Ministers to send a clear message to staff that they are on their side would be to ensure that all attempts at potting are prosecuted and for the Government to back the amendment from the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, to the PCSC Bill.

Bizarrely, the strategy calls for

“modern desktop computers, devices and software to benefit the people who work in our prisons”,

which

“will allow for increased productivity and a reduction in time wasted by users waiting for systems to boot up”.

Why does it need a White Paper for prison staff to get new PCs? Just how long does it take for their current systems to turn on? This seems ridiculous.

Finally, the strategy looks at rolling out a two-year programme of future regime design to let governors design their own regimes. The highest performing governors will receive “earned autonomy” and

“greater flexibility to deviate from nationally set policies.”

This includes

“greater freedoms to deviate from prison service instructions and policy frameworks”,

as long as KPIs are met. This begs the question: why will governors be rewarded for hitting targets by being given the opportunity to break the rules? That is maybe a rhetorical question, and I approve of giving governors greater flexibility and managed autonomy, but this cannot be allowed to shift responsibility and accountability from Ministers who have put this new regime in place.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Forgive me, my Lords, but I understood that it was five minutes for each Front Bench and then 10 minutes for the Minister to respond to our questions. Hopefully, with the leave of the House, we will give the Minister appropriate time to respond despite the Labour Front Bench.

Like the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede, we believe that the White Paper is disappointing. The Statement gets off on the wrong foot as far as we on these Benches are concerned. It says:

“Prisons play a vital role in protecting the public by keeping the most prolific and dangerous offenders in custody”—


although, as we see from the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, even peaceful protesters are going to be subject to custodial sentences—

“and rehabilitating those who deserve a second chance.”

Can the Minister explain which prisoners do not deserve a second chance? On what criteria are the Government going to decide who does and does not deserve one?

The Statement says that the Ministry of Justice has secured enough money in the spending review to build an additional 20,000 prison places by the 2020s. The Nationality and Borders Bill intends to criminalise asylum seekers entering the country through irregular routes, with a maximum penalty of four years’ imprisonment —again, not

“the most prolific and dangerous offenders”,

but on current numbers every one of those 20,000 new prison places is likely to be filled by asylum seekers.

When I was a police commander in charge of Brixton, the governor of Brixton Prison told me that illegal drugs were more freely available inside his prison than they were outside on the streets. I am pleased to see that action is being taken to deal with that, but why has it taken over 10 years for this Government to act?

It is also welcome that the Government are going to treat illegal drugs as a health issue, but the probation service has very little financial leverage to secure support to ensure that drug treatment programmes started in prison continue through the gate when a prisoner is released. It is one thing to live without drugs when you are in prison with regular drug testing, but quite another to release prisoners back into the same environment that they came from on release and expect them to continue. What additional resources are being provided for drug rehabilitation and support outside prison specifically for ex-prisoners? Can the Minister specify how much per prisoner compared with 10 years ago, adjusting for inflation and taking into account the increase in prisoner numbers? I am reminded of shops that double the price of things for 12 weeks and then advertise them at 50% off, except that the Government make drastic cuts, put half back and then claim credit for what is in fact a reduction.

There is an increasing prison population compared with proportionately declining staff numbers. Where is the budget to recruit and retain prison officers and the other staff who will be needed to carry out the numeracy and literacy assessments and to deliver the training? I understand that the increase in prison officers outlined in the Statement is to cope with the expansion plans, but who will deliver these enhanced education and skills plans and who will backfill when staff are being “upskilled”?

What pay rises are factored in for prison officers to ensure retention, set against a record increase in inflation not seen for a decade and an increasingly difficult working environment? Wandsworth Prison today has 68 prison officers looking after 1,300 prisoners. Officers are leaving because of poor pay, and applications from new recruits are down 44% because the Prison Service cannot compete with other sectors. How can rehabilitation be delivered in Wandsworth Prison today in such circumstances?

Any measures to find ex-prisoners employment are to be welcomed, but is the limiting factor not that employers will not take them on? A

“new digital tool to match candidates to jobs”

will not help if there are no jobs to match the ever-increasing number of prisoners to. What incentive or encouragement is being provided to employers to employ former prisoners—or at least those prisoners that the Government deem lucky enough to be given a second chance?

Can the Minister explain the “new community accommodation service”? What additional funding or other incentive will local authorities and housing associations be given to provide accommodation and to what extent does this compensate for the devastating cuts to local authority budgets in recent years?

This White Paper appears to shift the balance further towards retribution and away from rehabilitation, with the only realistic, properly thought-through and funded proposals being to build and staff yet more prison places —plans one would expect from a right-wing, authoritarian Government.

Delivering Justice for Victims

Debate between Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede and Lord Paddick
Thursday 16th December 2021

(1 month ago)

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Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
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My Lords, we welcome the Statement. We hope that the proposed consultation exercise is dealt with rapidly, that people are listened to and that we see legislation as soon as possible. Can the Minister tell us when that is likely to happen? I confirm that we will work constructively with the Government to ensure that the new victims’ law is fit for purpose and is a law of which we can be proud.

The Statement reminds us just how urgently we need a new law. The number of victims who have dropped out of the system has doubled in the last five years. It is concerning that confidence in the justice system is so poor. Three in every five victims do not even report a crime, one-third of victims would not report a crime again and one-third of victims who do go to the police drop out of the process before any case can come to court.

There are steps that the Government could take now that would help the situation. In October 2021 the National Audit Office released a report on the Government’s handling of the court backlog. It found that the Crown Court backlog had already increased by 23% in the year leading up to the pandemic and had increased by a further 48% since. The NAO said that both the Ministry of Justice and its courts agency were not working together properly to solve problems that had their roots in pre-pandemic decisions.

One in 67 rape complainants sees a case come to court, and it can take four years for that process to be completed. The latest data from the CPS shows that the number of rape convictions fell by 6.7% in the last quarter. At the current rate it would take the Government 18 years to return to pre-2016 levels of prosecution. There are 3,357 victims of violent and sexual crime who have already been waiting for over a year for their day in court, and a further 654 victims of these horrific crimes have been waiting for over two years. Can the Minister assure us that the Government are taking all measures necessary to put this right?

We have now had five Secretaries of State for Justice promising a victims’ Bill, and all five have failed to deliver. I have heard victims say that their experience of the justice system is worse than the crime itself. Just 19% of victims believe that a judge takes into account the impact of the crimes on them, and only 18% believe that they are given enough support. Victims do not want consultation; they want action, and the Labour Party has a ready-made Bill to clear the backlog through an increase in Nightingale courts and to fast-track rape and sexual violence cases. Our victims’ Bill would also improve rights, strengthen protections and accountability, improve communications and ensure that victims were no longer treated as an afterthought.

The Statement from the Government is welcome, but they must now match their warm words with deeds and ensure that they put victims at the very heart of our criminal justice system.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, as a victim of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, I have to say that dealing with this Statement at this time on this day is not delivering justice to victims.

Seriously, though, I should declare an interest as a victim of two crimes in recent years. One was a homophobic hate crime that my Norwegian husband was a witness to. He said to me afterwards that he would never again be involved in the British criminal justice system as a result of his experience in court, where he felt that he was on trial. The other was a burglary where the perpetrator was caught on closed-circuit television but the police refused to investigate further. In a subsequent meeting with a police super- intendent, he admitted that many cases that were solvable were not being pursued because of a lack of police resources. Is it any wonder, as the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede, said, that three in five victims do not report crimes, and that one-third would not report them again having experienced the criminal justice system? It seems that my husband and I are not alone.

The Government say that they have strengthened the victims’ code. What improvements have there been as a result? More money has been invested, according to the Statement, but what impact has this had on victim satisfaction? We should be looking for outcomes, not outputs.

The Statement says that it wants victims to

“properly engage at every step.”

Research shows that restorative justice significantly increases victim engagement and satisfaction. What plans do the Government have to fund more restorative justice programmes?

The Statement says that the victim will be consulted before charging decisions are made

“in certain types of case”.

Can the Minister explain what types of case are being referred to?

The Statement says that the Government

“will increase transparency in respect of the performance of our criminal justice agencies.”

What will the Government do when they discover that the reason for poor performance throughout the whole criminal justice system—from the police to the CPS, legal aid and the courts—is that it is underfunded? It is all very well to

“enshrine the victims’ code in law”,—[Official Report, Commons, 9/12/21; cols. 595-6.]

but if the criminal justice system does not have the resources to fulfil its obligations under the victims’ code, how will making it a statutory responsibility help?

The Statement says that the Government will publish a report on progress against the rape review action plan. Research clearly shows that victim satisfaction is the most important outcome measure in rape cases; being believed and cared for are the most important elements of rape survivor satisfaction. Does the report detail changes in victim satisfaction? If not, why not?

The Government are long on words and short on delivery. Trust and confidence in the criminal justice system have declined in the decade or more that the Conservatives have been in power. I can understand that the Government welcome the fact that the police cannot investigate some crimes, despite overwhelming evidence, when it is the Government who stand accused, but for the rest of us, if we cannot trust the police, the CPS and the courts to protect us when we are victims of crime, we are in serious trouble. You cannot get a quart out of a pint pot, which is what the Government appear to be trying to do with these measures.

Finally, I am reminded of colleagues who, when the Government do something we agree with, then go on to question the Government’s motives. I do not know whether the Minister celebrates Christmas, but I hope he enjoys the break, whatever the motivation for having one.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Debate between Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede and Lord Paddick
Lords Hansard - Part 1 & Lords Hansard - part one
Monday 13th December 2021

(1 month, 1 week ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, we support all the amendments in this group in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, and if I had been on the ball I would have signed them. I also have Amendment 50 in this group.

The user of the device from which data is being extracted should be able to see what is happening whenever that is practical, and be reassured that only relevant data is being downloaded, as suggested in Amendment 43. As has just been discussed, many people’s lives are on their phone and their lives are run by what is on their phone, so to be separated from it can have major consequences. That is why Amendment 44 suggests that the device should be taken only if absolutely necessary; an explanation given as to why it must be taken, if it is; and that it is returned as soon as practical, and in any event, within 30 days.

Amendment 45, adding “strictly” to “necessary”, narrows the circumstances in which data can be extracted. Digital downloads should not be used if there are other means of obtaining the information—whether “reasonably practicable” or not. Anything that deters survivors from coming forward or progressing their complaint should be avoided at all costs. “Not reasonably practical” sounds as if digital downloading could be used if it were easier than the alternative in Amendment 46. Amendment 48 provides for an independent review of the need for digital downloading, carried out by a senior police officer at the request of the user, who may be concerned that it is not strictly necessary and proportionate. Amendment 51 requires that an explanation is provided as to why it is necessary, how long it will take and the availability of a review.

As I pointed out in Committee, the Bill requires the authorised person to give notice only in writing to the user as to what, why and how the information will be extracted, the user’s right to refuse and the consequences of such a refusal. This is only to the extent that the investigation or inquiry will not end merely because the user refuses. Will the Minister state on the record that this is different from such a refusal having no consequences? For example, the defence in a rape case—where consent is an issue—may claim that withholding such information has implications which the jury might be asked to consider.

Akin to the rights of a detained person at a police station, it is not sufficient simply to wave a piece of paper under the nose of the user, who may be unable to read or be too traumatised to take in what she is reading. As the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew, and my noble friend Lady Hamwee have said, the authorised person should explain orally to the user and enter into a conversation to test her understanding to ensure that consent is informed and voluntary.

The government amendments attempt to address the concerns of my noble friend Lord Beith about confidential information. My noble friend Lady Hamwee was right: this should include confidential journalistic material and material subject to legal privilege, which was going to be dealt with by regulations. With the government amendments in this group, we appear to be inching forward on this, but concerns remain, as my noble friend explained. We support all the amendments in this group.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank all those noble Lords who have taken part on this group. The key issue which we need the Minister to take away is that there is more to be done in this area. We are grateful to her and her Bill team for their engagement with us and for the extra protections which the Government brought forward in Committee. I particularly pay tribute to the Victims’ Commissioner and her office for their leadership on these protections and the changes for victims which we need.

My noble friend Lady Chakrabarti and the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, both raised crucial issues, particularly about the need for strict necessity and the importance of making sure that victims—who may be going through this process at a point of shock or extreme vulnerability—genuinely understand their rights.

Amendment 52A in the name of my noble friend Lord Rosser returns to the issue of material held by third parties. It applies to material such as a victim’s school report or mental health records. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, and the noble Baroness, Lady Newlove, for their support on this issue in Committee.

The Government have accepted on the face of the Bill that extra protections are needed for victims where data are extracted from their phones. The next step is that the exact same protections must also apply where a victim’s privacy is being raided in any other area of their life.

These changes are being championed by the Victims’ Commissioner, with the support of the National Police Chiefs’ Council. They are vital for victims, for culture change and for the system as a whole. We need to get it right to give victims confidence, to stop unnecessary requests for information and to reduce the huge delays in investigations. I know the Minister recognises this issue. Will she commit to take it away and consult on the issue of third-party material with a view to bringing in protections?

Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures Act 2011 (Continuation) Order 2021

Debate between Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede and Lord Paddick
Tuesday 30th November 2021

(1 month, 3 weeks ago)

Grand Committee
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for introducing this statutory instrument. As she explained, the sunset clause means that every five years the TPIM powers need to be reviewed. I say in response to the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, that we support the measures because they are necessary. I think she said that they are extrajudicial. Yes, there is no criminal trial in the way somebody who is deprived of their liberty would normally be subject to a criminal trial, but these proceedings are not extrajudicial in that they still have to be approved by the court; there is some sort of judicial involvement.

We support the measures, but it is essential that there are safeguards. As the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Ipswich, said, the Government are, when challenged, citing defences of TPIMs that do not appear to be completely the case. If three subjects have abandoned their review, citing lack of funding for legal aid, clearly some of the safeguards are not being upheld.

The other issue is that, if the Government are citing to the UN body the fact that TPIM subjects will hear what the national security case is against them in those court proceedings, clearly that is not true either. TPIMs are usually for cases where the security services have intelligence on an individual but do not have evidence that they can present in open court, so it is very unlikely that a TPIM subject will hear what the national security case is against them. On the face of it, it sounds as if the Government are misrepresenting the safeguards that should be part and parcel of the TPIM process.

What worried me about the noble Baroness’s comments, which were very similar to those made by the Minister in the other place this morning, was that TPIMs are cited as being for cases where people cannot be prosecuted or deported. My understanding is that these terrorism prevention and investigation measures were intended as a stopgap while evidence was collected in order to prosecute the individual, not as a permanent replacement for prosecution.

There is a continual refrain: “Well, if we can’t deport or prosecute somebody then we’ll deprive them of their liberty on an almost permanent basis through TPIMs.” That strikes me as going against the sort of rights and freedoms that the noble Baroness said we need to protect through combating terrorism. We are almost taking away people’s rights and freedoms by the use of TPIMs in that way.

We have heard about some worrying developments from the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Ipswich, about reviews, a crucial safeguard as part of TPIM measures, and we have heard about the apparent misrepresentation by the Government of what the safeguards are and how what the Government appear now to be using TPIMs for goes beyond what they were intended for when they were initially envisaged. We are clearly concerned about the safeguards, but not to the extent that we feel that TPIMs are not necessary in exceptional cases as a temporary measure. Bearing in mind that the Investigatory Powers Commissioner, the security services and the independent reviewer have been consulted and are content with the renewal of the use of this power for another five years, and despite those reservations, we support the continuation of TPIMs.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
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My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Baroness for introducing this statutory instrument, which has vital implications for our national security. It keeps our citizens, their families and our communities safe. We will not oppose the instrument, which renews the Secretary of State’s powers to impose, extend, vary and, where elapsed, revive a TPIM notice. This is a technical measure and is required every five years by the 2011 Act. It would be incomprehensible to let these powers elapse on 13 December.

TPIMs are a tool in an arsenal to combat terrorism. The TPIM system needs to be agile and robust to respond to the ever-changing terrorist threat. Individuals with no criminal conviction can have these exceptional measures applied against them. It follows that there need to be strong safeguards to balance the protection of our citizens with the rights of an individual to be treated within the law and in a human rights compliant manner.

Does the Minister believe that TPIMs are effective? As she said, there are five TPIMs in force as of this October. Does she believe that the resources necessary to properly administer them are in place? What impact have the recent changes had operationally? We have seen the impact of so-called lone-wolf terrorism tragically recently. The Labour Party has called on the Government to look at this specifically and to publish a review. How does a TPIM combat this type of lone-wolf terrorist threat?

I also ask the Minister about funding for community counterextremism projects and the recommendations of the Government’s own commission of experts, in particular the ISC proposals on precursor chemicals for explosives. My honourable friend Conor McGinn in the other place referred to the Government not following the recommendations of their own experts. I will widen the question: can the Minister say something about their use of experts? How do the Government believe outside experts can be best used to develop and implement a strategy to combat terrorism?

Today’s SI deals with the renewal of TPIM powers, but can the Minister say something about the Prevent scheme? It is concerning that referrals to the scheme have dropped to just below 5,000, which I understand is a 22% drop and a record low. What is the status of the independent review of Prevent and when does she expect it to be published?

I will pick up some of the points that noble Lords have made in this short debate. The noble Baroness, Lady Jones, quoted from an article by the Prime Minister in the Telegraph. She went on to express her hope that this is the last such debate. I agree with that sentiment. We all know that the Prime Minister sometimes uses colourful language to make strong points, but she agreed—I see that she is nodding her head—as I do, with what the Prime Minister said in that article. But I am not driven to the same conclusion as the noble Baroness. We need these measures and we need them now, which is why we support a renewal of this SI.

The noble Lord, Lord Anderson, is undoubtedly the most expert among us today. He raised four questions and I would be interested to hear the response to them, because I thought that they were very pertinent.

The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, put his questions succinctly and I will reiterate a couple of his points. My understanding of TPIMs agrees with his: they were not seen as a permanent replacement but as an intermediary step before prosecution, yet we see people being kept on this type of regime for long periods. The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, essentially also made the same point as that of the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, about the safeguards not being properly funded, so that, for example, it is not possible for people to take advantage of legal aid to review the TPIMs on them. I thought that the questions from the two noble Lords were important and the Government need to answer them.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Debate between Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede and Lord Paddick
Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, we support these amendments, so ably proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Cashman, supported by the noble Lord, Lord Lexden. I also pay tribute to the Minister for her sympathetic approach to these issues over the years. These offences should never have been offences in the first place. It therefore makes complete sense that, if people were convicted of such an offence and they apply to have a conviction or caution disregarded, and if that application is successful, they should be pardoned. Of course, deceased persons falling into this category cannot apply to have a conviction or caution disregarded, but they should be able to receive a posthumous pardon if the offence qualifies. It has taken 500 years to get to this stage and the Government have been making progress on these issues. These are the final pieces of the jigsaw and we support them.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
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My Lords, my noble and learned friend Lord Falconer also added his name to this amendment. We clearly support the amendments. I pay tribute to my noble friend Lord Cashman and the noble Lord, Lord Lexden, who I understand campaigned for decades on this issue. I thought it was quite moving, if I may use that word, to hear the noble Lord, Lord Lexden, saying he earnestly hoped that he was coming towards the end of his campaign. I hope he is right and that the Minister may be able to give him some comfort in that respect. Everybody who has contributed to the debate thinks this is a thoroughly appropriate amendment and, even though it has been a very truncated debate, the passion and the sense of finality have come through, and I very much hope that the Minister will give a suitable response.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Debate between Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede and Lord Paddick
Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Newlove, for so ably and comprehensively introducing her amendment. We return to an issue that we debated during the Domestic Abuse Bill, making misogyny a hate crime. From the Front Bench, we support Amendment 219 and oppose the alternative Amendment 219A.

When we debated the Domestic Abuse Bill, I talked about the appalling kidnap and murder of Sarah Everard by a serving police officer, and, as the noble Baroness, Lady Newlove, has said, many more women have died as a result of male violence since then. As the chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales said a few weeks ago, there is a problem with sexism and misogyny in the police service and in society as a whole. Urgent action is needed. Some changes will take a long time, such as changes to social attitudes and police culture, but some changes can happen now. We have an opportunity with this amendment to make one of those changes now.

I did not support the amendment to the Domestic Abuse Bill because I did not believe that that amendment made misogyny a hate crime. This amendment does. In the Domestic Abuse Bill debate, I suggested, as Amendment 219A does, that we should wait for the Law Commission report on hate crime laws. As the helpful briefing from the office of Stella Creasy MP says:

“Since 2010, more than half of Law Commission reviews have not been implemented at all, including the last review of hate crime legislation in 2014.”


I agree with the briefing’s assertion that this is an area where delay has tangible consequences. The evidence that there is a problem is overwhelming. In the wake of the tragic and horrific murders of Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa, there is an opportunity to strike while the iron is hot, while public opinion is behind us, and where the issue is high in public consciousness. We need to seize that opportunity with Amendment 219.

I did not support the amendment to the Domestic Abuse Bill because I believed that it was the wrong Bill, where one third of domestic abuse victims are male. I believed that it was the wrong Bill because domestic abuse is one of the worst possible crimes, because if there is only one place where someone can feel safe, it should be in their own home—that domestic abuse could not and should be treated as any more serious than it already is.

I also said:

“If noble Lords or Members of the other place do not think we should wait for the Law Commission’s report, there is an imminent legislative opportunity to make sure that hatred of women is treated in every way as a hate crime. We could work cross-party to amend the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which is being debated in the Commons, to make misogyny a hate crime in every sense of the term. Even if the noble Baroness is not convinced by the Government’s concession, we do not need to rush this amendment through now when the ideal legislative opportunity is at our fingertips.”


The ideal legislative opportunity is at our fingertips—it is here and now, and we should do it.

I have to say that I found the arguments in the briefing that noble Lords have been provided with less convincing on the issue of sex and gender. I refer again to what I said on the Domestic Abuse Bill:

“If the Government only require police forces to record crimes where the victim perceives them to have been motivated by hostility based on the victim’s sex … it does not go far enough. Current hate crime offences are recorded when anyone perceives the offence to have been motivated by hatred, not just the victim. The amendment includes sex and gender, and this is important. If an offender believes the victim is a woman, and anybody perceives that the offence was motivated by hatred of women, it should be recorded as a crime motivated by hatred of women. It makes no difference … whether the victim is a transgender woman.”


There may of course be circumstances where an attack on a transgender woman might be more appropriately recorded as a transphobic hate crime, but:

“Where the victim or a witness believes that they were attacked because they were a woman because they perceive the offender believed the victim was a woman, it should be recorded as such. The use of the term “sex” on its own may exclude some offences”.—[Official Report, 17/3/21; col. 363-64.]


It has been argued that, legally, such offences would not be excluded, but we need to consider the practical implications of excluding gender, as Amendment 219A seeks to do.

There are some who believe that trans women are not women but men. Some of those people are very strident in asserting that view. I want to avoid that debate if possible, but the fact is that people are saying this, and that view may influence victims, witnesses and police officers. Some people may not accurately report crimes motivated by misogyny if they believe that this does not apply to trans women. If we are to protect women and record all crimes motivated by misogyny, gender must be included. A proposal such as Amendment 219A, which makes life more dangerous for some women, makes life more dangerous for all women. From the Front Bench, we support Amendment 219 and oppose Amendment 219A.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
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My Lords, the Labour Party has been at the forefront of calls to make misogyny a hate crime. Former Nottingham police and crime commissioner Paddy Tipping ensured that it was recorded as a hate crime there, and we have heard from my noble friend Lady Warwick about his work with Chief Constable Sue Fish in that regard. During the passage of the Domestic Abuse Act, we secured the piloting of the recording of misogyny as a hate crime among crimes of violence against the person, including stalking, harassment and sexual offences. Police forces recording misogyny as a hate crime is an important step forward, but we want to go further by including sex and gender in the list of protected characteristics in hate crime laws for the first time.

I shall speak only very briefly because of the hour, but I want to conclude by saying that I thought that my noble friend Lady Chakrabarti encapsulated the decision before us. We in the Labour Party support Amendment 219 and oppose Amendment 219A. As my noble friend said, first of all, this relates to where an offence has already taken place. Secondly, it is already the case that race and religion are aggravating factors, and they have been for many years. We believe that misogyny should be added as an aggravating factor when sentencing.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Debate between Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede and Lord Paddick
Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe, has relayed to the Committee clearly a very distressing case of mistaken identity and anti-social behaviour generally in that street, apparently to do with drug dealing. If the perpetrators of this terrible crime were found, I am not sure that they would be given a caution, and I thought this part of the Bill was about police cautions—but I accept the general point that victims need to be protected. Although a caution would not be applicable in this case of the break-in at the home and the damage to the car, there might be one in respect of the general anti-social behaviour in the street. It is absolutely essential that the needs of victims are taken into account by the police, including for the financial losses that victims have suffered.

As I said on a previous group, out-of-court settlements have a high victim approval rating already. These amendments, in so far as they apply to police cautions, would ensure that they remain high, and to that extent we support them.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
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My Lords, I agree with the points that the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, just made. I also think that Mr McAra should be very grateful to my noble friend Lord Brooke for raising the points about the lack of a formal record of the cost of the incidents. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, that it seems very unlikely that anyone would get a caution for this sort of offence. Even if it got to court, there would be an obligation on the sentencing court to consider compensation, because one has to consider this whenever one sentences an individual. Nevertheless, my noble friend has raised an interesting question and I look forward to the Minister’s reply.

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Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, I will also speak to the other amendments in this group. The Committee has already considered these issues, so I can be brief. I apologise for not recognising that some of the amendments in a previous group covered similar issues.

In that previous group, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, suggested that the maximum number of hours attached to the unpaid work condition and the attendance condition, and the maximum fine that could be attached to a caution, should be set in the case of the fine and varied in all cases by regulations and that those should be amended only by the affirmative resolution procedure. The noble and learned Lord previously said in Committee that this was not an ideal solution, as regulations could not be amended and that this House was reluctant to use the “nuclear option” of praying to annul regulations, which is the only option available if it disagrees with a statutory instrument. Even with the affirmative resolution procedure in place, in practice, if the House disagrees with an increase to the maximum number of hours of unpaid work—or any of the other conditions attached to police cautions—there is little that it can do about it, unless changes are made through primary legislation.

I grant that the value of money is eroded over time by inflation and periodically the maximum fine capable of being attached as a condition to a caution may need to increase accordingly, but surely not the amount of time to be spent in unpaid work or subject to the attendance condition. There is a question of principle. If an offence is so grave that greater punishment is required, that should be a matter for the courts and not for a police officer to decide. There is precedent in our legal system for this principle. If magistrates want to impose a harsher sentence, they must refer eligible cases to the Crown Court, where a more senior judge can make a decision with more serious consequences.

When I joined the police service in the 1970s, the police performed the role of both investigator and prosecutor. Parliament then decided that prosecution decisions should be made by an independent body, the Crown Prosecution Service, for very good reasons that I do not need to rehearse here, while punishment of the individual has primarily been a matter for the courts, supported by reports from experts on the medical, social and criminal antecedents of the accused, in many cases, and considered by highly trained and experienced judges who are obliged to follow sentencing guidelines. In the proposals contained in this part of the Bill, the police are investigators, prosecutors and sentencers. There must be limits on the extent to which they should be allowed to carry out all three functions in relation to a case and those limits should be set out in primary legislation, on the face of the Bill. That is the purpose of these amendments and I beg to move Amendment 174.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
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My Lords, I listened with interest to the noble Lord, Lord Paddick. As he says, in this part of the Bill the police are investigators, prosecutors and sentencers. They also decide whether the matter should be sent to the CPS, with the people charged and sent into the court system. Of course, once the case gets into the court system, magistrates are judge, jury and sentencers. There are different roles at different stages of the system. The burden of the amendments in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, is in some way to codify, limit and guide the police when they are doing this pre-court intervention with the type of cautions set out in the Bill. I look forward with interest to the Minister’s response.

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Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, we support this amendment, but, as I have already said, we have our doubts about the whole regime. For the benefit of noble Lords who missed the midnight debate on Monday, I bring you the edited highlights, which are relevant to this group.

I quoted from the House of Commons briefing paper 9165. On the Government’s proposals on diversionary and community cautions, it says:

“the available evidence suggests the system: … may result in a further decline in … OOCDs; … is likely to cost more … is unlikely to have a major impact on the reoffending rates of offenders; and … may improve victim satisfaction but is unlikely to have a major impact.”

I have to say that the high point for me on Monday night—or was it Tuesday morning?—was the Minister’s answer to my question about how effective conditional cautions, which are the existing system of cautions with conditions attached, were, compared with simple cautions that do not have conditions attached. The noble Lord announced with glee, if I may say that in a very respectful way, that:

“As the Committee will know from previous exchanges, I am quite a fan of data.”—[Official Report, 8/11/10; col. 1577.]


The Minister then looked at his phone and a message from his WhatsApp group—it is good to see members of the WhatsApp group in the Box today—saying that, in effect, there was no data. The Government not only keep no record of how many conditional versus simple cautions are administered, just the total number of all cautions, but have no record of what kind of conditions are attached to conditional cautions. On the basis of that data void, they plan to implement a system where all police cautions will need to have conditions attached.

I also quoted from a 2018 paper by Dr Peter Neyroud, former chief constable of Thames Valley Police and now a distinguished academic, published by the University of Cambridge and commissioned by the National Police Chiefs’ Council, entitled Out of Court Disposals Managed by the Police: A Review of the Evidence. On the police attaching conditions to cautions, he said:

“The result … was a significant degree of inconsistency and a substantial number of inappropriate and un-evidenced conditions.”


The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham gave us an example of, presumably, a youth who was banned from public transport, which meant he could not get to school. I continue to quote from Dr Peter Neyroud:

“Whilst the provision of further training and more guidance improved the situation somewhat, the cost of such an investment within a more general implementation of OOCD’s with conditions”—


exactly what the Government are proposing—

“would be prohibitive and, in any case, did not completely resolve the problems.”

Never mind—the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, came up with a better idea: the inspectorates of the constabulary and of the CPS could ensure consistency, so that somebody in a similar situation, committing a similar offence, would have the same conditions attached, no matter where they were in the country. I am afraid not, said the Minister:

“Those two inspectorates are not regulators; they do not have power to enforce compliance.”—[Official Report, 8/11/21; col. 1576.]


Inconsistent, inappropriate and unevidenced conditions will be attached to cautions all over the country, bringing no benefit to offenders, little benefit to victims and increased costs to the criminal justice system. That is what this part of the Bill does.

We support this amendment, which should also apply to diversionary cautions, but the omens are not good that the police will know what they are doing when it comes to applying conditions to support the offender to desist from offending. There is serious doubt that, even when they do, the conditions will have any effect on reducing reoffending.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
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My Lords, this has been a wide-ranging debate. When the right reverend Prelate introduced it, he made a general plea in favour of cautions and on why his amendment was appropriate. He spoke of the benefits of cautions and what they need to be effective, and of the revolving door of crisis and crime and of a holistic approach. He particularly gave the example of women offenders, for whom a holistic approach is appropriate to reduce reoffending. Then he went on to give examples of why quite a lot of cautions fail—by giving too many conditions. My experience, through following both cautions and sentences through court, is that the more conditions you put in place, even if they are in place for the best of reasons, the more likely you are to have a breach and to re-enter that cycle, coming back to court or to the police when conditions are breached.

My central point is that out-of-court disposals are a difficult area. The Government and previous Governments have a lot of experience in trying to come up with an appropriate regime for out-of-court disposals. As we have heard on the Bill—I agree with pretty much all the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick—we have another cautions regime, which we hope will work in some way. I particularly noted the point made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, about the need to see draft regulations or a draft code of practice to ensure consistency across the country.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Debate between Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede and Lord Paddick
Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, in moving Amendment 187 in my name I will speak to the other amendments in this group. I ask the Committee to forgive the repetition.

I understand the Government’s desire to simplify out-of-court disposals and take the pressure off courts but, as I have said in several previous groups, research has shown that moving to the system suggested by the Bill, as piloted by some police forces, is likely to cost more, do nothing to reduce offending and have little or no impact on victim satisfaction.

I have also suggested that the complexity of having to impose conditions in every case when a police caution is given, whether a diversionary or community caution, is likely to have the unintended consequences of increasing the number of cases dealt with by no further action being taken and the number of cases sent to court—anything to avoid the complicated process of setting, arranging and monitoring compliance with the conditions that must be set whenever anyone is given a police caution. Research already shows a reduction in the number of out-of-court disposals in recent years, and these changes are likely to result in further reductions.

Clause 97 abolishes all other forms of out-of-court disposal. I will give some illustrations of what this means in practice. A young lawyer or medic who, completely out of character, has too much to drink, gets drunk and ends up making a nuisance of himself is arrested and, once sober, is given a simple caution. The salutary effect on such an individual’s future behaviour is dramatic, the impact on his career prospects negligible and the amount of time taken by the police to deal with the case minimal. If the impact of his being stopped and spoken to by a police officer has an immediate sobering effect, he might even be given a fixed penalty notice for disorder and sent on his way. Neither of these out-of-court disposals would be available under the Bill as drafted.

If someone drops litter, is seen by a police officer and refuses to put it in the bin, at the moment, that police officer can issue a fixed penalty notice for disorder. Under the Bill, the only course for the officer would be either not to take any action at all, undermining both the law and the authority of the police, or to arrest the person and take them to a police station so that they can be cautioned with conditions attached. I am at a bit of a loss as to what conditions might be attached to a caution for littering, but perhaps the Minister can enlighten the Committee.

Altogether, there are currently 27 minor offences that can be dealt with by a police officer issuing a fixed penalty notice on the spot, from cycling in a park where cycling is prohibited to possession of khat or cannabis. In all these cases, the only way to proceed, if this Bill passes unamended, would be to make an arrest, so that a community or diversionary caution with conditions attached could be administered.

This is a recipe for an increase in anti-social behaviour that goes unchallenged, because police officers faced with the bureaucracy of arrest and a community or diversionary caution with conditions attached will look the other way. What is unclear—the Committee needs to know this, and if the Minister cannot answer from the Dispatch Box, I ask him to write to me—is what happens to cannabis and khat warnings where people who have cannabis or khat found on them are seized by a police officer and a warning is given to them on the street. I would argue that that is a type of out-of-court disposal. Is this also to be outlawed by the Bill? If it is, it will have serious consequences for police resources.

What is proposed by this clause, with community and diversionary cautions being the only out-of-court disposals allowed, will result in fewer people having any action taken against them for anti-social behaviour and significant police resources being used to deal with minor offences. That is why Clause 97, which abolishes other forms of out-of-court disposals, such as fixed penalties for disorder, should not stand part of the Bill and the simple police caution should be retained. I beg to move.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
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My Lords, the amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, is to retain simple cautions. The examples he gave illustrate the point I made earlier: that this is a very complex area, with a lot of history of government trying to manage out-of-court disposals in different ways. He gave the example of 27 minor offences which can be dealt with by fixed penalty notices and asked what happens with cannabis and khat warnings. I would be interested to hear the answer.

The noble Lord asked—I think rhetorically—what else a police officer can do other than give a conditional caution. The answer is that they can do nothing. They can give the person they are dealing with a talking to; in my experience, police officers are perfectly capable of doing that. Nevertheless, as I said in an earlier group, this is a very complex area. The Government have tried a number of different out-of-court disposal regimes in recent years; I am not aware that any approach was particularly better than previous ones. Indeed, the noble Lord gave examples of the not obvious success of the pilot schemes for this regime.

Nevertheless, I think that out-of-court disposals are appropriate. They need to be handled in a proportionate way and with the right amount of training for the police officers dealing with them. Clearly, an appropriate level of intervention would, one would hope, be for the benefit of the offenders, given that it is very likely that a large proportion of the offenders will be drug and alcohol users. Having said that, I will be interested to hear why the Minister thinks a simple caution is not appropriate to retain on the statute book.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Debate between Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede and Lord Paddick
Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, we strongly support my noble friend Lord Beith. He has clearly explained his amendment: persons other than those mentioned in the Bill are in positions of trust. Although there is no evidence of widespread concern about instructors in dance, drama or music abusing their positions of trust, there are examples and fairly recent high-profile cases. My noble friend explains that either we should leave it to the courts to decide whether someone is in a position of trust or a more comprehensive list is required that is not limited, as my noble friend Lady Brinton said, to the examples in the amendments.

I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, to some extent, although one could imagine that children are more vulnerable in certain scenarios and one-to-one situations than in others. But we support the amendments in the name of my noble friend Lord Beith.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
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My Lords, we too support these amendments, and I too found the introduction from the noble Lord, Lord Beith, to be comprehensive. The brief in front of me asks why some youth activities are included and others are not, which is the point the Minister will have to address when he winds up this brief debate. I will not repeat those points about why certain activities might be included and others might not, and I am sure that everyone who has spoken in this debate wants to achieve the same end, but there are different mechanisms to do that.

I agreed with the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, who, as she said, somewhat unusually found herself in agreement with potentially using Henry VIII powers to amend legislation. While listening to this debate, I remembered the biography of a very famous English composer that I read recently, just a few months ago. He would fall foul of these regulations and would very likely go to jail on the basis of that biography.

I hope this problem is not widespread, but it is something that people are far more alert to these days than they were in the past. It is right that the Government should ensure that the appropriate structures are in place in each of the activities for which young people get support, so that, if things go wrong, the coaches or whoever is involved can be held to account in an appropriate way.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Debate between Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede and Lord Paddick
Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I rise to move Amendment 123A in my name. I apologise to the Committee. If I had had my wits about me, I would have grouped it with the previous police bail amendments. I am grateful to Transform Justice for bringing this issue to my attention and for its help and support in drafting this amendment.

The Government continue to place tighter restrictions on when courts can remand children in custody. Those are much stronger than the restrictions currently placed on the police when they decide whether to remand a child in custody to court. Court criteria, most of which do not apply to the police, include that: the child must be between 12 and 17 years of age and be legally represented, other than in exceptional circumstances; they must have been charged with a violent or sexual offence or have been charged with an offence where an adult would have received a custodial sentence of 14 or more years; or they have a recent history of absconding while remanded; or they have a history of committing imprisonable offences while on bail; and there is a real prospect of a custodial sentence for the offence in question. In addition, remand in custody must be necessary to protect the public from death or personal injury or to prevent the child from committing further imprisonable offences.

The police remand many more children in custody than the courts. In 2019, the year with the most recent data available, over 4,500 children were remanded in police custody compared with 884 children remanded in custody by the courts. Some 60% of children remanded in custody by the police had been charged with non-violent offences and only 12% of those remanded in custody by the police went on to be remanded in custody by the courts. Two-thirds of children remanded in custody by the police do not receive a custodial sentence.

In Clause 132, the Bill suggests further strengthening the restrictions on courts remanding children in custody, including that the history of breaching bail or offending on bail must be “significant”, “relevant” and “recent”. If detention is being considered for the child’s own safety, this would be possible only if the risk cannot be safely managed in the community. It would have to be “very likely” that the child would receive a custodial sentence rather than a “real prospect”. Courts would also be under a statutory duty to record their reasons for imposing custodial remand, including a statement that they have considered the welfare of the child in their decision and that they have considered alternatives.

The Bill as drafted does nothing to tighten the restrictions on the police remanding children in custody, or even to bring them into line with existing court restrictions. Amendment 123A intends to bring the Police and Criminal Evidence Act criteria for police remand of children into closer alignment with the court remand criteria. I beg to move.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
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My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, for moving his amendment. As the Committee might be aware, I sit as a youth magistrate, usually at Highbury magistrates’ court. I have to say that I was not aware of the difference in the remand criteria; I should have known but I did not. I also thank Transform Justice for bringing this to my attention. The noble Lord has very thoroughly explored the differences in the number of youths remanded by the police versus those remanded by the courts. I would be interested to hear what the Minister has to say in response.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Debate between Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede and Lord Paddick
Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, I rise to support the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, and I am very grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, taking us back to very late on Monday night, if the Minister remembers, when we were discussing Clause 15, on the disclosure of information. The Minister—I think, from memory, although it was late—implied that the disclosure of information was voluntary and that the clause was there simply to facilitate the disclosure of information. In challenging the Minister in that, I quoted from Clause 17.

I can be brief. Clause 17 enables the Secretary of State, if satisfied that a specified authority, educational authority or youth custody authority has failed to comply with the duties to collaborate or disclose information—including, presumably, sensitive personal information and information covered by a duty of confidentiality—to direct the authority to comply and enforce her direction through a mandatory order. That is what Clause 17 says.

I have already explained at length why professionals should use their professional judgment—as the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, just said—within existing policies, procedures, practices and protocols, rather than being forced to divulge sensitive personal information when it is not, on balance, in the public interest to do so. For example, there will often be a greater good to be derived from maintaining a relationship between, say, a youth worker and a young person at risk of becoming involved in serious violence than from divulging sensitive information to the police. All authorities dealing with these issues are committed to preventing and tackling serious violence. They may, from time to time, have a different perspective on the problem, or a different view on the best way to achieve what we all are desperately seeking to do.

This clause is one of the reasons why so many organisations believe that the Bill is really about a police-led enforcement approach, because it is the Home Secretary who can force them to comply, rather than the public health, multiagency, multifaceted approach that has been so successful in preventing and tackling knife crime in Scotland. Can the Minister give examples of where public authorities involved in preventing and tackling serious violence have obstructed efforts to achieve those objectives? If not, why is this clause necessary? We believe that Clause 17 should not stand part of the Bill.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
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My Lords, this group starts with government Amendment 72, which I will say a brief word about. The amendment requires the Secretary of State to obtain the consent of Welsh Ministers—not just consult them—before giving a direction under Clause 17 to a devolved Welsh authority. I understand that the change was requested by the Welsh Government, and we support it on this side of the House.

I turn to the debate on whether Clause 17 should stand part of the Bill, which was tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, who introduced it, and the noble Lord, Lord Paddick. Their explanatory statement says that:

“The purpose of this amendment is to explore the extent of the Secretary of State’s powers to issue directions under this section and the consequences of failure to comply with such a direction.”


A number of very searching questions have been raised, and I have a few questions myself. It would be helpful if the Minister could give some more information on what a “direction” might be and what it might consist of under this clause. The central point made by both the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, and the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, was about the context of police-led enforcement rather than a more equal arrangement between other agencies such as education and the National Health Service.

In the House of Commons, the Minister said that it is envisaged that this power will be used extremely rarely. Nevertheless, could the Minister give an example of when this power might be used and what checks might be in place when it is used? What would the prior steps be before a direction is considered? How would an authority’s progress in acting upon a direction be measured? Further, can the Minister say something about how the Government see this power working in practice?

I thought the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, raised a particularly interesting question about what the sanction might be if a public servant fails to comply with an order to disclose information. My noble friend Lady Chakrabarti also spoke of the rare disputes between professionals and how these may be resolved by direction from the Secretary of State, rather than through the courts. She gave a historical context, if you like, to that status of professionals making their own judgments.

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, in moving Amendment 73, I will speak also to Amendment 74 in my name.

Clause 18 states that those authorities that are, under this chapter of the Bill, under a duty to prevent and tackle serious violence

“must have regard to guidance issued by the Secretary of State”.

However, in the Bill, the only people the Secretary of State must consult are Welsh Ministers. As we will see in a later group, when it comes to similar guidance in relation to offensive weapons homicide reviews, Clause 31 requires the Secretary of State to consult

“persons appearing to the Secretary of State to represent review partners”

and

“such other persons as the Secretary of State considers appropriate.”

That is in addition to Welsh Ministers.

We on these Benches believe that the Secretary of State should also consult representatives of the authorities that will be subject to the guidance, and such other persons as may be appropriate to consult. That is the intention of Amendment 74. We also believe that such guidance should be statutory—that is, contained in regulations—to enable Parliament to scrutinise the guidance before those involved become subject to it, as set out in Amendment 73. I beg to move.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
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My Lords, we support the amendments put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick. On Amendment 74, we believe it is vital that the Government should consult front-line organisations on the content of the guidance. They are the ones who know how this will, or will not, work in practice and their expertise is the driving force behind the duty. The Government have of course published draft guidance on this, and I ask the Minister whether this guidance is being consulted on.

Domestic Abuse Bill

Debate between Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede and Lord Paddick
Wednesday 10th March 2021

(10 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I want to go one step back and start with domestic abuse prevention notices. These can be given by a relatively junior police officer, despite what the legislation describes as a “senior police officer”—I was a police inspector at the age of 23—on the basis that he has reasonable grounds to believe that P has been abusive towards another person aged 16 or over to whom P is personally connected and reasonably believes that the notice is necessary to protect the person from abuse by P. If P breaches the notice, P can be arrested and must be held in custody before they can be brought before the court. That is a lot of power invested in a relatively junior and potentially inexperienced police officer, with serious consequences for P. A practical alternative might be to seek the authority of a magistrate, in a similar way that the police might seek a search warrant, which can be done at short notice, on a 24/7 basis. Did the Government consider such an alternative?

As my noble friend Lady Hamwee said, domestic abuse prevention orders can be made by a court on application, and must be applied for if P is already subject to a domestic abuse protection notice. The orders are made on the basis that the court is satisfied on the balance of probabilities, the civil standard of proof, that P has been abusive towards a person aged 16 or over to whom P is personally connected and the order is necessary and proportionate to protect that person from domestic abuse, or the risk of domestic abuse, carried out by P.

The order can be made in the absence of P, and it can impose a range of prohibitions and requirements. If P fails, without reasonable excuse, to comply with the order, he commits a criminal offence and can be imprisoned for up to five years. Normally an accused person is convicted of a criminal offence only if the offence is proved beyond reasonable doubt, and while I accept that a breach of the order might be so proved, the basis upon which the order is given is on the balance of probabilities.

When this House debated knife crime prevention orders, we discussed whether the breach of what is effectively a civil order, granted on the balance of probabilities, should result in a criminal offence, rather than a fine or a term of imprisonment for contempt of court without a criminal conviction being recorded against the perpetrator. In that case, the Government claimed that it was the police who said that a criminal sanction was necessary, rather than a civil penalty, in order for perpetrators to take them seriously. What is the Government’s reason this time?

As we discussed then, Parliament changed a similar regime introduced under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 and the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003, whereby breach of the civil order resulted in the criminalisation of many young people with no previous convictions for breach of an anti-social behaviour order or ASBO. Parliament replaced ASBOs with anti-social behaviour injunctions and community protection notices—a purely civil process—by means of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014.

On the basis of hearsay, potentially a malicious allegation, someone could be given a domestic abuse protection order, breach of which may result in a criminal conviction and a term of imprisonment. Can the Minister please explain why it is necessary for a criminal record to be created when there is a breach of the civil domestic abuse prevention order when it is not necessary in relation to anti-social behaviour injunctions and community protection notices?

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I am speaking to this amendment on the basis that the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, said that she will not be moving it to a vote, and that what she is seeking is, essentially, for the Minister to read into the record the contents of the letter the noble Baroness received, in which the Minister explained the nature of the process when people breach the DAPO.

I thought I would address a couple of the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Fox, when she opened her contribution, in her typically provocative way, by saying she feared that the state was expanding its coercive powers. In some ways, the situation is more extreme than she or the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, said.

I remind the House that I sit as a magistrate in family and criminal cases; in particular, I sit on domestic abuse-related criminal cases. In domestic abuse criminal cases, if we find a perpetrator not guilty, we still occasionally give them what is now called a restraining order. We do that because although the necessary standard of proof has not been met, the alleged victim is clearly vulnerable, so we put a restraining order in place in any event. In the family court, we use non-molestation orders.

The purpose of the DAPO is to supersede restraining orders and non-molestation orders, but we very frequently put non-molestation orders in place without the alleged perpetrator present. The alleged perpetrator will be told of it and given an opportunity to come to court and argue against the imposition of a non-molestation order, but the reason the process is as I have described is to protect the woman, as it is usually. I understand that the purpose of the DAPN and the DAPO is to supersede the arrangements we have in place.

I understand the points the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, made about the appropriateness of these sorts of orders when compared to ASBOs and community protection notices. They are points he has made before and they are interesting. Nevertheless, as I said in my opening, I see that the purpose of this short debate is for the Minister to put on the record the contents of the letter he has written to the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, to make crystal clear the standard of proof that would be necessary to get a conviction for breaching these orders.

Domestic Abuse Bill

Debate between Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede and Lord Paddick
Report stage & Lords Hansard
Monday 8th March 2021

(10 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Domestic Abuse Act 2021 - Government Bill Page View all Domestic Abuse Bill Debates Read Hansard Text
Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, in Committee, we heard the very moving testimony of the noble Baroness, Lady Meyer, whose children were abducted by their father and kept in Germany with very little contact between them and their mother. It appears that, during that separation, the father turned the children against her. It is a shocking and upsetting case of parental abduction. I pay tribute to the noble Baroness for her campaigning work on parental abduction. A friend of mine in Oslo, who has shared custody, is having the relationship between him and his son poisoned by the mother.

As my noble friend Lady Brinton said, such behaviour is already covered by Clause 1(3)(c) and (e) and subsection (5) of the Bill as it stands in a way that economic abuse is not. Parental alienation amounts to controlling or coercive behaviour and psychological or emotional abuse. It includes, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, has said, conduct directed at another person—for example, the victim’s child.

As the noble Baroness said in Committee, using children as weapons in a war by one parent against the other can equally apply to mothers seeking to alienate fathers as to fathers seeking to alienate mothers. It can inflict damage on both parent and child. I fundamentally disagree with the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, that this a gendered issue.

In Committee, the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, who has a wealth of experience, said that it is important to leave discretion over contact and parental alienation to the judges. She reinforced that this afternoon. As she said, there are two types of case: one where a child witnesses abuse and turns against the perpetrator, and the other, where there is a malicious attempt to turn a child against a parent. Abusive behaviour turns children against abusers.

As with many areas of domestic abuse, the issues here are complex, and there are both advantages and disadvantages to the noble Baroness’s amendment. In Committee, my noble friend Lady Brinton quoted from a Ministry of Justice report which cites:

“Fears of false allegations of parental alienation are clearly a barrier to victims of abuse telling the courts about their experiences.”


The domestic abuse commissioner-designate has talked about

“the potential for the idea of ‘parental alienation’ to be weaponised by perpetrators of domestic abuse to silence their victims within the Family Court.”

The noble Baroness, Lady Meyer, said that the justice system needs to be better equipped to deal with these issues. As my noble friend Lady Brinton said, the House will consider in Amendment 44 whether there should be mandatory training, so that magistrates and judges at all levels might be better trained in this and other areas of domestic abuse. I accept that the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, thinks that the existing training is adequate but, along with the noble Baroness, Lady Helic, we believe that there should be changes to the training of the judiciary, rather than

“behaviour deliberately designed to damage the relationship of a child of the parent and the other parent”

being listed as part of the definition of domestic abuse in the Bill. For these reasons, we do not support the amendment.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I remind the House that I sit as a family magistrate in central London and regularly deal with these types of cases. I have to say that this has been a better debate than the one we had in Committee. The reason is that many of the speakers showed a greater appreciation of the complexity of these types of cases, which we hear in court. A number of speakers, including those who put their names to this amendment, stated that if the Minister were to make it crystal clear that the term “parental alienation” will be dealt with fully outside of the Bill, then they would think that a good solution to the issue in the amendment. We have also had a number of very eminent lawyers—the noble and learned Lords, Lord Mackay and Lord Morris, and my noble friend Lady Chakrabarti—clearly say their view is that the amendment is not necessary, as long as the issue itself is addressed elsewhere.

We have had a lot of contributions and I will not go through all the speeches. However, I want to pick up a couple of points noble Lords have made, in particular a contribution by the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries of Pentregarth. He spoke about the distressing and polarising effects of the issue being debated in Committee; I think we have all received a huge amount of lobbying material since then. He also said that he had no doubt that parental alienation exists and that professional organisations such as Cafcass, through its child impact assessment, and the court system try to address the whole range of domestic abuse, including parental alienation.

I want to make one point, which has not been made by any other speaker, and stems from that made by the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss. She summarised it, in a typically succinct way, by saying that the effects on the child are twofold: first, the witnessing, either directly or indirectly, of domestic abuse, which is clearly extremely bad for the child; and secondly, the malicious attempt by a parent to turn the child against the other parent. She has characterised that issue accurately, but I have been sitting as a family magistrate for about eight years now and have seen many cases where a parent has admitted, perhaps through a conviction, that their behaviour means they have committed such abuse. I have seen that many times but never seen a parent admit trying maliciously to alienate the child from the other parent. I have simply never seen a parent acknowledge that they have indulged in such a course of action. The court is of course in a very difficult position, so we move on to the possible use of experts, training for the judiciary and the life experience of magistrates and judges who are dealing with these cases.

I come back to where I opened: there has been a greater acknowledgement by the contributors to today’s debate of the difficulty in making these decisions. Of course, I am in favour of more training—magistrates, lawyers and judges are trained in any event, but more training would be welcome. I hope that the Minister will manage to convince the noble Baroness, Lady Meyer, that it is not necessary to press her amendment. I personally believe that the issues she has raised and the intensity of the speeches she has given can be properly met through regulations under the Bill.

Domestic Abuse Bill

Debate between Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede and Lord Paddick
Committee: 6th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 6th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Wednesday 10th February 2021

(11 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Domestic Abuse Act 2021 - Government Bill Page View all Domestic Abuse Bill Debates Read Hansard Text
Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, my noble friend Lady Benjamin, who introduced Amendment 177A in such an inspiring way and for whom I have the greatest admiration and the highest respect, has been a passionate campaigner her whole life on protecting and nurturing children. In her own inimitable style, she says, “Childhood lasts a lifetime”. I am very glad that she got that in, even if it was in the penultimate sentence of her speech. She is absolutely right. What happens in childhood impacts people for the rest of their lives, potentially with devasting consequences, and accessing pornography is one of those influences that can have an adverse impact on children.

In this Bill we are addressing domestic abuse, and many children grow up in households where domestic violence is a regular occurrence. I was at the same time impressed and saddened when I visited the only young offender institution in Scotland. The young people there were engaged in sessions with someone from a domestic abuse charity who taught them that the abusive home environment in which many of them had grown up is not normal and that it is not what a healthy, loving relationship looks like, despite it having been the lived experience of many of them. Living in an environment where you are surrounded by violence normalises violence as a way of life, and accessing harmful violent pornography is part of the landscape viewed by many young people.

As a police constable I was called to a disturbance. We were presented with a couple, a room that looked as though it had been ransacked, and a broken glass-top table. The woman had red marks around her neck. We found a ligature and a plastic bag with the impression of her face on it, like a mask. We arrested the man for attempted murder and took the victim to hospital. At court the next day, the accused’s lawyer claimed that it was consensual rough sex and the victim—I thought reluctantly—agreed, and the case was dismissed. To this day, those images haunt me, as does the nagging doubt about the extent to which the woman had really consented to what was done to her.

I am glad that this Bill finally, over 40 years later, is going to address this issue, but we have to ask ourselves where people get these ideas from. Some 57% of people in the BBC survey that my noble friend referred to said it was from pornography. Any means of preventing young people from accessing such harmful pornographic content should be implemented, so it seems quite extraordinary that the Government should work for a number of years with the British Board of Film Classification to develop a system of age verification for pornographic websites and pass legislation in the Digital Economy Act to enable such a system to be put into place—only to abandon it.

Age verification systems are not a panacea. There are numerous and easily accessible ways for a determined teenager to bypass them. I am not sure how many read Hansard, but I do not intend to publicise them. The means of enforcing age verification systems on the operators of pornographic websites is not without difficulty. Many are free to view and hosted outside the UK. Asking UK internet service providers to block websites that fail to comply with age verification rules would also block adults in the UK, who should be able to access legal pornography, if they so wish, from accessing them.

The measures to prevent young people from accessing pornography on some social media sites have improved, with users being prevented from posting pornography. This is effectively policed and enforced by website operators such as Facebook and Instagram. There are exceptions. The measures to prevent young people from accessing pornography on Twitter, for example, are somewhere between weak and non-existent. However, that does not mean we should not do all we can, despite the limitations, to encourage, cajole and use every legislative means possible to put pressure on these websites to introduce age verification for UK users and, in the case of social media, to ban pornographic content unless they can prevent children from accessing it.

We also have to work on the basis that a determined teenager is going to find a way around the system and that even curious younger children may try and succeed in accessing pornography. Comprehensive and compulsory personal, social, health and economic education—PSHE—including healthy relationship and age-appropriate sex education, is vital to combat what children might see and hear if they access online pornography, and what they might see and hear in their own homes.

It is particularly important that children of all ages are taught as early as is they learn what a loving, caring relationship between two people looks like, so that they see this as the norm, rather than anything that they might see online or experience when they are growing up. It is particularly important in this male-dominated, patriarchal society that children are taught that treating women and girls with dignity and respect and as equals with men is essential.

We are all impacted by our experiences and I have said some things in debates on this Bill as a survivor of domestic abuse to remind the Committee not to forget male victims and survivors who are or were in same-sex relationships. That is not intended to diminish the real issues that society must address in relation to the inequality between men and women in general and male violence against women and girls in particular. Some online pornography reinforces that inequality and glamorises male violence. We must do all we can to prevent the harmful impact this can have, particularly on children and young people. We support this amendment to require an investigation into any link between online pornography and domestic abuse.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab) [V]
- Hansard - -

My Lords, we have heard powerful speeches in this debate. I shall start my contribution with the things I would question in the amendment. I should make it clear that I support the amendment in principle, but I question whether simply making the Government commence Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act is the right solution. I question also whether the British Board of Film Classification is the right body to lead on this, whether the technology would work, and whether privacy concerns have been adequately answered.

As we have heard from other speakers, the worst material is generated outside the UK and we would have no legislative ability to control or curb it. The Government have consistently refused to take powers to block internet service providers from carrying material that harms children or glorifies domestic abuse. They have also not taken powers to prevent credit card issuers making payments for illegal content. So I will be interested in the Minister’s answer to the suggestion made by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, that an interim arrangement could be made to bring in Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act until more substantive legislation is put in place.

The speeches we have heard were extremely powerful, particularly from the noble Lord, Lord McColl, who spoke with real passion and knowledge on this issue. My noble friend Lady Massey is clearly playing a leading role in the Council of Europe in setting international standards because, of course, our problem in the UK is not unique and all our friends in Europe and indeed across the world are grappling with these issues. The noble Baroness, Lady Eaton, and the noble Lord, Lord Morrow, also spoke with real knowledge. I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, had it right when he said that education is the key to addressing this issue. That is a wider point and one that he has made in other groups, both today and on previous days in Committee, but it is a point that is worth repeating.

I was not here last Wednesday for the fourth Committee day because I was sitting as a magistrate. I was dealing with a sex case and I had reason to read two reports on a young offender which had been written by more than one specialist. The reports both commented on the use of porn by the offender. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the use of porn influences the way people behave, and that the influence is bigger if the users of porn are younger. We have really been led on this by the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, and I hope that the Minister will be able to respond as favourably as she can to that leadership.

Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill

Debate between Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede and Lord Paddick
Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Tuesday 9th February 2021

(11 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, as my noble friend Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames has outlined, our Amendment 16 in this group calls for a review of the impacts of Part 1of the Bill. Why is such a review needed? The Explanatory Notes to the Bill describe its purpose as being to better protect the public from terrorism, effectively by two main means: ensuring that serious and dangerous terrorist offenders spend longer in custody, and supporting their disengagement from extremism and their rehabilitation.

I am pleased to note there is no longer any pretence that longer sentences act as a deterrent to terrorist offenders. There was no such claim from the noble Lord, Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay, either, when he introduced the Bill to this House on Second Reading. That will save some time.

The two premises on which the Bill is based appear to be these: that the public are better protected from terrorists if terrorist offenders are in prison longer; and that a range of tailored interventions while they are in prison will lead to their disengagement from extremism and their rehabilitation. In short, the longer they are in prison, the less likely they are to pose a threat to the public and the more time is available to deradicalise and rehabilitate them.

The first and most obvious problem with the first premise is that you cannot detain every suspected terrorist for the rest of their lives, despite the Government’s attempts in this Bill to achieve exactly that for some terrorist offenders. With an increasing number of exceptions were this Bill to be passed unamended, you cannot normally lock up suspected terrorists indefinitely or so curtail their freedoms as to effectively deprive them of their liberty indefinitely. We will come to the indefinite deprivation of liberty without charge or trial when we come to the changes to the terrorism prevention and investigation measures.

The Government’s current Prevent strategy, at paragraph 3.5, says that

“radicalisation is driven by an ideology which sanctions the use of violence; by propagandists for that ideology here and overseas; and by personal vulnerabilities and specific local factors which, for a range of reasons, make that ideology seem both attractive and compelling.”

Such propagandists exist in our prisons. The Government’s argument that the longer someone is in prison, the more time there is to support their disengagement and rehabilitation can also work against their deradicalisation and rehabilitation.

First, it provides more time for them to be radicalised, or further radicalised, by propagandists in prison. There is clear evidence that this is happening. On 25 January, the Times reports the current Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, Jonathan Hall QC, as saying that there was an increasing “drumbeat” of links between prison and terror attacks, with offenders not being properly punished for owning radical material, preaching extremism and inciting violence. The Times notes that the man given a whole life sentence last month for murdering three men in a park in Reading in a terror attack last year was befriended by a radical preacher while serving an earlier prison sentence. Secondly, if these vulnerable people believe that the sanctions imposed on them are disproportionate, or that the system that led to their imprisonment was unfair, the ideology promulgated by these propagandists is made to appear even more attractive and compelling.

No one would argue against a proportionate sentence of imprisonment for someone convicted in a court of law of a terrorist offence, as my noble friend Lord Marks has just said, or that, for a limited time, a suspected terrorist who is believed to present a real and immediate threat should not have their liberty to carry out a terrorist attack prevented while evidence is gathered upon which to base a trial in a court of law. However, paragraph 3.6 of the same Prevent strategy says:

“There is evidence to indicate that support for terrorism is associated with rejection of a cohesive, integrated, multi-faith society and of parliamentary democracy. Work to deal with radicalisation will depend on developing a sense of belonging to this country and support for our core values.”


Disproportionately long sentences of imprisonment and indefinite deprivation of liberty without charge or trial would reinforce this rejection of our cohesive, integrated, multifaith society and parliamentary democracy. They would undermine any sense of belonging to this country and any support for our core values. Indeed, they begin to call into question some of our core values.

What evidence is there that it is easier to develop a sense of belonging to this country and support for our core values while someone is in prison, compared with when they are on licence in the community? The Times article I quoted previously reports the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation as saying that encouraging and inciting terrorism were being

“successfully combated in the community”,

unlike the failure to address these issues in prison. Although he is to conduct a review of what is happening in prisons, it appears to be limited to examining how terrorism is detected, disrupted and prosecuted behind bars and whether improvements can be made, rather than the comprehensive review called for in our amendment.

For all these reasons, there is serious doubt whether Part 1 of the Bill will achieve what the Government intend by it; therefore, our Amendment 16 is necessary. Other amendments in this group call for a review of the financial impact of the Bill and the impact on the prison population, both of which could hamper the effectiveness of any deradicalisation or rehabilitation strategy and any attempt to prevent radicalisation or further radicalisation in prison. Reviews are called for on the specific impact of the Bill in Northern Ireland and on the National Probation Service, and we support these amendments as well.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, we have had a wide-ranging introduction to this group from both the noble Lords, Lord Marks and Lord Paddick. As the noble Lord, Lord Marks, said in his introduction, the amendments in this group call for a series of reviews of different aspects of the system. He expressed his misgivings and uncertainty that the system as it currently operates is succeeding and concluded his remarks by saying that a more sophisticated approach is needed.

Amendment 16 is the first amendment regarding the independent review of provisions, to which the noble Lord, Lord Marks, has spoken. The second in the group, Amendment 34 in the name of my noble and learned friend Lord Falconer, is concerned with the financial impact of the changes. The amendment would require the Secretary of State to publish a financial impact assessment of the Act within three years of it coming into force, and this would include the financial impact of extended sentences, extended licence periods, and any additional staffing resources needed as a result of the Act.

Amendment 36 in my name calls for a capacity impact assessment. This amendment would require the Secretary of State to publish an assessment of the capacity of the system as a whole. In their 2016 White Paper, Prison Safety and Reform, the then Government committed to £1.3 billion to create 10,000 new prison places by 2020 and to renovate the existing estate. The 2020 target was later changed to 2022; so far, only 206 new prison places have been built, with 3,360 under construction. The main reasons for those failures and delays were the delays in agreeing and receiving funding to build new prisons. This meant that the construction work began later than planned. In addition, HMPPS was not able to close all prisons and replace them with new ones, due to high demand, which meant it received less money from the sales of old prisons.

Amendment 38, also in my name, proposes a review of the legislation as it affects Northern Ireland. All measures in the Bill as they pertain to Northern Ireland would be reviewed annually with the Northern Ireland Minister for Justice and the Northern Ireland Executive; a report would also have to be published and laid before both Houses of Parliament. This would ensure that the Government worked constructively with the Ministry of Justice and Northern Ireland Executive, and that all the Bill’s implications were subject to regular review through the prism of Northern Ireland.

Amendment 39 proposes a review of the National Probation Service. This would require the Government to commission and publish a review of the impact of the Bill on the National Probation Service within 18 months of it coming into force. The review would have to consider, among other things, the level of probation support offered to offenders, as well as the number of specialist staff employed by the National Probation Service, and their skills.

I have received some briefing material from Napo—formerly the National Association of Probation Officers —which makes the point that the probation service is in crisis and that many of the offender management teams are struggling to maintain a balance between experienced staff and newly qualified staff. It is not uncommon to find teams in the community where the most experienced officer has only two to three years of post-qualification experience. As recruitment increases, as it is projected to increase, the pressure on the frontline staff will grow, with more probation officers being moved into management and training roles to support the trainees. The point made by Napo is that a properly remunerated and supported expansion of the probation service is needed to face the challenges ahead.

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Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD) [V]
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My Lords, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, we believe that the existing TPIMs are sufficient and are at the limits of what a country that has a reputation for upholding human rights should tolerate. The extension proposed in Clause 40 would extend the requirement to remain at or within a specified residence from “overnight” to what could amount to total house arrest. As the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Ipswich, said, that is a requirement to remain at or within the specified residence between any hours. “As are specified” is yet another step too far, as my noble friend Lord Strasburger said.

On Amendment 31, I commend the noble Lords, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath and Lord Bach, for their relentless attempts to get police and crime commissioners more involved in operational policing decisions, including operations that may have national security implications. I accept that stop and search may be considered controversial, but it does not involve issues of national security of this nature, and I am not convinced that their amendment is necessary or desirable in this case.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, we have had two different debates in this group. The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, moved that Clause 40 should not stand part of the Bill, and I can do no better than the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, and his three questions, which I thought were very apposite and to the point. I will listen with interest to the Minister’s answers to those three questions.

My noble friends Lord Hunt and Lord Bach then spoke to their Amendment 31. As we have heard, the gist of the amendment is to formalise a relationship between the Secretary of State, PCCs and local chief constables to give more direct input by PCCs. In the words of my noble friend Lord Bach, PCCs are responsible for the “totality of policing” in their area. As we have heard, they are already involved in controversial matters such as stop and search and covert activities. Of course, I support my noble friends in trying to give the PCCs more formal involvement in TPIMs in their own areas.

I look forward to my noble friend Lord Bach playing a greater part in the proceedings of our House. He has for many years brought great insight into his many roles on the Front Bench, and occasionally on the Back Benches, but he will improve that even further when he comes back as a PCC. He may, of course, have to do extra time; we wait to see. I will listen with interest to what the Minister has to say, and I will support my noble friends.

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Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD) [V]
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My Lords, our Amendment 30E relates to subjecting the subject of a TPIM to drug testing for class A and class B drugs only, at a police station by a constable only. I have rather different questions from those of my noble friend Lady Hamwee. The question I cannot find an answer to—and I cannot think of one myself—is, “Why?” One might cynically argue that a suspected terrorist high on cannabis might be too chilled out to conduct a terrorist attack; conversely, if the Government fear a suspected terrorist might do something stupid, for example being emboldened under the influence of a class A or class B drug, why not test for alcohol?

Bearing in mind the restrictions on the subject’s movements and communications and on who they can associate with, where do the Government think the subject of a TPIM will get his supply of class A or class B drugs? Indeed, if the subject is taking class A or class B drugs, under the noses of the police or security services, does this not raise questions about what else he might be getting his hands on, such as explosives? In short, what is the point, other than placing further restrictions, being even more intrusive and making the subject’s life even more difficult?

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I have nothing to add to the points made by the previous two speakers.

Domestic Abuse Bill

Debate between Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede and Lord Paddick
Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Monday 1st February 2021

(11 months, 3 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I will speak to Amendment 63 which, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, said, would ensure that a risk assessment is carried out. That would consider any risk to the victim which was likely to occur due to the perpetrator being given notice that a DAPO is likely to be given to the perpetrator.

I presume that the amendments in this group are probing amendments—mine certainly is—going into the detail of how the DAPOs and notices are to be administered. It is right that these are only probing amendments because each case is different and, while there should be comprehensive guidelines on the way that the police operate these procedures, they need to be sufficiently flexible for police officers to make reasoned judgments. There is a very real point about risk assessments: it could be that the victim is put at greater risk through the perpetrator receiving a notice. Counter to that, it could also help the victim if an order is put on without her consent—but that is a matter for a separate amendment in a later group.

I support all the probing amendments in this group, and I look forward to the Minister’s response.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD) [V]
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My Lords, for reasons of brevity and clarity, I will refer to person to whom a domestic abuse protection notice is given as the “perpetrator”, rather than the “alleged perpetrator” or “defendant”, and the person the notice seeks to protect as the “victim”, rather than the “complainant”, the “alleged victim” or “plaintiff”. Clearly it will be for the court to decide, ultimately, whether they are in fact perpetrator and victim.

As my noble friend Lady Hamwee outlined, Amendment 61 proposes the common-sense change to ensure that the victim is consulted not only about whether a domestic abuse prevention notice should be given but about what restrictions it should contain. The person to be protected is likely to be in the best position to advise the senior police officer as to the circumstances in which she may be vulnerable.

Amendment 65 questions whether someone arrested for breach of a domestic abuse protection notice, which is discretionary, in that a constable “may” arrest the person, must be held in custody until they are brought before a court, which would be mandatory. My noble friend is right: we did not collude on what we were going to say on this, but we come to the same conclusion. Surely there may be circumstances where the arrest of the individual has a sufficiently salutary effect as to make further breach unlikely and, therefore, remand in custody unnecessary. I will return to that in a moment.

If the person breaches the domestic abuse prevention notice, if they are arrested and taken before a court, the court may impose conditions to ensure that the person does not interfere with witnesses or otherwise obstruct the course of justice. But Amendment 66 asks whether these conditions are in addition to, or replace, those set out in the DAPN. I am assuming that they are additional, in that the DAPN is designed to protect the victim, not just protect the course of justice. In that case, does the court need to ensure that the conditions it imposes are compatible with those of the DAPN, and does that need to be stated on the face of the Bill? As my noble friend explained, for completeness, our Amendments 67 and 70 suggest that the perpetrator should not contact witnesses, either directly or indirectly.

Amendment 63 is also in this group. I recall research in the United States some time ago, which found that the involvement of the police in cases of domestic abuse generally had a salutary effect on professional classes, who felt shame at their actions being made public, but an unwelcome effect on lower socio-economic groups, who were enraged that the police had become involved in their private business. I am not sure whether the class divide aspects are useful, but the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede, has a point, and this should be taken into account by the police. My noble friend and I did not collude, I promise. I would hope that most senior police officers would automatically take this into account, particularly as they need to seek the opinion of the victim as to whether a notice should be served—a conversation that should draw out such risk factors. I am not sure that it needs to be on the face of the Bill.

Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill

Debate between Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede and Lord Paddick
Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard): House of Lords & Committee stage
Tuesday 26th January 2021

(12 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD) [V]
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My Lords, I welcome the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson of Tredegar, to his first Bill. In my limited contact with him, I think that he is more than a match for the challenge the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, alluded to. I completely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, in his assessment of the current dangers of longer prison sentences in the absence of an effective programme of deradicalisation and rehabilitation. The noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew, also mentioned the comments of the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, Jonathan Hall QC. His concerns seem to chime with the concerns of all noble Lords who have spoken in this short debate. I do not share the faith that noble Lords have in polygraph testing, for the reasons explained earlier by Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames.

My noble friend Lady Hamwee rightly expressed concerns that prisons continue to be incubators, hothouses, or academies of crime—use which term you will—for crime generally, as well as places where vulnerable inmates are radicalised, whether by right wing extremists or by others. If ever there was evidence of the need for these amendments, it is what the Government describe as the

“range of tailored interventions available”—[Official Report, 21/9/20; col. 1650]

to the perpetrators of the Fishmongers’ Hall and Streatham atrocities, that were designed to deradicalise and rehabilitate them while they were in prison. Unless and until the deradicalisation and rehabilitation of offenders is effectively applied to those sentenced under Part 1 of the Bill, and its impact is assessed, there is a real danger that the longer these terrorist offenders spend in prison, the greater the threat they pose to the safety of the public—whether by radicalising others in prison or directly upon their release. I intend to expand on these statements and the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, which I agree with, when we come to the group beginning with Amendment 16.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, my Amendment 35 is in this group. I agreed with everything my noble friend Lord Hunt said when he introduced his amendment. My amendment is different in detail, but the overall approach is the same—that is, to have a realistic and timed review of the various approaches to the Prevent programme which the Government is embarking upon.

I got an interesting briefing on this debate from the probation officers’ trade union, Napo. It made a couple of points, which I will repeat. It said that in the offender management and custody model, it indicates that a high-risk offender should get one hour of individual contact per month with a probation officer. A probation office’s staff have a minimum of 70 clients, so it is impossible for them to meet that requirement. The central point that Napo made in the briefing was that, when one reviews approaches and puts down procedures, the reviews need to result in practical change on the ground, otherwise they are destined to be repeated without effective change.

I was very interested to hear the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, who was a very effective Minister. He talked about his experience in that role. He also, interestingly, talked about the status of prisoners when they are in prison. I occasionally visit prisons, and I have visited Belmarsh on a couple of occasions. Belmarsh is a prison within a prison and there is undoubtedly status for the people on the inside prison; you can tell it from the tone of voice of the prison officers when they talk about the facility they are involved in managing. There is status to be gained through the way you are treated while in prison. I unfortunately know that to be true through friends of friends whose children have ended up in prison. There is a status to be gained within prison, which sometimes young men cannot have when they are outside prison.

I welcome the review of terrorism legislation by Mr Hall. I also note that it is Mr William Shawcross who has been appointed to review the Prevent programme, and I know he has extensive experience on this matter. The purpose of both these amendments is to tease out the progress and practical changes which the Government hope to make through reviewing the Prevent programme.