Debates between Lord Wolfson of Tredegar and Lord Falconer of Thoroton during the 2019 Parliament

Thu 24th Feb 2022
Mon 21st Feb 2022
Judicial Review and Courts Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage & Committee stage
Wed 15th Dec 2021
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
Lords Chamber

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

Lords Hansard - Part 1 & Report stage & Report stage: Part 1
Wed 17th Nov 2021
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
Lords Chamber

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

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

Lords Hansard - Part 1 & Committee stage: Part 1
Wed 10th Nov 2021
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
Lords Chamber

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

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

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

Lords Hansard - part one & Committee stage part one
Wed 3rd Mar 2021
Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill
Lords Chamber

Report stage & Lords Hansard & Report stage
Tue 9th Feb 2021
Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage:Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Tue 26th Jan 2021
Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage:Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard): House of Lords & Committee stage

Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill

Debate between Lord Wolfson of Tredegar and Lord Falconer of Thoroton
Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I also note the Clock and I will make points on the two headings. The first is on Amendment 81 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti. The basis for it, according to the Member’s explanatory statement, is that

“This amendment replaces … (an executive act), with a parliamentary trigger”.


The proposal is that instead of having an executive fiat, Parliament and parliamentary sovereignty would be put in its place. Unfortunately, the amendment does not do that. What it does is to take the pen away from the Minister and hand it to the Joint Committee on Human Rights. The reason is that the way this amendment is drafted is that two requirements need to be met. First, the Joint Committee on Human Rights has to report its belief that Rwanda is safe; in other words, if it comes to the conclusion that Rwanda is not safe, or might not be safe, then proposed new subsection (1A)(a) is not satisfied, and it falls there. The second requirement is that

“a draft of the instrument has been laid before and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament”.

If, for example, both the other place and this House were to take the view that the Joint Committee on Human Rights had got it totally wrong and, in fact, contrary to its view that Rwanda was not safe, it plainly was safe, Parliament could do nothing about it. I am sure that is not what was intended, but it is a fundamental problem in the drafting and in the scheme if what is intended is to hand power to Parliament.

Just to make it clear, if that amendment were made to this amendment, I would still oppose it. The responsibility should lie with the Secretary of State. Let us be very clear about what this amendment would actually do. It would take the pen away from somebody who is elected and responsible to the electorate and hand it to the Joint Committee on Human Rights. I have the greatest respect for the JCHR—I appeared before it when I was a Minister—but it is wrong in principle that it and it alone should have the right to stop this legislation in its tracks. That is the first point I wanted to make.

The second point I want to make arises out of Amendments 35 and 90 and the point made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, earlier that this is retrospective legislation. As we are in Committee—although many of the speeches seem to be Second Reading speeches—let me pick up one drafting point on Amendment 35. As I understand it, it would prevent a decision-maker making a decision relating to the removal to the Republic of Rwanda of somebody who arrived in the UK before the Act received Royal Assent. The words

“a decision relating to the removal”

are very broad. Would they include, for example, a decision about how old somebody is? That is a decision that will be needed under the current legislation and under this legislation. I would have thought that it cannot be intended that Amendment 35 would stop decisions which have, so to speak, that dual purpose. That is a drafting point.

The more fundamental point is whether this is retrospective legislation at all. I listened very carefully, as I always do, to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton. With respect, I fundamentally disagree with him that this is retrospective legislation. What is retrospective legislation? The House of Commons Library puts it in these terms—this is from a paper it published in June 2013, but these are fundamental principles that do not change over time—citing Craies on Legislation, ninth edition. It says that retrospective legislation is generally defined as legislation which

“takes away or impairs any vested right acquired under existing laws, or creates a new obligation, or imposes a new duty, or attaches a new disability in respect of transactions or considerations already past”.

The two classic examples are, first, that conduct which is lawful when you do it is not later made unlawful; and, secondly, that the penalty for unlawful conduct when you do it is not rendered greater retrospectively. It is right to say that we have legislated retrospectively in the criminal context—rarely, but we have. The War Crimes Act 1991 and the International Criminal Court Act 2001 are examples of that. However, none of this is retrospective legislation. The example the noble and learned Lord gave is that somebody might have an argument which they could put in court that, for example, “I’ve got a brother here, I’ve got somebody here”. That is not a vested right.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

No. The noble Lord has misunderstood my argument. You are in this country before the Act. You have a right in the sense that you are, in fact, subject to persecution. You would have to advance the argument to get the right, but your right is a right to stay here, and a right to stay not on the basis that you may be exported to Rwanda. That is a right. It might not be viewed by the law as a “vested right” in the sense that he is referring to, but it is plainly within the spirit of retrospective legislation.

Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar (Con)
- Hansard - -

A very good touchstone of when lawyers realise that—if I may respectfully say—the argument does not quite work is when they start referring to spirits of things. With great respect, that is not a vested right. If you have a right to asylum, you have a right to asylum. Under this Bill, you also have a right to asylum. What this changes is where you have the right to asylum.

Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The person who would have a right to asylum in the UK under this Bill would no longer have the right to asylum in the UK. It is completely different. They may have a right to asylum in Rwanda, but that is not the right that they had when they were here which is going to be taken away from them.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Will the noble Lord explain why if I come here and am entitled to asylum that is not a right?

Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar (Con)
- Hansard - -

The right is to make a claim for asylum. That is the vested right absolutely. The right is the right to asylum.

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

A right to have possession of my property requires me to go to court and get it. It is still a right, even though I have to ask for it.

Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar (Con)
- Hansard - -

I am sorry; that is totally different, because the courts—I will give way to the noble Baroness.

Judicial Review and Courts Bill

Debate between Lord Wolfson of Tredegar and Lord Falconer of Thoroton
Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar (Con)
- Hansard - -

Of course I accept that point as a matter of principle. That is why consultation is really at the heart of this. There has to be a balance. For example, there could be a case where you have a number of very disabled witnesses and a particular courthouse is more accessible for them than another one. There could be cases, as in the pandemic, for example, where some courthouses have been more easily adapted than others. But, as I hope I have made clear, we will make sure that there will be full consultation on this. But we want to build in the legislative flexibility to allow that to take place in cases where it is needed. If I may say—

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The legislative form that this is taking, in Clause 43(1), is:

“Local justice areas are abolished.”


The Minister referred to things on the edges, such as greater flexibility between areas and particular courthouses being suitable, all of which sound quite sensible. But it is very hard to think that that requires the wholesale abolition of local justice areas. Echoing what the noble Lord, Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames, said, could the Minister tell us what consultation has taken place already and led to the conclusion that the solution to, and the right way to deal with, what appear to be problems around the edges is to abolish local justice areas altogether?

Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar (Con)
- Hansard - -

First, the legislative architecture, so to speak, is not just Clause 43: I have already mentioned other statutory provisions that require consultation. There has been consultation on this, although I do not have all the details of it to hand. If I may, I will drop the noble and learned Lord a note setting that out.

I was just about to thank my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay, and I apologise for standing up when he was about to speak. I respectfully say that he summed up perfectly the balance that is required between the need for a local link and for flexibility when it is useful.

Finally, as the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, explained—I received the message—Amendment 37 essentially a probing amendment for me to explain what is going on. It would formally require an inquiry into the adequacy of the criminal courts in relation to women and girls. We are doing significant work in this area, both to improve the experience of women and girls in the criminal justice system—or, in some instances, the justice system more broadly—and to better scrutinise the agencies involved. As she said, a number of agencies are involved, and this is a cross-government issue.

We are already taking specific actions. I shall set out some of them now, although it is a non-exhaustive list. We know that pre-recorded cross-examination can help to improve the experience of victims, so we are rolling out the use of this measure, known as Section 28, for sexual violence and modern slavery complainants to all Crown Courts nationally. We have introduced a single source of 24/7 support for victims of rape and sexual violence. We are working with the police and the CPS to reform approaches to disclosure, and I am sure that the noble Baroness has heard the DPP talk about that in particular. In July last year we launched a violence against women and girls strategy that contained a number of commitments to keep women and girls safe. I will not read those into the record, but I know the noble Baroness is familiar with them.

On a cross-government basis, we have cross-system governance structures to hold criminal justice system partners to account. We published the first criminal justice system scorecard for adult rape in December last year. Publishing and monitoring that data will enable us to improve how adult rape cases are handled at each stage of the criminal justice system, focusing on key metrics such as—I apologise for using this phrase because I hate it, but it is the phrase that is used—“victim attrition”. It sounds terrible but we know what it means.

Finally, there are reviews and inquiries, similar to the one proposed in this amendment, already in place. On 5 October last year the Home Secretary announced the Angiolini inquiry to investigate the issues raised by the conviction of Wayne Couzens for the murder of Sarah Everard. Among other issues, the inquiry is looking at what police forces are doing to identify and deal with misogynistic and predatory behaviour.

In October last year, the Metropolitan Police announced that it had commissioned the noble Baroness, Lady Casey, to lead an independent review of its culture and standards following Sarah Everard’s murder. The review will assess the extent to which the force’s leadership, recruitment, vetting, training, communications and other practices effectively reinforce the standards that the public should expect. Finally, the Victims’ Bill consultation, which recently closed, explored how to amplify victims’ voices, improve the accountability of criminal justice agencies and generally improve support for victims, and we will of course be responding to that in due course.

I am very grateful to the noble Baroness for raising the issue. I hope she will forgive me for not mentioning everything in response, given that her amendment is a probing one, but obviously I can assure her that this is right at the top of our priorities across government. Formally, though, I respectfully ask noble Lords not to press their amendments.

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am increasingly bewildered by these answers. I have obviously misunderstood this clause, but it says that the rules

“may authorise or require the parties … to participate in hearings, including the hearing at which the proceedings are disposed of, by electronic means.”

I thought that meant you could have rules that said this sort of case has to be dealt with at an electronic hearing, which does not give the judge a discretion. Is it the position that this is all subject to an overarching discretion in a judge to say that the hearing can be dealt with in person?

Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar (Con)
- Hansard - -

That is the point I was going to come to. Here we are dealing with the rules set out by the Online Procedure Rules Committee. That is not the Lord Chancellor. I want to show the Committee that the Online Procedure Rule Committee is set out in Clause 22, and in the usual way it is a committee which is not run by the Government but is run in the way that the procedure rule committees are run, which is ultimately under the control of the judiciary. The central point is that ultimate control rests with the judiciary.

As I understood it, the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, was that two safeguards are in place in relation to the powers to make amendments in Clause 27, which states:

“The Lord Chancellor may by regulations amend, repeal or revoke any enactment to the extent that the Lord Chancellor considers necessary or desirable in consequence of, or in order to facilitate the making of, Online Procedure Rules.”


I cite—this goes back to a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, in relation to a different issue—subsection (3), which is a consultation requirement with the Lord Chief Justice and the Senior President of Tribunals, and subsection (5), which states:

“Regulations under this section that amend or repeal any provision of an Act are subject to affirmative resolution procedure”.


I suggest that that is very important. So the architecture here means that, ultimately, judges retain control, in practice, of what is heard online and what is heard in court.

However, there will be increasingly firm directions and defaults as to what is heard online and in court— I make no apologies for this. In my own area, the Commercial Court, although you can ask for an in-person hearing if there is a good reason, it is now the default that, if you have an application for half an hour or one hour in front of a judge, it will be online, because that saves time and money and provides access to justice.

On family courts, which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, asked about, I had discussions very recently with the President of the Family Division about this. Again, this is ultimately a matter for the judges, but he was saying that it is actually better to have certain hearings online. For example, if everything has been agreed between the parents and it is essentially a consent hearing, that will be done online. I am sure that it would be inconceivable that a public law family hearing, for example, where the court is taking a child away from parents, would be done online. But, ultimately, that is a matter for the judges.

I regret that, during the pandemic, there were cases where that had to be done, unfortunately, because of the need to protect children—because, when push comes to shove, protecting children is more important than having a face-to-face hearing. But, in normal circumstances, one would certainly expect that that sort of hearing would be face to face—but that is not a matter for Government Ministers or the Lord Chancellor.

These provisions seek to set up the Online Procedure Rule Committee, which will have the same sorts of powers for online procedures as the current rules committees have for the current procedures, whether that is the Family Procedure Rule Committee, the Civil Procedure Rule Committee, the Criminal Procedure Rule Committee or the rules committee for the Court of Protection—there are a number of different rules committees—

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The relative of the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, is the proof that we all want. We are also aware that the judges will have an incredibly important role in determining the rules. The fact that the judges will have an important role in determining the rules does not mean that Ministers should not tell Parliament what the Online Procedure Rule Committee has in mind. We should expect to be told, for example in relation to money claims, whether, if £25,000 is okay online, £25 million is okay online and required to be online. If that is the vision, tell us, so that Parliament can properly debate it.

In relation to family matters, I am hugely unimpressed by the Minister referring to consent orders, because almost every consent order now is already dealt with online, in the sense that it will be dealt with by emails. We should be told if it will go beyond the sorts of things that I referred to earlier—not because we will necessarily object to it but because we can then debate it. Of course, we are as keen as he is to go towards the future, but we would like to know what the Government’s view of the future is. If the Minister wants to write to us, that is fine, but on Report this might be quite important.

I will say just one more thing. I probably missed it, but I am keen to know who these people were who were going to approve the dispute resolution alternatives to court that are referred to in Amendment 38.

Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar (Con)
- Hansard - -

Let me deal with that last point. Amendment 38 is not about approving the persons but approving the process. For example, the Online Procedure Rule Committee will say, “This is the protocol” and there will be Wolfson Mediation Services and Falconer Mediation Services and people can choose in a market who they go to. Of course, those services which offer seamless transition to the online courts service are likely to be better placed in the market, because they will have an advantage. However, it will be up to the providers to set up their services so that people can seamlessly transfer in. The Online Procedure Rule Committee will set up the protocol, so that you know what you are aiming at and the way that you must set up your online procedures so that, if the case does not settle, the data can transfer into the court process.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

What is envisaged in Amendment 38 is that, if it is Falconer Services or Wolfson Services, somebody has to say that they are okay. Who will be saying whether those services are okay?

Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar (Con)
- Hansard - -

That is not what Amendment 38 is aimed at. It is not about accrediting mediation services. It is about saying to mediation services, “If you want people who are using your services, if the case does not settle, to be able to integrate seamlessly into the online court space, these are the protocols to do it”. It is a process point, not a mediation accrediting point. There is a separate issue out there about accrediting mediators. The noble and learned Lord will be aware that there are a number of entities that seek to accredit mediators. There are also a number of bodies such as CEDA in that space. That is an important issue but a separate one to the point of Amendment 38.

I will write about what is online because this is a much bigger point than the Online Procedure Rule Committee. Ultimately judges—I emphasise this point—decide what is online and what is not. At the moment, judges decide whether you get a hearing at all. As the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, will be aware—to give an example from my background, but it appears in other areas of the law as well—if you appeal an arbitration award to the commercial courts, the judge may say no without giving you a hearing at all, either because you do not pass the permission threshold or because you do but the judge decides to have the hearing on paper. There is therefore no substantive difference between that and what is proposed here.

As to what the Online Procedure Rule Committee will do, I am afraid I will not be able to assist the Committee because the Online Procedure Rule Committee has not been set up yet; there are no people on it and it does not exist. This legislation sets out what the Online Procedure Rule Committee will be looking at. I will, however, look again at what the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, has said, and I will write if I can.

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar (Con)
- Hansard - -

Of course I understand that point, in the sense that I too have read the material of people who have been involved in inquests. I have read some of the material from the various groups which have been lobbying for changes in this area. I hope that I have set out the Government’s position fairly. As we all recognise, the point being made to me is fundamental. I do not want to keep repeating it in response to each amendment, but I certainly accept that what I have just said underpins the Government’s response to a number of these amendments. Therefore, I absolutely accept and understand the noble Baroness’s position; that is, because she disagrees with me on this fundamental point, necessarily she will disagree with me on a number of these amendments because they are underpinned by the same point—

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Whether the process is inquisitorial or adversarial, surely you are entitled to basic fairness. This means you are entitled to having a say on what is going on and an opportunity to make proper representations. This is the case whether you are either a family member saying, for example, that your loved one is the victim of a criminal offence by the police, or you are a police officer being accused of manslaughter. Indeed, the Minister has just said that there would be a coroner at the inquest. Therefore, I am not sure why—whether it is inquisitorial or adversarial —you are to be deprived of that basic fairness.

Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar (Con)
- Hansard - -

The fundamental point is: who is the “you”? Who are the parties to an inquest? As I was saying earlier, you do not have “parties” in inquests, in the same way that you do in adversarial proceedings. Of course, there are inquests where legal aid is provided and family members—or, indeed, other people—turn up with lawyers. However, as a Government, we certainly do not want the general inquisitorial procedures, in the normal run of an inquest, to become adversarial. I understand that this is a point of principle between us; this is not a point of detail.

This point will underpin a number of the responses which I am going to give. I turn to Amendment 42, which would require the coroner to obtain consent from interested persons, including bereaved families, before determining whether to deal with an inquest on the papers. Clause 39 has been designed to give coroners the flexibility to conduct inquests without a hearing, where there is no need to hold one. They would exercise that power judiciously, because they are judicial officeholders, in cases where they consider them to be non-contentious, where there is no concern about the cause of death, or where the family have indicated that they do not wish to attend a hearing.

To return to the point I started with: because coroners are independent judicial officeholders, introducing the concept of consent into their decision-making process would cut across their judicial independence and fetter their discretion. The coroner would still be required to hold inquests with a hearing, in cases which require one. The Chief Coroner would issue guidance to coroners on how they should exercise their discretion.

Amendments 43, 44, 45 and 53 all relate to remote hearings. The purpose of Amendment 43 is to ensure that additional safeguards are met before a coroner can hold a remote hearing. The position here is that coroners have always been able to conduct hearings with virtual elements, but the coroner and the jury, if there is one, must be physically present in the courtroom. Clause 40 allows all participants to participate in a remote hearing.

As we have said on previous groups about magistrates and jurors, throughout the pandemic, coroners’ courts have also worked very hard to keep their services running. They have taken advantage of the benefits of remote hearings to keep inquest participants safe. Key witnesses, who often could be front-line doctors, have been able to focus on their primary role and attend remotely. Clause 40 ensures that coroners can continue to operate remotely, when they regard it as appropriate. Again, we expect that, being judicial officeholders, coroners would work with interested persons to address any concerns that they may have regarding remote hearings. Again, the Chief Coroner is expected to provide guidance on any law changes.

Amendment 44 deals with remote hearings. The short point here is that there may be instances where participants might prefer or need to participate in a remote hearing only by audio, without video; perhaps that is the only way that they can participate if they are based abroad, for example, and there are technical limitations to how they can access the hearing. As we understand it, the amendment would exclude those participants from participating in the hearing remotely—

Judicial Review and Courts Bill

Debate between Lord Wolfson of Tredegar and Lord Falconer of Thoroton
Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

If the court determines that regulations that impose a tax charge are unlawful but decides that this should be prospective only, is the consequence that the taxes raised before the date are “treated” as having been lawfully raised?

Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar (Con)
- Hansard - -

If the noble and learned Lord will forgive me, I will come to precisely that point later in my speech, because it arises under the amendment put down by the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am raising it now because the noble Lord is placing huge emphasis on the word “treated”. I would be interested to know whether that word means that tax raised under unlawful regulations in the past remains treated as if it were raised lawfully.

Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar (Con)
- Hansard - -

I will come to this point because these are two sides of the same coin. The short answer to the noble and learned Lord’s point is that it would be almost incomprehensible that a court would use a prospective order in circumstances where people have paid taxes that were necessarily unlawfully raised—so the question would not arise. It is a nice theoretical question, but it would not arise. That is why I will deal with it later, and I am happy to take further interventions at that stage, if we can try to deal with the points separately. I see where the noble and learned Lord is going, but at some point one has to live in the real world and consider whether a prospective-only order would be appropriate. Remember, the court has to look at the factors in subsection (8), including paragraph (f), which refers to

“any other matter that appears to the court to be relevant.”

It also has to look at where subsection (9) says

“unless it sees good reason not to do so.”

The idea that that could survive an unlawfully raised tax case is, I suggest, almost incomprehensible.

I will go back to where I was. We are not making an unlawful act lawful. The real question is: what is a remedy at all? In particular, what is a quashing order? This is something that has, frankly, bedevilled public law for some time. It is not clear that public lawyers, or indeed anyone else, have come up with a good answer to it. I suggest, however, that the remedy that the court gives, whether a quashing order or an order of prohibition, does not determine whether something was unlawful or not. It is the judgment and any declaration as to the state of the law that do that. The remedy decides what the effects of that unlawfulness should be, because there are cases where the court will declare that something was unlawful but not actually give a quashing order—but the action is still declared unlawful.

So this new power allows the court to modify the remedial effect of the quashing order so that, up to a point, the action or decision in question would be treated as being valid for all intents and purposes. The court is therefore doing its traditional job of declaring what the law is and what the law was, but it has greater flexibility in determining the real-world effects of its determination. I therefore respectfully agree with the way in which the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Ipswich, put it. I heard his slightly in terrorem threat as to when we come to the presumption—but I will deal with that at that time.

That approach is consistent with public law as we understand it today. Judges are faced with situations where, despite a finding of unlawfulness, a quashing order does not issue, for a variety of reasons. I do not think therefore that it follows on principle that a finding of unlawfulness should always result in the voiding of the decision ab initio. I am grateful therefore for support on this point from the noble and learned Lords, Lord Hope of Craighead and Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood, although I will avoid getting into any relitigating in this Committee of either Spectrum or Ahmed—we will leave that for later groups and possibly further editions of memoirs.

We need to avoid an approach which would take us right back into the straitjacket of nullity, and the academically interesting but practically frustrating doctrines that characterised decisions from Anisminic to Ahmed. We are not giving the court a binary choice of quashing retrospectively or giving declarations that state the law but do not necessarily deal with the effects of the impugned decision, even if it is declared to be unlawful. That is my response to the first main point from the noble Lord, Lord Pannick.

His second contention is that the new powers draw the courts into policy questions. I say respectfully that we are simply not doing that. We are asking the courts to do what in many ways they do already, which is to assess the possible effects of their judgment on the parties and the public interest. It may well be the case that having given the courts these two new tools—I think the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, made this point—they do issue quashing orders in cases where they would not have done so if the only option open to them was an ab initio quashing order. Well, so be it. If Parliament has given them these extra tools, that is the way matters will work out. Subsection (8) sets out what we believe to be the pertinent factors, but we made it expressly a non-exhaustive list.

Courts have long recognised the principle that the administrative burden of rectifying the effects of a past decision can outweigh its potential benefits, especially if the Executive are rushed into action. Importantly, there are cases where the courts have recognised that regulations or policies that have a wide effect can create expectations for third parties: plans could have been made, contracts signed and money spent, all in pursuit of what everyone thought was a lawful policy.

We must not get lured into the example of somebody paying tax under regulation which turns out to be unlawful. People might have signed contracts on the basis of a regulation which turns out to be unlawful. They may have spent money or set up businesses. To undo all that could give rise to far more injustice than making sure that present and future situations are rectified. The example I gave at Second Reading, which the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Ipswich, also mentioned, was the case of BASCA v Secretary of State for Business.

There is a further benefit to good administration, which is really what judicial review is all focused on anyway, which is that public bodies can make good a decision without having to revisit what can sometimes be long and drawn-out policy processes for the sake of a small error.

In cases relating to Heathrow expansion, for example, one point of contention was whether the Government had to take into account the Paris climate agreement. If the court had ended up finding that the decision not to take it into account was unlawful, it would surely have been far better to give a prospective order, so that the overall process of expansion was protected and the decision could be amended properly to take into account the relevant agreement. Quashing retrospectively would mean that the entire process would need to begin again from square one. A prospective remedy would allow the unlawfulness to be corrected at lower cost and in a shorter time, while still recognising—I underline this point—that the initial decision was unlawful.

I also emphasise the points in subsection (8)(c), which ask the court to have regard to

“the interests or expectations of persons who would benefit from the quashing of the impugned act”

and subsection (2), which allows the court to set conditions on the remedy. I hope that those provisions assuage any concerns that individual rights would be prejudiced—on the contrary, they ought to be taken into account by the court.

I have gone into some detail on that point because it was focused on by the Committee. I hope I can deal with the other amendments slightly more quickly with that background.

Amendment 3 removes the ability of the court to attach conditions to a suspended or prospective-only quashing order. These are intended to give the court maximum flexibility. For example, a court might want to make an order prospective only to reduce administrative chaos, but only on condition that parties who may have lost out financially are properly compensated. The conditions may not be necessary in every case, but it is an option for the court where appropriate.

Finally, Amendment 6 aims to ensure that the invalidity of quashed regulations can be relied on in criminal or civil proceedings. As I understand it, the concern of the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, is twofold. First, defendants could be prosecuted under regulations that have been ruled to be unlawful yet, because of the powers in this Bill, are treated as valid. That point was made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, and the noble Lord, Lord Marks.

Secondly, this might mean that claimants or victims would be less able to obtain damages, restitution or compensation. As I have suggested already, the amendment is unnecessary. As the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, said, collateral challenge is not at issue. The Bill does not necessarily prevent such challenges, because it gives the courts powers to formulate the remedies appropriately. In circumstances where provisions which create criminal penalties are being challenged, and have been challenged successfully, I find it very unlikely that a court would decide to use a prospective-only remedy. That is not only because the list of factors includes in subsection (8)(c)

“the interests or expectations of persons who would benefit from the quashing of the impugned act”

and, in subsection (8)(f),

“any other matter that appears to the court to be relevant”.

That would, I think, mean that the court would certainly find a “good reason”—to use the language in subsection (9)—to use a retrospective quashing order, so that any persons, for example, who had paid tax would have a remedy in restitution.

In similar cases where a court considers a suspended remedy, the ability to set conditions on the order would also mitigate any risk of injustice. For example, a court could use a suspended quashing order with the condition that the authority in question does not take any further enforcement action. This goes back to my main point about maximum flexibility. For those reasons, I invite the noble Lords who have tabled these amendments not to press them.

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I will respond to the amendments in this group in grouping order. I start by making a point about the list of factors. The purpose of the list of factors in subsection (8) is, as I said in the previous group, to allow the court to respond flexibly in the interests of delivering justice. However, it is important that the court considers—I emphasise “considers”—whether the remedies to be used are appropriate. These are the factors to which the court must have regard.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Is the Government’s intention that these two remedies—new subsection (1)(a) and (b)—should be in a different category from every other remedy the court has under judicial review?

Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar (Con)
- Hansard - -

Yes and no, in the sense that this gets us into the argument about the presumption, because the presumption applies to only these two remedies. To that extent, the point made by the noble and learned Lord is correct: that is the nature of the presumption, which we will get to in the next group. We want the court to specifically consider whether these remedies are appropriate and to use them, as the ending of new subsection (9)(b) says,

“unless it sees good reason not to do so.”

Because these are new remedies, we have set out a list of non-exhaustive factors which the court must consider. These are the factors in new subsection (8)—and it is expressly non-exhaustive in new subsection (8)(f). I agree with the noble and learned Lord that, as he put it, these are important considerations. However, we want to encourage consideration of their use; we are certainly not mandating their use in any case.

The other thing we want to do, by putting these factors in the Bill, is to provide consistency in the jurisprudence from the start as to how the remedies are used in the cases which come before the court. I remind the Committee that we consulted on the sort of factors that should be included in the list. We received some very useful contributions in response to that consultation. However, the “must” in new subsection (8)—which is contrary to the proposal in Amendment 7 before the Committee—requires the court to consider each of the factors in the list. Coming to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames, the “must” does not require the court to find that every factor in the list applies. It does not require the court to say that all the factors are relevant in the instant case. The court may consider that some of these factors in the case before it are not relevant at all; some might have very limited weight or only marginal relevance. All the court must do is to consider them. As the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, pointed out, the court may add to its consideration absolutely anything it wants under new paragraph (f).

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Surely the courts will consider it when it is raised by the Government, and the question of the amount of time and how often the courts consider it will be dependent on the number of times it is raised as a proposition. I do not see why we need the presumption to get the courts to consider this.

Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar (Con)
- Hansard - -

There are two parts of the answer to that. First, there are, as I said earlier, many judicial reviews in which it is not “the Government” in the way that the phrase “the Government” is used.

I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord, because the second point ties into a point I was going to come to. It is, I am afraid, a longer response than the speech which provoked it from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, who said that this is a presumption in favour of the wrongdoer. I will try to answer the two points together. With great respect, I disagree for this reason: the presumption is not a presumption in favour of the wrongdoer. It is a presumption in favour of finding the appropriate remedy for the facts of the case. As we have heard, rightly, from a number of noble Lords, the claimant might not be the person who is actually most affected by the decision in question. There could be a whole class of people who are very severely affected by the decision in question who are not before the court. The claimant, who is before the court, is affected because they are sufficiently affected to have standing, but they may not be affected to the same degree. Therefore, it may not matter too much to the claimant as to whether the remedy is given. It may, on the facts of the case, not even matter too much to the defendant whether this remedy is given, but it may well affect third parties.

Another benefit of the presumption is that the court, so to speak, has to go through that thought process of whether this would be the appropriate remedy, thinking about people—we talked about the factors in subsection (8) earlier—who are not before the court, because on the facts of a particular case, the claimant may not actually be too bothered about whether these remedies are used. The defendant may not be too bothered whether the remedies are used, but it could well affect the position of third parties. Therefore, with respect, I dispute the proposition that this is a presumption in favour of the wrongdoer. It is in favour of the appropriate remedy.

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar (Con)
- Hansard - -

With respect, no. The noble Baroness is looking at this in a very negative way. The whole point about the music copyright case was that the prospective-only remedy was there to protect people who have relied on the regulations. One must not look at these cases with the view that you have all these people out there with claims against the Government and the prospective-only remedy insulates the Government from all these other claims. There are lots of cases where a local authority, or the Government, or some other public body has made a decision and people have relied on it. Businesses have been set up, people have taken out bank loans and made investments. In those cases, I ask rhetorically, should all those third-party interests be disregarded merely because in the case of the claimant bringing the judicial review, his bank loan has not been drawn down yet, so he does not mind whether they are upheld, so to speak, prospectively or retrospectively?

As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, said in the very first debate, there is a wide gamut of cases that come before the courts, and we have to give remedial flexibility; that is what all of this is seeking to do.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

That is an interesting answer. If there are two judicial reviews going on and one holds, for example, that the regulations are unlawful—not in accordance with a statutory power—but says prospective-only, it is presumably open to a second judicial review, which might be going on in parallel, to say, “It is unlawful, and I argue for it not to be prospective-only, for the following reasons.” Would it be open to two judicial review courts to come to different conclusions on the same unlawfulness?

Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar (Con)
- Hansard - -

We all know that judicial reviews have to be brought within three months of the act. Therefore, I suggest to the noble and learned Lord that it is highly unlikely that one will have two separate courts adjudicating on the same decision. If there were separate judicial reviews, they would be consolidated.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Debate between Lord Wolfson of Tredegar and Lord Falconer of Thoroton
Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Having very kindly accepted that the maximum is wrong, the Minister’s only point appears to be that it would put it out of sync with these others. What work is being done in the Ministry of Justice and when can we expect to see legislation bringing them all to a position where there is an appropriate maximum sentence? This matters very considerably to victims of a Section 1 crime.

Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, it certainly matters. I am a little concerned that the noble and learned Lord has seen my notes because that was precisely the point to which I was coming when he intervened. I am grateful for the intervention and for the points made by my noble friend Lord Sandhurst and the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, which I endorse. We need consistency and a fair approach in this area. We will begin by drawing up, as my noble friend Lord Sandhurst invited us to, a list of relevant offences, to ensure that we capture this issue fully.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am sorry to interrupt again, but when that has been done, what is the next stage?

Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar (Con)
- Hansard - -

There may be others, but I am coming to the next stage. The noble and learned Lord is very keen.

Also part of the framework is the law of contempt of court, which we must consider if we are to look at this area properly. In some circumstances, it might be an alternative to charging the appropriate breach offence, although conduct is usually dealt with as a contempt only where some harm to the administration of justice was likely. It also does not attract the investigatory powers which these offences attract.

My right honourable friend the Attorney-General has already independently asked the Law Commission to examine the law of contempt in this regard. I could not say this in Committee because at that point I was saying that we would invite the Law Commission to do it. In fact, they have already committed to such a review. We have asked them to add in the breach of anonymity offences, both for Section 5 and related offences.

The noble and learned Lord says “years”. It will take some time, but the alternative is to legislate on a piecemeal basis. I do not want to explain to a victim of FGM who is named why she is being treated less favourably than a victim of any other offence. We want consistency in this area. If we have a Law Commission to ensure that we look at the law holistically in an appropriate way, it will deliver a coherent approach to penalties for all offences involving breach of reporting restrictions.

Moving to Amendments 78C and 78D, the unduly lenient sentence scheme allows anyone—the CPS, victims, witnesses, or members of the public—to ask for certain sentences imposed by the Crown Court to be considered by the law officers, where that sentence is felt to be unduly lenient. I underline that point. Anybody can ask the law officers to consider referring the sentence to the Court of Appeal. I am afraid that a number of my colleagues at the Bar have taken the view that it is somewhat improper for Members of Parliament to invite the Attorney-General so to consider. I underline again that anybody can ask the Attorney-General to consider referring a sentence to the Court of Appeal. That is how the scheme operates. It is then for the law officers to decide whether to refer the case to the Court of Appeal, which may then decide to increase the sentence.

Amendment 78C places a duty on the Secretary of State to nominate a government department to inform victims of the details of the scheme. We recognise the importance of victims being aware of the scheme and being clear on how it operates. However, the duty is not necessary. The revised Code of Practice for Victims of Crime—the victims’ code—which came into force on 1 April, already provides victims with the right to be informed about the existence of the scheme. Furthermore, it includes a requirement for the witness care unit to inform victims about the scheme following sentencing. Therefore, that provision is unnecessary.

Turning to the timing point, an application by the law officers to the Court of Appeal must be made within 28 days of sentencing. The absolute time limit of 28 days reflects the importance of finality in sentencing. That point of finality in litigation is sometimes marked by a Latin tag, which I will not trouble your Lordships with, but it is particularly important when it comes to sentencing. While we will keep the operation of the scheme under consideration, including the time limit, there are no current plans to remove the certainty of an absolute time limit in any circumstances.

Amendment 78E would expand the circumstances where a whole life order would be the starting point to include cases of murder involving the abduction and sexual assault of a single person. I explained in Committee that of course we sympathise enormously with the concerns that underpin this amendment, but we do not agree with its purpose. Our current sentencing framework can and does respond to these horrendous cases. The courts can, and do, impose lengthy sentences that fully reflect the gravity of this type of offending and the appalling harm that it causes to families of victims and the community generally.

All those convicted of murder already receive a mandatory life sentence. The murder of a single victim involving sexual conduct has a starting point, when determining the minimum time to be served in prison—the tariff, as it is sometimes called—of 30 years. This can be increased depending on the circumstances of the individual case and the presence of aggravating factors. Additionally, as was demonstrated by the sentencing of Wayne Couzens for the horrific murder of Sarah Everard, there is an existing discretion to impose a whole life order if the seriousness of the individual case is exceptionally high, which Wayne Couzens received.

Amendment 82B, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, seeks to prevent the release on home detention curfew of any offender who has previously breached a protective order and who has been convicted of offences relating to stalking, harassment, coercive control, or domestic abuse. I set out in Committee the importance that we attach to this area. The noble Baroness was quite right to refer to my comments made in another part of the Palace at an event organised by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Gloucester, and I stand by them.

I have asked officials to consider the risks presented by such offenders, to ensure that all appropriate safeguards are in place to protect victims and the public and to ensure that unsuitable offenders are not released on home detention curfew. Once that review is complete, I will update the noble Baroness and the House. Despite the fact that we were not able to arrange a meeting in the last 48 hours, I or the Minister for Prisons will be happy to meet with her. I do not believe that legislating on this matter is proportionate or effective in safeguarding victims. The safeguarding can be achieved via the policy framework, without the need for any change in statute.

We are committed to ensuring that serious sexual and violent offenders serve sentences that reflect the severity of their crimes. For those reasons, I urge noble Lords not to press these amendments.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Debate between Lord Wolfson of Tredegar and Lord Falconer of Thoroton
Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I am not going to try to adjudicate on that point, which seems to be a point of procedure, better left to those who know more about it than I do. I have listened very carefully to the debate, and points of principle have been raised. With genuine respect, however, I believe that I have set out the Government’s position on those points of principle. Kicking the can down the road—attractive as that can sometimes appear—will not achieve anything substantive.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

This is pretty shocking. There is a lot of support for the principle that the amendment could be so much better if it could be debated. I completely understand the noble Lord’s embarrassment. He does not want to go back to the Ministry of Justice and not have the amendment, but if you want good law, recognising that the Government want this, there is so much that could be discussed to make this provision better.

The noble Baroness, Lady Williams, agreed without any pressure on two things in relation to the additional protest measures. First, she agreed that they should come at the end of Committee and secondly, she did not move them in Committee because of the exact problem that has arisen in this case. She indicates the right way forward. We would greatly appreciate in the House if the noble Lord would show us the same courtesy that the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, showed us.

Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar
- Hansard - -

I am very happy to be accused of all sorts of things, but I hope that nobody in this House believes that I act either towards it or towards any of its Members with discourtesy. We may have disagreements, but they are always, I hope, courteous. I am not in the least embarrassed about going back to the Ministry of Justice with or without anything. My task, as I see it, is to set out the Government’s position in this House and then the House has to take a view.

With great respect to the noble and learned Lord, I do not accept that this is a question of tweaking the provision or making it better. The points that have been put to me are really points of principle—people do not agree with this at all, while saying, “Of course we agree.” The matter ought to be presented to the House and dealt with by it today.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Debate between Lord Wolfson of Tredegar and Lord Falconer of Thoroton
Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

We on this side of the Committee strongly support these excellent amendments. The Youth Justice Board was set up in 1998. Its first chair—a Member of this House, the noble Lord, Lord Warner—gave it a really good start. The whole point is that it gives real drive, not as part of government but within the state, to make changes, because everybody recognises that children and young people have different needs, both to divert them from the criminal justice system and when they are there. Similarly, in respect of women, this is a real opportunity; give it drive.

Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Wolfson of Tredegar) (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, as the amendments’ explanatory statements make clear, and as the noble Lord, Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames, identified, the intention is to provide for the establishment of a women’s justice board for England and Wales which mirrors the rather lengthy provisions setting up the Youth Justice Board. I am grateful to the noble Lord for his kind words. I can assure him that I gave his amendment very careful thought, and my approach to it has not been adversely affected by the support given to it by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb. I also heard what my noble friend Lord Attlee said about his role being to help me: with noble friends being so helpful—well, I will leave that one there.

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I join noble Lords in commending the noble Earl for the effort and work that he has put into this and the fact that he has thought it through. I also commend what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, said. It was obviously not a detention for training centre that he was passed to, but his experience was successful in diverting him from the criminal justice system. That is an indication that it worked, even if he ended up in the criminal justice system as the Lord President of the Court of Session and a member of the Supreme Court.

I very much agree with what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, the noble Lord, Lord Marks, and the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, said. There are parts of this that we would all agree with. However, we on this side would not support this as a separate sentence. If one looks at the detail, it requires the setting up of a number of rural detention centres. The right thing is for the Government to look at the elements aimed at trying to rehabilitate those in the criminal justice system and use them in the existing system, rather than setting up a whole new network. We admire the noble Earl’s work but think that this is not the appropriate way forward.

Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, the amendment from my noble friend Lord Attlee would seek to introduce a new sentence of detention for training at Her Majesty’s pleasure. It is aimed at offenders who are at least 18 and under 27. The key principle is that release would be gradual and dependent on the offender reaching the required performance levels in conduct, education and training. It would be served in training sites in remote rural areas.

I thank my noble friend sincerely for presenting his genuinely interesting idea—I was going to say “novel”, but we have all watched “Yes Minister”. He has done what he said others have not by thinking positively and constructively about what we can do in the future, rather than just criticising what we do now. I think that we all share his desire to reduce the reoffending rate for young adults. Training and education can enable people to turn their lives around and stop reoffending. I reassure my noble friend and the Committee that the Government are already taking action that addresses those issues.

My noble friend is right to be concerned that offenders leave prison illiterate and innumerate and is right to say that that significantly increases the prospects that they will reoffend. We all share those concerns. I can reassure the Committee that many offenders already achieve accredited qualifications in the fundamental basic subjects of English and maths while in prison. We recently published data that shows that, between April 2019 and March 2020, over 30,000 prisoners started English and maths courses and over half of this number completed the courses and received accreditations. Over and above that, many more will also have undertaken vocational training. However, we are not sitting on our laurels. We recognise that there is more to do. We welcome external scrutiny by the Education Select Committee, which has launched an inquiry into prison education, and Ofsted, which recently announced that it will be conducting a review of reading in prisons.

On employment, we want to make sure that the prison education and skills offer for prisoners is aligned with what employers want and need. We know that there is a correlation between getting a job when you come out of prison and not reoffending. We want to prepare prisoners for employment and the Deputy Prime Minister has made that a clear priority. We want to have partnerships with more businesses and build on the work that we already do with companies such as Halfords, Timpson and Willmott Dixon. We are also making sure that the Civil Service plays its part. In the beating crime plan, we have committed to recruiting 1,000 prison leavers into the Civil Service by 2023.

Over and above that, we want to make sure that we have effective community supervision. Not only will that keep the public safer by providing early intervention, it will deflect offenders away from future offending as well. We set out in our sentencing White Paper an agenda of reform for not only punishing but, importantly, rehabilitating low-level offenders. We have set out a number of measures in this Bill as well: problem-solving courts, suspended sentence orders and extending the use of electronic monitoring. I believe that those measures will support offenders to change their lifestyles for good. In that, of course, I share the aims set out by the noble Lord, Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton.

Offenders: Pregnant Women

Debate between Lord Wolfson of Tredegar and Lord Falconer of Thoroton
Wednesday 17th November 2021

(2 years, 4 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, there is rather a lot in that. As far as the ombudsman is concerned, we and the Prison and Probation Service have accepted and completed the implementation of the recommendations. We have set up the board, which I mentioned in response to the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath. We have put a lot of money into this area. I am not convinced that setting up another inspection body is needed; we already have a very robust inspection regime for prisons, with a specific focus on prisoners with additional vulnerabilities, including pregnancy.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

This is, as everybody who has read the report knows, a horrific case. I want to raise two issues. First, the Minister rightly said that the statutory position at the moment is that the same standard of care should be available in prison as is available in the community. The ombudsman’s report said that the midwife-led community approach is wholly inappropriate for a prison, where everybody should be treated as high-risk. Does the Minister not agree that the time is now right for a statutory duty to be placed on the prison authorities to ensure that the care provided is

“appropriate to a custodial setting”?

Secondly, and separately, eight prison officers came near to Ms A during the course of that horrific night and none of them spotted what was going on. Can the Minister tell us how many prison officers on duty that night had more than two years’ experience, and how many had more than five years’ experience? Our concern is that there is a lack of experience in the Prison Service. I gave the Minister some notice of this question, but not enough, probably.

Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I am afraid that I am not convinced that a new statutory duty is the way to resolve this. I think the statutory framework is sufficient. What we need to ensure is that the duties are actually implemented on the ground in prisons.

So far as the staff on duty are concerned, the noble and learned Lord did give me a little bit of notice for this, as he said, but not very much. I do not have the information to hand, but the ombudsman looked at this incident in great detail and did not raise as an issue either the sufficiency of the staffing levels or the experience of the staff on duty.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Debate between Lord Wolfson of Tredegar and Lord Falconer of Thoroton
Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I accept that the age of criminal responsibility should go up. I strongly endorse what everybody is saying about the Government and, in particular, I endorse what the noble Lord, Lord Marks, is saying about the Government showing leadership in this respect. I also endorse what he says about the Government needing to show leadership in standing out against campaigns that seek to criminalise people under 10 or, in the campaign that he was referring to, between 10 and 12. My point, which I keep coming back to, is that this Committee should not underestimate, or treat as simply got-up, campaigns concerning the justice system, which in some ways expands beyond the criminal justice system, in cases such as the Bulger case.

Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Wolfson of Tredegar) (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, these amendments concern youth justice matters. I will address each of them in turn.

Amendment 219B, tabled by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, would require the centralised monitoring of youth remand decisions made by the court and the laying of a report of findings before Parliament on an annual basis. I understand that the amendment’s purpose is to improve the scrutiny and monitoring of youth remand trends. However, that is precisely what our measures seek to achieve, as I will explain, while leaving the detail of operational processes to the various operational bodies. We think that this is the better way to do it.

The new measures will require the court to be explicit that they have considered not only the two sets of conditions but the interests and welfare of the child. Furthermore, while at the moment the court only has to explain the reason for remand in open court and specify it in the warrant and in the register, our new subsection (5)(za) requires that the court also gives the reasons in writing to the child, their legal representative and the youth offending team, which will enhance the ability of those justice partners to monitor the reasons for custodial remand.

Turning to the specific question put to me by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, on what arrangements are in place for monitoring courts’ decisions and whether statistics are readily available, as I have said, courts already state in open court their reasons for remanding the child to youth detention accommodation. That information is included on the warrant of commitment and the court register. Pronouncement cards from the Sentencing Council provide guidance to the judiciary on how to do that.

As for statistics, my department already publishes annual statistics on court outcomes on youth remand. The population on remand in the youth custody estate is published monthly. We have new IT systems being developed and, in light of those new systems, we will reconsider the best way to collect, analyse and, so far as is appropriate, publish the information that courts will now be required to provide in writing. However, it is best to leave that granular level of operational process to the entities doing the work on the ground, rather than to prescribe it in statute. Our intentions are certainly aligned. I am sure that the noble and learned Lord will appreciate the need for pragmatism in how best to achieve that.

Amendments 220, 221 and 221ZA seek to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 12 and to require the Secretary of State to complete a review of the age of criminal responsibility including, as my noble friend Lord Sandhurst explained, an assessment of the protected characteristics of children in detention, under the Equality Act. I listened very carefully to my noble friend and, I think it is fair to say, I set out the position on that in some detail on Monday. With respect, I am not going over that again. I hope I made the Government’s position clear on Monday.

I am grateful to the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss for raising Amendment 220. I am aware, as she said, that she has brought this to the attention of the House on a number of previous occasions. As far as open ears are concerned, I assure the noble and learned Baroness that my ears are always open. I listened carefully to her speech and the speeches of the noble and learned Lords, Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood and Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd. I join other noble Lords in wishing the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, who is absent, a speedy and full recovery.

I will set out the Government’s position on this issue. We believe that setting the age of criminal responsibility at 10 provides flexibility in dealing with children, allowing early intervention with the aim of preventing subsequent offending. Our primary objective when it comes to children, as I have made clear on previous groups, is to prevent children offending in the first place. Where there is offending, we need to provide the police and courts with effective tools to tackle it. Critically, having the age of criminal responsibility at 10 does not preclude other types of intervention—for example, diversion from the criminal justice system—where it would be a more suitable and proportionate response. To that extent, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord German, that diversion from the criminal justice system should be at the heart of how we approach children in the vast majority of cases.

When considering the most appropriate and proportionate response to offending by a young person, the maturity and needs of a child, as well as their age—to make the obvious point, a 12 year-old is not a 17 year-old—are always considered. We also consider protected characteristics in our work, as per the public sector equalities duty. This is borne out in practice. Most children aged 10 to 14 are diverted from the formal criminal justice system or receive an out of court disposal. The number of children aged between 10 and 12 years in the youth justice system has fallen dramatically since 2009, and we are keen for that downward trend to continue. Since 2010, which is more than a decade ago, no 10 or 11 year-olds have received a custodial sentence.

It is, however, important—to this extent, I adopt the remarks of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton—to ensure that, when appropriate, serious offences can be prosecuted and the public protected. The horrific Bulger case has been mentioned by a number of noble Lords and I remember it clearly. I grew up in Liverpool and it shocked my native city to the core. Whether we are talking about the Bulger case or any case involving children, even the most serious, there is a distinct and separate sentencing framework for children aged 10 to 17, which recognises that they have their own specific needs that require a different and more tailored approach. That looks at age, so someone aged 13 is treated differently from someone aged 17 and a half. As noted by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew, that pervades the approach of the criminal justice system to children. It is not a matter just of clothing, words or wigs; there is a fundamentally different approach tailored to dealing with children.

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar (Con)
- Hansard - -

I am grateful to my noble friend for the question, and for taking the time to discuss it with me in the past. Because the offender is 18 at the time of the case and of the sentence, the system has to respond to the fact that they are now adult. It may well be, in some cases, inappropriate to lump that adult in with children. Some sentences and responses that the youth court can give to children would be inappropriate for someone who is now an adult of 18. I suggest that the fact that the court starts with the sentence that would have been appropriate at the time of the offence, and then takes into account all other relevant factors, means that we deal with these cases suitably, bearing in mind the time gap before sentencing during which the offender has reached legal maturity.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My amendment was the monitoring amendment and was not the heat and burden of this debate. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, Amendments 222 and 223, which I move today on behalf of the Government, are technical amendments to Clause 139, which clarifies that 16 to 19 academies can provide secure accommodation and allows for the establishment and running of secure 16 to 19 academies to be treated as a charitable purpose. The amendments, as can be seen from the Marshalled List, are a technical tweak, and will have no practical impact on the children or young people placed in these secure academies, or on how the academies are run. They are simply there to ensure consistency with other education legislation. “Pupil” is defined in the education Acts to refer to those attending a school; 16 to 19 academies are not, in the legal sense, schools, and “student” is the standard term used in the context of such academies.

I am conscious that this group also contains amendments from the noble Lord, Lord German, on the organisations which can establish a secure school, and from the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede, on local authorities’ secure accommodation provisions. I propose, if the Committee finds it helpful, to pause my remarks now, having introduced my amendments, and allow other noble Lords to speak to those amendments, and then I will respond. I see some nodding heads. If that meets with the Committee’s approval, I will sit down, having formally moved my amendments.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am going to talk about Amendment 223B onwards; Amendment 223A comes first, but I am happy to start with those.

Amendments 223B to 223F have been suggested by the Mayor of London’s office to place a new duty on relevant local authorities in England to convene a new secure accommodation local partnership board that would assess the need for secure accommodation and develop a strategy for tackling any shortfall in secure accommodation. There is, as everybody knows, a significant lack of secure beds in London for young people who come into contact with the criminal justice system. This results in them being dispersed across the country, far away from their families and the professionals committed to their care and well-being.

While this is a particular concern in London, it is also the case in other parts of the country. There are only 15 secure children’s homes in England and Wales, and none in the London area. The recent decision of the Ministry of Justice to remove all children from a key institution detaining young offenders in the United Kingdom—namely, the Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre—meant that more London children were sent away from where they lived. They are being provided with neither the care nor the welfare that they need as vulnerable young people. The recent critical inspection report on the Oakhill Secure Training Centre, alongside the decision to close Rainsbrook, also raises worrying concerns about the future of this type of facility.

It is crucial that such provision is available for those who might be placed there on welfare grounds and for those within the criminal justice system. Amendments 223B, 223C, 223D, 223E and 223F, in the name of my noble friend Lord Ponsonby, give effect to this proposal.

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar (Con)
- Hansard - -

It might well be that it operates in a slightly circuitous way. I have not looked at that section myself. Let me look at it after I sit down. If I need to upgrade, so to speak, what I have said, I will write to the noble Lord, because I do not want to understate the position if I have inadvertently done so. I will look at the section later—I hope, today.

The noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew, said that it is not so much about the name of the institution as about what goes on within it. On that, I strongly agree, as I do on the importance of education in this context, especially in the example given by the noble Lord, of somebody who it appears had not had the benefit of any education before. That is therefore especially appropriate.

At the same time as what I said earlier about local authorities, it is right to say that local authorities have a statutory duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of children in their local area. We would therefore expect secure school providers to work closely with local authorities in relation to the well-being of children in their care. It is important to note also that secure children’s homes, which can be run by local authorities, remain an important part of the current and future youth custodial estate.

Let me deal particularly with the profit motive, which seemed to lie at the heart of a number of contributions to this debate. As academies, secure 16 to 19 academies will be state funded with the core charitable purpose of providing education for the public benefit. All academies, including 16 to 19 academies, are part of an academy trust, which is a not-for-profit charitable entity and, as such, cannot make a profit—or, to be more precise, any profits which are made have to be ploughed back into the purpose of the trust. Secure schools will always be run by non-profit organisations. I therefore hope, in light of what I have said, that it will be appreciated that the second part of this amendment, proposed new subsection (9), preventing profit corporations establishing or maintaining these academies, is unnecessary.

On Amendments 223B to 223F, presented to the Committee by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, I have assumed that these amendments are intended to apply to children looked after by local authorities, but it is worth noting that secure accommodation is used more widely, including for children who are detained by the police and for children who are sentenced or remanded as part of criminal court proceedings.

Local authorities have a duty under the Children Act 1989 to ensure sufficient appropriate accommodation for all the children they look after. I recognise that some local authorities have found it difficult accessing in practice the most appropriate accommodation, particularly for children with the most complex needs. The lack of available and suitable placements for those most vulnerable children is extremely concerning and is something which I and the Government take seriously. We are taking significant steps to support local authorities to fulfil their statutory duties. A programme of work is starting this year to support local authorities to maintain existing capacity and expand provision in secure children’s homes. That means that children can live closer to their previous home and in provision which best meets their needs.

Let me deal specifically with Rainsbrook, to which the noble and learned Lord referred. The situation there is completely unacceptable. We acted decisively to empty the site. All children have now been removed from Rainsbrook. We transferred them to alternative appropriate accommodation within the youth secure estate. We are working through the contractual options with MTC on the future of that contract. When we have completed that work, we will make a further announcement.

In response to the recent concerns about performance at Oakhill, the former Lord Chancellor commissioned Ofsted to undertake a monitoring visit. That took place on 13 September. The report was published within a month, on 11 October, and noted concerns that inspectors had had. Having subsequently attended the centre for a full annual inspection at the beginning of October, Ofsted, together with the Chief Inspector of Prisons and the Care Quality Commission, invoked the urgent notification process at Oakhill on 14 October; that is, within the last month. On the 11th of this month, a response was published to Ofsted and the accompanying action plan, and we are now considering plans to ensure sufficient accommodation for those children at the site.

The spending review announced another £259 million to continue the programme to maintain capacity, expand provision and support local authorities in this regard. There is also the independently-led care review to support improvements to children’s social care and ensure that good practice is applied to every child. That review is expected to be published in the spring. I do not want to pre-empt it now, but we are alive to the particular needs of the children in this cohort.

I have received a note—I will keep my word to look at this matter again later—which indicates that the noble Lord, Lord Marks, may have erred. It is such an astonishing proposition that I will check it for myself later. I am told that he may have nodded in the sense that Section 6 relates to schools being converted to academies. It has no impact on local authorities entering into funding agreements with the Secretary of State. Whether the noble Lord has misunderstood, or whether the note I have been provided with is somewhat cryptic, I will keep my promise to look at it myself later in the day.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Minister mentioned £259 million in relation to the secure training programme. I may have not quite heard what he said. Is that new money or is it just maintaining the existing amount of money per annum?

Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar (Con)
- Hansard - -

My understanding is that the £259 million was announced in the spending review to continue the programme to maintain and expand capacity in both secure and open residential children’s homes. I am not able to say any more than that; it might be a question for my Treasury colleagues to clarify. However, I am also able to clarify it to the noble and learned Lord. Perhaps I can drop him a line on that specific point.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Debate between Lord Wolfson of Tredegar and Lord Falconer of Thoroton
Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I have already spoken once. I speak very briefly to say two things. First, what an impressive debate this has been. I draw attention in particular to the speeches of my noble friends Lord Blunkett, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath and Lord Bradley, the noble Lords, Lord Moylan, Lord Ramsbotham and Lord Hogan-Howe, and the noble Baroness, Lady Burt. I draw attention to them because they are not lawyers; they are people who have had contact in other ways with this system and come to the conclusion that it should end.

Secondly, we on this side of the House support all the amendments. Some are alternative ways of dealing with a particular problem, but we support all the proposals. We are not, in the amendments before the House, going as far as some of the speeches went. We are not suggesting the immediate abolition of the sentence. We are saying: support for those in prison to try to get released; support for those who are released to get proper help; and an easier process of having consideration of the licence being got rid of.

As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood, said, the one with the teeth is Amendment 208F. It says you get rid of these licences and release the person if they have served more than the sentence for the offence. If you have been sentenced to five years in prison, and that is the maximum sentence, once the maximum is reached, unless the detaining authority can prove that you are still a risk, you get released. If you are still below the maximum sentence for the offence for which you were convicted, but you have been in for 10 years, the same principle applies. It is an incredibly sensible way of ensuring the sentence goes for those who have got it, but you keep inside those who represent a severe danger, as long as the detaining authority can establish that they remain a danger.

I very much hope that the Minister will be able to give some words of comfort to the effect that these very moderate proposals will be taken up by the Government. If there are amendments to these proposals, of course, everybody in the House will consider them, but it is time for a change. These modest proposals require consideration for this Bill, because the biggest disappointment would be to be told that it is coming at some later stage.

Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Wolfson of Tredegar) (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, Amendments 208A to 208H relate to offenders serving sentences of imprisonment for public protection commonly known as IPPs. The noble Lord, Lord Pannick, who was very kind about my work as a Minister, invited me to put away the departmental brief. I am not going to do that, not least because it might mean that my work as a Minister here ends somewhat prematurely. But that is not inconsistent, I hope, with making it clear to the Committee that I have listened carefully to the debate and to the points raised around the Chamber. I will reread the debate in the Official Report as well.

Of course, I feel the mood of the Committee—that would be impossible to miss. The speeches have been powerful and sometimes heartfelt. Without wishing to ignore others, may I say the contributions from the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, about their personal part in the genesis of IPPs have been unusual and moving. This politician, may I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti—although I see myself still as a lawyer, not a politician—certainly is trying to get this right. I do not think this is an issue which admits of easy analysis. To use the words of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, it is something of a puzzle, which requires looking at carefully and solving.

I am grateful to those noble Lords who have met with me and discussed the issue. I am sure we will have further discussions between now and Report. I should say that I read Matthew Parris’s column at the end of July as well.

I will go through the amendments and set out the Government’s position, then I will come back at the end to some more general points. Four of the amendments, Amendments 208A to 208C and 208E, the latter from my noble and learned friend Lord Garnier, would require the Government to conduct a review on matters such as sentence progression, resettlement and supervision of prisoners serving an IPP sentence, and to lay a report before both Houses of Parliament.

The Government recognise that work needs to be done in relation to this group of prisoners. I will set out the work that has been done so far. We have put together what I think has been a successful action plan dedicated to the rehabilitation and risk reduction of IPP offenders. We continue to work to increase opportunities for IPP offenders to progress through their sentences via this plan. A qualified psychologist leads a review of the case of every IPP prisoner who is not making the expected progress. Between July 2016 and September this year, which is about five years, just under 1,700—1,679—reviews were completed; 440 prisoners were subsequently released and a further 474 secured a progressive move to more open conditions.

My noble and learned friend Lord Garnier commented on the availability of courses for IPP prisoners to help them make that progress. It is right that during the pandemic there were fewer places on some group interventions. We asked offender managers to look at other sorts of interventions to draw evidence from them for the parole reports. However, we have now been able to ramp up the provision again. Not all IPP prisoners will require the same interventions, of course, but we try to make sure that each prisoner has a suitable pathway, as it is called, to a future safe and sustainable release. That is the focus of the programme. There is a range of interventions, including places on progression regimes, other accredited programmes and places in open prisons. Where a programme is not available for an offender, the prison offender manager would seek to have the prisoner transferred to a prison where the programme is available, subject to a risk assessment and available places. In the meantime, other work would be identified so that the prisoner could undertake that work.

We believe that the action plan is working. High numbers of IPP prisoners are being released each year and the proportion of positive Parole Board decisions remains high. I do not think anybody mentioned this, but let me put it on the record that the Justice Select Committee in the other place has recently launched an inquiry into IPP sentences. Its stated aim is to examine

“the continued existence of IPP sentences and to identify possible legislative and policy solutions.”

The Select Committee will scrutinise what the Government are doing. I have no doubt that it will provide recommendations, which the Government look forward to hearing. I therefore underline that we are doing work in this area. We do not believe that a separate government-led review is necessary at this time.

I turn to Amendment 208D from my noble friend Lord Moylan. Currently, an IPP offender may apply to the Parole Board to have their licence terminated once 10 years from their first release from custody has elapsed. To do that, the offender must give their permission to the Secretary of State to apply to the Parole Board for licence termination on their behalf. The first part of this amendment would therefore remove the legal requirement for the offender to give their permission. Instead, offenders would be automatically rereferred for consideration each year, were they unsuccessful. The second part would change the time period from 10 to five years.

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

None of the amendments would mean that there would not necessarily be a consideration by the Parole Board, including Amendment 208G, which is the two-year automatic end unless the Government made an application to the Parole Board, so I am not quite sure what the basis of rejection of that one is.

Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar (Con)
- Hansard - -

I am not basing it only on what I have called automatic termination. The scheme set out in Amendment 208G would represent a very different approach to management on licence and, for the reasons I have set out, that is not a form of management which we think provides adequate protection to the public. I may come back to that.

Amendment 208H creates a power for the Secretary of State to release an IPP offender who has been recalled to prison, so long as the Secretary of State is satisfied that it is not necessary for public protection for the offender to remain in prison. The position at the moment is that the Parole Board has a responsibility to assess whether offenders are safe to be released into the community, even after an IPP offender is recalled to prison. They can take a decision to rerelease from only 28 days after the offender is recalled. We believe that the Parole Board’s expertise in determining whether offenders serving indeterminate sentences are safe to be released is, as I said, an essential tool of public protection.

If I may, I come back to where I started, with the words of the noble Lord, Lord Pannick. Again, I am grateful for his kind words. I agree that there are certainly problems with the current system; we are looking at it. We believe that our IPP action plan has achieved significant results and we keep it under constant review. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, in what I have learned to be his habit of putting his finger on the point at issue, asked, “Well, what is going to be done?” I hope that I have made it clear that I have listened to the debate very carefully, and that I have no doubt of the mood and the strength of feeling of the Committee. I am also sufficiently acquainted with the ways of this House to anticipate what might or might not be moved on Report as and when we come to it. I can say this afternoon that I will continue to work on this issue—a number of noble Lords know that I have been working on it already—and to listen to the debate, but for the moment, I ask noble Lords who tabled this amendment to withdraw it.

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I support this amendment, and very much hope that the Government will either accept it or explain what they are doing in response to the report of the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman on the case of Miss A and her baby. The noble Baroness, Lady Burt, has explained the facts; it is worth looking at them in a little more detail.

Miss A, as she is called in the report, was remanded in custody on 14 August; she was pregnant. It does not say in the report whether the court knew that she was pregnant, but that is not what this amendment deals with. On 19 August, she was seen by a safeguarding midwife, who said that her estimated delivery date was between 24 September and 14 October. On 26 September, she was put on extended observation, which means she would be seen by a nurse in the morning, at lunchtime, in the evening and twice overnight. On that very day, 26 September, she went into labour. At 8.07 pm, 8.32 pm and 8.45 pm, she called for help and, in particular, called for a nurse. All three calls for help were ignored. At 9.27 pm and 4.19 am that night, she was inspected—I assume through a cell hatch—for a regular roll call, and nothing untoward was spotted. At 8.21 am the next morning, other prisoners reported that there was blood in her cell, and at 9.03 am an officer identified that she had given birth overnight and that the baby had died.

It is an absolutely terrible story, as the ombudsman describes. As the noble Baroness, Lady Burt, said, the ombudsman made specific recommendations, which are reflected in proposed new subsections (1) and (2) of her Amendment 209. It says that the Secretary of State must provide “appropriate midwifery care” within the female prison estate, and then defines “appropriate midwifery care” as meaning

“midwifery care that is appropriate to a custodial setting … maternity services that are suitably resourced to provide … an appropriately qualified midwifery lead in each prison to oversee all aspects of perinatal care … a maternity pathway for prisoners that includes a process for women who decline to engage with services”—

as Miss A may have done—

“access for prisoners to psychological and psychiatric services … training for staff in trauma-informed care … training for staff in neonatal and child resuscitation procedures; and … appropriate emergency equipment for children and neonates.”

A lot of those go beyond what would have made a difference in this particular case, but if those recommendations of the ombudsman had been given effect to, the tragedy almost certainly would not have occurred. This gives the Government the opportunity to respond in this House to those recommendations, all of which seem sensible and will not impose a substantial financial burden on the prison estate, because there are not that many women’s prisons. If the Government are not willing to accept these proposals, what are they going to do about the problem? Can they give a reason why a duty such as this on the Secretary of State should not be expressed in the legislation?

Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Burt, for tabling this amendment. As the explanatory statement makes clear, the amendment builds on the recommendations of the recent independent investigatory report by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman into the death of Baby A—as we are calling the baby—at HMP Bronzefield.

I shall start by repeating what my honourable friend Victoria Atkins MP said when giving oral evidence to the Justice Select Committee’s inquiry into women in prison on 3 November. I quote her because I want to associate myself with this, word for word. We are

“very grateful to the ombudsman for her report. The facts as they unfolded in that report were truly shocking. And the fear that that young woman must have felt and the loss she is dealing with even today, we do not, we cannot contemplate anything of that nature ever again within the prison estate.”

My deepest condolences remain with those affected.

The death of Baby A was a tragic and harrowing event and has rightly been the subject of several investigations and inquiries, including that by the PPO, to try to ensure that all the necessary lessons have been learned to avoid a repetition in future. The Committee may be interested to know that there is a Question on this incident on, I think, Wednesday, which will be another opportunity for the House to look at this terrible event, and I believe I am going to be responding to it.

While I point out that we are not talking about sentencing here, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, was right to say so, it is right to say that when it comes to sentencing, pregnancy is certainly a mitigating factor that is specifically taken into account in the sentencing guidelines. I should also say that it is exceptionally rare now for a woman to give birth in prison. The most recent figures, from July 2020 to March 2021, show that 28 births—90% of the total number of births—took place in hospital and none took place in prison. I understand that in the case of the missing 10%, the baby came out a bit quicker than anticipated and the birth might have taken place in the ambulance, but none took place in prison.

In response to the terrible disaster of what happened to Baby A, the previous Lord Chancellor, the right honourable Robert Buckland MP, commissioned the independent external investigation by the PPO. We have since accepted and acted upon all its recommendations for the Ministry of Justice and the Prison Service. We immediately put in place practical steps across the women’s estate, including providing all women with free phone access to local NHS pregnancy advice services and additional welfare observations for pregnant women in their third trimester. At that time we were already undertaking a fundamental review of national policy on pregnancy, mother and baby units and maternal separation in women’s prisons.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Burt, recognised and said she welcomed, that work led to a new policy framework, published on 20 September, which develops those immediate actions into national requirements for all women’s prisons, delivering on a wide range of reforms. The new framework has an extended policy remit covering requirements on perinatal care and maternal separation, in addition to mother and baby units. I hope that what I have said so far—although I will say something more—reassures the noble Baroness and the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, that we are serious about our response to this matter. We are determined to take all necessary action to avoid a similar tragic event in the future.

I shall turn to the detail of the amendment and explain why, in the light of the current legislative framework, we are not persuaded that what is proposed is necessary. Currently, NHS England is responsible for commissioning almost all forms of healthcare for prisoners within both the public and private estate in England under Section 3B of the National Health Service Act 2006 as amended by the Health and Social Care Act 2012. That statutory obligation has to be read together with Rule 20(1) of the Prison Rules 1999, which states:

“The governor must work in partnership with local health care providers to secure the provision to prisoners of access to the same quality and range of services as the general public receives from the National Health Service.”


The requirement to commission healthcare services and to secure and ensure prisoners’ access to them therefore already applies to the provision of maternity services in the women’s prison estate, so we do not consider that there is any need to add a further separate obligation in statute as proposed by the amendment. What is important is that we ensure that it actually happens. I certainly do not mean to be flippant, but repeating something in statute is not the way to ensure that it happens. We are focused on ensuring that it happens. We already have the statutory obligation.

In fairness to the PPO, I should note that it did not recommend any change to the statutory framework. Rather, it said at paragraph 14:

“Overall, the healthcare offered to Ms A in Bronzefield was not equivalent to that she could have expected in the community.”


It is that provision that we are focused on—ensuring that expectant mothers in prison get the same care as they would have received in the community. The Government’s position is that we would rather focus on that than duplicate statutory provision.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The amendment would not be duplicating anything because it contains specific provisions that are not referred to in the other statutory obligation, so it would be clear what was required.

Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar (Con)
- Hansard - -

What is required is that women in prison have access to the same maternity services as they could expect in the community. My suggestion is that once that is set out, that is a sufficient legislative obligation and the Government need to ensure that it actually happens.

I hope that nothing I have said detracts from what I said right at the start, which is that we are appalled by what happened to Baby A. It must never happen again, and we are going to do all we can to ensure that it does not. However, for the reasons I have set out, I invite the noble Baroness to withdraw the amendment.

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

An incredibly powerful case has been made. We support it and I am grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, my noble friend Lady Lister and, in her absence, the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, for tabling these amendments. I completely adopt what my noble friend Lady Lister said about the total inadequacy of the reasons given in the Commons for not supporting this. The first was that it would mean there would be bunching of releases on other days, but if a third are on Friday already that seems a completely hopeless point. Secondly and separately, it was said that it is not used very much in Scotland; if it is not used very much, then the Government would not have much to worry about. Why not do it?

Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I am grateful for the various speeches which have been given on these amendments, which, as we have heard, seek in different ways to avoid the release of prisoners on a Friday. Obviously, I understand the distinction between the two, although it is fair to say that they are both aimed at substantially the same point.

The current position is this. Section 23 of the Criminal Justice Act 1961 provides that prisoners whose release dates fall on a weekend or bank holiday should be released on the working day which immediately precedes that weekend or bank holiday. In most cases, that is a Friday, which is why, to make the obvious point, we have “bunching” on Fridays. If one would expect release dates generally to fall over the week, given the law of large numbers, you have Saturday and Sunday pushed back to Friday, plus the occasional bank holiday. We are very aware of and alive to the challenges that this can create in accessing support and services in the community. We are taking steps to mitigate those difficulties; I will turn to those in a moment.

First, however, the amendments seek to reduce releases on a Friday or non-working weekday by either preventing the court setting a sentence length that is likely to lead to release on those days, or by providing greater flexibility for prison governors to avoid Friday releases by giving the discretion to release earlier in the week. I heard what the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, said about the responses given in the other place: that the Minister there was clutching at straws. I think the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, has set me the challenge to be better than “completely hopeless”. That is a bar I hope to surmount.

I assure the Committee that I am open-minded and have listened very carefully to the debate. While I am sympathetic to the need to tackle this issue, I do not agree that it is necessary to legislate in the way proposed by the amendments, and I will explain why. To do so would either undermine existing sentencing principles by preventing the court passing a sentence which is likely to result in release on a Friday, or it would allow prisoners to be released even earlier from their sentence. Legislation provides that prisoners are released on the working day closest to their statutory release date and we do not believe it is necessary to go further than that.

I will deal with sentencing first. It is not realistic or achievable to require a sentencing court to try to work out on which day of the week an offender would fall to be released and adjust the sentence accordingly to avoid that being a Friday, weekend or bank holiday. I would have thought that that is self-evident. It is obvious because a prisoner’s release date is something of a complex calculation. It is carried out by prison staff and depends on a number of different factors that a sentencing court would not necessarily be able to take into account. These could include: any other concurrent or consecutive sentences the offender might already be serving; the correct amount of remand time to apply on all relevant sentences being served; and any added days imposed for bad behaviour while serving the sentence.

--- Later in debate ---
Baroness Lister of Burtersett Portrait Baroness Lister of Burtersett (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Minister may be about to come to the point I was going to make. The provisions in Amendment 211 are discretionary. If it is possible in Scotland, why is it not possible here?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Minister said that he was dealing with the amendments logically. He dealt with only Amendment 210 and did not deal with Amendment 211.

Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar (Con)
- Hansard - -

I am coming to the point about discretion in Scotland. I will respond to that in a moment, if I may. First, I wanted to identify how we think we can best deal with the problems which bunching can give rise to. I absolutely agree that reducing further crime by those who have been released is critical. We have to cut reoffending and we know that a lack of suitable accommodation or sustainable employment, as well as substance misuse, can lead offenders to return to crime. Therefore, we need to ensure that people leaving prison on all days of the week, Fridays included, have access to services.

I will briefly identify four important things in this regard. In January this year, we announced a £50 million investment to reduce crime and tackle key drivers of reoffending. In July, we launched temporary accommodation for prison leavers at risk of homelessness in five probation regions, because we know that having access to transitional accommodation is very important. We have invested a further £20 million in the Prison Leavers Project, which tests new ways to reduce reoffending by addressing the challenges people face when they leave prison.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Debate between Lord Wolfson of Tredegar and Lord Falconer of Thoroton
Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, this is obviously an important set of amendments. I thank all those who spoke on the arguments put forward. We agree across the Committee that sexual violence is a devastating crime that can have lifelong impacts on victims and survivors. The noble Lord, Lord Marks of Henley-on Thames, used the word, “scourge”. I do not disagree with that. He was also right to say that a change in culture is part of the solution here but also that these crimes have to be punished with sentences that match the severity of the offence.

As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, said, the group of amendments encompasses a number of such crimes. Let me take each one in turn. I will start with the Amendment 195, which would require the court to impose a minimum custodial sentence of at least seven years for a rape offence committed under Section 1 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 unless, as stated in subsection (2), there are exceptional circumstances that justify not doing so. I respectfully agree with the noble and learned Lord that there is an important point here. He was making, it is fair to say, substantially the same point that I was making to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, about the roles of Parliament and the courts. Just as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, has nothing but respect for the courts and judges, so do I. I should also say that my wife is a judge but she does not come anywhere near to sentencing anybody, so perhaps I do not have to make that declaration.

We agree on the principle that there are some cases in which it is right for Parliament to set out a minimum sentence with an exception, and other cases where it is appropriate to have greater judicial discretion. The real question is how we respond to each case, bearing in mind the scope of the sentences available to the sentencing judge.

Against that background, we have to remember that the maximum penalty for rape is life imprisonment. Quite rightly, rape offenders already receive significant sentences. I remind the Committee that in 2020, the average—I underline “average”—custodial sentence given to adult offenders for a Section 1 rape offence, where the victim was 13 or over, was almost 10 years. That represents an increase of almost 15% over the past decade. Also in 2020, over two-thirds of those offenders received a custodial sentence of over seven years.

Also, in certain circumstances, where offenders are convicted of a repeat serious sexual offence, including rape, the law already provides for a minimum sentence of life imprisonment. I should underline that the original offence, when we are talking about the repeat offence category, may not necessarily have been rape but one of a number of serious sexual and violent offences. In addition, in this Bill, and through legislation in the past year, the Government are ensuring that rape offenders sentenced to over four years must spend two-thirds of their sentence in prison, as opposed to being released at the halfway point.

However, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, recognised in his Second Reading speech, it is important that we maintain judicial discretion for the court to consider the facts of the case before it and decide on the appropriate sentence. Perhaps I can provide some support on this point —or perhaps the noble Viscount may give me some support. It is important that, given the complex nature of this offence and the wide range of circumstances the court may need to take into account, we maintain that role for judicial discretion. We may both lack the appellation “learned” but I hope that that does not detract from the strength of the point we are making.

Although the sentence lengths for rape have increased, we have a serious problem. We have long recognised that the decline in the number of effective trials for rape and serious sexual offences is a cause for serious concern. I have said that from the Dispatch Box before. Let me take the opportunity to mention briefly some of the wider action we are therefore taking to support rape victims and improve the way rape cases are handled by all criminal justice partners.

We published the End-to-End rape review on 18 June. This sets out our ambitious plans to improve numbers of rape cases being referred by the police, charged by the Crown Prosecution Service and reaching the court. On 21 July, we published the cross-government Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy, to help better target perpetrators and support victims of crimes which disproportionately affect women and girls. As to sentencing, the maximum penalty for rape is life imprisonment, and it is already the case that the courts impose significant sentences. For the reasons that I have set out, we believe it is proper that the courts retain discretion to ensure that they can impose the appropriate sentence based on the facts of the individual case.

Turning now to Amendment 197 on the abduction, sexual assault and murder of a person, I read it as the noble and learned Lord intended, that it is all three. The amendment would expand the circumstances where a whole-life order would be the starting point to include cases of murder involving the abduction and sexual assault of a single person. While this Government obviously greatly sympathise and understand the concerns that underpin this amendment, I respectfully disagree with what is proposed. All those convicted of murder already receive a mandatory life sentence. For murders involving sexual or sadistic conduct, the starting point for the minimum term in prison is 30 years. Judges are able to increase or decrease a minimum term from this starting point according to the circumstances and relevant aggravating or sometimes mitigating factors. In addition, and as was demonstrated by the sentencing of Wayne Couzens for the horrific abduction, assault and murder of Sarah Everard, there is also an existing discretion to impose a whole- life order if the seriousness of the individual case is exceptionally high.

We are committed to ensuring that serious sexual and violent offenders serve sentences that reflect the severity of their crime. However, I believe that our current sentencing framework, a crucial component of which is judicial discretion, responds correctly at present to these horrendous cases. The courts can, and indeed do, impose extremely robust sentences where appropriate that fully reflect the gravity of this offending and the appalling—often lifelong—harm that it causes.

As I am on the topic of whole-life orders, I will go slightly out of turn chronologically to address the notice given by the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby that they oppose Clause 103 standing part of the Bill. Clause 103 makes it possible for people aged 18 to 20 to receive a whole-life order where the crime committed is extremely serious. Clause 103 has to be read together with Clause 102, which expands the range of circumstances where a whole-life order must be the starting point to include the premeditated murder of a child. The current position is that whole-life orders can be imposed only on offenders aged 21 and over. This acknowledges the utmost seriousness of this punishment and its overwhelming effect on an offender’s future. We recognise, however, that there may be some rare cases where it may be appropriate to impose a whole-life order on offenders aged 18 to 20. We propose, therefore, to give judges the discretion to impose a whole-life order on an offender aged 18 or over, but under 21, in those cases.

We have set out an important clarification or criterion for when that sentence would be available. Clause 103(2)(b)(3C) makes it clear that the sentence will be warranted for offenders in the 18 to 20 year-old cohort only where the crime was extremely serious even by the standards of the crimes which would normally attract a whole-life order. We anticipate that this discretion would be exercised rarely. The expectation is still very much that offenders aged under 21 would not receive a whole-life order, but the change will allow judges to impose these sentences for these younger offenders, who are of course still adults, where that is necessary.

Let me turn finally to Amendment 196 which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, set out. As was stated in the other place, we are sympathetic to the objective of this amendment. The unlawful naming of people whose identity is protected by law ought to be appropriately punished. It is a crime which can have serious consequences and cause serious upset, concern and more.

However, with respect, our view is that the amendment does not go far enough. It is limited to breaches of Section 5 of the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1992. That Act applies where an allegation of a sexual offence is made, and it imposes an automatic prohibition on publishing any material likely to lead to the identification of the complainant. It also covers alleged victims of human trafficking. This amendment would cover those types of victims, but there are many others whose identity is also legally protected, where the existing penalty for breach would be unaffected.

Sometimes the protection is automatic, for example for victims of female genital mutilation and forced marriage, where the breach offence is the same as that in the 1992 Act, or victims, witnesses and defendants under the age of 18 in youth court proceedings, something which I know the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, will be familiar with. In addition, reporting restrictions can be imposed at the discretion of a court, for example in relation to underage participants in a Crown Court trial or vulnerable adult witnesses. Since one reason for imposing these discretionary restrictions may be to protect the subject from injury, one should not assume that the discretionary imposition of restrictions is any less serious than the automatic ones.

Contempt of court may overlap with specific breach offences in circumstances where there is a potential impact on the justice process; that would have a two-year maximum. Therefore, we believe there is a strong case for examining this area of law as a whole, rather than amending legislation piecemeal. My right honourable and learned friend the Attorney-General has invited the Law Commission to undertake a review of the law of contempt of court, with particular reference to the interface between that and the criminal law, including the specific breach offences under discussion today. If the Law Commission takes on that task, it would provide a sound basis to look at this area properly and provide some real improvements in the protection the law offers to participants in the criminal justice process.

For the reasons I have set out, I invite the noble and learned Lord to withdraw his amendment and invite the Committee to allow Clause 103 to stand part of the Bill.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am obliged to everybody who took part in the debate. There was widespread support around the Committee for the increase in the penalties for the naming of an anonymous complainant. I thought the speech from the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson, was cruel, because it appeared to support it and then talked about the Law Commission. That is years away, so I think we will come back to this on Report. If the Minister would be willing to help me, we could expand the range if he thinks that is appropriate.

In relation to the question of a minimum sentence for rape, as far as the Government are concerned, there is already a minimum sentence of seven years for third Class A drug trafficking offences, a minimum of three years for third domestic burglary and a minimum sentence for offences of threatening with weapons or bladed articles. I am broadly in agreement with the proposition that minimum sentences should be exceptional, but if they are to apply to any case, rape must be the appropriate case.

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, this is a very interesting proposal. I think we all agree, across the House, that where somebody is entitled to automatic release at half or two-thirds of their sentence, if there is proper material from which the conclusion can be reached that the defendant poses a significant danger to the public, then the automatic release date should not apply, and presumably the defendant should then be kept in prison until the end of the nominal sentence. As the Bill is currently drafted—putting it shortly—if there are reasonable grounds for the Secretary of State to believe that the defendant might pose such a risk, the Secretary of State can refer it to the Parole Board to decide.

What the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew, wants is that, if the Secretary of State forms that view, he or she should refer the decision to the High Court. The High Court would then make a determination on the substance of the issue: whether the prisoner constitutes a danger. The noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, called it a drafting point, but as I understand the drafting here, if the High Court forms the view that the prisoner does constitute such a danger, the High Court does not determine whether or not the prisoner is released but refers the matter to the Parole Board. In his opening speech on the amendment, the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, said he believes that the operative decision should be made by the Parole Board, not the High Court.

Necessarily, that ends up with a situation where what the High Court is deciding, one way or another, is whether there are proper grounds for the Secretary of State’s belief that the prisoner may pose a risk. It would be necessary to amend the amendment to say that, because otherwise the operative decision is plainly being taken by the High Court, not the Parole Board—and the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, wants the decision to be taken by the Parole Board, which I understand. Once you get to that point—namely. whether there are proper grounds for the Secretary of State’s belief—then it is judicial review, so I am not sure what is added by this proposal.

I do not wish to give away any secrets, but I am sure there are Secretaries of State who, under press or political pressure, would refer such a decision to a body with the power to determine whether or not somebody should be released at the automatic release date. Whether the reference is to the Parole Board or to the High Court, honestly, Secretaries of State will still be guided by political considerations. As far as the Secretary of State is concerned in the notional example given, if they want to make a political point they will refer it to whoever the statute says they should, irrespective of their precise state of knowledge, for political reasons. The noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, and the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew, are saying that they will be pushed into it by politics. Well, under his amendment, they will be pushed into referring it to the High Court, and under the Minister’s position they will be pushed into referring it to the Parole Board, which is where the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew, wants it to end up anyway.

I am not sure that this amendment achieves much, as it pushes you back into judicial review, which is where we are already. I am sympathetic to the position adopted, but—I put this advisedly—if the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew, was willing to put his money where his mouth is, surely the end point should be that the High Court decides. That would provide a much more effective safeguard. This does not quite get there.

Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, we have had a very interesting debate. The last few speeches have highlighted the problems with the approach that I was going to set out. In short, where we end up on this amendment is, in effect, the High Court taking the decision and not the Parole Board. I shall come back to the “would” point made by my noble friend Lord Hailsham, which I was going to make as well and is absolutely right.

The amendment would require the Secretary of State first to refer high-risk offenders to the High Court. They could then be referred to the Parole Board only with the court’s approval. That is the structure that we are dealing with. The structure in our clause is that the Secretary of State refers directly to the Parole Board. If referral to the High Court is put in as an intermediate process, it would mean two things. First, the High Court may reject the referral from the Secretary of State if it did not agree that the offender would pose a risk of serious harm. My concern is secondly that, if the High Court did consider that the offender would pose a risk of serious harm, it would roll the pitch in a very serious way for the Parole Board.

I therefore have concerns about both the necessity and the benefit of involving the High Court in this process, but nothing I am going to say is intended to undermine two points on which I agree with the noble Lord, Lord German; first, on the importance of due process and, secondly, that we should limit arbitrary power. I suggest that the court does set out due process and limits arbitrary power.

The important point to bear in mind is that the new power is not a re-sentencing exercise. It is not the Secretary of State extending the detention of the prisoner. I fully accept the point made by the noble Lord as to the important boundary between Secretary of State and judge, between Executive and judiciary. I also want to have a strong and independent judiciary; I believe we do. That principle is not contravened by this clause, because it is the independent Parole Board that will make the final decision as to whether an offender is safe to be released early. The Secretary of State has the power to make a referral, but he or she must have a sound basis for doing so and must give the prisoner notice, which must include the grounds for making the referral and give the prisoner the opportunity to make representations to the Secretary of State.

As for the criteria in play, we will closely monitor and record how the power is used. We will publish a policy which clearly outlines the threshold that must be met and the principles which will underpin the Secretary of State’s decision-making procedure in determining whether to refer a case to the Parole Board.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Debate between Lord Wolfson of Tredegar and Lord Falconer of Thoroton
Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Wolfson of Tredegar) (Con)
- Hansard - -

Just for the record, and because the officials have worked extremely hard, I have a WhatsApp group with them. In fact, I have been doing all this work without officials there. They are on the ball; they are online; they are providing assistance.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am very glad to hear that. It is the first time in my experience—and I am not complaining, because the officials have worked incredibly hard on this—that the Box is entirely without officials.

To go back to the debate about delegated powers, this is what the Delegated Powers Committee said in general about this:

“We are particularly concerned that the Bill would … allow Ministers—and even a non-statutory body—to influence the exercise of new police powers (including in relation to unauthorised traveller encampments and stop and search) through ‘guidance’ that is not subject to Parliamentary scrutiny; … leave to regulations key aspects of new police powers—to restrict protest and to extract confidential information from electronic devices—that should instead be on the face of the Bill; and …allow the imposition of statutory duties via the novel concept of ‘strategy’ documents that need not even be published … We are disappointed that the inclusion of these types of delegations of power—on flimsy grounds—suggests that the Government have failed when preparing this Bill to give serious consideration to recommendations that we have made in recent reports on other Bills.”


In relation to this group of amendments, the committee makes complaint about three sets of delegations. The first is in relation to what could be suitable for community cautions. As I indicated, community cautions are for less serious offences. The Bill provides that they cannot be given for the most serious, indictable-only offences, but it gives the Secretary of State power to determine by affirmative procedure regulations the other offences for which they cannot be given.

The Government put forward a memorandum to justify this approach which said as follows:

“The list of offences which may not be suitable for”—


a community caution—

“is likely to change regularly”

and

“will be subject to continual updating and changing which makes it more suitable for secondary legislation”.

The Delegated Powers Committee report states:

“The Memorandum acknowledges that excluding offences from a community caution disposal ‘will have a significant impact on offenders, victims and the public’. It states that the affirmative procedure ‘is considered appropriate as it enables Parliament to debate the details of the restrictions [on community cautions]’.”


The Delegated Powers Committee report says that the Government are relying on a comparison with Section 130 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 and then establishes, clearly rightly, that comparison with that Act is misguided and wrong. It says that the Government should follow the 2003 Act, but accurately and not inaccurately. What the Sexual Offences Act 2003 does is put in the Bill the excluded offences but gives power for them to be amended from time to time. Our amendments would follow the Delegated Powers Committee’s recommendations. I hope that the Government will feel able to accept that. If the noble Lord could indicate that, it would shorten that bit of it—sadly not.

The next group of problems is the conditions that are attached to a caution. A diversionary caution or a community caution must have one or more conditions attached to it. These can include requirements to carry out unpaid work, to attend a specified place for a specified purpose, and to pay a financial penalty. The complaint that the Delegated Powers Committee makes about this is that you need only the affirmative procedure where you are increasing the penalties but not when you are decreasing them.

The Delegated Powers Committee report says:

“We consider that the Government’s justification for its approach”—


applying only when penalties are increasing and not when they are decreasing—

“is flawed because it focusses solely on the impact of increases or decreases on the rights of offenders and on operational resources and fails to take into account the significant effect that decreases are capable of having on the way in which the policy works—and that making the new cautions less onerous forms of disposal may be something about which stakeholders (including victims of crime) and members of both Houses may have legitimate concerns.”

Again, we agree with that. The committee continues at paragraph 75:

“Accordingly, we consider that both increases and decreases in the maximum number of hours of unpaid work or attendance, or the maximum financial penalty, that may be attached to a diversionary caution or a community caution merit the same level of scrutiny”.


That is simply to quote what the Delegated Powers Committee says.

The final group relates to Clause 129 and Schedule 13, which gives the courts power

“to review community and suspended sentence orders, and … to commit an offender to custody for breach of”

such orders. The memorandum that the Government presented to the committee says that

“the aim… is to improve offender compliance with community orders and suspended sentence orders and to reduce reoffending. This is achieved through a multi-agency approach with links to wider support services, one element of which is providing for close oversight by a court of particular sentences being served in the community”.

The intention is to pilot for an initial 18-month period, and that may be applied to different cohorts throughout the country.

The committee report points out:

“The Secretary of State is given power to specify, by negative procedure … categories of community orders and suspended sentence orders that qualify for the review process”—


and it sets out certain things they can take into account in relation to it. The report continues:

“Where regulations specify a category for the first time, there must be an initial pilot period of 18 months … Both regulations that specify a category for the purposes of a pilot … are subject to the negative procedure … The Government’s justification for this is that ‘the principle of the provisions is made clear on the face of the legislation, and the power is limited by the legislation such that it may only be used to apply the provisions to different courts and cohorts of offenders … These matters are administrative in nature’.”


That is what the Government said in their memorandum.

The Delegated Powers Committee disagreed with that, saying that

“the categories of persons and the offences to which the review process will apply go to the heart of the underlying policy. The power gives the Secretary of State maximum discretion … but with minimal scrutiny … We therefore consider that regulations that provide for a category of community orders or suspended sentence orders to be subject to the review process on an indefinite basis should be subject to the affirmative procedure.”

That is what our third set of amendments does in relation to that.

I apologise for taking so long to go through this, but these are important issues.

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

My Lords, I agree with the noble and learned Lord about the importance of this part of the Bill. Although the noble and learned Lord has just apologised for the length of his opening remarks on this group, I must warn the Committee that that was nothing compared with my opening remarks on the next group, if the Government wish to go there this evening.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, is right to demand that the list of excluded offences for which the police cannot give a community caution is in the Bill. This is yet another example of why this Bill is a shell, lacking in sufficient detail for noble Lords to give their consent to it. The Delegated Powers Committee agrees, as the noble and learned Lord has said.

He is also right that any changes to the maximum number of hours of unpaid work or attendance, or the maximum financial penalty that may be attached to a diversionary or community caution, should at least be subject to the affirmative resolution. But as the noble and learned Lord has said on previous groups, the House still has no ability to amend such an order. I will have more to say on that issue in a later group. Again, the Delegated Powers Committee agrees, as the noble and learned Lord has said.

Amendment 214B is about community orders and suspended sentence orders, and has, as far as I understand it, nothing to do with police cautions—I look for reassurance. I have no idea why it is in this group of amendments, other than that it is also covered by the Delegated Powers Committee’s report. I have no doubt that the noble and learned Lord is absolutely right about that as well, and the Delegated Power Committee agrees.

We support these amendments, mostly because they are right, and, in the case of Amendment 214B, because the noble and learned Lord is usually right.

Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I recognise that this group of amendments in the name of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, has come about because of recommendations from the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee in its sixth report of the Session. It is a pleasure to discuss this matter, even at this hour. As to timing issues, I am sure the noble and learned Lord knows better than me with whom to take that matter up; I am not sure I am the correct post box for that.

I can assure the Committee that, even as the noble and learned Lord was speaking, I received a WhatsApp—I am not waiving privilege on all my WhatsApp messages—from the Bill team: “To reassure, we are here.” The team cannot answer back, but I can. I regret the way that the team’s their work ethic was impugned, unintentionally, I am sure.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I made it absolutely clear that I was not for one moment impugning the Bill team’s work ethic. I was saying, quite legitimately, that they are not here because it is so late at night. My learned friend the Minister makes a poor point in suggesting that I was impugning them. I have nothing but the greatest admiration for that Bill team, and he should not try to distract attention from the problems of debating this at this time of night with a remark like that.

Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar
- Hansard - -

It has nothing to do with the hour. On every Bill I have done, I have had the Bill team on WhatsApp, whether it was the Domestic Abuse Bill at 3 pm or this Bill at 11.29 pm. The fact they are on WhatsApp and I deal with them remotely has nothing to do with the hour.

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar (Con)
- Hansard - -

We can move on. We do not need to raise the temperature at 11.30 pm. We have other things to argue about.

Let us get to the substance of this. The committee proposed a number of changes relating to the cautions and problem-solving courts measures in the Bill, as elaborated by the noble and learned Lord and the noble Lord, Lord Paddick. I shall make the central point that I want to make, because it goes to all the points that have been put down. I can assure the Committee, and in particular the noble and learned Lord, that the Government are looking at all the committee’s recommendations, which underpin these amendments, as part of our wider response to the committee, and we will revert to it in due course. I therefore hope that as time goes on, if I can put it that way, these issues will be highlighted, and I hope resolved to the noble and learned Lord’s satisfaction, but, if not, we can continue to discuss them.

I shall highlight just one matter, because I want to leave time for the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, to give us his full oration on the next group, if we have time for it. On Amendment 169D, on excluded offences in respect of community cautions, the committee, as the noble and learned Lord explained, recommended that these offences are listed in the Bill rather than set out in regulations. As he explained, regulations would then be made where further amendments became necessary.

With respect to the committee, we maintain the position that the offences that are to be excluded for the purposes of community cautions are to be made by regulations. We point out that this approach of using regulations to identify excluded offences mirrors the approach taken in the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015, which sets out that the simple caution, if I can call it that, may not be used in respect to offences specified by order made by the Secretary of State by secondary legislation. Just as there, so also here we believe that secondary legislation is the appropriate place for setting out the list of excluded offences, as the level of detail required may not be appropriate or suitable for the Bill. We suggest that that approach also allows sufficient time for essential engagement with stakeholders to identify those offences and to enable future changes to be incorporated without primary legislation.

I point out that the secondary legislation that we are talking about here is subject to the affirmative procedure, so the transparency that comes with that procedure will be maintained. I suggest that it would be a little bit clumsy and rare to use primary legislation for what has to be a fairly flexible approach to listing offences that should not be cautioned. We will of course discuss this carefully with stakeholders. The aim will be to bring an SI to Parliament that will be acceptable. I apprehend that I have not responded to the underlying point made by the noble and learned Lord, because I said that we will respond to the committee, but I hope he understands the thrust of my response and that for present purposes he is able to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

First, in the light of the evidence given by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, I unreservedly withdraw the suggestion that we are in any way disadvantaged by the officials not being in the Box. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, for bringing that to our attention.

What a disappointing response that was on the substance. First, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson, for saying that there might be something more coming, although he did not indicate what that might be. We have had the report since September. Why has it taken so long to get to this? Secondly, in relation to the point which the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson, did address—about the offences that would be excluded from community cautions—the Delegated Powers Committee is saying, “Put your initial cut in the Bill”.

The noble Lord, Lord Wolfson, gave no reason why that was not to be done. He referred to the 2015 Act to which the Government had not referred when they put their memorandum to the Committee. I have not had a chance to look at the 2015 Act. It has only been mentioned now. Changing defence, as the noble Lord is doing, is always an indication of shambles on the part of the Government. What is the reason for not giving the Commons and the Lords the opportunity to debate the initial cut? It does not make the Bill too cluttered. It would not add much more than half a page. It is a ridiculous defence.

I hope that the Minister will have the time to think about it for when he comes back with the Ministry of Justice’s conclusions on this absolutely damning Delegated Powers Committee report. I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am very much obliged to my noble friend Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede for that intervention, which goes to an incredibly important point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, which is that there needs to be proper scrutiny of the police being given a power to, in effect, punish people and impose conditions. There are two aspects to that, which the noble and learned Lord identified in his speech, so beautifully read by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, even though it is so late: first, that the code of practice is complied with and, secondly, that there is consistency throughout the country in relation to the application of out of court disposals. I would be very interested to hear what the Minister has to say on how that point will be dealt with. We support the amendment proposed by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd.

I also agree with Amendments 170, 171 and 190, which seek to ensure that a person may be authorised to give a discretionary or community caution only if they have been authorised by a prosecuting authority for those purposes and a prosecuting authority must be satisfied that that person has received adequate training and is suitable to carry out those functions. Amendment 190 is a consequential amendment on that. I support these amendments and am very interested to hear what the Ministry of Justice has to say about them. I cannot think that it would not agree with this; some level of quality must be required for somebody who is going to give that caution.

Finally, the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, made points to the effect that this will be more expensive. He did not mention, because he is too kind—or he may have done, but I missed it—the additional £13 million that the Commons paper identifies for the cost of introduction, in addition to the £105 million and £15 million. We are going to spend all this money to achieve no greater victim satisfaction and without any evidence that it reduces reoffending. Why?

Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, the amendments we are talking to cover a little area and I will take them in turn if I may. I start with Amendments 170, 171 and 190. They remove the authority of a constable or investigating officer to be able to give a diversionary or community caution and in turn propose a set of preconditions that require that a prosecution authority be satisfied of the suitability, capability and training of a person before they are designated to issue a diversionary or community caution.

The position at the moment is that cautioning is mostly but not, it is fair to say, exclusively carried out by police constables. Cautioning by police dates back nearly 100 years and the police have become experienced in the application and use of cautions. At the moment, there are statutory restrictions around the use of simple cautions by the police and an existing statutory framework for their use of conditional cautions.

The framework provides a role for the DPP to authorise the use of cautions in particular circumstances. Police and prosecutors share responsibility for dealing with out of court disposals. The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, already knows this, but where police decide that an indictable-only offence should be dealt with by means of an out of court disposal, the case must be referred to a prosecutor to determine whether there is sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction and that it is in the public interest to deal with the case in this way.

These clauses do not change the approach set out in the director’s guidance and we believe this provides a necessary safeguard to the use of cautions for more serious offences. We believe that the police should be empowered as professional decision-makers, while being given clear statutory guidance as to the use of cautions. The question of the adequacy of training to fulfil those functions, which underpins these amendments, is really one for the policing authorities.

In that regard, coming to the point made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, we believe that the code of practice is the appropriate place to set out any safeguards, checks and balances that should be in place before any caution under the new two-tier framework is given.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

What is the method of scrutiny of that code of practice by Parliament?

Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar (Con)
- Hansard - -

I will come to that point. I will try to answer that question, but if I do not, I know the noble and learned Lord will remind me. However, I think I will come to it. I was just making the point that there will be safeguards, checks and balances under the new two-tier framework, an example of which may be a review by an officer of a higher rank before a decision to issue a caution is made.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Debate between Lord Wolfson of Tredegar and Lord Falconer of Thoroton
Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Wolfson of Tredegar) (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I rise to respond to an amendment about pet theft, but I will start by saying a few words about amendment theft. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, stole some of the Committee’s time to give us a lecture about the rule of law. I regard the rule of law as a matter of supreme importance, but let us remember what it is and is not.

First, it is not a law; it is a constitutional principle. Secondly, we can have a debate about the scope of the rule of law. The rule of law as adumbrated by Lord Bingham, for example, has a different scope from that set out by Lord Justice Laws in his book; there are different views as to the breadth of the rule of law. But everybody agrees that one has to abide by the law as set out by a court. There was no court in the circumstances set out by the noble and learned Lord. The only court involved is the court of Parliament and, with great respect, the other place was quite within its rights both legally and, I suggest, morally to set out its own procedures.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Do I understand the Government’s position to be that there is no element of the rule of law engaged in complying with the court of Parliament, and in particular the requirements of Parliament?

Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar (Con)
- Hansard - -

What happened today was Parliament complying with the rules of Parliament, because ultimately Parliament regulates itself. That is how it works. The phrase “rule of law” in the normal sense means a Government or an Executive abiding by the rule of a court. The only relevant court here is the court of Parliament.

However, I now turn to pet theft. I am sure we will come back to the rule of law, and perhaps the human rights issues, when we discuss the Judicial Review and Courts Bill. On pet theft, I thank the noble and learned Lord for tabling this amendment. As he set out, on this point there is actually very little between us. The topic of pet theft caused some consternation in the other place, and—again I agree with the noble and learned Lord on this—quite rightly so. Pets should not be seen as just property; that is at the heart of this issue. Pets are cherished members of the family, so it is right that we take time to consider, as the Government are doing, what measures we can and should take to tackle this abhorrent behaviour.

The Government’s Pet Theft Taskforce reported on its findings in September. It recommended a number of measures to address this crime, including a new offence of pet abduction. Your Lordships might ask why we should create such an offence when a simple pet theft offence might suffice. In that regard, I note that the noble and learned Lord’s amendment in large part mirrors the wording in the Theft Act 1968. However, I suggest to the Committee that we need to reconsider how pets are treated in law, because they are not just possessions or chattels. Therefore, I respectfully suggest that the wording of the Theft Act is inapt; it does not encompass the issue sufficiently. As the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville, set out, that is particularly the case now we have seen so many cases of pet theft during the Covid period. We recognise that animals should therefore be treated as more than property. We are already bringing forward legislation to crack down on puppy smuggling and other cruel crimes, and I hear the points made by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig of Radley, and my noble friend Lord Attlee.

In the new offence of pet abduction, we will seek to bring into focus not merely the taking of a piece of property or a chattel but the impact on the animal and its welfare when a stranger takes a pet away from its carer. This new offence, alongside the other recommendations from the task force, will make it harder for thieves to abduct and sell pets, make it easier for the police to catch them, and ensure that any welfare concerns can be appropriately reflected in the punishment given to offenders.

I will pick up two shorter and, I accept, more minor points which are relevant to this issue. First, the noble and learned Lord’s consequential amendment expands the scope of Section 17 powers under PACE. That section allows a constable to enter and search premises for the purpose of arresting a person for specified offences, and the amendment would include the new pet theft offence in that. We suggest that this is unnecessary. Because the amendment proposes to make the offence triable either way, the Section 17 powers would already be available.

Secondly, the noble and learned Lord has tabled an amendment in respect of Scotland. The Committee will be aware that crime and justice are devolved. Therefore, it would be for the Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament to consider whether they wanted a specific offence under the distinct operation of Scots law.

Coming back to the main issue, the Government have announced that they will take appropriate action. I am afraid I cannot put a date on that today, but I hear the strength of feeling on this issue. The Government have made their intentions clear, and I hope that, whatever future debates we may have on the rule of law, the noble and learned Lord will withdraw his amendment.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Are the Government intending to table an amendment to this Bill to deal with pet theft?

Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar (Con)
- Hansard - -

I cannot commit to that, but, as I say, I have heard the strength of feeling and what the noble and learned Lord has said on this topic. I am sure we can have future discussions on this point.

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, we have witnessed a rather remarkable half an hour in the House where an overwhelming case was made. I pay a special tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman. I thought her case was overwhelming until I heard the noble Baronesses, Lady Brinton and Lady Cumberlege. I then thought, “Goodness me, there are more reasons than those which the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, has given.” My mind then moved to the possibility of legal difficulties and whoosh, the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, came in and dealt with them all.

What is the reason for not doing this? The noble Lord, Lord Pannick, gave two possible reasons. He dealt with what might be the arguments in relation to the breadth of the amendment, and I completely agree, but if the Government have some good reasons for why this amendment should be changed, I am sure that the House will deal with them. The other reason given was the Law Commission. As the person responsible for the Law Commission over a long period of time, over 50% of its reports never see the light of day. It takes a long time to get there.

I ask myself another question. Can you imagine any provision or suggestion that the Law Commission would make which would cut across this amendment? I cannot. I would expect the noble Lord—sadly not the noble and learned Lord—the Minister, to give reasons why this will not happen, because like the noble Baroness, Lady Cumberlege, I was encouraged by the extract that she read of what sounded to be an incredibly understanding speech by Victoria Atkins in the other place, which was then dashed. The Law Commission is manifestly not a legitimate excuse. It should be treated with utter contempt if it is advanced as a reason. From the point of view of the Government, the work has been done by the campaigners, Stella Creasy and the crack squad of amenders that we have just heard from, so it costs the Government nothing to put it into the Bill. There will be some additional costs to the criminal justice system, and the police will deal with a number of cases, though I suspect not many, so there is not much public expenditure. The question for the Minister is: why not?

Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Attlee indicated that I should come along quietly. I am not going to do that; however, I hope that I will come along realistically and clearly in setting out the Government’s position. There is no dispute in this Committee that the behaviour we are talking about is absolutely abominable and indefensible. I therefore appreciate why a proposed new clause on this distressing subject of breastfeeding voyeurism has been tabled for debate. I start by expressing my unequivocal support for the mothers who have experienced this sort of appalling behaviour.

As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, said, we have heard a number of really outstanding speeches, some of which were very personal in terms of people’s history and families. I respectfully endorse the point made by the noble Baronesses, Lady Hayman and Lady Brinton, that this is not just a matter of protecting privacy or preventing distress; it is also important because we want to promote the very real benefits of breastfeeding. I take all the points made in that regard on board; I also take on board the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Jolly, on the bonding time—the quiet time, if I can put it that way—that breastfeeding provides. On whether breastfeeding also benefits fathers because we do not have to get up at night, on that I will—if, as a Minister in a UK Government, I am allowed to dip into a foreign legal system for a moment—plead the fifth amendment.

To pick up a point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, I assure the Committee that, depending on the specific circumstances, it may be possible—I underline “may” because I accept that it will not be possible in all circumstances—to capture this sort of disgusting behaviour under some existing offences, including public order offences and offences dealing with harassment and stalking, along with the common-law offence of outraging public decency. However, this is not a complete answer; I do not put it forward as such. We recognise that the law in this area is not always clear, and that consideration should be given to improving it. That is why we asked the Law Commission to review the law around the taking, making and sharing of intimate images without consent, to identify whether there are any gaps—or, rather, what the gaps are—in the scope of protection already offered to victims. The review looked specifically at voyeurism offences and non-consensual photography in public places, including whether the recording and sharing of images of breastfeeding should be included in the scope of “intimate” images for the purposes of any reformed criminal law.

However, a change in the law here will not be straightforward. I will explain why in a moment. With an amendment such as the one moved by the noble Baroness, there may be a variety of situations in which it is still not an offence to take a picture of a person breastfeeding. That is why the Law Commission’s review is looking into intent, the definition of “image” and other circumstances relevant to this issue. As the Committee is already aware, the Law Commission’s work has gone at some pace. It obviously has an important eye for detail; that is why it is there. It intends to publish its recommendations by the spring of next year, so we are certainly not trying to kick this ball into the long grass. We are proactively considering what more can be done to tackle this behaviour and protect mothers now, ahead of the Law Commission’s recommendations for reform of the law in this area.

However, I respectfully disagree with the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, that this issue is clearly defined in her amendment. I want to pick up on the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, if I may; we have had the benefit of some discussions. A number of points look like drafting points but are not, because they really go to the question of the scope of the proposed amendment and what it is seeking to encompass. Let me give a couple of examples, without turning the Committee into a legislative drafting session. Here is example A; I will try to use the initials from the amendment. A takes a photo of his wife, partner or girlfriend on a beach in her bikini, intending to use that image for his own sexual gratification. Another woman, B, is on the same beach, breastfeeding her baby, and is unintentionally caught by A in the picture. I heard what the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, said, but I respectfully suggest that this would be caught by the proposed amendment. A would have no defence as, first, he intended the picture for sexual gratification and recorded the image for that purpose. Secondly, he would have no defence of consent by B because B did not consent. A would also not be able to have the second defence of reasonably believing that she was giving consent because he had no idea at all that she was in the picture.

That is one example, but this goes further than drafting. Let us say that A was aware that B was caught in the background of the photo but was not aware that she was breastfeeding. Again, A would not be able to say that B had consented or that he reasonably believed that she had consented. Further, would an image of someone breastfeeding that did not actually include the act of breastfeeding—for example, a photograph capturing only a breastfeeding mother’s face—be captured under this amendment? What parts of the body, if I can put it that way, would we require the image to capture? As the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, explained, this is different from the upskirting offence because the law there condescends to particular parts of the body that must be captured in a photo. Would we wish to capture images taken of breastfeeding regardless of whether it is in a private, semi-private or public setting?

I underline to the Committee that I do not raise these matters as drafting points or to be difficult. On the contrary, it is because this issue is so important that we must get the nature, boundaries and scope of the offence absolutely correct.

Lord Pannick Portrait Lord Pannick (CB)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Does the Minister accept that his second potential problem would easily be dealt with by a drafting amendment to make it clear that the offence relates to a photograph or video of a breast? It would not be difficult to draft that. In relation to his first concern, which, as I understood it, was that if someone takes a photo of their wife or girlfriend breastfeeding for the purpose of sexual gratification and there is some other woman in the background—oh, I am sorry, have I misunderstood?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Before the Minister answers that question, does he not also agree that we have perhaps seven or eight weeks before we get to Report, so the pettifogging points he is making could plainly be dealt with if we all sat round a table and agreed a draft?

Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar (Con)
- Hansard - -

In drafting legislation, the first thing we need to do is make sure that we agree on the nature and scope of the amendment. I have tried to make it clear that I am not putting these points forward as pettifogging points of drafting. There are important points underlining this about what we want the amendment to cover. I do not know whether the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, was about to rise again; should I give him an opportunity to do so?

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Debate between Lord Wolfson of Tredegar and Lord Falconer of Thoroton
Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Wolfson of Tredegar) (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, perhaps I should first begin by apologising to the noble Lord, Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames, for standing up at the same time as him. I am not sure whether I stood up too quickly or the noble Lord stood up too slowly, but we got there at the same time.

This group of new clauses relates to primary carers in the criminal justice system, and first I thank the right reverend Prelate and noble Lords for tabling these amendments. I know they were proposed in a recent legislative scrutiny report on the Bill by the Joint Committee on Human Rights, and this topic has been an area of interest to the Joint Committee during this and previous Parliaments. As set out during debates on the Bill in the other place, the Government support the principle behind these amendments. I hope, therefore, I will be able to provide to the House the reassurance that the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew, asked for. I can assure the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, that we do take these points very seriously. More generally, I can assure the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, that when it comes to our sentencing reforms, we do consider the impact on children. However, the reason the Government do not propose to accept these amendments is that they do not consider them to be necessary, for reasons I will seek to explain.

When sentencing or considering the grant of bail to a defendant who is a primary carer of a child or who is pregnant, courts will consider principles established in relevant case law. There is a wealth of case law on this point. We have heard the contribution from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, and I am reluctant to get into the details of criminal law in his presence. But it can perhaps be conveniently found in a case called R v Petherick in 2012—let me give the reference for Hansard: “EWCA Crim 2214”.

In that case, a single mother with a boy of 16 months was convicted—she pleaded guilty—of causing death by dangerous driving and driving with excess alcohol. The court set out nine points of specific and clear guidance—nine principles—which had to be taken into account with regard to sentencing. If I may summarise those in a sentence or two with no disrespect to the court, they make clear that the aims of custody have to be balanced against the effect that a sentence can have on others. That is the case both with regard to sentencing and with regard to pretrial detention. When I say, “on others,” this point is not limited to children, as a number of contributions to this debate have highlighted—particularly those from my noble friend Lord Hailsham, the noble Baroness, Lady Jolly, and, again, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas. It does have broader application, and the court will obviously want to consider the effect of custody or pretrial detention on others who are dependent on the person who might go to prison. This is a point, therefore, with more general application.

I have talked about sentencing and remand in custody. When it comes to sentencing, the principles I have just set out, in broad terms, are reflected in detailed sentencing guidelines issued by the independent Sentencing Council. Courts are required by law to follow those guidelines, and the guidelines specify that being a “Sole or primary carer for dependent relatives” is a mitigating factor when sentencing an offender. The effect, therefore, is that the fact that the primary carer is such can tip the scales. What would otherwise have been a proportionate sentence if it was a sentence to custody can, if the person is a primary carer, become disproportionate. It can tip the scales.

As we heard from my noble and learned friend Lord Garnier, to whom I am grateful for his kind words, recorders and judges give—to use his word—anxious consideration as to whether a custodial sentence is required. Again, the position in law can be summarised like this: a custodial sentence can be imposed only where the court is satisfied that an offence, or combination of offences, is so serious that neither a fine alone nor a community sentence can be justified. Even where a court is of the opinion that the seriousness of an offence would ordinarily warrant a custodial sentence, it still has discretion to impose a community sentence after taking into account wider considerations. Community sentences are part of the important background to this debate. I think we will come to them later on in the Bill and I look forward to the thorough endorsement of the noble Lord, Lord Marks, of our proposals on community sentences, given what he said in this debate. That is the position with regard to sentencing.

On defendants awaiting trial, there is a general right to bail unless it is necessary for the protection of the public or the delivery of justice that the defendant be remanded in custody. A defendant accused of an imprisonable offence can be refused bail only where there is specific justification for that refusal, as specified in legislation. A number of noble Lords talked about the information which is available to the court about the personal circumstances of the defendant. The bail information report includes information about the direct effects on an individual and any dependants, should they be remanded in custody.

With regard to pre-sentence reports, which were also mentioned, guidance was introduced in 2019 for probation practitioners, in addition to the legislation already in place, which sets out that a request to the court for an adjournment in order to prepare a pre-sentence report is considered mandatory in cases involving primary carers with responsibilities for children or other dependants, and for those at risk of custody. An aide-memoire highlighting key areas for practitioners to consider when assessing the diverse needs of women in the context of offending was also issued in 2019 to assist probation practitioners to prepare those pre-sentence reports on women. We are currently running a pilot in 15 magistrates’ courts that specifically targets female offenders, as well as two other cohorts which have specific needs, for fuller written pre-sentence reports.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, spoke about the importance of the courts giving reasons why they were refusing bail, for example, or sentencing somebody to custody. That duty is, with respect, unnecessary to impose on courts because they are already required by law to state in open court their reasons for deciding on a sentence. Moreover, where there are dependent children, sentencing guidelines, as I have said, require the courts to consider the impact on them at various points in the sentencing process. That is the effect of Section 52(1) and (2) of the Sentencing Code.

I turn to data, about which the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, my noble and learned friend Lord Garnier and the noble Lord, Lord Bradley, made points. I underline the point again from the Dispatch Box that data is critical. My noble and learned friend was very kind, but the fact is that I am quite keen on data. I am not the only person in the Government who is, but I certainly am.

I assure the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, that we have already committed to improving our work on data collection concerning primary carers in prison. That work is already under way. We already collect information on parental responsibilities but the current questions do not identify dependent children of primary carers using the correct definitions. We are therefore making changes to the questions to enable us to identify prisoners with primary carer responsibilities on their entry to prison, and to enable access to that information centrally—a point made, I think, by the right reverend Prelate.

We are already looking at how we can deliver our commitment to improve national data collection through changes to what is called the basic custody screening tool. That is completed shortly after somebody goes into prison and we want to capture more robust and reliable data on parental responsibilities. Responding to earlier reports from the Joint Committee, the Government have committed to collecting more data centrally and using that to inform policy and improve our services for prisoners with primary caring responsibilities.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The first report of the Joint Committee on Human Rights in 2021 details in section 2 the concern expressed by the committee in 2019 that there was no data about carers who were in prison. The Government gave an assurance that they would do something about it in 2019. The committee produced another report in 2020, saying “You’re still not collecting that material”, and a Minister gave another assurance. In 2021, the committee wrote a third report—this report, containing these suggestions—saying that none of the previous assurances has been complied with. Why should we accept the assurances the Minister is now giving in relation to the 2021 report, when all previous assurances given to that committee have not been complied with, as detailed by the committee in its report, and as the Ministry of Justice has not denied?

Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar (Con)
- Hansard - -

Work still has to be done, of course, but I hope that the noble and learned Lord will accept that we are doing more than we have done before. As I have tried to explain, we have put in place a process to identify what we need to collect and how we are going to do it. One must also take into account—the noble Lord who made this point will forgive me for not remembering who did so—that it can be difficult to get this information from people in prison. Some people do not want to provide information about dependent children and others who rely on them. I am not using that as an excuse, but one has to be alive to that point as part of the data collection service. All I can say to the noble and learned Lord is that I have this firmly in my sights. In this part of the criminal justice system, as, I would say, in others, data is really important and I am certainly focused on it.

I was going to make one other point on data, which I hope the noble and learned Lord will be pleased to hear. We will also consider not just the collection of data but what data can be published. It might be that not all data we collect can be published because of confidentiality issues, but we will certainly ensure that we publish what we can.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

This is a separate point. Amendment 215 would require the court to

“make inquiries to establish whether the offender is a primary carer for a child”

and, if it discovers that the defendant is, to then order a pre-sentence report about the circumstances of that child and the impact. Is the Minister asserting that that provision is currently in the sentencing guidelines?

Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar (Con)
- Hansard - -

I hope I made that clear earlier; let me go back to my notes. I do not want to mislead the noble and learned Lord. As I understand it, the position is this: guidance was introduced in 2019 for probation practitioners, in addition to the legislation in place, which sets out that a request to the court for an adjournment in order to prepare a pre-sentence report is considered mandatory in cases involving primary carers with responsibility for children or dependants. The noble and learned Lord shakes his head—

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am not disputing what the Minister says, but I read him as saying that that position is not reflected in guidance. He is saying something different: that if somebody asks for an adjournment to make inquiries, one has to be granted. That is obviously different from the amendment.

Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar (Con)
- Hansard - -

I was going to come to the detail of pre-sentence reports a little later. Let me come to that and if the question is still alive, I will give way again.

I think I had completed what I was going to say about data, apart from one point. The right reverend Prelate asked about pregnancy data. In the time I have had available, I have been able to get the following response, but I am obviously happy to continue the conversation. In July this year, we published a national figure—for the first time, as I understand it—for self-declared pregnancies in the women’s estate and the total number of births that took place during the period in three categories: prisons, transit and hospital. That is found in the HMPPS Annual Digest. I do not know whether that has fully answered the question from the right reverend Prelate on specific data. If it has not, I am very happy to continue the discussion.

Royal Commission on the Criminal Justice System

Debate between Lord Wolfson of Tredegar and Lord Falconer of Thoroton
Tuesday 6th July 2021

(2 years, 9 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, the last point the noble Baroness made is absolutely right; I sought to make it earlier. Of course, the priorities for the royal commission need to be prioritised and perhaps added to in light of the impact of the Covid pandemic. That will obviously include the effect on the prison estate as well.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, there have been three Questions in your Lordships’ House to the Ministry of Justice in the last two weeks: on inaccessible child trust funds, difficulties about marriage law, and now the criminal justice system. In all three areas, Members of your Lordships’ House described the talk from the Ministry of Justice and then the doing of nothing. On criminal justice, the Chief Inspector of HMCPSI described the pre-Covid backlog as “unacceptable”. A few days ago, the Lord Chancellor apologised for the massive reduction in rape prosecutions. A few days before that, the chair of the Bar Council said that unless the Government commit urgently to massive investment in the criminal justice system, the backlog will get worse. There is currently a backlog of 59,000 cases in the Crown Court. When will that backlog be dealt with, and what additional investment will be put into the criminal justice system to deal with it?

Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, the noble and learned Lord raises three issues. Child trust funds were set up under a Labour Government and, as the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, pointed out to this House, no thought whatever was given to the impact of the legislation—the Mental Capacity Act—on people’s access to those funds, so we are sorting that out. Marriage law goes back to 1847. The Law Commission is looking at it, and we are sorting that out as well. A few weeks ago, I laid before the House regulations to enable people whose marriages had been delayed to get married outdoors this year. The criminal justice system is in the middle of a pandemic, and we are responding to that as well. The noble and learned Lord is, with respect, quite wrong to lump these three quite disparate matters together.

Marriage and Religious Weddings

Debate between Lord Wolfson of Tredegar and Lord Falconer of Thoroton
Monday 28th June 2021

(2 years, 9 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I respectfully agree with the noble and learned Baroness that, in seeking to update marriage law, we must ensure that we do not weaken forced marriage safeguards. Indeed, we criminalised that in 2014. I know that the Law Commission is looking at these issues most carefully.

Can I just clarify my previous answer, before the Advocate-General for Scotland has a go at me? When I said “this country”, I was referring to the law of England and Wales; the law of Scotland is a separate matter.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the 2015 review by the noble Baroness, Lady Casey, said that, as of 2015, there were up to 100,000 sharia marriages in the UK,

“many of which are not recognised under UK laws and leave women without full legal rights upon divorce.”

Her review warned that this was worrying in a group with lower levels of female employment and English language. Crucially, the noble Baroness said:

“The potential for women … to find themselves in what they believe to be a binding commitment, be economically and socially dependent on their spouse, and yet have no legal marriage status, is worryingly high.”


The Minister said that this issue is a very high priority. That report was six years ago. When did it become a high priority and what have the Government done in those six years?

Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, the noble and learned Lord knows that it is a high priority, because this is one of the issues that both the Law Commission and the Nuffield Foundation are looking at. We have also looked at the sharia review. As I have said, our position is that we want to make sure that people are properly protected, though I would suggest that it is as much a matter of education as it is of legislation.

Child Trust Funds: People with a Learning Disability

Debate between Lord Wolfson of Tredegar and Lord Falconer of Thoroton
Tuesday 22nd June 2021

(2 years, 9 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I will pick up the noble Baroness’s second point first. As the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, explained on a previous occasion, regrettably, no thought was given when these funds were set up to people who could not access them because of mental incapacity. That is why we are having to deal with the point now. We do encourage people to make lasting powers of attorney, for example. The important fact is that we want to encourage young adults and their parents to be aware in advance of the legal position that the young adult will be in when they turn 18; it is a fundamentally different position from the one they were in the day before their 18th birthday.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is clear that a lot of people will be prejudiced by the delay. From the Minister’s answers, I take it that the Government have decided to legislate. Why can they not legislate before December?

Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, we have decided to consult, and that is a very important point. It should not be thought that there is nothing, so to speak, on the other side of the argument. I have received representations from third sector organisations that are very concerned that people with disabilities should retain the protections that the Mental Capacity Act, in which the noble and learned Lord played such an important part, gives them. The consultation will ask for views on how we balance these important, but sometimes opposing, principles.

Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill

Debate between Lord Wolfson of Tredegar and Lord Falconer of Thoroton
Lord Thomas of Gresford Portrait Lord Thomas of Gresford (LD) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, Clause 48 deals with the extent of the Bill. It provides that

“A provision of this Act which amends, repeals or revokes an enactment has the same extent within the United Kingdom as the enactment amended, repealed or revoked.”


Under subsection (2), provisions that do not amend, repeal or revoke an existing enactment extend to all four nations—England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland—save for two limited exceptions, in that Clauses 21(2) and 44(2) are of a limited nature, referring to retrospectivity.

It is not easy to extract the purpose of Amendment 26. Someone in the Ministry of Justice has concluded that there are problems under the Armed Forces Act 2006. Proposed new subsection (4A) suggests that, in the context of jurisdiction under the Armed Forces Act 2006, all the provisions of the Bill extend to all four countries. This is so even if an amendment repeals or revokes a provision of an existing Act that does not have that extent.

Under proposed new subsection (4B), the provisions of the Act extend outside the United Kingdom to the extent set out in Section 384(1) and (2) of the Armed Forces Act. That section applies to the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man and overseas territories excluding Gibraltar. British Overseas Territories do not include Cyprus, Belize or Gibraltar itself, which is specifically excluded. Those are all venues where I, as chairman of the Association of Military Court Advocates, know that courts martial take place.

Those are three places, and I am sure there are more, where courts martial take place—not to mention Germany, where the facilities have ceased. Courts martial can, of course, take place anywhere in the world, if properly constituted, and if charges for service offences are brought against anyone who is subject to the Armed Forces Act.

Terrorism exists outside the overseas territories. I would very much welcome clarification as to what happens if a court martial is held outside the United Kingdom, but not within those overseas territories to which the Armed Forces Act applies. I cannot help feeling that I am missing something, but the statement attached to the amendment is not at all clear—even though it states that the purpose of the amendment is to clarify the position. I look forward to the Minister doing so.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I endorse the question so clearly put by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford. Despite the clear explanation given by the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson of Tredegar, I am still struggling with this amendment. Can he tell us the sort of problem that proposed new subsection (4A), which Amendment 26 seeks to insert into the Bill, tries to deal with? What is the lack of clarity with which he was concerned? Can he also indicate whether there are any implied provisions put into the Armed Forces Act by this Bill?

Proposed new subsection (4C)(a) specifies:

“a provision made, or inserted, by or under this Act so far as it is applied (by whatever words) by or under the Armed Forces Act 2006”.

Can he indicate what sort of provision that is aimed at? I would find it really helpful, in relation to proposed new subsections (4A) and (4B), to have an example of a problem that these two provisions would solve.

Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar (Con)
- Hansard - -

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, for their contributions and questions. The position, so far as I can assist the House now, is that the amendment ensures that the provisions of the Bill which amend, modify or are applied by the Armed Forces Act 2006 have the same extent as that Act. That Act extends to the UK, Isle of Man, and British Overseas Territories, excluding Gibraltar, and can be extended to the Crown dependencies.

The Armed Forces Act 2006 is the main piece of primary legislation that establishes a service justice system. It uses a modified form of sentencing law of England and Wales for sentences imposed by the court martial, as the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, stated. The burden of the amendment is to ensure that the Armed Forces provisions in the Bill have the same extent as the Armed Forces Act 2006. This would ensure, therefore, that there is a correlation of the area over which the provisions apply.

On the specific question from the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, on what would happen outside the territories covered by the Armed Forces Act, I am conscious that I would probably be straying into MoD territory rather than MoJ territory. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, will allow me to write to him on that so he gets an accurate and complete answer.

As to the point raised by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, on whether there is an implication in the Bill that is caught by proposed new subsection (4C), perhaps I can send him a letter on that, rather than risk getting the answer wrong, I am tempted to say that these are standard words used in Acts of Parliament about what is implied, but I understand the burden of his question and, if he will permit me, will send him a written response. I hope that I have responded to the points put to me and I commend this amendment to the House.

Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill

Debate between Lord Wolfson of Tredegar and Lord Falconer of Thoroton
Committee stage & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Tuesday 9th February 2021

(3 years, 2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill 2019-21 View all Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill 2019-21 Debates Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 129-II Second marshalled list for Committee - (4 Feb 2021)
Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames. He has covered much of the area with which I am concerned in these sensible probing amendments. The next amendment, Amendment 20, which talks about piloting polygraph tests in this area, deals in effect with the same concerns.

My understanding of the position that the Government are advancing is that we are now concerned only with England and Wales because they deleted the Scotland and Northern Ireland provision that was there before. In effect, they are applying the principles in the Offender Management Act 2007 on polygraph tests. Therefore, the first question is: should one put a polygraph condition into the licence conditions of a terrorist offender? As I understand it, a polygraph condition is that the offender has to agree, if asked, to a polygraph. Will it be automatic that such a condition will be imposed for terrorist offenders? What will be the basis on which such conditions will be imposed?

We on this side are very keen that the authorities should have every reasonable tool that they can to try to prevent terrorist offenders, including those who are released on licence. I am keen to probe whether this particular provision contributes to that. As I understand it from the Government’s proposal, the purpose of the polygraph sessions that will be included in the licence condition will be only to monitor the offender’s compliance with the other conditions of his licence or improve the way in which he is managed during his release on licence.

In relation to the first of those two—monitoring compliance with the other conditions of his licence—does that mean that it will be used to see whether he is in fact complying? If he fails a polygraph test, could that be a basis for recalling him to prison on the basis that he has failed to comply with the other conditions of his licence? If it is the Government’s intention not just to rely on the failure of a polygraph test before recalling an offender to prison, where is that reflected in the statute or in the Bill?

In addition to those questions, to what extent is the Minister worried that, if somebody passed a polygraph test, it would lead the authorities not to make further investigations about an offender’s possible breaches of compliance of the conditions of his licence? Additionally, in relation to the second purpose of polygraph testing—namely, to improve the way in which he is managed during his release on licence—can the Minister give us some examples of what that would mean in practice?

Can I deal with the legal use of the answers to polygraph tests? Section 30 of the Offender Management Act 2007—this has already been referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee—says that evidence of

“any statement made by the released person while participating in a polygraph session; and any physiological reactions of the released person while being questioned in the course of a polygraph examination”

cannot be used against that released person for any offence. In answer to my question, that of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and that of the noble Lord, Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames, can the Minister confirm whether that means that those two things can be used in relation to proceedings against somebody else? It would appear from Section 30 of the Offender Management Act 2007 that they could be. Can they be used on their own for recall proceedings, or are recall proceedings simply an administrative act—in which case, the question of whether they can be relied on alone to justify a recall arises?

Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Wolfson of Tredegar) (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, in responding to the amendment and the various points put to me, I will bear in mind and seek to avoid falling into the trap of being one of those “pesky lawyers” that, as the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, reminded us, still exist.

In that regard, let me turn to the substance of the amendments, particularly Amendment 19 put down by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. This amendment seeks to amend Section 30 of the Offender Management Act, which relates to the use of polygraph evidence in criminal proceedings. I understand that the noble Baroness and others may have concerns that evidence gathered from the conduct of polygraph examinations could be used against a third party in a criminal trial. I know that we covered this yesterday in the Domestic Abuse Bill, but I want to take a moment to record my thanks to those in my department who arranged the learning session for a number of noble Lords, including the noble Lords, Lord Marks and Lord Faulks, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. I understand that they found it helpful and informative, which perhaps indicates that those sessions could be used more often. I assure the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and the Committee that it is neither the intention nor the effect of the polygraph testing provisions of the Bill that they will be used in criminal proceedings against third parties.

In response to the specific point put to me by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, we do not harbour any desire to go further than the provisions in the Bill.

Polygraph examinations are now well established as a risk management tool in England and Wales. They have been used successfully, as the Committee has heard, with sex offenders since 2013. In the context of terrorist offenders, which I acknowledge represents a different cohort, they are—if I can put it this way—an additional tool in the toolbox. They will be used, to respond to the point made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, where it is necessary and proportionate to do so as part of the assessment of the risk offenders pose in the community while on licence and how that risk can best be managed.

As I made clear to the noble Lord, Lord Marks, yesterday in the Committee sitting on the Domestic Abuse Bill, Section 30 of the Offender Management Act makes clear that

“any statement made by the released person while participating in a polygraph session; and any physiological reactions of the released person while being questioned in the course of a polygraph examination”

may not be used in criminal proceedings in which that person is a defendant. While that section does not expressly provide for such information to be precluded from use against others in criminal proceedings, which is what this amendment seeks to achieve, I do not believe the amendment to be necessary.

This is because, although there may be circumstances where information obtained through the polygraph test relating to a third party can be passed from probation to the police to make further investigations, the polygraph material would not be suitable for use as evidence in its own right against a third party. Any allegation against a third party would ultimately need to be tested in court. The court would have to consider, among other things, whether the polygraph evidence was admissible in such other criminal proceedings and the effect of the hearsay rule. While that would ultimately be a matter for the judge in the particular case, noble Lords will appreciate the great difficulties that would be presented by the hearsay rule.

The noble Lord, Lord Faulks, said that sex cases are different from terrorism cases. He is of course right, but he was also right to say that what is presented by terrorism cases is a difficult and challenging task. That is why, to use my earlier metaphor, this is another tool in the toolbox which we would like the services to have available to them. In that regard, I can assure Members of the Committee that polygraph testing will not replace any other risk assessment tools or measures, it is an additional source of information that would otherwise not be available. On that basis, I would invite the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, to withdraw the amendment as it is unnecessary.

I turn now to Amendments 19A and 19B, which are tabled in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Paddick. The amendment to Clause 35 would require regulations relating to the conduct of polygraph examinations to be subject to the affirmative procedure. Perhaps I may remind the Committee that we have already tabled our intention to remove Clause 35 from the Bill, alongside Clauses 33 and 34 dealing with the introduction of polygraph testing as a licence condition in Scotland and Northern Ireland, as part of our efforts to secure legislative consent from each Administration. We covered this in the first sitting of the Committee. It does not reflect a change in policy for England and Wales. As I have said, we firmly believe that polygraph testing is an additional and useful tool.

In that regard, polygraph examinations will be used to monitor compliance with licence conditions based on what has happened and will not ask about future behaviour. I think it was the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, who put to the Committee an example of the type of questions that might be asked. She was right to frame those questions in the past tense. A polygraph examiner might ask, for example, “Did you enter those premises?”, if that was something which had been prohibited by the licence conditions. The question would not be, “Are you going to enter the premises next week?” The questions look at what has happened and past behaviour rather than future intent. They are not used as a way of trying to catch offenders out, but as a measure to identify the extent to which the person on licence is complying with the conditions of the licence.

Although I accept, as the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, reminded the Committee, that giving evidence in court can be a stressful experience, it was interesting to note that he pointed out that we have provided special measures for vulnerable witnesses in the Domestic Abuse Bill. As I understood it, he used that as an example of a case where we recognise that giving evidence can be stressful. Of course, we have also provided for the polygraph examination of the perpetrators of domestic abuse in that Bill. Just as it is in the Domestic Abuse Bill, it is also here; it is an additional tool in our toolbox.

I come to a question put to me by the noble Lord, Lord Marks, which I think was repeated by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton: if a person who is subject to a polygraph examination “fails” a question, can they be recalled immediately? There are two parts to the answer and let me give both. First, what do we mean by “failing”? We use the term as a form of shorthand, and the Government factsheets use it because they are written in what we hope is plain English so that members of the public can understand them, but it is not the correct professional term. The correct terminology that is used by examiners in reports is whether there is a significant response or no significant response. That more nuanced term makes it clear that we are not dealing with a question of passing or failing here; rather it is about whether the examination results indicate that the response has been truthful or not.

That is why, coming to the second part of the question, we do not recall offenders to custody on a significant response in itself. In answer to the question put to me by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, that is not in the Bill, but it is firm policy. Therefore, “failure”, a term that the Committee will now appreciate is a form of shorthand, does not by itself or by default trigger a recall. Where it is safe to do so—for example, with the addition of new licence conditions—the offender can continue to be managed in the community. However, if a disclosure is made which indicates that the risk has escalated beyond the point where the offender can be managed safely in the community, they can be recalled to custody.

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The only amendment I would like to mention is Amendment 60, which amends Section 250 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 so that, according to the explanatory statement,

“the Parole Board will set the licence conditions for all prisoners to whom section 247A of that Act applies (restricted eligibility for early release) whose release is directed by the Board.”

Is this dealing with licence conditions where there is no right to early release or with licence conditions where there is a right to early release? If so, what is the effect of the amendment? It is the only amendment in this group that looked as if it might be doing something substantive. If the Minister would like to write to me, I will quite understand.

Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I am grateful for the comments of the noble Lords, Lord Thomas of Gresford and Lord Paddick. In response to the specific point put to me by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, in one sentence, the change is needed to ensure that there was clarity over the authority for setting licence conditions for terrorist offenders, whether serving standard, determinate, extended or other sentences. I shall include an explanation of the amendment in my letter. I hope that satisfies him; if he wants any further information, I would of course be happy to provide it.

Serious Criminal Cases Backlog

Debate between Lord Wolfson of Tredegar and Lord Falconer of Thoroton
Tuesday 26th January 2021

(3 years, 2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, by 2010 the system did 150,000 jury trials a year with about 47,000 waiting, about 30%. The median period between crime and court disposal was 240 days. By the time the pandemic started in March last year, jury trials were down to 100,000 a year with a median delay of 305 days, so fewer trials and longer waits. Now there are 54,000 cases awaiting a jury trial and rising. No one can blame the courts for Covid. The judges, court staff, defence and prosecutors have done bravely and well but the Ministry of Justice has overpromised and underdelivered. It said that there would be 200 Nightingale courts in which jury trials could be done; there are 20. Some 600 people in the last seven weeks have got Covid, from judges to court staff. There is no systematic testing. We have not made the necessary changes to preserve jury trials. What is the target for getting the backlog down and how is it going to be achieved?

Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Wolfson of Tredegar) (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, the noble and learned Lord fails to put this information in context. In the Crown Court, prior to the Covid pandemic hitting in March last year, the outstanding caseload was 39,000, which was well within the range of 33,000 to 55,000 over the last decade. Immediately before the pandemic hit, we had increased the number of sitting days in response to an incoming demand on the courts. He will be aware that we have taken various steps to ensure that delays are minimised. However, I agree with him on one point: that we should pay tribute to the judges, magistrates, jurors, witnesses, victims, lawyers, court staff, CPS staff and, if I may say so, MoJ officials who have made a monumental effort to deliver justice in very challenging times.

Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill

Debate between Lord Wolfson of Tredegar and Lord Falconer of Thoroton
Committee stage & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Tuesday 26th January 2021

(3 years, 2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill 2019-21 View all Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill 2019-21 Debates Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 129-I Marshalled list for Committee - (21 Jan 2021)
Lord Thomas of Gresford Portrait Lord Thomas of Gresford (LD) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I have many reservations about the value of polygraph tests. They rely on measuring several physiological processes—pulse rate, blood pressure, perspiration and so on, the changes that may take place in the course of questioning. However, the emotional and physiological responses recorded may arise from such factors as simple anxiety about being tested or fear of being judged deceptive, or a host of things—perhaps the state of one’s digestion after food. There is an inherent ambiguity in the physiological responses. The reluctance to use polygraph evidence is precisely because the response may mimic the response expected of a person seeking to deceive.

What is meant by “failing” the polygraph test? Failing the test means exhibiting a certain physiological response to a question. What is truth? The examiner cannot know whether that response means that the answer is a lie. However, there is no punishment for failing the test—whatever that means—or for exhibiting that response. That does not breach the terms of the offender’s licence. The individual will not be returned to prison. Alterations may, however, take place in the conditions of his licence, and those could be onerous.

The irony is that, in the course of questioning, the person being questioned may provide information truthfully that will have an adverse effect on him. He has not failed the test because his body does not react to his telling the truth, but he has provided information that may lead to his punishment. He has of course lost his right to silence, a right first developed in the late 17th century as a check to arbitrary rule. It has been regarded over centuries as fundamental to the fairness of the criminal law in this country and in the common-law countries all over the world.

Faced with the terrorist atrocities that we have seen in this country, the loss of the right to silence may seem a worthwhile price. Obviously that is not the immediate view in Scotland, nor in Northern Ireland. Let us face the dilemma: the proposals for England and Wales do not involve imprisonment for a lie but possible imprisonment for telling the truth or, since it is mandatory to answer the questions, even for remaining silent. Faced with legal and moral issues such as this, the drafters of the Domestic Abuse Bill, which is proceeding this week here also, as the Minister will know, decided that it was appropriate to proceed with a three-year pilot before finally rolling out the use of polygraphs generally in that field. Why is a different approach taken in this concurrent Bill?

It is interesting to note that the case studies in the MoJ memorandum on these proposals indicate that the information provided led to warrants being issued and physical evidence obtained in the offenders’ respective homes to contradict what they had said. However, there is no indication how often that has occurred or how many times such activity has proved nothing, and nothing has come of it. Will the Minister deal with that in his reply?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Like the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, I too have considerable doubts about the reliability of polygraph material. This series of government amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson of Tredegar, indicate some degree of shambles on the part of the Government. They are withdrawing the polygraph provisions for Scotland and Northern Ireland. Had they consulted the Scottish Government and the Northern Ireland Executive prior to the initial publication of the Bill, they would have seen what the Scottish Government and the Northern Ireland Executive had to say about them.

In the light of what was said by those two Governments, why did the UK Government introduce these provisions? It is plain from what the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson, is saying that the Scottish and Northern Irish Administrations do not want them. There is a reference to the various provisions that might allow them to introduce them as licence conditions. However, neither of the Administrations have indicated that they want these powers, so why on earth were they introduced in the first place and when was it that the UK Government decided to respect those views? If they did not consult those two Administrations before, why not?

Separate to that, on the use of polygraphs, what advice have the Government sought from police forces in England and Wales? To what extent would those police forces be confident about using polygraph testing?

Moving on, the effect of Amendment 73 would be that Clause 32, which sets out the conditions for polygraph testing for terrorist offenders in England and Wales, would come into force two months after Royal Assent rather than by regulations. Why have the Government reduced the degree of scrutiny available to the introduction of polygraphs by removing the need for regulations? Separately, what provisions are available in the Bill to stop the use of polygraphs if they prove to be ineffective?

Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I am grateful to noble Lords for setting out their various points. I turn first to those made by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas. On the effectiveness of polygraphs, as I said in my introductory remarks, they are used elsewhere in English law in relation to sex offenders. There is therefore a body of evidence as to their utility. On what “failing” means and the consequences of failure, it is important to remember, as I think the noble Lord appreciates, that offenders who are subject to testing cannot be recalled to custody for failing a polygraph test. They can be recalled for making disclosures during the test that reveal that they have breached other licence conditions, or that their risk has escalated to a level at which they can no longer be managed safely in the community.

On the right to silence and other Human Rights Act rights, I am sure that the noble Lord will recall that during the course of the sex offender pilot of the polygraph system, an offender challenged the imposition of testing on Article 8 grounds, but that was rejected by the courts. No further challenges have been made since then and we are therefore confident that this is compliant with the Human Rights Act and the rights contained therein.

On the remark that there is to be no pilot scheme, I will make two points. First, this is not the initial use of polygraphs in English law because they are already used in connection with sexual offences. Secondly, it is unlikely that there will be sufficient numbers of relevant offenders to carry out a pilot that would produce meaningful results.

I turn to the points made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer. It is rather odd to be accused of presiding over a shambles when we have actually listened to the Scottish Government and the Northern Ireland Assembly in our discussions with them. On whether police forces are able and ready to use polygraphs, they are of course already being used in circumstances related to sexual offenders. Therefore, this testing is not entirely new to them. The regulations that will govern polygraph testing have been set out and we do not think that it will be an ineffective tool.

I hope that I have responded to the various points raised. If noble Lords feel that I should provide further information on any of them, they know that we will of course continue to have discussions about these matters.

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, there is a strong connection between the Domestic Abuse Bill and this Bill to the extent that both lie on my desk and I have the honour and privilege of dealing with both in your Lordships’ House. However, they present very different issues. I do not want to talk too much now about the Domestic Abuse Bill, but the structure of that Bill, which encompasses both civil and criminal consequences, is very different—indeed, I might say vastly different—from the subject matter of this Bill, which is extremely serious terrorism offences. If the noble Lord has any particular comments on the interrelationship between the two Bills, I am dealing with them both, as I say, and I am very happy to speak to him further about that. However, that is my response on the particular point that he has raised. My respectful suggestion to your Lordships’ Committee is that the analogy, while tempting, is false.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I am grateful to everyone who has participated in this short debate. I am very grateful to those who have supported my position, particularly the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, and the noble Lord, Lord Marks. Although he did not intend to, I think the noble Lord, Lord Robathan, also supported my position but was very keen to establish how clear-eyed he was. I do not think that people like myself—who are saying that, before a court sentences someone who is under 18, it should have the benefit of a pre-sentence report that asks the question, “Having regard to the person’s age, are there better ways to provide public protection?”—are necessarily that starry-eyed.

I was very hopeful that the Minister would persuade me that I was wrong, but I am not sure that he fully grasped the nature of the amendment. Section 255(1) of the Sentencing Code says that an extended sentence of detention for someone under 18 is available, while Section 255(2) says that the pre-sentence report requirements apply as they normally would in relation to sentencing someone under 18. My proposal is not to change the basis of the sentence; it is to say that, in that pre-sentence report, the pre-sentence reporter should have regard to the question of whether there are alternatives that could provide better public safety. If there are, the pre-sentence reporter should refer to them and the judge should take them into account.

I also agree strongly with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, that in an area like this it is useful for the Secretary of State to consider how well or badly a particular sentence is going so that they consider what should happen to it in future.

I very much hope that the Minister will consider what I have said about what the actual import of my amendment is, because he appeared to be dealing with an amendment that had a different import. I very much hope that he will reconsider his position. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, explained, Amendments 11, 13 and 14 are intended to retain the current release provisions for under-21s sentenced to an extended determinate sentence for a serious terrorism offence. As has been mentioned, the Fishmonger’s Hall and Streatham attacks revealed the devastating consequences of releasing terrorist prisoners too early. In the Bill, we are changing the release arrangements for all offenders convicted of serious terrorism offences to ensure that the most dangerous and serious terrorist offenders serve their full custodial term, essentially for two reasons—first, to reflect the severity of their crimes but, secondly and perhaps more importantly, the intention to preserve lives.

The amendment seeks to draw a distinction in release policy between those aged over 21 and those younger. However, the Bill will introduce changes to release for both adult and youth offenders sentenced for serious terrorism offences. The extended determinate sentence already operates in the same way for adults and youths in every other aspect, and because the nature of the offending and the threat posed is so severe, these changes should align with that pre-existing approach.

For those aged under 18, instances of terrorist acts occur, although, thankfully, they are rare. I shall come back to that point later. Among those under-18s are some who are capable of extremely serious offending and present a real threat to the public. They are the dangerous few youth offenders that these provisions aim to capture. This measure, therefore, is about offenders who have been deemed dangerous by the court. That also means that, when sentencing the offender to an extended determinate sentence, the judge would have already taken into account age and other relevant factors.

In that context, I turn to the points raised by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer. As to the possibility of change, one has to remember that this measure is about public protection and applies only to the most serious young offenders who have committed terrorist offences that carry a maximum sentence of life and have been deemed dangerous by the court.

We are alert to the point on prisoner management and have carefully considered it. There are a number of programmes within prison to make sure that the sentences proposed here do not adversely affect prison management within the institution. Although, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, correctly said, the prisoner is likely to end his sentence as an adult, the fact is that even when sentenced at the time, the nature of the offences mandate the sort of sentence we now propose.

As to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, on radicalisation in the prison system, there are, as my noble and learned friend Lord Stewart pointed out, a number of interventions in the prison system designed to prevent radicalisation. They are extensive. I will not go over the points that he made earlier but I repeat and endorse them. As I said—I said that I would come back to this point—the number of young offenders in this regard who have been radicalised in prison is extremely small. We are alive to the noble Lord’s point, but do not believe that that is a reason not to proceed in the way in which the Bill is currently drafted.

Finally, and only because I wish to reassure the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, that I read all his amendments with extreme care, these seem to be technically defective, given that the wording is to be added after the close of quotation marks and, on the face of it, would appear to apply only to new Section (2A)(iv), and affect only the provisions related to service personnel. However, I hope that I have approached his amendments on their merits. For those substantive reasons that I have set out, I respectfully invite the noble and learned Lord to withdraw or not move his amendments.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson of Tredegar, for the careful way in which he dealt with my amendments. I fully accept and am guilty of the technical error he identified. He was kind to deal with the merits of the three amendments. I very much hope that the Government will reflect on what I and the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, said because it is a considerable mistake to treat the under-21s the same as those who are 21 or over, particularly with regard to public safety. We will return to this matter at a later stage. With the leave of the Committee, I will withdraw my amendment.

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

This is a significant debate. There are two circumstances that one has to consider. First, when one is dealing with a terrorist prisoner who is over 21, should the Parole Board, in the circumstances set out in Clause 27, have the power to direct early release? As I understand it, the effect of the Bill is that in certain specified circumstances early release is not possible for over-21s. Although it is hard, we are dealing with very dangerous situations. I am not sure that we would object to that, but I would like it to be clear: are we dealing in this amendment with the possibility of early release? If we are, then apart from those who are under 21 at the date of conviction, we would not wish to change the provisions of the Bill.

The second situation is where what the Parole Board is being asked to do is to either determine or advise on what the release conditions should be for somebody who is going to be released in any event. In those circumstances it would seem sensible for the expert risk assessors to determine not whether they should be released but what the conditions should be. I would be interested in the Minister’s views on both situations I have posited: one where we are dealing with early release, the other where we are dealing with conditions only.

Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, in this amendment the noble Baroness, Lady Prashar, whose experience in this area is profound, proposes replacing Clause 27 with an amended set of provisions. Certainly as I read them, their effect—and to deal immediately with the point raised by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton—is to provide that all prisoners subject to an extended determinate sentence or a serious terrorism sentence would be eligible for relief by the Parole Board at the two-thirds point of their custodial term. In concept, therefore, this is similar to the intention tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames, which he referred to— we will come to it shortly—as he opposes Clause 27 standing part of the Bill. With this amendment, the noble Baroness goes further: to replace Clause 27 with a new provision. If I may say respectfully, the noble Baroness is correct to identify that without Clause 27 there must be some replacement provision included to provide the legislative authority to release those sentenced to the new serious terrorism sentence.