All 20 Lord Rosser contributions to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022

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Tue 14th Sep 2021
Wed 20th Oct 2021
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Lords Hansard - part two & Committee stage part two
Mon 25th Oct 2021
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Mon 25th Oct 2021
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Lords Hansard - part two & Committee stage part two
Wed 27th Oct 2021
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Lords Hansard - part one & Committee stage part one
Wed 27th Oct 2021
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Lords Hansard - part two & Committee stage part two
Wed 3rd Nov 2021
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Wed 3rd Nov 2021
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Lords Hansard - part two & Committee stage part two
Mon 8th Nov 2021
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Lords Hansard - part one & Committee stage part one
Mon 8th Nov 2021
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Lords Hansard - part two & Committee stage part two
Mon 22nd Nov 2021
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Lords Hansard - part one & Committee stage part one
Mon 22nd Nov 2021
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Lords Hansard - part two & Committee stage part two
Wed 24th Nov 2021
Wed 8th Dec 2021
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Lords Hansard - Part 2 & Report stage: Part 2
Mon 13th Dec 2021
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Lords Hansard - Part 1 & Lords Hansard - part one & Report stage: Part 1
Mon 13th Dec 2021
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Lords Hansard - Part 2 & Lords Hansard - part two & Report stage: Part 2
Tue 25th Jan 2022
Tue 22nd Mar 2022
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Consideration of Commons amendments: Part 1 & Lords Hansard - Part 1

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill Debate

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Department: Home Office

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Lord Rosser Excerpts
Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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I start by saying that our thoughts and good wishes are very much with the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson of Tredegar, who is not able, for unavoidable reasons, to be with us today on the Government Front Bench. I add my congratulations, as so many other noble Lords have done, to the noble Lord, Lord Sandhurst, on his well-received maiden speech. We know that the noble Lord has a great deal to offer your Lordships’ House and we look forward to what we hope will be many more contributions from him.

The Bill has been strongly criticised by many noble Lords in this debate; not least the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, and the Delegated Powers Committee which he chairs, for its extensive use of delegated powers—I think there are 62—that are not open to proper, or any, parliamentary scrutiny and which leave the interpretation of words in the Bill to the Home Secretary and the police. Let me remind your Lordships what the committee said:

“We are surprised and concerned at the large number of inappropriate delegations of power in this Bill … 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”.


The committee went on to say that the Bill would

“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.”

No wonder the DPRRC, and so many noble Lords today, are concerned.

A number of noble Lords have also criticised the Bill for, shall we say, a certain lack of brevity. This 177-clause, near 300-page, 13-part and 20-schedule Bill covers a multitude of different matters for which the Ministry of Justice and the Home Office have primary responsibility.

As my noble and learned friend Lord Falconer of Thoroton said in detailing our 11 areas of concern—which I shall not repeat—there are significant new measures in the Bill with which we profoundly disagree, and significant issues that have been ignored in the Bill. However, as my noble and learned friend also said, there are parts of the Bill which we support. They include, for example, the introduction of the police covenant, for which the Police Federation has long campaigned, and addressing assaults against emergency workers, which should also be extended to key workers such as those in retail.

On the police covenant, there must be more than warm words from the Government. We will be looking to strengthen it, particularly with regard to health, including mental health and trauma, and, crucially, independence. The covenant must be a chance for the police to lead, and government to listen, on the needs of the police workforce.

On retail workers, it is important to recognise that assaults are not just a problem born of the pandemic. Although the pandemic heightened it, this has been a rising problem faced by shop workers for many years. Amendments on this issue had cross-party Back-Bench support in the Commons, and the Government said they would consider the matter and bring forward an amendment in the Lords “if appropriate”.

In a response to the Home Affairs Select Committee, published last week, the Government said they were not complacent on this issue, and repeated their plan to consider it as part of this Bill. They also said that they would “take into account” the text of the Protection of Workers (Retail and Age-restricted Goods and Services) (Scotland) Act, which has recently come into force in Scotland. I pay tribute to the work of Daniel Johnson MSP as the leading Member involved. The Bill was passed unanimously, including with support from the Minister’s own party.

What does the Government “considering” the issue actually mean? What meetings have Ministers held over the summer with business, trade unions and groups, including the British Retail Consortium, on this matter? When is the consideration going to be completed and a conclusion reached? I trust that the Minister will be able to address these points in the Government’s response to this debate.

As I have already said, there are significant new measures in the Bill with which we profoundly disagree. As so many noble Lords have said, the right to protest is a cornerstone of our democracy. Yet the Bill considerably extends the conditions that can be imposed on the exercise of that right of non-violent protest, as my noble friend Lady Chakrabarti reminded us. This is perhaps a government reaction to the aspects of the Extinction Rebellion and Black Lives Matter protests to which Ministers took very public exception.

Just one example of that extension of power is the fact that the Bill makes

“the noise generated by persons taking part”,

if it causes people

“serious unease, alarm or distress”,

a reason for the police to be able to impose conditions. The vague terminology creates a very low threshold to meet, and could be used to seriously limit or rule out peaceful protest. As so many have already said, protests tend to be noisy, because one objective is to attract attention to the cause in question. The Bill then provides for penalties for someone who breaches a police-imposed condition on a protest where they “ought to have known” that the condition existed, which would in effect criminalise even people who unwittingly breach conditions.

Yet in our view the police already have sufficient powers under existing laws to address serious disruption arising from protests that never were, or that have ceased to be, peaceful and legitimate. Those existing powers strike a balance between legitimate rights and the need to keep order, which is not what the deployment of the additional extensive powers being sought in the Bill is likely to do. In our view, the Government have got the balance wrong.

As I think my noble friend Lord Blunkett said, getting words right really matters, and the terminology in this Bill is often vague and open to different and damaging interpretations, not by Parliament but by those to whom the power of definition and interpretation is given. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, said—I hope I quote him accurately—

“We do not know what this Act means”.


There is also a real risk that some community groups who have legitimate concerns and want their voices heard will look at the provisions and powers in this Bill and decide that non-violent protest is potentially too risky for them. That would certainly have serious implications for the concept of policing by consent, apart from on the democratic right to protest peacefully.

Another part of the Bill contains clauses on unauthorised encampments, about which my noble friend Lady Whitaker and many other noble Lords have spoken so powerfully. These clauses create a new offence, backed up by custodial or financial penalties, of residing and—it seems—having an intention to reside on land without consent in or with a vehicle. This offence is clearly targeted at Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities. Under the powers in the Bill, the police can seize and remove property if they “reasonably suspect” that the new offence has been committed, which could mean seizure and removal of a vehicle which is a person’s or persons’ primary residence. The police do not believe that criminalisation of unauthorised encampments will do anything other than make situations worse, and they have said that the shortage of sites to occupy is the real problem that leads to unlawful encampments.

A duty to tackle and prevent serious violence is introduced under the Bill, and we support the intention of the serious violence duty to get every agency working together locally to tackle violence. However, we are concerned that there is no provision in the Bill to safeguard children and that the Government have rejected calls for a new definition of child criminal exploitation. We also want to see it made clear in the Bill that domestic abuse or sexual violence, particularly against women and girls, counts as serious violence. As has been said already, it is a national—not local—issue. This issue is being pursued in particular by the noble Baroness, Lady Bertin, and the noble Lords, Lord Russell of Liverpool and Lord Polak.

We are concerned, too, about data capture elements in the Bill and the sharing of information between agencies including the police. In particular, we want effective protection of victims, not least victims of rape and sexual abuse, from demeaning and often unnecessary intrusion into their lives by the examination of their phone data by strangers, as has been said. We are currently working with the Victims’ Commissioner on these data extraction issues.

Under the Bill, and following their being piloted, serious violence reduction orders would allow police officers with such orders to stop and search people with previous convictions involving an offensive weapon, whether used or being carried at the time of the offence. Frankly, it is hard to believe that such sweeping powers to stop and search such people without the officer having reasonable grounds and without authorisation will reduce serious violence when the evidence shows that it is intelligence-led searches which produce results.

This is a divisive Bill which challenges the continuation of long-standing basic freedoms while failing to address legitimate public concerns about keeping people safe—not least women and girls. As my noble and learned friend Lord Falconer of Thoroton pointed out, this Bill should have been the opportunity to make positive changes to the criminal justice system to better victims’ experience of it and ensure that it works for everyone and to put in place long overdue protections for women and girls against unacceptable violence. Despite the impact of a decade of government cuts to the police and the justice system, that opportunity has been ignored, and instead we have a government Bill that does more to protect statues than women, does nothing to better victims’ experience of the criminal justice system and clamps down on the democratic right to protest. As a result, there will no doubt be many amendments to this Bill put down in Committee and on Report. It now remains to be seen whether there are significant issues of concern about this Bill—which have been expressed today—on which the Government will be prepared to move of their own volition.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill Debate

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Department: Home Office

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Lord Rosser Excerpts
Moved by
21: Clause 7, page 8, line 16, after “violence” insert “and safeguard children involved in serious violence”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would require specified authorities subject to the “serious violence duty” to safeguard children involved in serious violence.
--- Later in debate ---
Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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We now move on to Part 2 of the Bill. The amendments in this group all relate to the issue of ensuring that safeguarding and tackling the criminal exploitation of children is a central part of the duty to reduce serious violence as set out in Part 2, with its duties on specified authorities to collaborate and plan to prevent and reduce serious violence.

There are a considerable number of amendments in this group. Amendments 21, 23, 36, 37, 42 and 43 would require specified authorities subject to the serious violence duty to safeguard children involved in serious violence.

Amendment 24 would require specified authorities to safeguard children involved in serious violence as part of the serious violence duty, including identifying and safeguarding children who are victims of modern slavery and trafficking.

Amendment 25 would require specified authorities subject to the duty to prepare and implement an early help strategy to prevent violence, support child victims of violence and prevent hidden harm. Early intervention is surely crucial to prevent violence before it occurs, and that needs to be in the Bill. Preventive safeguarding activity can be focused on offering support to a child and family through targeted or universal services at the first sign of issues in their lives becoming difficult to prevent them being coerced in activity associated with serious violence.

Amendment 27 would ensure that any children’s social care authority which was not already involved in the strategy would be consulted in the preparation of the strategy.

Amendment 49 would require specified authorities to collaborate and plan to prevent and reduce child criminal exploitation and safeguard affected children.

Amendment 50 introduces a statutory definition of child criminal exploitation. Children who are groomed and exploited by criminal gangs are the victims, not the criminals.

Amendment 52, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Newlove, is a probing amendment. It would require the Secretary of State to prepare and publish a strategy for providing specialist training on child criminal exploitation and serious youth violence.

While we support this part of the Bill, the statutory duty to reduce violence will not work in the way we need it to unless it includes the duty to safeguard children who have been pulled into that violence or are being impacted by it. These amendments would require authorities subject to the serious violence duty to safeguard children involved in serious violence, and would specifically add safeguarding children involved in violence and identifying and safeguarding children who are victims of modern slavery and trafficking as requirements of the serious violence duty. They would make preparing and implementing an early help strategy to prevent violence, support child victims of violence and prevent hidden harm a specific requirement of authorities as part of their serious violence duties and would ensure that any children’s social care authority that, as I said, was not already involved in the strategy to reduce serious violence, would be consulted in the preparation of this strategy.

The amendments on child criminal exploitation would require specified authorities to collaborate and plan to prevent and reduce child criminal exploitation and safeguard affected children, as well as introducing the statutory definition of child criminal exploitation to which I referred. The amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Newlove, to which I have already referred and which we support, would require the Secretary of State to prepare and publish a strategy for providing specialist training on child criminal exploitation and serious youth violence. I will say more about the amendments on child criminal exploitation shortly.

The Bill places a significant and welcome new duty on specified authorities to identify the kinds of serious violence that occur; to identify the causes of serious violence in the area; and to prepare and implement a strategy for exercising their functions to prevent and reduce serious violence in an area. While obviously prison and policing are crucial in terms of justice and bringing to book those who have committed offences, prevention of crime in the first place is the real long-term solution to reducing violent crime and creating a safer and better society. Case studies have shown that, if someone is in care, is vulnerable, has experienced domestic abuse in the home, has parents with addictions or has no parents at all, these are matters that make them more vulnerable to getting involved in violence later in life. If we can intervene at the earliest possible stages, we can have a significant impact not just on the lives of those young people but on society and on the costs to society of high levels of violence.

This part of the Bill is a step in the right direction towards doing that. However, while a public health approach to tackling serious violence that seeks to address the root causes is welcome, creating a statutory public health duty will not deliver if the desired result of reducing the number of children who are harmed by serious violence is not also achieved. An approach for tackling serious violence that does not also help to protect children from harm, does not include the full range of partners and interventions needed and does not consider some of the more structural factors that contribute to violence just will not deliver the desired outcome that surely we all want.

We need a strategy that equips the safeguarding system and the statutory and voluntary services to protect children from harm with the resources and guidance to do so. These amendments make the specified authorities involved in the serious violence duty safeguard children at risk of or experiencing harm and they refer in particular to children involved in serious violence in the area as a result of being a victim of modern slavery and trafficking offences under the Modern Slavery Act 2015.

I repeat that the statutory duty to reduce violence cannot be effective on its own without a statutory duty to safeguard children, as provided for in this group of amendments. Currently, the draft guidance on the serious violence reduction duty does not mention safeguarding. Can the Minister reassure the House that this will be revisited?

Amendments 49 and 50, and the amendment in the lead name of the noble Baroness, Lady Newlove, deal specifically with the issue of child criminal exploitation and are supported by organisations including Barnardo’s and the Children’s Society. Amendment 50 would introduce a statutory definition of child criminal exploitation, putting a recognised definition in law for the first time. It provides that exploitation is where:

“Another person manipulates, deceives, coerces or controls the person to undertake activity which constitutes a criminal offence.”


At the heart of this group is the fact that children and vulnerable young people who are being pulled into violence require a bespoke response that recognises their particular risk factors. I think it is fair to say there is a growing awareness of child criminal exploitation, but it is also irrefutable that, for so many children being exploited, we are failing to identify them and provide support in time to quite literally save their lives. Not only do we need to improve that support, and action at the point of crisis, we need to look at the long-term support required by a child who is traumatised by what they have experienced.

--- Later in debate ---
In summary, I wholeheartedly support the sentiments of all noble Lords. I hope that I have persuaded noble Lords that we do not need these amendments, and that the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, will withdraw Amendment 21.
Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate, and the Minister for the Government’s response. I will, of course, be withdrawing the amendment at this stage and I certainly do not want, at this late hour, to detain the Committee for very long.

I think we are back to the usual issue. As I understand it, the Government do not seem to disagree with the points made in this debate or the concerns expressed. It is just that they do not think that adding things to the Bill, in the way provided for in this group of amendments, will contribute to making the situation better. That, I suppose, is where we have, at the moment, a fairly fundamental disagreement. I will read the Minister’s response on behalf on the Government very carefully in Hansard and reflect on what they have had to say. My feeling at present, which may turn out to be unfair, is that the existing arrangements for safeguarding children and preventing their exploitation by criminal gangs are, frankly, not working as effectively as we want. As I say, I may be being very unfair in saying this, so I will read very carefully what the Minister had to say in Hansard, but the impression I am left with is that the Government believe that the present arrangements are working effectively and no significant change is needed.

Once again, if that is a fair reflection of what the Minister has been saying, there is obviously a fundamental disagreement between us—between everybody who has spoken on this issue, apart from the Minister, and the Government. After all, organisations dealing with the exploitation and safeguarding of children clearly do not hold the view that the present practices and procedures are effective.

I do not want to spend my time reiterating the points I made—that is not the purpose of summing up or responding at the end of the debate—but I do think there are significant differences of view between those of us on this side of the Committee and the Government over the effectiveness of the present arrangements. The Government appear to think that no change is needed, but I simply come back to the point that a statutory duty to reduce violence cannot be effective on its own—and that is what is provided for in the Bill—without a statutory duty to safeguard children also being placed in the Bill. We will need to reflect further on what we do on Report but, in the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 21 withdrawn.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill Debate

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Department: Home Office

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Lord Rosser Excerpts
Lords Hansard - part one & Committee stage
Monday 25th October 2021

(2 years, 7 months ago)

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Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, for raising the issue of medical confidentiality. She said the amendments provide that in exercising the serious violence duty, an authority or individual could not share or be required to share any information that would breach doctor-patient confidentiality as set out in the General Medical Council ethical guidance on confidentiality. One of the amendments would also remove clinical commissioning groups and local health boards from the list of authorities that are subject to the serious violence duty under Part 2 on the prevention, investigation and prosecution of crime.

As has been said, Clause 9 gives the Secretary of State the power to authorise by regulations the disclosure of information by or to a prescribed person, a specified authority or local policing body, an education authority, a prison authority and a youth custody authority. While the Bill states in Clause 9 that such regulations

“must provide that they do not authorise a disclosure of information that … would contravene the data protection legislation”,

that does not relate to a breach of any obligation of confidence owed by the person making the disclosure in respect of which the requirement is only that the regulations “may” provide that such a disclosure does not result in a breach.

Clause 15 on the disclosure of information provides for the disclosure of information but states:

“A disclosure of information authorised by this section does not breach … any obligation of confidence owed by the person making the disclosure”.


Yet, as has been said on more than one occasion today, it is the common-law duty of confidentiality that helps to uphold the trust of patients in health services, which can be extremely hard to gain and extremely easy to lose.

Clause 16, on the supply of information to local policing bodies, states:

“A local policing body may … request any person listed … to supply it with such information as may be specified in the request”,


but

“a person who is requested to supply information … must comply with the request”

and:

“A disclosure of information … does not breach … any obligation of confidence owed by the person making the disclosure”.


That sounds more like a demand than a request. The only caveat is that compliance with the request for information does not require a disclosure of information that would contravene the data protection legislation, although even then

“in determining whether a disclosure would do so, the duty imposed by that subsection is to be taken into account”.

The subsection in question is the one that the person so requested to supply information must comply with the request.

Could the Minister give a couple of examples of what that means in practical terms? What do the words

“in determining whether a disclosure would do so, the duty imposed by that subsection is to be taken into account”

actually mean in hard, practical terms?

Maybe I am wrong, but Clause 16 appears to legally require clinical commissioning groups and local health boards to provide confidential health information to the police, and Clauses 9 and 15 would grant CCGs and LHPs permission to share confidential health information with a wider list of recipients such as councils and educational authorities, as well as the police. Perhaps the Minister will put our minds at rest on this, but on the face of it this appears to introduce a mandatory blanket obligation for clinical commissioning groups and local health boards to share confidential health information with the police, replacing, as has been said, the existing system, which allows healthcare professionals to disclose confidential information on public interest grounds on a case-by-case basis if it is necessary for the prevention, detection or prosecution of serious crime or where there is an imminent risk of serious harm to an individual.

I hope the Minister, speaking on behalf of the Government, can address in her response the concerns that have been raised, and say what safeguards would prevent confidential medical information being inappropriately made available under the Bill, beyond the existing criteria, guidance and procedures for such disclosure in relation to public interest grounds. If the Government are saying—I am not entirely clear whether they are or not—that the present arrangements are not properly working or are no longer appropriate in today’s world, perhaps there is a need for further discussions by the Government on this aspect of the Bill to make sure that we get any change in the law right and maintain what has been referred to in today’s debate as “the right balance”.

We need to know far more about the real reasons for the change the Government are proposing, what its implications are and how it will be interpreted and applied under the terms of the Bill. I, too, hope the Minister will agree to further discussions on this issue in view of the concerns that have been raised and which are certainly worthy of a full and detailed response with examples.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate; it has been incredibly informative. On the last point made by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, about further discussions, and as requested by the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, I am very happy to convene a meeting. On that note, officials have met the GMC to discuss the data-sharing clauses. They have agreed to support the drafting of the statutory guidance and officials have also offered to meet the BMA, but a date has not been fixed. I would like to schedule the meeting that the noble Lord and the noble Baroness request, and it would be great if they would join it.

On the first point made by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, about a police-led approach, in the serious violence duty draft guidance it is writ really quite large that this is not led by one agency or another but is a shared endeavour towards a public health approach. There are two pages on that, and I think the noble Lord might find that really helpful. At this point, I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, for both giving the benefit of his experience and bringing balance to the debate; “balance” seems to be a word quite often used in this debate.

Information sharing between relevant agencies is absolutely essential to the discharge of the serious violence duty. The issue before us is how such information sharing, particularly when it relates to personal data of identifiable persons, is properly regulated, and the scope of any restrictions on data sharing. I recognise that there are concerns, particularly in respect of patient information, and that we need to examine them carefully, but I am also concerned that at least some of these amendments seek to significantly weaken the provisions in Chapter 1 of Part 2. Amendment 54 is a case in point. It would have the effect of removing specified health authorities—clinical commissioning groups or CCGs in England and local health boards in Wales—from Schedule 1 and consequently remove the requirement for such authorities to participate in the preparation and development of local serious violence strategies.

I know that noble Lords would agree that the health sector has a very important contribution to make to local partnership working to prevent and reduce serious violence. The provision of local health data will be necessary to take a comprehensive view of the levels of violence being brought to the attention of services in a local area. Local health services may also be involved in the implementation of local strategies, for example where health-related support services are to be commissioned for those at risk of or involved in serious violence. I therefore do not think that it is appropriate to remove specified health authorities from this part of the Bill.

On the point made by the noble Lords, Lord Paddick and Lord Rosser, I would like to be clear that the information-sharing provisions under the serious violence duty do not place any mandatory requirements directly on GPs, doctors or other practitioners to disclose information that they hold. The power to disclose information in Clause 15 applies to information held by CCGs in England and local health boards in Wales, as they are specified authorities. Local policing bodies can request information under Clause 16 from CCGs in England and local health boards in Wales only when it relates to them, their functions, or functions they have contracted out, and only where that information is for the purposes of enabling or assisting the local policing body to exercise its functions under Clause 13 of the Bill. I think that was the point that the noble Lord, Lord Patel, referred to, unless I am wrong.

Confidential patient information can already be lawfully disclosed in the public interest where that information can be used to prevent, detect or prosecute a serious crime. However, such decisions about whether disclosures of confidential patient data are justified must always be made on a case-by-case basis, in line with data protection legislation, which is also the case for the serious violence duty provisions.

On the common-law duty of confidentiality, the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, about balance was really pertinently made. So many crimes that we can all think of, particularly against children—he mentioned a case that involved children—could have been avoided had practitioners shared relevant information. Existing statutory guidance on the Care Act 2014 already signals specific circumstances where the common-law duty of confidentiality and data protection legislation would not be contravened by the sharing of personal data—for example, where there is an overriding public interest.

Confidentiality can be overridden if there is a necessity—namely, abuse or neglect. Ordinarily, consent should be obtained but, where this is not possible, practitioners must consider whether there is an overriding public interest that would justify information sharing—namely, risk of serious harm. Again, that point was made by the noble Lord, Lord Patel. Confidential patient information can already be lawfully disclosed in the public interest where that information can be used to prevent, detect or prosecute a serious crime. However, such decisions about whether disclosures of confidential patient data are justified must always be made on that case-by-case basis.

I hope that I have provided some reassurance on this matter. As I indicated at the start, I know that there are particular sensitivities about sharing patient information, but, having heard the concerns, I will reflect carefully on this debate and convene the meeting that noble Lords requested ahead of Report. I hope that, with that, the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, will be content to withdraw her amendment.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill Debate

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Department: Home Office

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Lord Rosser Excerpts
Lords Hansard - part two & Committee stage
Monday 25th October 2021

(2 years, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 40-III Third marshalled list for Committee - (25 Oct 2021)
The joke is on me. I was once a government lawyer. I then become a civil rights campaigner and the director of Liberty. I fought big databases and compulsory ID cards. Now look at what I do: I walk around with my personal electronic tag, and I pay for the privilege. In recent days and weeks, we have all read about big tech and the way in which it designs its platforms and serves its profits while undermining not just personal privacy but principles against discrimination—in fact, all the principles of a decent, kind and civil society. I am not suggesting for a moment that the Government intend those outcomes, but having big data collected in one place for whatever good intention is inherently dangerous. It is not just dangerous to medicine, teaching, youth work and our trust in civil society and each other; it will undermine the fight against serious violence, and will undermine law and order and sensible policing.
Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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My Lords, I will be relatively brief, for two reasons. The first is the time. The second is that many of these issues were raised in our earlier debate on medical confidentiality.

The amendments in my name in this group would remove provisions in a number of clauses in this chapter of the Bill, allowing for obligations of confidence and restrictions on the disclosure of data to be breached. They target the same provisions that have already been raised by noble Lords in this debate. At this stage, the intention of my amendments is to probe the intended effect of these powers.

As we have heard, the Bill provides:

“The Secretary of State may by regulations authorise the disclosure of information”


between authorities involved in the serious violence duty. Clause 9(4) provides that those regulations

“may provide that a disclosure under the regulations does not breach … any obligation of confidence owed by the person making the disclosure, or … any other restriction on the disclosure of information”.

Subsection (5) goes on to qualify this somewhat, stating that the regulations must

“not authorise a disclosure of information that … would contravene the data protection legislation”.

However, it then provides that,

“in determining whether a disclosure would do so, any power conferred by the regulations is to be taken into account”.

What restrictions do the Government envisage being breached under the provision for “any other restriction” in Clause 9? What restrictions do they mean? Do these provisions differ from what is in place for existing duties that require joined-up working? The Bill states that the one restriction the regulations are not intended to breach is data protection legislation but, as I have said, it then seems to suggest that this will be qualified by the powers under the Bill. Can the Government expand on that in their response? In what way should

“any power conferred by the regulations”

be taken into account? Can the Minister give some examples?

The sharing of information and the prevention of silo working are, as has been said, vital for tackling crime and for safeguarding purposes. We have heard in previous groups, not least from my noble friend Lady Blake of Leeds on housing provision, what can happen when services are not able to work together to put necessary or urgent support in place. However, the wording in the Bill has given rise to considerable concern in organisations working on these issues, as has been said already. I will not repeat the points already raised but will touch briefly on a few issues before I conclude.

First, one of the key concerns that has been raised by organisations, and which was raised again during the debate this evening, is the erosion of trust that is risked if people feel that private information about them may be passed on in unexpected ways. In particular, there is a risk of young people feeling they cannot build the relationships of trust with social workers, teachers or service providers which are absolutely irreplaceable for preventing violence and keeping those young people safe. Do the Government recognise that risk that breaches of trust risk make it harder to achieve the aim of reducing violence? Who makes the decision about when it is or is not in a young person’s best interest that information is shared, an issue which my noble friend Lady Chakrabarti raised in an earlier debate?

Secondly, later in the Bill, we will spend time debating provisions to protect the privacy of victims of crime. This section explicitly defines

“becoming involved in serious violence”

as including victims of crime. How will these data-sharing provisions impact the victim of crime?

Finally, the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime and the Information Commissioner’s Office have both reported significant problems with the Met’s gangs violence matrix, an existing tool to identify and risk assess individuals involved with gangs. The key issues included the disproportionate inclusion of young black males on the matrix, and data protection, including serious data breaches. What proactive learning has been undertaken from the experience of the gangs violence matrix to prevent the same problems arising again under the provisions of this Bill?

I said I would be brief; I hope I have achieved that. Like other noble Lords, I look forward to the Minister’s reply.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I thank the noble Lord for his brevity and thank the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, and other noble Lords for setting out the case for these amendments. The noble Baroness put forward Amendments 34 and 60 which seek to avoid possible conflicts with competing duties. As the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, said, the arguments put forward in this debate are very similar to those discussed in relation to earlier amendments.

To engender an effective multiagency approach to preventing and reducing serious violence, we need all the relevant parts of the system taking equal responsibility and playing their part. The specified authorities for the serious violence duty, being the police, local authorities, probation, youth offending teams and fire and rescue authorities, clinical commissioning groups in England and local health boards in Wales, have been intentionally chosen because of the direct link between the work they already do and the need to prevent and reduce serious violence. Therefore, I do not feel it is necessary or correct to provide such authorities with the opportunity to be exempted from the serious violence duty, as we expect that it would complement the existing duties of such authorities rather than conflict with them.

I understand that there are wider concerns that this duty may breach other duties of the specified authorities, such as duties of confidence, the point most frequently mentioned, and I will come to address those shortly. However, I think that Amendment 34 would unhelpfully weaken the impact of the serious violence duty.

Similarly, in relation to Amendment 60 to Clause 14, we have intentionally required the initial collaboration between specified authorities and education, prison and youth custody authorities as part of the preparation of the local strategy in order to ascertain whether any such institution ought to be involved in the implementation of the strategy or, indeed, need not be involved, as the case may be. This is a crucial step in ensuring that the institutions which are affected by serious violence will be drawn into the work of the local partnership without placing unnecessary burdens on those which may not. Therefore, I do not think that such authorities should be able to opt out of this consultation, given that it would ultimately be in their interests to engage with the specified authorities at this stage in order to ascertain whether their future engagement in the strategy’s implementation will be required.

I understand Amendment 35 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, to be a probing amendment about the relationship between the serious violence duty and the work of crime and disorder partnerships. I agree that crime and disorder reduction partnerships can and do play a vital role in ensuring community safety and reducing violent crime locally, but I do not think that they are or should be the only partnership model responsible for doing so. Again, the draft guidance makes it very clear in that context. The geographical reach of such partnerships might mean that they are not the optimum partnership model in all areas, which is why we have intentionally built in flexibility to allow local areas to choose the most appropriate multiagency structure to deliver this duty. However, I recognise that they have a key contribution to make to local efforts. That is why, in addition to creating a new duty, we will be amending the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 to include a requirement for crime and disorder reduction partnerships to have in place a strategy for preventing and reducing serious violence. Such a strategy would in any case meet the requirements of the serious violence duty if all relevant partners specified in the Bill are involved in its development and implementation.

The other amendments in this group bring us back to information-sharing. It might assist the Committee if I recap why we have included provision for the disclosures of information. The serious violence duty proposes to permit authorities to share data, intelligence and knowledge in order to generate an evidence-based analysis of the problem in their local areas. In combining relevant data sets, the specified authorities, local policing bodies and educational, prison and youth custody authorities within an area will be able to create a shared evidence base, upon which they can develop an effective and targeted strategic response with bespoke local solutions. Each of the authorities specified in the legislation has a crucial role to play, and it is vital that authorities are able to share their data to determine what is causing serious violence in their local areas. For example, information-sharing can contribute to local efforts by allowing authorities to identify patterns and trends, geographical hotspots and the most vulnerable victims. This data should be regularly reviewed by authorities to determine the effectiveness of the interventions they put in place at a local level.

I shall explain what we mean by information-sharing in this context. The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, asked a pertinent question. Clause 15 will create a new information-sharing gateway for specified authorities, local policing bodies and education, prison and youth custody authorities to disclose information to each other for the purposes of reducing and preventing serious violence. I must be clear that this clause will permit, but not mandate, authorities to disclose information to each other. It simply ensures that there is a legislative basis in place to enable information to be shared between all authorities exercising functions under Chapter 1 of Part 2. However, the clause ensures that any disclosures must be made in compliance with data protection legislation and cannot be made if certain prohibitions on disclosure set out in the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 apply.

The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, asked for examples of data types that may be shared by partners. To be fair, he asked me that under a previous group as well and I completely forgot to answer him, so I hope to combine the two answers in one at this point. Examples include hospital data on knife injuries, the number of exclusions and truancies in local schools, police recorded crime, local crime data, emergency call data, anonymised prison data, areas of high social services interventions, and intelligence on threats such as county lines, including the activity of serious organised crime gangs in drugs markets. I hope the noble Lord finds that information helpful.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill Debate

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Department: Home Office

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Lord Rosser Excerpts
Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, first, I have absolutely no doubt about the Minister’s commitment to dealing with the sorts of offences we are talking about today, particularly violence against women and girls. I also have absolutely no doubt about the Government’s commitment to tackling those issues. This makes the Bill even more puzzling. We support all the amendments in this group, but I want to look at this from a slightly different angle.

This group of amendments is intended to ensure that certain categories of crime are always included in the serious violence duty. It raises the wider issue of what this whole chapter of the Bill is about. Crime and disorder partnerships—noble Lords will know from previous debates that I am quite keen on these—have for many years been responsible for a multiagency approach to preventing and tackling crime and disorder in their areas, including serious violence. They have the advantage of being able to assess what local needs are and prioritise the crime and disorder that is a particular problem in their areas.

In light of these well-established existing partnerships, one must ask why there is a need for an additional serious violence duty. There has been much concern about knife crime in recent years and Scotland has demonstrated how successful a public health approach to the problem can be, where police enforcement is just part of a multiagency, multipronged approach to tackling knife crime. There may be characteristics of the knife crime problem in Scotland and solutions tailored to tackle them there that may not be completely transferrable to other parts of the UK, but the general principle is sound: law enforcement is only one of many approaches that need to be brought to bear on a problem.

If the Government were focusing solely on this type of serious violence, one could understand, in the face of the growing public concern, that a public health approach to knife crime might be mandated—but that is not what the Bill says. However, there are clues in other parts of the Bill that that is what the Government were initially thinking. For example, we will shortly come on to offensive weapon homicide reviews and serious violence prevention orders, which are all about knife crime.

The Bill talks about serious violence generally, including threats of serious violence but excluding terrorism. It goes on to talk—in Clause 12(4)—about a list of factors that must be taken into account, such as: the maximum penalty that a court could impose; the impact on the victim; the prevalence of the violence in the area, and the impact on the community. Presumably, other factors could be considered when the local area is considering its own serious violence. This effectively makes any violence serious—for example, hate crime. Hate crime should be considered serious violence because, by definition, it has a serious impact on the victim.

Amendment 55, from the noble Baroness, Lady Bertin, says that domestic abuse, domestic homicides and sexual offences should always be included in the serious violence duty. As the noble Lord, Lord Polak, said, how can any of these offences not be considered serious violence? If the Government do not accept this amendment, can the Minister say what types of domestic abuse, domestic murder or sexual offence are not serious, or in what areas they are not far too prevalent? Amendment 56 also includes stalking, for the reasons that my noble friend Lady Brinton so powerfully argued.

Amendment 57, from the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe, includes all violence that results in emergency hospital treatment, or GBH—for very good reasons. As I mentioned in discussion on an earlier group, as the noble Lord did just now, the Cardiff model—that of sharing depersonalised accident and emergency information on knife and gun crime with the police—has proved invaluable. Furthermore, as the definition of serious violence includes threats of serious violence, my noble friend Lady Hamwee is quite right to point out that social media and other electronic communication—the impact of which may go beyond the geographic area for which the authorities that have a serious violence duty have responsibility—require a duty that goes beyond a single area.

In defining serious violence in such a wide way, the Government must either accept that all violence has the potential to be serious, or risk being accused of saying that violence associated with hate crime, violence against women and girls, domestic violence, and almost any other form of violence, is not serious, or should not be treated as serious in every police area.

What the Government should have done, and what they should do now, is go back and look at crime and disorder partnerships, which are already established and responsible for preventing and tackling all forms of crime and disorder—as their consultation on this issue said they should. They should look at where crime and disorder partnerships need to be strengthened —whether, perhaps, to include partners not currently involved—or where legislation needs to be changed to facilitate co-operation and the exchange of information, instead of mandating others to provide information to the police to enable a police-led enforcement approach to tackling serious violence—whatever that means. Of course, we will support all the amendments in this group for as long as the Government continue with such a broad definition of serious violence.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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My Lords, like other noble Lords I await with interest the Government’s response to all the amendments in this group. My name also appears on Amendment 55, which, at the beginning of this debate, was so ably and comprehensively moved, as we knew it would be, by the noble Baroness, Lady Bertin. This issue was raised by the shadow Minister for Policing in the House of Commons, and I only hope it receives a more enthusiastic hearing from the Government in this House, given that it is being presented with such strong cross-party support across the House.

The serious violence duty introduced by this Bill, as we know, requires local authorities, the police, fire and rescue authorities, specified criminal justice agencies and health authorities to work together to formulate an evidence-based analysis of the problems associated with serious violence in a local area and then produce and implement a strategy detailing how they will respond to those particular issues. Prison, youth custody and education authorities may also need to work with these core partners.

As more than one noble Lord has said, the amendment is clear and straightforward in its intention, which is to make clear in the Bill that the definition of serious violence for the purpose of the serious violence prevention duty includes domestic abuse, domestic homicide and sexual offences. That begs the question of why this amendment is necessary. As the noble Lord, Lord Polak, said, and he was not the only one, is it not obvious that domestic abuse, homicide and sexual offences must come within the definition of serious violence? Apparently it is not. Despite domestic abuse representing one-third of violent crime recorded by the police and despite 20% of all adult homicides and 50% of adult homicides where the victim is female being domestic homicides, the Government’s serious violence strategy does not recognise domestic abuse and sexual violence as forms of serious violence.

No doubt, that is one explanation why between April 2014 and March 2020 the annual number of domestic abuse-flagged cases referred to the Crown Prosecution Service by the police fell by 37%, with similar declines in prosecutions and convictions. No doubt, it is also one explanation why over the same period of time the annual number of prosecutions in rape-flagged cases fell by 55% and the annual number of convictions fell by 44%. No doubt, also, it is one explanation why in the year ended March 2020 only 9% of domestic abuse-related crimes and 1.4% of rape-flagged cases recorded by the police led to a charge or summons.

This Bill’s proposed serious violence prevention duty places a requirement on public authorities to collate and plan to prevent and reduce serious violence. While Clause 12 explicitly includes some named forms of violence, such as violence against property and threats of violence, to ensure that they are regarded as a form of violent crime across the board, violence against women and girls is not put in the same category, even though rates of domestic abuse and sexual violence, as so many other noble Lords have said, are consistent across England and Wales and do not vary greatly from one area to another.

Instead, intended Home Office guidance simply says that local areas can consider violence against women and girls as part of the new duty if they choose to and not that it is expected. Clearly, the Home Office is not too fussed one way or the other what areas decide on this very serious issue. There are attacks on statutes, and the Home Office gets very troubled. There are violent domestic attacks on human beings, particularly women, and the Home Office, however different the reality may be, appears so laid back that it wants to leave it to other people to make their own decisions on whether to regard these attacks as serious violence. It appears to want to leave it to other people to decide whether these dreadful attacks come within the scope of the serious violence prevention duty and the requirement on a range of public bodies, including local statutory agencies and the police, to work together to prevent and tackle serious violence with the aim of reducing the numbers of victims and perpetrators of such dreadful crimes.

Explicitly including domestic abuse, domestic homicide and sexual violence in the sexual violence reduction duty and its multi-agency approach would send a clear message to the police, prosecutors and a range of statutory agencies, including local agencies, that violence against women and girls is just not acceptable and that they all have to play a crucial role in tackling it.

At the moment there appears to be a distinction within the criminal justice system so that violence that takes place in the home or at the hands of an intimate partner is regarded as less serious than violence perpetrated in the public sphere. Only around one-half of police forces, as I understand it, have opted to take up Women’s Aid’s Domestic Abuse Matters specialised training on domestic abuse. As the noble Baroness, Lady Bertin, said, only eight of the 18 violence reduction units established in police force areas, which are funded by the Home Office and considered forerunners to the new violence prevention duty, name domestic abuse in their strategies.

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Lord Bach Portrait Lord Bach (Lab)
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My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, for this stand part debate. If the Committee will forgive me, I will say, as quickly as I can, a word or two about how I perceive the role of police and crime commissioners up until now.

Clause 13 is clearly an important element in establishing, from the Government’s point of view, a serious violence reduction duty on a more statutory basis—if I can put it that way—than exists presently. This obviously involves police and crime commissioners in particular. It is important to remember—I think this is what the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, was getting at, in part—that police and crime commissioners have, in their nine-year existence, voluntarily worked hard to establish partnership working and commission partnership services. In many cases, they have taken a lead in those partnerships.

There is a fundamental misunderstanding—not, I am sure, in this Committee—that, somehow, the only real role for police and crime commissioners is to hold their police force, and the chief constable in particular, to account. That is a crucial part of their duties, but I point out—the Committee does not need this pointing out—that they are not just police commissioners but crime commissioners as well. At the very least, they should have a significant duty to find ways to prevent crime and its effects on victims and society, working alongside partners, of course.

This is not about dealing with crime that has taken place, whether it is antisocial behaviour or serious violence. It means dealing with what has become a hackneyed phrase but is crucial here: the causes of crime, going back to early childhood development and early intervention. It is always about poverty and its effect on crime. It is about bad and lousy living conditions, and it always involves looking after the vulnerable, whoever they may be—we are all vulnerable at some stage or other in our lives. Above all, it is about preventing lives being thrown away, whether they are those of victims or perpetrators. I have to confess—noble Lords may have already realised that this is what I am about to say—that this kind of work or duty, as I call it, gave me and many other police and crime commissioners the greatest buzz of all.

It was crucial to achieving anything that one worked with partners, local and national, very much including government. To their credit, the Government set up violence reduction units, changed their support—I do not mean that in any bad way—and became very keen on the public health approach to dealing with these matters. That was a huge and important change, and many of us were convinced by the work that we did and seeing what happened in Scotland that this was the right course to take.

Where I was police and crime commissioner, we have what we call a violence reduction network, rather than a unit. I argue that it has achieved quite a large amount already, with great projects. My predecessor as police and crime commissioner for Leicestershire ran and started an office of the police and crime commissioner-run strategic partnership board, or SPB, which, by the time I left office, included all—I mean all—of the main public services in the area covered by the force, from local government to health, education, the police, fire and ambulance services and more.

The other example I give is that I was the chairman of the East Midlands criminal justice board. Other police and crime commissioners were chairs of their local boards or whatever they chose to call it. Clearly, if Clause 13 and other parts of this chapter pass into law, there will be—I am guessing that this is how the Government will put it—more statutory backing for this way of approaching the serious violence reduction duty. I am not against that in principle, but my one concern is that, in my experience, police and crime commissioners are a little bit like elected mayors: if they are good, they are very good, and they can make a huge difference, but if they are not so good, they can make a huge difference the other way.

I was lucky in that I had a brilliant team working for me in my office. As it happens, it has been decimated by my successor, but that is for another day, certainly not for today. Also, when I was there, other police and crime commissioners, whatever their party politics or lack of it, seemed to me to be able people who wanted to do the right thing and were very committed. As the noble Baroness and the Committee will know, many new police and crime commissioners were elected in May this year, which is no doubt a good thing, and many more of them were women—it is about time, too. It is too early to say whether they will grab these extra opportunities, but I hope that they will.

There are two big issues as far as the future is concerned in the real world. One, of course, is data sharing, which the Bill is very concerned about, and so it should be. So often, people of good will get together on behalf of organisations that are not prepared to share data. That has to change in this area, otherwise there will be no achievement. The second issue—I hate to mention it but it is the usual one—is funding. If we are going to fund all these exciting proposals, it will require government to take a leading step in that.

I am grateful to the Committee for listening to my speech. I thought it might be useful in terms of this clause.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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I thank the Minister for her explanation of government Amendment 59. She said it makes a minor clarifying change, and we have no concerns to raise on it. However, I look forward to the Minister’s replies on the questions and issues raised by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, and my noble friend Lord Bach. I am not sure whether I have fully understood this issue, and if what I am going to say now indicates that I have not, I apologise in advance.

The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, indicated in his explanatory statement, which he repeated, that he has tabled the Clause 13 stand part Motion so that he can

“probe how the provisions of this Bill and the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 will work in practice; and the relationship between Crime and Disorder Partnership and Police and Crime Commissioners.”

As I understand it, Clause 13 provides that local policing bodies, such as PCCs and the Mayor of London, may assist authorities in delivering the serious violence duty, monitor how authorities are exercising their duties, report back on their findings to the Secretary of State and be given authority by the Secretary of State to assist the duty in specific ways, such as providing funding or convening meetings on the duty. It also provides that authorities must co-operate with local policing bodies. The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 created community safety partnerships, and that raises the issue of how this duty will interact with the existing duties on CSPs.

The Government have published draft guidance on the serious violence duty. It says:

“In order to comply with the duty it is not necessary to create a new partnership, instead the specified authorities should use existing partnerships where possible and with appropriate modifications.”


It goes on to say:

“The Duty is an opportunity to simplify and add focus to existing partnership arrangements rather than add any additional complexity to the current multi-agency landscape.”

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill Debate

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Department: Home Office

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Lord Rosser Excerpts
Moved by
79: Clause 36, page 29, line 9, at end insert—
“(c) the user who has given agreement under paragraph (b) was offered free independent legal advice on issues relating to their human rights before that agreement was given.”Member’s explanatory statement
This would require free independent legal advice to be offered to a person before they agree to extraction of data from a device.
Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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My Lords, I am associated with six amendments in this group: Amendments 79, 89, 92, 102, 106A and 107. Chapter 3 of the Bill deals with the extraction of information from electronic devices, which has increasingly become a routine part of criminal investigations.

In this group we are dealing with when victims are asked to hand over their phones as evidence and, more specifically, the issue of what have become known as “digital strip searches”. Rape victims, in particular, are normally asked to hand over digital devices and are subjected to having their privacy indiscriminately trawled through after they report a crime. Before I go any further, I pay tribute to the Victims’ Commissioner, Dame Vera Baird, for her leadership on this issue.

These matters were pursued in the Commons, and I shall just quote an extract from what my colleague, Sarah Jones MP, said during the Committee stage debates:

“Analysis of a rape crisis administrative dataset conducted by the office of the Victims’ Commissioner showed that one in five victims withdrew complaints at least in part because of disclosure and privacy concerns. Victims in 21% of cases had concerns about digital downloads, about disclosing GP, hospital, school and employment records, and about a combination of negative press coverage. Home Office data also shows an increase in pre-charge withdrawal of rape complaints. In the year ending December 2020, 42.8% of rape offences were closed as part of what is called the “evidential difficulties” category—where the victim did not support further police action against a suspect—compared with 25.6% in 2015. As we know, the charge rate for sexual offences is just 3.6%, and for rape it is 1.6%.”—[Official Report, Commons, Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill Committee, 27/5/21; col. 277.]


This issue of disclosure and privacy is a factor, too, in victims deciding whether even to report a rape or a crime in the first place. As I mentioned, these issues we are now debating were raised at every stage in the Commons by the Opposition, but we welcome the fact that the Government have listened to us and to the Victims’ Commissioner and have brought forward changes as reflected in government amendments to the Bill. I thank the Minister and the Bill team for their engagement on this part of the Bill.

The government amendments, to which the Minister will obviously refer, make much needed and welcome improvements to the Bill. There is more, though, that needs to be achieved, which various speakers in the debate this evening will no doubt cover, but we welcome the progress so far.

Government Amendment 81 deals with the key issue raised by the Victims’ Commissioner and our amendments: the power to extract information should not be used indiscriminately or to trawl through a victim’s life but should be used only where information is relevant to

“a reasonable line of enquiry”.

I particularly welcome that government Amendment 93 puts into the Bill that a victim can refuse to hand over a personal device and that they must be told that the investigation will not be ended just because they refused to consent to a download. Complainants being told that their cases will not continue unless they hand over the contents of their phone is exactly what independent sexual victims’ advisers and complainants have said has happened or happens on a daily basis. It is vital that the change not only legally limits what can be asked for but drives a culture change in how victims are treated. One hopes that this change to the Bill will provide a clear path forward.

However, I have a number of questions. The Government’s new clause says that a victim must not have “undue pressure” put on them to agree to data extraction. Surely being under any pressure in the context that we are talking about is undue. Do the Government not agree with that?

The new clause dictates that victims be provided with details in writing of what information is being sought and why and how it will be dealt with, explicitly stating that a victim can refuse to hand anything over, but what will be done to ensure that victims understand clearly and with confidence what is being asked for? A victim will often be in an extremely vulnerable state while they try to navigate and follow the system and what they are being asked for. Will the Victims’ Commissioner be involved in designing that written document, and will we have advance sight of it?

My Amendment 79, which is supported by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb—for which I thank her—would answer the question of protecting victims as they go through this process. It would provide that a victim should be offered free, independent legal advice before they are asked to give consent to their device being accessed. There is precedent for this: the Home Office funded a pilot of independent legal advice dealing with digital download for rape complainants in Northumbria. The sexual violence complainants’ advocate scheme pilot engaged local solicitors to provide legal advice and support to rape complainants related to the complainant’s Article 8 rights to privacy. The pilot demonstrated what was happening in practice and found that about 50% of requests were not strictly necessary or proportionate. Some police officers who participated in the scheme expressed concern about this culture. The Home Office’s own pilot clearly demonstrated the need for and benefit of independent legal advice for victims in this area. I look forward to the Minister’s response on behalf of the Government.

There is a particular omission from the government amendments which we want to raise. Amendments in my name would require that the request for data be “strictly necessary and proportionate” to its purpose as part of a reasonable line of inquiry into a crime. Such a test, but which I think is worded as “reasonably necessary and proportionate”, is already a requirement of the data protection legislation for any such request for private material of this kind, but police practice has not always followed the Data Protection Act in this regard. We therefore seek this specific safeguard against too wide a search and too easy a rejection of other means of obtaining the information by including the “strict necessity” test in these clauses. I believe, although I will stand corrected if I am wrong, that the Victims’ Commissioner is of a similar view. I hope that the Minister will address this issue in the Government’s response.

I welcome Amendment 99, again tabled in response to issues that we have raised, which adds the Victims’ Commissioner, the domestic abuse commissioner and the Commissioner for Victims and Survivors for Northern Ireland to the list of people who must be consulted in preparing the code of practice. I also welcome the absolutely necessary amendments to the definition of adult to no longer include 16 and 17 year-olds.

Amendment 106A, a key amendment, would require the Government to extend the safeguards that we fought for in this section to third-party material. I am immensely grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Ipswich, and the noble Baroness, Lady Newlove, for their support through adding their names to this amendment. Here we are talking about private material about a complainant that is held by a third party: medical records, school reports, social service records, or records of counselling or therapy that a person may have had, including pre-trial therapy.

It currently seems to be routine for excessive personal information to be requested from third parties. The results have a chilling effect on a victim’s confidence and are an immense invasion of privacy in contravention of the victim’s Article 8 rights to privacy. In one example case, a letter to school in which a rape complainant had, as a child, forged her mother’s signature to get out of a lesson she did not like was disclosed to the defence and used in cross-examination.

The Victims’ Commissioner reports on cases where a victim assaulted in their 30s is asked to consent to their child social services records being trawled. In cases of stranger rape, in which there has been no prior contact at all between the complainant and the accused, similar demands are made for a lifetime’s worth of information on the victim to be handed over. Independent sexual violence advisers report that these searches are demanded as standard and, of course, victims are regularly told that their cases will be dropped if they do not consent. The Victims’ Commissioner has said:

“It is my assertion that the only way to bring about a much-needed change in practice is to ensure that the framework in place to protect victims’ Article 8 rights is embedded in the legislation itself”.


Crucially, these protections, as I understand it, have the support of the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for disclosure.

The police have offered their support, both on the grounds of reducing unnecessary infringements into a victim’s right to privacy and to reduce delays to investigations caused by the excessive and time-intensive pursuit of victims’ material that is not required by a reasonable line of inquiry. This, it is felt by the police, would reduce the likelihood of victim disengagement, which is one of the main challenges to overcome in order to improve performance in rape investigations. This is also an issue for organisations such as schools, NHS trusts and others that are approached for information and perhaps do not have the expertise on what is required of them. This issue has been raised with police and crime commissioners and investigated by the Information Commissioner.

A 2018 serious case review concerning sexual exploitation of children and adults with needs for care recommended a review of those practices. Referring to the spectacle he witnessed of vulnerable victims being cross-examined about their social services, school and medical records, senior barrister David Spicer stated:

“There is a strong argument that this is inhuman and degrading treatment prohibited by the European Convention on Human Rights and does not lead to fair administration of justice.”


The Victims’ Commissioner has also raised the recent issue that CPS guidance has been updated, apparently this month, to lower the threshold for disclosure of information. The update removes an existing narrow test for seeking to obtain third-party material based on previous case law, and instead lowers protections. This is a concerning development when, at the same time, the Government are agreeing to increased protections in other parts of the Bill.

The amendment on third-party material would require victims to be provided with details on what information is being sought and why, how it will be used, and for that information to pass a strict necessity test whereby requests would be permissible only as part of a reasonable line of inquiry. This amendment provides that victims must not be pressured or coerced into giving consent, and that other, less intrusive, options must be used where possible. Crucially, it provides that victims must be given access to free independent legal advice on their rights.

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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The hour is late. Because these things are so important, I will reiterate them in a letter to the noble Lord.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
- Hansard - -

First, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate. I also thank the Minister for her detailed response. I do not think she need apologise in any way for the length of it, since I am sure noble Lords would rather have a full response to the points that have been made than a shortened response. Like other noble Lords, I will read carefully in Hansard everything she had to say in reply to my amendments, as I am sure other noble Lords will in relation to their amendments. This part of the Bill has certainly been improved by the government amendments, which we welcome. But, equally, it can and should be further strengthened and improved.

There are a number of outstanding issues of concern, which I and other noble Lords have raised this evening and which I know Minister is aware of. I hope that she will agree to further discussions between now and Report on those issues of concern that have been raised in this debate. I know that the Minister is usually very open to holding such discussions—I see she is nodding—and will agree to that, as I say, between now and Report.

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That is why these amendments are so important. That is why there needs to be a statutory duty of candour. If not, the culture of cover-up, back covering and misogyny will persist in the police service. I am told that a statutory duty of candour was introduced for the National Health Service and its effect was transformational, so why not for the police service? We have been slightly less ambitious in our amendment than the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, in allowing the Home Secretary 12 months to consult on this issue and bring forward legislation, but this needs to be addressed urgently. I beg to move.
Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, for introducing this group and referring to his personal experiences on the issue we are debating. The amendment in my name would likewise establish a statutory duty of candour on the police workforce and is similar in effect to that he moved. It would create a statutory duty on law enforcement to act at all times in the public interest and with transparency, candour and frankness, and to assist in court proceedings, official inquiries and investigations where its activities, including omissions, may be relevant. I will be brief because the Committee is already familiar with this issue and I do not intend to repeat everything that has just been said by the noble Lord.

In his 2017 report on the pain and suffering of the Hillsborough families, Bishop James Jones proposed a duty of candour to address

“the unacceptable behaviour of police officers—serving or retired—who fail to cooperate fully with investigations into alleged criminal offences or misconduct.”

As has already been said, in June this year, the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel recommended

“the creation of a statutory duty of candour to be owed by all law enforcement agencies to those whom they serve”.

The chair of the panel, the noble Baroness, Lady O’Loan, said in this House that

“the creation of the duty of candour in matters such as this is vital for the integrity and effectiveness of policing”.—[Official Report, 22/6/21; col. 134.]

The report of the independent panel was frankly withering on the events that had influenced its recommendation. My thoughts, and I am sure those of all in the House, are with the Morgan family and the Hillsborough families, who have shown such courage and been denied justice for some three decades.

When the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel report was published, the shadow Home Secretary called on the Government to publish a detailed timetable for when the report’s recommendations would be implemented, and called for urgent action on the long-overdue establishment of a duty of candour. In answer to questions in June from Members on all Benches of this House, the Minister responded that the Government were considering the duty of candour as part of their response to Bishop James Jones’s report and wanted to engage with the families before publishing a response. In the House of Commons, the Home Secretary said of the duty of candour that

“work is taking place across Government on how those wider issues will be addressed, but, at the same time, there is absolutely no justification for delay.”—[Official Report, Commons, 15/6/21; col. 130.]

We now have before us a flagship home affairs and justice Bill from this Government in which they have found space to prioritise offences against statues and being noisy while protesting. Where is the prioritisation of the reforms needed in light of these failures of justice? What engagement has occurred with the Hillsborough families and the family of Daniel Morgan since June? Can the Minister confirm tonight that the Government will accept the recommendation for the duty of candour? How developed are the Government’s plans to bring forward reform, and when can Parliament expect to see legislation?

It is for the Government to ensure and prove to both the families and the public that these appalling failures of justice can never happen again. Frankly, it is time for the Government to cease dithering; it is time for the Government to act.

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

My Lords, the noble Earl is far more responsible than a police officer because I can take him to police officers in London who will say that all crimes in London are committed by black people.

My noble friend Lady Brinton also reminded the Committee that there are existing laws to deal with these situations. That goes to the point that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Garnier, raised. The National Police Chiefs’ Council has said that existing laws are adequate. The police say that more laws are not needed for this sort of offence. If the police are saying that, why are the Government bringing forward this legislation?

Rather than go through all these amendments, all I will say is that I agree with what my noble friends and other noble Lords have said. Part 4 should be removed from the Bill in its entirety because existing legislation is more than adequate.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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I congratulate my noble friend Lady Whitaker on her powerful and persuasive speech introducing her amendments and opening this debate, as we expected it would be. As the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, said, my noble friend has been a determined campaigner on behalf of the Gypsy and Traveller communities.

As has been said, Part 4 relates to unauthorised encampments, which it criminalises, creating an offence if someone resides or intends to reside on land without consent in or with a vehicle. The Bill also gives landowners a role in criminalising a person who is trespassing, strengthens police powers to deal with unauthorised encampments, prohibits a person re-entering land without a reasonable excuse within 12 months and gives the police the right to seize property, including people’s caravans, which could be a family’s primary residence. The Bill also amends police powers associated with unauthorised encampments in the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act to lower the threshold at which they can be used, allow the police to remove unauthorised encampments on or partly on highways and prohibit unauthorised encampments that are moved from a site returning within 12 months.

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I thank the noble Baroness for that. The “gold-plate” quotation has been mentioned twice tonight, and I must confess that it was novel to me. I suspect that the answer is that, within anything such as the Equality Act or the Human Rights Act, there is interpretation—you could abide by every single aspect of it, or not. But I will write to the noble Baroness, because I think the Committee requires clarification on just what it means. It is too late to guess at this time of the night, so I will write to her.

Amendments 137 to 142, again in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, would remove the “likely to cause” condition of the offence. We think this is an important element of the offence because provision that the offence can be caused if significant damage, disruption or distress is likely to be caused enables the police to intervene where people are suspected of repeatedly causing significant harms. This is particularly relevant in cases where those who cause damage move a short distance away, only to enter other land and cause more damage. It is only right that the police can intervene quickly in these cases of suspected serial criminal behaviour.

I point out that an offence based on likelihood of harm occurring or similar is not unique to these provisions, nor is it a novel requirement in criminal law. As for other offences, the factual circumstances and evidence of each case will determine whether a “significant” level of damage, disruption or distress has been caused or is likely to be caused, and this will be for the police—and ultimately, of course, the courts—to determine.

Amendments 143 and 144, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, would limit the maximum penalty for the offence to a fine of up to £2,500. We think that, given the nature of the conduct covered by this offence, it should be open to the courts to impose a custodial sentence of up to three months. Of course, it will be for the courts to decide the appropriate penalty in each individual case.

The noble Baroness, Lady Massey of Darwen, tabled Amendment 145, which would seek to remove “insulting words or behaviour” from the definition of offensive conduct. As we indicated in our response to the JCHR, we believe that landowners should be protected from being insulted on their land, and the provision in Clause 62 mirrors that in the 1994 Act. It is only right that there is consistency within the law.

I turn now to Amendment 147, which would remove the vehicle seizure power from the offence. Seizure powers are already conferred on the police in relation to a person’s failure to comply with a police direction to leave land under the trespass provisions in the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. It is right that police should have an equivalent power in the context of the new criminal offence where the level of harm is significant for the offence to be committed before police would consider using, and are able to use, seizure powers. If people do not commit significant harms, or leave when asked, they will not be caught by the offence and will not risk having their vehicle seized. Without the power to seize vehicles, enforcement action is likely to be hindered, and the harms can continue while people and vehicles remain on the land.

Police decisions to seize vehicles should continue to be taken in consultation with the local authority, where appropriate. As is the case for existing provisions, the local authority would need, where possible, to offer assurance that they have relevant measures in place to meet any welfare and safeguarding needs of those affected by the loss of their accommodation, particularly the vulnerable, before police take enforcement action.

We expect police will continue to undertake any enforcement action in compliance with their equality and human rights obligations and will continue to consider harm to local amenities, the local environment and the rights of nearby residents.

Where a decision is made not to charge the person, the police must return the property as soon as is practicable. If at any time a person other than the suspect satisfies the police that property that is retained belongs to the person at that time, and belonged to them at the time of the suspected offence, then the police must return the property to the person.

Amendment 149 seeks to reintroduce a statutory duty on local authorities to provide sites for Gypsies, Roma and Travellers. The Government’s aim is to increase the provision of Traveller sites in appropriate locations and to maintain an appropriate level of supply. The planning system, taken as a whole, is capable of meeting the needs of the Traveller community. It places sufficient requirements on local authorities for what they must do to provide sites.

As the noble Lord, Lord Rosser said, a duty to provide sites was introduced in 1968. As more sites were needed, the basis on which the duty was introduced changed. Like the rest of the population, most Travellers aspired to own their own home and to live on a private, rather than a public, site. In recognition of this, planning policy seeks to promote more private site provision, while recognising that not all Travellers can afford their own site. Local authorities and social housing providers are able to bid through the £11.5 billion affordable homes programme 2021-26 for the funding of new sites.

The noble Baroness, Lady Lister, asked when the GRT strategy was due. I understand that the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities—now affectionately known as DLUHC—is working closely with other government departments to progress the strategy, which will be published in due course. I know the noble Baroness is going to roll her eyes at that because she does not like that term “in due course”. We remain firmly committed to its delivery.

The noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, brought up the numbers. The Traveller caravan count is a count of caravans, rather than sites. None the less, it should be recognised that, in January 2020, there were 6,506 Traveller caravans on sites provided by local authorities and private registered providers in England. This was an increase of 10% on the 1994 Traveller caravan count. As of January 2020, the number of authorised transit pitches had increased by more than 40% since January 2010.

Finally, Amendment 151 seeks to provide that the guidance to be introduced under Clause 64 should be subject to the negative procedure, as recommended by the Delegated Powers Committee. We are carefully considering all the Delegated Powers Committee’s recommendations. We will respond to its report ahead of the next stage. In coming to a final view on its recommendation in relation to Clause 64, we want to take into account the Government’s broad approach to parliamentary scrutiny of statutory guidance such as this. In a letter to the DPRRC in October 2018, my noble friend the Lord Privy Seal said:

“There is a vast range of statutory guidance issued each year and it is important that guidance can be updated rapidly to keep pace with events. There is nothing to prevent Parliament from scrutinising guidance at any time. I certain exceptional circumstances it may be appropriate for guidance to be laid before Parliament or be subject to the negative procedure.”


It is our firm belief that the new offence provided for in Clause 62 is appropriately framed. It targets significant harms, not simply the act of residing in a vehicle on land without permission. As I have said, the new offence delivers on a clear manifesto commitment to strengthen the protection to communities from unauthorised encampments. I apologise to noble Lords for that quite lengthy explanation. I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, will withdraw her amendment.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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From the Minister’s reply on behalf of the Government, I rather inferred that the Government were confirming that the police can seize a vehicle, even if it is a family home and leaves people homeless. I should like the Minister to confirm that this can happen under the terms of this Bill.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am just looking for my wording now. I think that what I said to the noble Lord in reply is that the police should take into account welfare considerations where possible and should liaise with local authorities regarding suitable accommodation, just as they currently do. They should give full consideration to their responsibilities under the public sector equality duty, as well as to the potential impact that issuing a direction to leave, or utilising powers of arrest and seizure, may have on the families involved before reaching a decision on taking enforcement action. If I could just complete my last sentence, obviously each case should be considered on its own merits.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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I hope the Minister will forgive me for saying this but that is a lot of words. I read into it that, under the terms of the Bill, despite all those words, the police can seize a vehicle even if it is a family home and results in homelessness, because nowhere did the Minister say that they cannot do so.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The noble Lord is correct, but the police would have to take into account the various factors that I set out. Obviously, each case is different.

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Lords Hansard - part one & Committee stage
Monday 8th November 2021

(2 years, 7 months ago)

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

My Lords, Clause 63 amends Section 61 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. Section 61 addresses the situation that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Garnier, alluded to on Wednesday—at Hansard col. 1313—when he told us that, 25 years ago, as a Member of Parliament, he was rung by a very distressed farmer in his constituency, whose land was being trespassed on. I make that 1996, but perhaps it was before the 1994 Act was effective.

As my noble friend Lady Brinton has said, Section 61 of the 1994 Act provides a power to remove trespassers on land. I will quote subsection (1):

“If the senior police officer present at the scene reasonably believes that two or more persons are trespassing on land and are present there with the common purpose of residing there for any period, that reasonable steps have been taken by or on behalf of the occupier to ask them to leave and … that any of those persons has caused damage to the land or to property on the land or used threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour towards the occupier, a member of his family or an employee or agent of his, or …that those persons have between them six or more vehicles on the land, he may direct those persons, or any of them, to leave the land and to remove any vehicles or other property they have with them on the land.”


Subsection (4) states:

“If a person knowing that a direction under subsection (1) … has been given which applies to him … fails to leave the land as soon as reasonably practicable, or … having left again enters the land as a trespasser within the period of three months beginning with the day on which the direction was given, he commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months or a fine not exceeding level 4 on the standard scale, or both.”


That is the law now, unamended by this Bill.

As many noble Lords said on Wednesday, what is the problem that Part 4 is trying to solve, when there are clearly adequate powers already in existence? Clause 63 simply brings Section 61 of the 1994 Act into line with the rest of Part 4 of the Bill. For the reasons so thoroughly and persuasively argued on Wednesday, this clause, like the rest of Part 4, should not stand part of the Bill.

Section 68 of the 1994 Act, as amended by the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003, is the offence of aggravated trespass, where

“A person commits the offence of aggravated trespass if he trespasses on land and, in relation to any lawful activity which persons are engaging in or are about to engage in on that or adjoining land, does there anything which is intended by him to have the effect … of intimidating those persons or any of them so as to deter them or any of them from engaging in that activity … of obstructing that activity, or … of disrupting that activity.”


I am getting the sense of hunt saboteurs, HS2 protestors or, perhaps, those protesting against genetically modified crops, rather than Gypsy, Roma and Travellers. Section 68 appears to me to refer to deliberate interference with lawful activity by means of trespass, rather than coincidental interference; for example, ploughing a field that travellers are trespassing on. Unlike the noble and learned Lord, Lord Garnier, I am not a lawyer, but perhaps the Minister can clarify the difference between Section 68 and what we have been talking about up until now.

As far as Amendment 150 is concerned, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Garnier, explained, it attempts to correct an error in existing legislation. I agree with the noble and learned Lord that the activity being disrupted should be and needs to be unlawful, rather than the trespasser simply asserting that he believes that it should not be happening. I am not sure that the accused should have to prove that they were not trespassing. As the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, has said, that seems to be going perhaps a bit too far. We support the amendment in principle, in as far as the activity on the land that is being disrupted needs to be unlawful, rather than just being asserted as being unlawful.

As we leave this part of the Bill, I want to again acknowledge the long and tireless campaign by the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, to defend Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities. I fear that, at Report, we may need to adopt a different approach than simply removing all the clauses in Part 4 from the Bill, in the light of what the Minister said on Wednesday, at Hansard col. 1330, when she quoted from the Conservative Party manifesto:

“We will give the police new powers to arrest and seize the property and vehicles of trespassers who set up unauthorised encampments, in order to protect our communities. We will make intentional trespass a criminal offence.”


That is very interesting wording. New powers do not necessarily mean more draconian powers. I respectfully suggest that on Report this House should bring forward new powers that provide the necessary protections for all our communities, including Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities. For example—I quote from the manifesto—it could be argued that making

“intentional trespass a criminal offence”

entirely supports Amendment 135 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, providing that, where Travellers have no suitable legal pitch on a relevant caravan site situated in the local authority’s area, the trespass should not be regarded as intentional.

It is absolutely right that we, and many others in this Committee, express our outright opposition to Part 4 as drafted but, when we return to these issues on Report, it will be with more sophisticated amendments to take account of the wording in the Conservative Party manifesto—and the convention of not blocking, at least not entirely, commitments made by the governing party in their manifesto—that protect all communities, including Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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My Lords, I will be relatively brief. We had a lengthy debate on the previous day in Committee about Part 4 on unauthorised encampments, and expressed our strong concerns about what is proposed in Part 4. I will just reiterate a couple of points. Certainly, our understanding is that the police seem to think the existing law adequate; indeed, so do local government officers who have direct involvement with the Gypsy, Traveller and Roma community.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Garnier, put forward Amendment 150 on the basis that it is putting right a wrong. The obvious concern is that, in so doing, it creates new wrongs or new unfairness, not least in relation to the Gypsy, Traveller and Roma community. The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, probably quite rightly said that much of the debate might suggest that this amendment was aimed at others, perhaps those involved in protests over GM crops or HS2. Certainly, it involves a change as far as the onus of proof of the accused is concerned. The noble and learned Lord said that he is not going to press the amendment to a vote in Committee. I hope I am not misrepresenting what he said, but I think he said he would wait for the Minister’s response before deciding how and if to progress the matter further. We have our concerns about Amendment 150 and what exactly it might mean, but at this stage we stand in the same position as him: we will wait to hear what the Minister says on behalf of the Government in response to Amendment 150. At the moment we have fairly strong reservations about its implications, but we will listen to what the Government have to say.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate. I particularly thank the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville, for her apologies, which in fact I got the other night. It was very courteous of her to give them.

Before I turn to whether Clause 63 should stand part of the Bill, let me deal with Amendment 150 in the name of my noble and learned friend Lord Garnier, which relates to the offence of aggravated trespass, as he outlined. The effect of this amendment would be to introduce a statutory defence to the offence at Section 68 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, as he explained. It would require the defendant to show that they were not trespassing, or that the activity which they intended by their trespass to obstruct or disrupt or cause intimidation in respect of was unlawful.

--- Later in debate ---
I end by recalling that the late Duke of Edinburgh, a few years before he died, was driving, I think, a Land Rover out of Sandringham on to a public highway, there colliding with another vehicle, driven by a woman who—I am pretty sure I recollect correctly—broke her wrist. He wrote her, of course, a letter of apology and so forth. Should the Duke on that account—undoubtedly careless driving and undoubtedly a serious injury within the meaning of this legislation—have been liable to a prison sentence? I respectfully say no.
Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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I will, once again, I hope, be relatively brief. We welcome Clause 65 and the Government’s actions to increase sentences for those who cause death by dangerous or careless driving under the influence of drink or drugs. Here, at least, is one part of the Bill where we can support its intentions.

We also support the aim of the amendments in this group, which seek to improve road safety and keep dangerous drivers off our roads. I pay tribute to all those, including many noble Lords, who have campaigned to improve road safety and reduce deaths and serious injury. We particularly add our support to Amendment 152, which would widen those protections and increase sentences for causing serious injury while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Having said that, of course, there can be a slim difference between serious injury with a life saved and serious injury with a life lost.

Clause 66 inserts an offence to fill a gap in the law of causing serious injury by careless or inconsiderate driving. I note some of the comments that have been made in respect of causing serious injury by careless or inconsiderate driving, but certainly we support the basic intentions of what is proposed.

The issue of car dooring has been raised for some years by cycling groups, and we have called on the Government to develop a comprehensive new national cycling safety campaign, aimed at not just cyclists but motorists. During the lockdown, cycling increased by, I think, as much as 200% at weekends, with significant increases during the week. We will not be able to build on that progress—I am sure we all regard an increase in cycling as progress—unless we take action to make our roads safe enough to cycle on. What plans do the Government have to look at road safety issues impacting cyclists, as well as other drivers?

I look forward to the Minister’s reply to this debate and to the amendments which we have been discussing.

--- Later in debate ---
A driver, in a situation where the local authority is enforcing the rules, could find themselves disqualified from driving under the totting-up procedure. That happening in a civil court is clearly something that would have to be thought through, because it would change pretty fundamentally the relationship between many drivers and their local authority. It is typical of the topics that the Government need to address as part of an overall review of road traffic offences, their enforcement and the calibration of penalties for those offences in the modern world. I look forward to the Minister’s response.
Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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My Lords, like the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, I do not intend to stand here and announce our 100% support for what is proposed. We are interested in the issues raised and certainly look forward to the Government’s reply. To state the obvious, I say that local councils are key partners and innovators in improving road safety and encouraging the use of different modes of transport. What is proposed is quite a major step forward from that.

I will add one point, to which the answer may well be that the solution is obvious. Simply, if we end up with new powers or duties in this area being granted to local authorities, they must be accompanied by funding. The reply may be, “Well, of course they’ll get the money, because they’ll get it from any fines they might impose”, but it may not be quite as straightforward as that. Making such a move might put a bigger burden and workload on local authorities than might be envisaged. If people are thinking of going down this road, they should make sure that, from whatever source it may be coming, the funding is available.

As I recollect, the Government have plans, for which local authorities have been waiting a little while, to increase local authority powers to manage local roads, under the Traffic Management Act 2004. If I am right, will the Minister give us an update on where we stand on that and what kind of issues the Government are considering as part of any such plans? As part of that, have the Government looked at the issue of speeding enforcement—as suggested in these amendments—at local authority level when looking at any planned increases to local authority powers in this area? As I said at the beginning, we are interested in the issues raised by these amendments and look forward to hearing the Government’s response.

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

I apologise to the Committee: I was not going to say anything, but I could not resist. There is clearly an issue with people receiving endorsements on driving licences and potentially being disqualified from driving not being dealt with in the criminal courts and through the appeal process that they provide. On the issue around lack of enforcement, does the Minister have any information about the potential use of speed cameras in 20 miles per hour zones to increase enforcement and to what extent speed cameras are self-financing, in terms of the money they generate versus the cost of running them?

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Lords Hansard - part two & Committee stage
Monday 8th November 2021

(2 years, 7 months ago)

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Read Full debate Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 40-VII Seventh marshalled list for Committee - (8 Nov 2021)
I urge the Government to think again. Lower limits are supported by the RAC, Brake, and the Alcohol Health Alliance UK. In an attempt to appeal to the Government, I emphasise that this is a highly popular policy. The British Social Attitudes survey showed that 77% of the public are in favour of lowering the alcohol limits. That majority holds across all social and demographic groups, in both rural and urban areas, among young and old, and across all political allegiances. What have the Government got to be frightened of in adopting this policy?
Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I am sure that the House will be grateful to my noble friend Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe and his co-signatories for raising these issues again. This is a vitally important debate. We know that prior to the last election, a Transport Minister said that the Government had no plans to change the drink-drive limit. They did not believe that a case had been made and instead would focus on enforcing the current law. However, in January 2021, the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety reported that the UK’s current system to prevent drink-driving was no longer adequate. It recommended a major review across the board on drink-driving, including lowering the legal limit.

Rather importantly, on the issue of enforcement, the PACTS report found that:

“Levels of police enforcement had decreased by 63% since 2009 and there are indications that drivers believe they are less likely to be caught.”


We know that drink-driving is one of the biggest causes of road deaths, at 13%, and that in the last decade 240 people have been killed each year where a driver was over the limit and that 17% of drink-drive offences are committed by a reoffender. We also know that levels of police enforcement have decreased quite substantially.

It is relevant to ask the Government what they are doing in this regard. Having said, prior to the last election, that they would instead focus on enforcing the current law, clearly that is not what has happened. Indeed, the situation appears in that regard to have got worse. Are the Government actively looking at international comparisons that have been referred to today, and the fact that we are higher when it comes to the legal limit than virtually every other country? Have they been looking at, for example, random breath tests? What do they make of the evidence? My noble friend Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe, has been open about Scotland having introduced a reduced drink-driving limit in 2014 which brought them into line with most other countries in Europe. My understanding is that it has been accepted by the public and, interestingly, it has not significantly impacted pubs and restaurants, which was one of the arguments against going down the same road as Scotland. It does not appear to have overloaded the police or the courts, which was another argument, and it seems that Northern Ireland may go even further, at least with a zero limit for novice and professional drivers.

I will listen with interest to what the Government have to say about why we should be so far adrift on international comparisons, and to what the Government have to say regarding the situation in Scotland. I appreciate that my noble friend Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe has given a very accurate statement of the situation, but those arguments which were advanced at the time for not bringing us in line with Scotland, in relation to impacts on pubs and restaurants and the police and courts, for example, have not materialised, as far as I know. I wait to be corrected if I am wrong.

The PACTS report recommended, among other things, mandatory breath-testing powers for the police, a reduction in enforcement levels to be reversed, a lower breath-test limit for England and Wales and for the Government to pay more attention to drink-driving, alcohol harm and night-time economy policies. When he was commenting on the report, the executive director of PACTS said that:

“After 10 years of declining levels of enforcement and social media campaigns aimed at young men, it is time for a new, more comprehensive approach to reducing the toll of drink drive deaths and injuries. Drink driving is often cited as a road safety success story, yet it remains a major killer and progress has ground to a halt since 2010. Not only is better enforcement important but also the problems of mental health and alcohol dependency need to be recognised.”


What has come across in our debate this evening is a recognition that we seem to have stopped making progress; and we are still much higher compared with most other countries involved in the international comparisons. Some of the things that were said about Scotland—that it would be a difficulty if we came down to their level—have not materialised in Scotland. Drink-drive deaths are still at an unacceptable level. We seem to have stopped making progress.

I hope that in the Minister’s response we are going to hear what plans the Government have to bring down the level of drink-driving. It is not good enough that somebody puts forward a proposal to lower the limit and the Government do not agree with it. If the Government do not agree with it, what do they intend to do to improve the situation? Arguments have been advanced tonight as to why bringing down the limit would improve the situation. You can certainly say with random testing that, if the limit is lower, the chances are the random testing is likely to have a more dramatic effect than if the limit is at the present higher level—where we seem to have reached a situation in which a number of those who drink and drive seem fairly convinced they will not be caught or get into difficulties as a result.

I hope we will hear from the Minister tonight what the Government are doing. I hope it will not just be a case of the Government saying, “We don’t agree with an amendment to bring it down to 50, we don’t agree with an amendment about random breath testing”, because if that is their response, it is purely negative. It is saying “We are not prepared to go down the road of the ideas that have been advanced, but we do not have any fresh ideas ourselves—we do not have a programme for reducing drink-driving”—and that, surely, is what we all want to do in view of the level of deaths. I hope we will get a positive response from the Government and a recognition that we need to do something, not rejection out of hand of every idea that has been put forward in our debate this evening.

None Portrait Noble Lords
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Hear, hear!

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Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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This issue was also raised by my colleague, Ben Bradshaw MP, in the Commons. As has been said, exceptional hardship is the plea a person can use when charged with road traffic offences to avoid losing their licence if not being able to drive would cause them exceptional hardship. Obviously, as we have heard, the concerns about the system are that exceptional hardship is being agreed to too frequently for repeat offenders and in spurious cases.

What has quite clearly been asked of the Government —that is, what is being sought—is a tightening-up of the definition of exceptional hardship. I ask the Government to say in their response, first, whether, in their view, there is an issue with exceptional hardship being agreed to rather too frequently. Do the figures show that the number of times exceptional hardship is being agreed to is going up year by year? As I understand it, between 2011 and 2020, there were more than 83,500 cases where drivers did not receive a driving ban by pleading exceptional hardship. Do the Government have a feel for whether it is the case that instances of exceptional hardship being agreed to are increasing? Are they aware of any areas, perhaps in relation to courts, where there is what they regard as best practice, where the system is working well?

I remember once being told that “exceptional hardship” was something that people suffered, for example, at times of war. When it comes to the loss of a licence, perhaps we are talking more about a form of inconvenience than necessarily about hardship. Even in the more extreme case where somebody was able to persuade you that they would lose their job, presumably it is relevant to ask, “Well, that may be the case, but if it is for a short period of time, will the employer be prepared to live with it and give out other duties that do not involve driving?” Perhaps, if they are going to lose their job, it would suggest that the employer is not necessarily highly enamoured of their performance. But, even in a case where you might lose your job, it must surely be assessed against “exceptional hardship”: what would the individual’s prospects be at that time of getting another, completely different job that did not involve driving, if a ban would cause them to lose their job that involved driving?

I know that there are other instances where people come out with examples of it being almost impossible to get to work but where it turns out that, if they were prepared to get up an hour and a half earlier in the morning, they might be able to get there by public transport—but somehow it is regarded as an “exceptional hardship” to have to get up so much earlier to get there by public transport and it taking longer to get home. So I am aware of the way these arguments get used and put forward, and we need to be careful to draw a clear distinction between what is “exceptional hardship”, with a proper definition of “hardship”, and what may be closer to “exceptional inconvenience”.

I simply repeat what I asked earlier: do the Government have a feel for this one? Do they have any information on the extent to which “exceptional hardship” is being used and accepted more as an argument? Do they have any examples of where the wording is being applied in perhaps a more realistic manner, and are they looking to take action in this area? What is being asked for in this amendment is that we should tighten up the definition of what constitutes exceptional hardship. I await the Government’s response with interest.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords, and particularly the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, for her explanation of this amendment, which seeks to define the term “exceptional hardship” that applies in the context of a court’s decision on whether to impose a driving ban.

I reassure the Committee that the Government take road safety extremely seriously. Drivers who reach 12 points should automatically be disqualified from driving, to protect themselves and others. However, sentencing, including the imposition and length of a driving disqualification, is properly a matter for our independent courts, based on the facts of each case—we have heard of a number of interesting and diverse cases this evening. Courts have the discretion not to disqualify, or to impose a reduced disqualification, if they are satisfied that there are mitigating circumstances justifying a claim of “exceptional hardship”.

This amendment to introduce a definition of “exceptional hardship” is unnecessary, detrimental to judicial discretion and of questionable utility in assisting a court in applying the “exceptional hardship” test. It would introduce a narrow definition that would not be able to account for all circumstances that were presented to the courts and would remove the courts’ freedom to use their experience to reach decisions accordingly.

It might assist the Committee if I read out the sentencing guidance that is already in practice—from my mobile phone. It says:

“When considering whether there are grounds to reduce or avoid a totting up disqualification the court should have regard to the following … It is for the offender to prove to the civil standard of proof that such grounds exist. Other than very exceptionally, this will require evidence from the offender, and where such evidence is given, it must be sworn … Where it is asserted that hardship would be caused, the court must be satisfied that it is not merely inconvenience, or hardship, but exceptional hardship for which the court must have evidence … Almost every disqualification entails hardship for the person disqualified and their immediate family. This is part of the deterrent objective of the provisions combined with the preventative effect of the order not to drive … If a motorist continues to offend after becoming aware of the risk to their licence of further penalty points, the court can take this circumstance into account … Courts should be cautious before accepting assertions of exceptional hardship without evidence that alternatives (including alternative means of transport) for avoiding exceptional hardship are not viable.”


It concludes by saying:

“Loss of employment will be an inevitable consequence of a driving ban for many people. Evidence that loss of employment would follow from disqualification is not in itself sufficient to demonstrate exceptional hardship; whether or not it does will depend on the circumstances of the offender and the consequences of that loss of employment on the offender and/or others.”


I hope the Committee found that guidance helpful.

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Lord Russell of Liverpool Portrait Lord Russell of Liverpool (CB)
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My Lords, I support both amendments, including that of the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, of which I am a co-signatory. As discussed earlier, most UK road traffic legislation predates the modern era and lags some way behind. I am ancient enough to remember that in the 1950s, when travelling around probably at high speed with my mother in her two-seater red MG, RAC officers would stand to attention and salute as we went past, after seeing the RAC badge. That does not seem to happen any more. I can also remember the designer of the Mini, Sir Alec Issigonis of blessed memory. He had two rules when driving a car. First, he did not allow a wireless—as they were then called—in his car, because he thought that was a distraction. Secondly, if anybody was a passenger in his car, including Lady Issigonis, silence was required. He felt that any discourse was a distraction from driving. It is rather different now with the array of technology in one’s car, including technology allowing the car to talk back. Perhaps some people find that preferable to having their other half talk to them, but that is another matter.

I live in SW6, where the roads are like the wild south-west. I go around a lot by bicycle, and every day I see the most extraordinary and flagrant driving and bicycling. At a local Tesco Metro there is a security guard, who I know is there when his state-of-the-art electric bicycle is locked up outside. I spoke to him and looked at his bicycle, as it is a great deal more powerful than mine. I asked him, “How fast does it go?” and he said, “About 50 miles an hour.” I said, “Do you realise that’s illegal?” He said, “Oh yeah. I had it down the road the other day, and a couple of police officers came up admiring the bicycle, asked me how fast it would go, and were very impressed.” That is a strange state of affairs.

The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, mentioned e-scooters, which I see all over the place. They are incredibly dangerous. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, talked earlier about Edinburgh, where the bicycle lanes have been designed in such a way that they are now full of leaves. There is no equipment to clean them, so people are in mortal danger if they ride a bicycle in a bicycle lane. That is not good.

That is only part of the problem. As the Minister may recall, during the debate on some earlier aspects of the Bill, we talked in particular about a report from September by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services. It so happens that that same institution produced a report in July last year called Roads Policing: Not Optional. It looked at the state of road policing and the enforcement of the types of laws and regulations across England and Wales about which we are talking. If you are responsible for enforcement, it is not a happy read. It says:

“we found that the importance of roads policing has been in decline”

for many years. In some instances, it found police forces where the officers in charge of road policing were not familiar with the relevant road traffic laws which they were meant to enforce. It asked several questions about the state of enforcement of these laws:

“How effective are the national and local strategic approaches to roads policing? Roads policing in some forces is inadequate … How well are capability and capacity matched to demand? Often capability and capacity doesn’t meet demand … How well do the police engage with the public and partners? A lack of co-ordination hinders effective engagement with the public and partners … How well are police officers trained to deal with roads policing matters? Roads policing training should be standardised and accredited.”


It then made a series of 13 eminently sensible recommendations.

If we are to have a wholesale review of road traffic offences, it has to be done hand in hand with enforcement. There is no point in having laws and regulations if we are incapable of enforcing them consistently. You may say that the time is not now but, at some point in the future, we are going to have to do something before more and more people are killed and there are more and more complex remote vehicles, e-scooters and all the rest of it. Why not just acknowledge that and bite the bullet now, rather than kick the can down the road, which we have been doing for so many years?

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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My Lords, I will be brief because I think that the arguments in favour of these two amendments have been made very powerfully. They are both intended to require the Secretary of State to carry out a review of road traffic offences and penalties. As has been pointed out, there have been so many changes with our roads and new vehicles in recent years as to justify in itself the need for the review which these two amendments seek. As I understand it, the Government promised a full review of road traffic offences and penalties back in 2014. So far as I know, this has not yet happened. In expressing our support for these amendments and for what they seek to achieve, I simply ask what has happened to the promised review so far as the Government are concerned.

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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I thank all noble Lords who have participated in this relatively short debate. As we have heard, Amendments 159 and 165 would require the Government to conduct a full review of road traffic offences. I shall make a number of brief points in response.

First, we do not consider it appropriate to include a requirement in legislation for the Government to undertake a review, especially in the case of Amendment 165 from the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley. The Government are concerned that this amendment sets out, without consultation or regard to practicalities, the terms of reference and timing of such a review. We are also concerned that the amendment does not fully grasp the range and complexity of the review which the Government would be required to undertake. Nor, might I suggest, does it consider who is best placed to conduct such a review—the Government, an independent body such as the Law Commission, or an expert panel.

Secondly, I point out the announcement of a review of driving offences and penalties in May 2014 by the then Secretary of State for Justice. The Government did conduct a review; I hope that goes some way towards answering the question from the noble Lord, Lord Rosser. As part of that internal review, we considered a range of concerns that had been raised by campaigners, victims and parliamentarians. In the debate on an earlier group of amendments, my noble friend Lord Wolfson committed to writing to the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, and some of those concerned participants.

The review focused on the most serious offences that can result in death or serious injury, and the results are what we see now in Clauses 65 and 66 of the Bill. As we have already debated, the Bill includes provisions that will increase the maximum penalty for causing death by dangerous driving from 14 years’ imprisonment to life—again, I refer to the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb. Provisions in the Bill will also increase the maximum penalty for causing death by careless driving while under the influence of drink or drugs from 14 years to life imprisonment and create a new offence of causing serious injury by careless driving. These provisions have been long awaited, and they have widespread support. Those reforms also fit within the existing framework of road traffic offences. They are therefore consistent and proportionate responses and should be allowed to take effect before any further reform is considered.

I take note of the list that the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, gave of other things she thinks should be considered, but, without going into detail on all of it, I will make just a couple of points. First, I mentioned in the group of amendments on pedicabs that there is a consultation on cycling which began in 2018 and is due to report towards the end of this year or the beginning of next year. I hope that will help to answer some of those questions about the changing nature of cycling. On e-scooters, they are of course illegal unless they are hired and, if the rider is not insured, they can be impounded. I take the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Russell, about enforcement very seriously—these rules are not being enforced, and they perfectly well should be. I also say to the noble Lord that I am extremely jealous of his mother’s red MG—my mother had a Ford Popular, and we used to have to hide on the back seat.

My last point is simply this: while we do not think it is necessary to legislate to require such a review, or to set out its terms of reference in such a restrictive way, the Government are not ruling out a wider review of road traffic offences in the future. As the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, said, there will be a whole bunch of considerations when we have the advent of technologies such as autonomous vehicles—not just road traffic considerations but things such as who insures them, how you insure them, and whether you are insuring the car, the driver, the software or the hardware. There are a whole variety of different implications. We will, of course, keep the law under review both in terms of specific offences and where it is necessary to reform the structure of the legislation. But having had this opportunity to debate this issue, I invite the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, to withdraw her amendment.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill Debate

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Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Lord Rosser Excerpts
Lords Hansard - part one & Committee stage
Monday 22nd November 2021

(2 years, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 40-XI Eleventh marshalled list for Committee - (22 Nov 2021)
Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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Yes, and, as the noble Lord will very well know, in a coalition there have to be compromises on both sides. You cannot get through the things you think are absolutely important unless you give way on others. However, the policy of this party now is to oppose police and crime commissioners. I am very grateful to the noble Lord for allowing me to clarify the position of the party on that.

It is very difficult for one person to represent both rural and urban areas in policing, or perhaps an area where there is a large African or Caribbean community and another where there is a large south Asian or Chinese community, or even an LGBT community. These could and do exist within the same police area—as in London, for example. Therefore, with one police and crime commissioner for that whole area, it is difficult for that one person to represent all those communities. It is important to be represented when it comes to accountability around policing, particularly for minority communities, where trust and confidence in the police are not as strong as they are with others.

As others have said, the majority of police and crime commissioners are party political. Therefore, there is a danger that a small “p” political difference between a police and crime commissioner and a chief constable, or even a commissioner—without pointing at any particular examples of that—could result in a good chief constable or commissioner having to resign over that small “p” political difference, or even a personality difference with the police and crime commissioner

As the noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, has said, we are in a position where, because it is one person hiring and firing the chief constable, we are not getting a range of candidates applying for the chief constable post. The assumption is that the incumbent deputy will have a good relationship with that police and crime commissioner and have a natural advantage over any outside candidate, and therefore it is not worth applying. For all these reasons, we feel that having a range of people holding the police to account—particularly if they are democratically elected councillors —as opposed to one person, would be preferable. But I agree with other noble Lords that the suggested way to replace the system is probably not through a series of referenda that could result in different mechanisms in different parts of the country.

As far as the abolition of deposits in elections is concerned, that is perhaps slightly wider than this Bill should be considering. Of course, as Liberal Democrats, we would have to declare an interest as far as that is concerned. I absolutely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew, about potentially reducing the size of the deposit, rather than getting rid of it completely.

Were police authorities better? In some places, I think they were. As the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, has said, the Metropolitan Police Authority was certainly very effective. The noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, who experienced both, said there was not much to choose between the two on accountability.

For the reasons that I have explained, we agree that there should certainly be an examination of how effective police and crime commissioners are.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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My Lords, I agree with the comments of my noble friend Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, and other noble Lords, that we have had mixed experiences of police and crime commissioners—some have been very good, and some not so good. I will not go further than that, though, in relation to Amendment 278.

I wish to talk in particular about the amendment in the names of my noble friends Lord Bach and Lord Hunt of Kings Heath. They have drawn attention to the consequences we have witnessed as result of potential candidates for police and crime commissioner being debarred if they have been convicted of any offence, however many years ago, for which they could have received a custodial sentence, irrespective of whether they did actually receive such a sentence. I do not wish to pursue any individual cases but rather the general point, as others have done, of whether there should be another look at the reasons, in respect of previous convictions, for which a potential candidate for the office of police and crime commissioner can be disqualified.

When the issue has been raised previously, the Government have argued that it should not be reviewed because there was cross-party support for this requirement to be included in the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011. If that argument was followed through to its logical conclusion, there could never be any change to any legislation that originally had cross-party support, which is a bit of a nonsense.

The other argument advanced was that people must have complete confidence in the probity and integrity of whoever it is they elect as a police and crime commissioner because of their responsibilities and powers in relation to their police force, including the chief constable. Clearly, that is true, but whether an offence committed decades ago that could have resulted in a custodial sentence but did not—because it was not considered of a sufficiently serious nature to justify such a sentence—should automatically still be regarded as calling into question the probity and integrity of a potential candidate for police and crime commissioner, and thus disqualify them from holding such an office, is questionable, to say the least. It is certainly questionable when one looks at other positions that have powers and responsibilities in relation to the police and the criminal justice system but have no such similar restrictions on being able to stand for office or be appointed to an office.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill Debate

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Monday 22nd November 2021

(2 years, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 40-XI Eleventh marshalled list for Committee - (22 Nov 2021)
Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, with the leave of the Committee, I will speak briefly. In my comments on the previous group on which I spoke—the one beginning with Amendment 278—I did not mean to suggest that the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew, was filibustering. I tried to inject a little humour into proceedings, bearing in mind the wide range of issues that we discussed in the debate on that group and the length of that debate. I joked that it was beginning to look like a filibuster. I have apologised to the noble Lord but I wanted to include that apology in the official record.

We support this important amendment. As my noble friend Lady Hamwee said, Section 14 of the Data Protection Act 2018 provides some safeguards against important decisions being taken by automated processing. It allows a human review on appeal with the subject having been told, but only if the decision was “solely” taken automatically, rather than “significantly”, as my noble friend’s amendment suggests. Experience in the American criminal justice system of using algorithms shows that bias in historical decisions is replicated, even enhanced, by algorithms. We therefore support this amendment.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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As has been said, Article 22 of the general data protection regulation provides that a person has

“the right not to be subject to a decision based solely on automated processing, including profiling, which produces legal effects concerning him or her or similarly significantly affects him or her.”

It also provides that there is an exemption to this if the automated decision-making is explicitly provided in law. Section 14 of the Data Protection Act 2018 provides, as has been said, some safeguards based on Article 22 for cases where the law allows automated decision-making on things that may have a significant effect on a person. It provides that where a significant decision is made by automated means, the subject may request that the decision is retaken with human oversight. The section currently provides protections for a decision taken, as has once again been said, “solely” by automated means. The amendment would extend this provision to decisions taken solely “or significantly” by automated means.

The issue of automated decision-making will become, and indeed is becoming, increasingly prevalent in our lives—a point made by all sides during the passage of the 2018 Act, when we tried to add far stronger safeguards to the then Bill to prevent decisions that engaged an individual’s human rights being decided by automated means. On that basis, I am certainly interested in the points raised to extend the right of appeal to decisions that are based “significantly” on automated processing.

Finally, it is potentially concerning that the Government are currently consulting on removing Article 22 of the GDPR and the associated protections from UK law altogether. I believe that consultation closed last week. Can the Government give an indication of when we can expect their response?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, for explaining this amendment, which relates to automated decision-making. Let me first say that the Government are committed to maintaining high standards of data protection and agree that the clarity of safeguards relating to automated decision-making is important. The Government are also aware of some of the difficulties faced by organisations in navigating the terminology of these automated processing provisions.

As all noble Lords have noted, to address this issue the Government are currently seeking evidence via a public consultation, which is being run by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. As the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, noted, that consultation closed only last Friday. He also mentioned Article 22. The consultation is looking at the need for legislative reform of the UK data protection framework overall, including GDPR and the Data Protection Act 2018. It covers Article 22 of the UK GDPR, including organisations experienced with navigating the solely automated processing and similarly significant terminology. As I say, that consultation closed on 19 November.

In examining the responses to the consultation, the Government will consider the safeguards in respect of automated decision-making that involve personal data in the round. We will address this matter in the government response to the consultation, which we expect to publish in the spring. We also look forward to the report of the inquiry by the Justice and Home Affairs Committee, chaired by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and will take its conclusions and recommendations into account when bringing forward our proposals for legislation. In the meantime, with apologies for being brief, I invite the noble Baroness to withdraw her amendment.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill Debate

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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Report will not be treated like a Committee stage, but I have no intention of moving amendments that this Committee intends to vote against, so I shall withdraw them.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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Can I confirm, though, that we will be going on until such time as we conclude the Committee stage—that is, as far as today and the early hours of the morning are concerned? So if it takes until 2 am to get through this list, we will be here until 2 am, and if it takes till 4 am, we will be here till 4 am. What the Minister said was a statement of hope that we would finish tonight; it is not an undertaking from the Government that we will not go on beyond midnight, even. Can I be clear on that?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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We will finish Committee today—and, yes, a statement of hope is certainly what it is.

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Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Russell of Liverpool, for moving Amendment 292N on behalf of the noble Baroness, Lady Newlove; I wish her well.

Victims of stalking, including female Members of Parliament, are being failed, as the noble Baroness has just said. As the noble Lord, Lord Russell, set out in his opening speech, there were 892,000 victims of stalking in the year to March 2020, according to the crime survey. The noble Lord pointed out the findings of the HMICFRS report on violence against women and girls regarding the inconsistent approach across different police forces to stalking protection orders; that the majority of orders had no positive obligation on the perpetrator; and that officers in force areas were unaware that the perpetrators were even subject to the orders, so there was no enforcement of the orders.

There is clearly a need to address perpetrator behaviour, in addition to protecting victims. My noble friend Lady Brinton said—and I agree—that stalking is not being taken seriously enough. That is as much a cultural issue for the police and courts as it is for society as a whole. There is clearly a need for a stalking strategy to ensure a consistent and effective response from all the authorities involved, as the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, just said—not just the criminal justice system but charities and others that offer services to address the behaviour of offenders. We support this amendment.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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I will be very brief as the case for this amendment has been so eloquently put by the noble Lord, Lord Russell of Liverpool, and other noble Lords who have spoken. I take this opportunity to pay tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Newlove, who unfortunately cannot be in her place tonight, and to the other noble Lords who are signatories to the amendment, for their tireless work on this issue. In that context, I also pay particular tribute to my noble friend Lady Royall of Blaisdon, who cannot be in the Committee today, for her dedication and years of leadership on this issue.

I know the Minister is also passionate about this issue, but for years the House has found itself returning to this debate, as the noble Lord, Lord Russell of Liverpool, said, and each time the answer from the Government is largely that the current system is adequate although improvements are needed in how it is delivered. Yet each time we come back to it, more women have been killed and more lives devastated. This amendment has our wholehearted support, and I hope we can now look forward to a clear and encouraging response from the Government.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Russell of Liverpool, for setting out this amendment calling for a strategy on stalking. As the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, pointed out, this can have a devastating impact on the victims that are pursued. I actually have much higher figures than those that noble Lords talked about today: an estimated 1.5 million people were victims of stalking in the last year. I assure noble Lords that this Government are utterly committed to protecting and supporting victims of stalking, as some of our work in the last few years demonstrates. We will do everything that we can to ensure that perpetrators are stopped at the earliest opportunity.

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Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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The amendments in this group to which my name is one of those attached would, based on recommendations by the Joint Committee on Human Rights, remove the proposed new trigger for imposing conditions on public processions based on noise and provide that a person who breaches a condition after deliberately or recklessly avoiding knowledge of the relevant condition can face criminal liability, but without extending the criminal offence to cover persons who breach conditions accidentally. In other words, that amendment would remove the offence of breaching a condition that you “ought to have known” was there. My name is also attached to the notifications opposing Clauses 55, 56, 57 and 61, which concern imposing conditions on public processions and public assemblies, “Offences under sections 12 and 14 of the Public Order Act 1986”, and “Imposing conditions on one-person protests”, respectively.

The Prime Minister said that he would sit in front of the bulldozers to protest against and seek to prevent the construction of a third runway at Heathrow. Can the Government, in their response, say whether he could have been arrested and prosecuted under existing legislation for doing that? If not, could such an arrest and prosecution for that activity be made under the legislation the Government are now pursuing in the Bill? It would be somewhat ironic if the Government were now seeking to introduce legislation to enable action to be taken against the kind of protest that the Prime Minister was only too happy to commit himself to undertaking—presumably, as a democratic right in a democracy.

Likewise, we saw protests against the increase in fuel prices recently, with drivers of goods vehicle trailers going at 5 mph along a motorway, resulting in significant delays to traffic. Can the Government say whether that action could have led to arrests being made and prosecutions taking place under existing legislation? If not, could such arrests be made and prosecutions pursued under the legislation that the Government now propose?

It is important to be clear about the extent to which existing laws do, or do not, enable action to be taken against the kind of protest to which I have referred, along with recent protests by Insulate Britain, and thus whether the issue is the way and extent to which existing legislation is applied and enforced, rather than a need for legislation of the kind now proposed. Insulate Britain protesters have ended up with custodial sentences under existing legislation.

As my noble friend Lord Blunkett wrote in April of this year:

“Protest might be inconvenient for politicians, but it acts as a pressure valve, allowing citizens to express their views and vent frustrations that could otherwise boil over … If we suppress protest, we could see more anger towards institutions including the police, the judiciary and parliament.”


Protest needs to be peaceful and tolerated, and accepted as a democratic right, against which we have to balance the rights of others to go about their daily business. We do not believe that the Government’s proposals in the Bill deliver those goals and reject the attempts to amend the Public Order Act 1986 with this loosely drafted legislation, which would restrict democratic rights to peaceful protest.

Clause 55 imposes conditions on public processions, including powers for the Secretary of State to define

“serious disruption to the life of the community”

or to the activities of an organisation carried out in the “vicinity” of a public procession, as well as powers for the police to impose conditions when they believe that noise might have

“a significant impact on persons in the vicinity”

or may result in

“serious disruption to the activities of an organisation”.

With that reference to noise, it would appear that it is now also protestors and not only children whom some people think should be seen and not heard.

Clause 56 allows the police to place any necessary condition on a public assembly as they can now with a public procession. Clause 57 removes the need for an organiser or participant to have “knowingly” breached a condition and increases the maximum sentences for the offence. Further clauses impose conditions on one-person protests and make significant changes to the police powers contained in the Public Order Act to respond to protest by expanding the types of protests on which the police could impose conditions.

The Bill also widens the types of conditions that the police can place on static protests, since it would significantly lower the legal tests that must be met for the police to issue conditions on protests. The police would be able to issue conditions on protests where they are noisy enough to cause “intimidation or harassment” or

“serious unease, alarm or distress”

to bystanders.

Before using their amended powers to issue conditions on a protest, the police would have to consider the “likely number of persons” affected by the protest, the “likely duration” of the impact and its “likely intensity”. The clause would also widen the types of conditions that the police can issue on static protests to match their powers relating to protest marches. They would also be able to issue any condition on static protests that they think necessary to prevent

“disorder, damage, disruption, impact or intimidation”.

These powers would also amend the offence of failing to comply with a condition imposed by the police on a protest. They would remove the legal test that requires protestors “knowingly” to breach a condition to commit an offence. People would commit the amended offence if they disobeyed a condition that they “ought” to have known was in force. Finally, these powers will allow the police to issue conditions on one-person protests. Currently, protests must involve at least two people to engage police powers.

The Bill includes many ambiguous clauses and will no doubt cause lots of legal argument in the effort to define what they mean. That puts the police in an impossible situation. There is no real drive from them for the government measures that we are discussing in this group of amendments. They do not need more legislation because they already have the powers in place, under the Public Order Act 1986, to impose conditions and to prohibit protests. Good policing is done with discretion. The Bill tries to require the police to do certain things that they may not want to do or may not feel are appropriate.

It is our belief that the powers in the Bill threaten the fundamental balance between the police and the people. The most severe clauses are not actually what the police asked for. We believe that these new broad and vaguely worded proposals would impede the ability of the police, rather than help them in their job. These clauses put way too much power into the hands of the Home Secretary, and the powers threaten our fundamental right to peaceful protest. The proposals risk making protests ineffective and curtail fundamental rights of citizens in a democracy that allow people to express their concerns about the Government of the day or other issues that they feel passionately about.

The provisions of the Bill put more power in the hands of the Home Secretary, who, in the future, may use these powers in an authoritarian way, further impacting on people’s rights. On the power of the Home Secretary to make regulations on the meaning of

“serious disruption to the activities of an organisation … or … the life of the community”,

the former Prime Minister and Home Secretary Theresa May said at Second Reading in the Commons:

“It is tempting when Home Secretary to think that giving powers to the Home Secretary is very reasonable, because we all think we are reasonable, but future Home Secretaries may not be so reasonable.”—[Official Report, Commons, 15/3/21; col. 78.]


Throughout our history, protests and marches have led to significant changes for the better in this country. If the provisions of the Bill had been in place, would they have been stopped for causing annoyance or being too noisy? There is no doubt that those who disagreed with the objectives of the protestors might well have claimed that they were being caused annoyance and found them too noisy.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill Debate

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Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

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Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, noble Lords have already comprehensively covered the ground, and I am especially grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, and his Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, and to the Government for listening to that committee, and to the concerns that were expressed in Committee, and by the Constitution Committee and the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee.

We are concerned that simply laying guidance before Parliament is not sufficient. It should be by regulations, as the noble Lord has said. However, we are pleased that the Government have listened to some extent and we support these amendments.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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My Lords, I too will be brief. As has been said, this group includes government amendments relating to recommendations from the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee that the Government have accepted. It includes the requirement that strategies under the serious violence reduction duty are published, and that guidance on the series violence duty, police powers under Part 4 and serious violence reduction orders must be laid before Parliament. However, the Government have not accepted every recommendation of the DPRRC, and on some they have gone only half way. For example, the DPRRC recommended that guidance on serious violence reduction orders should be subject to the affirmative procedure, but the Government have made it subject only to the negative.

Like other noble Lords, I extend our thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, and the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee for the invaluable work that they do and no doubt will continue to do. We welcome the amendments in this group that go some way towards accepting a number of recommendations from the DPRRC, but it is interesting to note that, in its report on the powers in the Bill to introduce unpublished strategies and guidance without parliamentary scrutiny, the DPRRC said:

“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.”


This group of amendments introduces some improvements into the Bill, which we welcome. On that basis, we hope that the Government will be in listening mode over the next few days of debate on Report. Perhaps the next Bill that appears before us will not have such powers in it to begin with.

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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I thank all noble Lords who have participated in this brief debate. I do not know whether my noble friend Lord Blencathra was in his place when I started speaking, but I was praising him and his committee—I also praise him for his stealthy entrance. He asked about statutory guidance. As I said in my brief introduction, all the guidance will now be laid before Parliament, as the noble Lord, Lord Beith, noted, and the SVRO guidance will be subject to the negative procedure.

The noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, asked the most detailed question, on behalf of her noble friend Lady Lister. She asked specifically about the comments on the gold-plating of human rights. I have a copy here of the letter that was sent to the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, and it is very clear that this is about balance:

“This language has been used in HM Government guidance on unauthorised encampments since March 2015,”


as the noble Baroness noted, but it was not statutory guidance; the Bill now provides this.

“That guidance made clear that human rights legislation does not prevent action to protect local amenities and the local environment; to maintain public order and safety; and to protect public health - for example, by preventing fly-tipping and criminal damage.


The necessary balancing of interests and rights of both travellers and settled residents reflects the position regarding qualified rights in the Human Rights Act 1998/European Convention on Human Rights … and the need to maintain good community relations under the Equality Act 2010. But operationally in the past, this may have been misunderstood by some public bodies.”


We have published in draft the guidance to be issued under Clause 65, so it is open to anyone who wishes to comment on the document to do so. We will, of course, continue to take any such comments into account before promulgating the final version of the guidance. With that, I hope that I have answered the questions, and I beg to move.

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Baroness Fox of Buckley Portrait Baroness Fox of Buckley (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, I am not particularly keen on GDPR legislation as it is, so I do not want to use it to support this group of amendments. I have also been happy to consider extraordinary measures to tackle things such as knife crime and gangs, because I do not want to pretend that this is a new problem. I live in Wood Green and I have seen someone stabbed. There is a horrible atmosphere in which you fear for young people’s lives. Instead, I want to raise my fear that this could have unintended consequences. It is a question of trust. The young people who we would all like to prevent from being involved in serious violence need to turn to someone and build up relationships with people, if they are to get out of situations where they could be involved in violence.

I will give a couple of examples from youth workers who I have spoken to. A young woman who is pregnant wants to extricate herself from the gang culture, but she worries that, if she talks to people such as youth workers, she will be accused of snitching on the father of her unborn child. That might lead them to the police’s arms, and so on. You can understand the situation. The youth worker reassures them that this will not occur but, actually, you cannot reassure them if the law changes as described. Then there is the young man who considers getting or tries to get himself out of a situation in which he is involved in gangs, but he is paranoid about the police. It is understandable that certain groups would think that any approach to anyone in authority would lead them into the police’s clutches. Actually, any attempt by a youth worker to reassure them that they should not be paranoid would be incorrect in this instance—they were right to be paranoid, because they are potentially putting themselves in the police’s clutches.

I ask the Minister how we can avoid the unintended consequences of this. I know that those individual youth workers will not necessarily be affected, but they work for institutions that have to make data available. Those anecdotes will become data points and important information can therefore be shared when it should not be. I note that I have told those stories anonymously and that I was given that information without any personal data being passed on. If you want to develop new strategies to tackle serious violence, it can be done without handing names, addresses and personal details to the police.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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My Lords, I will endeavour to be brief. This group of amendments includes government concessions to include extra protections on doctor-patient confidentiality and healthcare data. They provide that the powers under the serious violence reduction duty do not authorise the disclosure of patient or personal information by a health or social care authority. We support the amendments in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, which, among other things, leave out the uncertain language in brackets in the Bill.

To be a bit clearer about it—although the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, explained it extremely well, as one would expect—the serious violence reduction duty requires data sharing between bodies, and the Bill currently provides that data cannot be shared if it would breach data protection laws. It qualifies that with:

“(but in determining whether a disclosure would do so, any power conferred by the regulations is to be taken into account)”.

An amendment from the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, and others would delete the provision in brackets, so data protection law would apply as normal, as it does to medical professionals. A number of noble Lords have referred to other people or organisations who have contact and involvement with that same degree of confidentiality, and professional judgments on disclosure should apply.

The noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, referred to a meeting she had with the Minister and a letter she only very recently received. I assume that is the one dated 7 December. I appreciate the letter and thank the Minister for it but, reading the paragraph that relates to the bit in brackets that the amendment from the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, seeks to delete, I struggle to understand the argument for having the part in brackets. Why is it necessary?

Why can we not simply leave it, with statements in other parts of the letter that make it clear that data can be shared, where it is lawful to do so, only under the data protection legislation? One would have thought that is surely all we needed to say—not to have something in brackets which I do not fully understand the need for, despite the letter from the Minister. I sense from what the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, is saying that she too struggles to understand why we need the bit in brackets at all. I have no doubt that the Minister will comment on that in her response.

Having said that, we welcome the concessions made by the Government on medical data and doctor-patient confidentiality. They show that the Government have accepted, up to a point, that the data-sharing powers in this chapter needed qualification. Data sharing, properly and intelligently done, with safeguards, can be absolutely key to tackling serious violence, to prevent silo working and some of the failures we have witnessed too many times. We have some concerns over the proposal to require all data shared under the duty to be anonymised, as there may be rare but crucial cases where information needs to be more specific to protect the vulnerable and pursue the criminal.

I come back to this point: in welcoming the concessions that have been made, we support what the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, is seeking to achieve, but we find the language in brackets—to which reference has been made—which appears to qualify the application of data protection law, to be unclear, and we really do not see why those words need to be there at all.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken to this group of amendments, which concern the data-sharing provisions in Chapter 1 of Part 2 of the Bill. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, for the time she has given me today and the discussion we have managed to have. I actually think we sneakily agree with each other—but not for the same reasons. Before responding to her amendments and those of the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, I will deal with the government amendments in this group, which, if I may take the mood of the House this evening, appear to have attracted broad support.

Information sharing between relevant agencies is essential to the effectiveness of the serious violence duty. It is very important to note that it can be shared only in compliance with data protection legislation. Nothing in this Bill either waters down that legislation or breaches it. The duty will permit authorities to share data, intelligence and knowledge to generate an evidence-based analysis of the problems in their local areas. In combining relevant datasets, specified authorities, local policing bodies and educational, prison and youth custody authorities within an area will be able to create a shared evidence base on which they can develop an effective and targeted strategic response with bespoke local solutions. We can see this in other areas where local bodies work together.

Each of the authorities specified in the legislation has a crucial role to play, and it is vital that authorities are able to share their data to determine what is causing serious violence in the local areas. For example, information sharing can contribute to local efforts by allowing authorities to identify patterns and trends, geographical hotspots and the most vulnerable victims, much in the way that the noble Baroness, Lady Fox, outlined.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill Debate

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Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

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Monday 13th December 2021

(2 years, 6 months ago)

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Read Full debate Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 72-II Manuscript amendment for Report, supplementary to the Second Marshalled List - (13 Dec 2021)
Baroness Jolly Portrait Baroness Jolly (LD)
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My Lords, I join others in thanking the Minister for bringing forward these amendments. I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Bertin, on securing this important concession to the Bill.

Last Wednesday, we had a really well-argued and informed debate. It is worth taking a couple of minutes to look at the recent history of this issue. Going back to coalition times, when Theresa May was Home Secretary, she had weekly meetings around a table with women from every department. She challenged them on what they were doing in the department and then asked them the following week what had happened, so she really kept the pot boiling. As a result, the coalition Government published the first call to end violence against women and girls just after they were formed in 2010. Activity carries on: my honourable friend Wera Hobhouse, through a Private Member’s Bill, introduced a new offence for upskirting. However, offences for stalking, controlling or coercive behaviour, and so-called revenge porn should also follow.

While I regret that my noble friend Lady Brinton was unable to persuade the Minister to include stalking in the definition of serious violence, we welcome the government amendment before us today on violence, particularly sexual violence. Violence is not acceptable in any circumstances, but violence by men towards women and girls is completely unacceptable. As many noble Lords said during debates on this issue in Committee, it is vital to have a multi-agency public health approach to prevent domestic abuse and sexual violence.

Including domestic abuse and sexual violence in the definition of serious violence will ensure that local areas properly take account of this within their strategies and work in a joined-up way to address and prevent these crimes. The setting up of local integrated care systems as a result of the Health and Care Bill, which is before your Lordships’ House, might be a useful first provider of support for families affected. In the Minister’s response, will she please outline the initiatives that the Government will implement, not only to support the families involved, but also the perpetrators of the crimes?

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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My Lords, as the Minister said, government Amendment 15 clarifies that violence for the purposes of Part 2, Chapter 1 includes domestic abuse and sexual offences. We very much welcome these government amendments, the object of which has been a key issue for these Benches. It is a hugely important change to the Bill and an example of what can be achieved by this House, and indeed by Parliament as a whole, through proper scrutiny.

I too pay tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Bertin, and to Nicole Jacobs, the domestic abuse commissioner, for the key roles that they played on this issue. I also pay tribute to my honourable friends Sarah Jones MP and Jess Phillips MP who began a campaign for this change when the Bill arrived in the Commons in March. This has been a cross-party, cross-House effort to ensure that these extremely serious, high-harm types of violence are recognised as such and are prioritised.

It has been mentioned that, although these amendments add domestic abuse and sexual violence to the definition, they do not specifically include stalking. Stalking that involves domestic abuse and sexual offences would be covered by the terms of these government amendments, which provide for the inclusion of violence against women and girls in the definition of serious violence. Of course, that does not include all cases of stalking. I hope and expect that we will hear from the Minister at some stage during the remaining stages of this Bill what the Government are doing to change the way we respond to stalking across the board.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lady Bertin for her comments. I share entirely my noble friend’s commitment to ensuring that best practice in this area is properly communicated to duty holders. That is what will make it effective. I look forward to working with the domestic abuse commissioner’s office and wider stakeholders to develop the statutory guidance which will be subject to public consultation following Royal Assent. We intend to develop options and include detail on monitoring progress in our statutory guidance. In addition, specified authorities will be requested to keep their strategy under review. PCCs will also have a discretionary power to monitor performance, and routine inspection programmes undertaken by individual inspectorates in future may also consider the organisational response to local serious violence issues.

As my noble friend and others will know, the statutory guidance under Clause 18 already includes references to sexual offences, domestic abuse and gender-based violence. In updating the guidance ahead of the consultation, we will explore whether we should revise it to make it clear to specified authorities that they should consider violence against women and girls, including domestic abuse and sexual offences, in determining what amounts to serious violence in their areas.

In terms of stalking, we are very clear that the reference to domestic abuse to be added by the government amendments will encompass stalking in so far as it takes place in a domestic abuse context. Noble Lords will know that while many stalking offences take place in a domestic abuse context or involve violent behaviour, it is not the case in all instances. We have not expressly set these out in the Bill because we are seeking to avoid an exhaustive list of crime types, partly to allow local areas to take account of new and emerging forms of serious violence as they develop and are identified, and partly to recognise the geographical difference in the prevalence of these types of serious violent crimes.

As I have said, the draft statutory guidance for the duty sets out that there is flexibility for local areas to take account of their evidence-based strategic needs assessment and include in their strategy actions which focus on other related types of serious violence, including gender-based violence, which includes all forms of stalking as well as many other forms of violence against women and girls. We can look to make that clearer in the next iteration of the guidance, which we will be consulting on, as I have said. This is a view shared by the domestic abuse commissioner, and I put on record—following my noble friend’s thanks—my thanks to her for her continued engagement in this area.

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Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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First, I congratulate my noble friend Lady Whitaker on her amendment and on all the work that she and many others have done over a considerable period on the issue we are discussing. I express our support for the amendment, on which her co-signatories have also spoken to great effect. The Caravan Sites Act 1968 laid down a statutory duty to establish authorised sites with funding from central government, but unfortunately the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 repealed this provision, since when there have been fewer than three authorised sites built in England on average every year. We are now faced with a Bill under which people on unauthorised encampments who do not cause damage, disruption or distress can commit the new offence of

“residing on land without consent”.

I say that because the Bill provides that the offence can be triggered when a person is considered “likely” to cause damage, or that significant distress is “likely” to be caused by their being there.

As has been said, it appears that the police do not support these powers: they say that site provision is the issue. My noble friend’s amendment is, in my view, very moderate. It does not remove the powers but adds the importance of site provision and negotiated stopping places into the Bill. Deputy Chief Constable Janette McCormick from the National Police Chiefs’ Council told the Joint Committee on Human Rights that

“the issue of unauthorised encampments is a planning issue and is an accommodation issue … we as the police are not seeking any additional legislation to deal with that”.

She also said of authorised sites that

“where we have an increasing number of sites, we have a direct correlation with a reducing number of unauthorised encampments.”

In the 2018 consultation on these powers, the National Police Chiefs’ Council said:

“Trespass is a civil offence and our view is that it should remain so ... The NPCC position has been—and remains—that no new criminal trespass offence is required. The co-ordinated use of the powers already available under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 allows for a proportionate response to encampments based on the behaviour of the trespassers.”


In evidence to the Commons Public Bill Committee, the National Police Chiefs’ Council said that it

“strongly believes that the fundamental problem is insufficient provision of sites for Gypsy Travellers to occupy, and that that causes the relatively small percentage of unlawful encampments, which obviously create real challenges for the people who are responsible for that land and for those living around.”—[Official Report, Commons, Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill Committee, 18/5/21; col. 15.]

It also raised concerns about police resources and the police being drawn into this issue. We seem to be in a position with the Bill where the Government are not accepting the advice of the police, but are pulling in extra police resources from overstretched forces and skirting the issue that is really at the heart of this, which is site provision, which our police and local authorities advise is the thing that will actually make the difference.

Let me make it clear, as others have done, that damaging and harmful behaviour is totally unacceptable, and that landlords and local communities need protection and police support where it happens. It is already a criminal offence for a person to fail to leave land where the police direct them to, when their behaviour has caused damage to land or property or been abusive or threatening. Presumably, that is why the police say that they already have the powers that they need, based on behaviour.

As I said at the beginning, my noble friend Lady Whitaker’s amendment is very moderate. It does not oppose the powers and will not remove the powers from the Bill but would simply add a need to look at the issue of site provision and the successful model of negotiated stopping places. Let us be clear that it provides that the powers under this section can be used only where there is a suitable local pitch for people to be moved on to or a negotiated stopping site can be arranged within 48 hours. It defines a negotiated stopping site as a location temporarily agreed on with the local authority where people can stay, subject to conditions including

“behaviour … length of stay and payment for water … and other utilities.”

It thus specifically deals with the issue, raised repeatedly by the Government, where some people may refuse to use sites that are available.

The cross-party Joint Committee on Human Rights said that

“the Government should not use the criminal law to address what is essentially a planning issue”.

I am sure all noble Lords are waiting to hear the answer to the question of the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, as to what is “a reasonable excuse”. If the Government were to accept my noble friend Lady Whitaker’s amendment, far from weakening the Bill, it would give this part of the Bill a significantly greater effect in reducing the number and impact of unauthorised encampments. I hope the Government will be prepared to move on this issue.

Lord Young of Norwood Green Portrait Lord Young of Norwood Green (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I waited because I wanted to hear which amendments our Front-Bench speakers were supporting. I made my views clear in our previous debate on this issue. I was a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Gypsies, Travellers and Roma and I no longer am, because in my view the behaviour of some Travellers—I stress “some Travellers”—was not being publicly condemned. I used the phrase “the 2R formula”: I will absolutely continue to defend the rights of Travellers, but along with those rights, in our society, there also comes the responsibility to behave in a reasonable way.

I congratulate my noble friend Lady Whitaker on her amendment, because at least there is an acknowledgement in it that there are problems with behaviour, and we should recognise that. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, for his contribution about adopting a proportionate response to this. This is not about dehumanising Gypsies, Roma and Travellers; it is not about taking us back to Auschwitz, and I say that as a non-practising Jew, so I hope my contribution will be taken in this light. There are, unfortunately, real examples of some Travellers behaving in ways that are totally unacceptable. Some, unfortunately, have been associated with modern slavery. These are cases that have been proven. Others seem to think that it is perfectly reasonable to go around collecting building waste, or other waste, and saying it will be disposed of properly when it will not—it will be dumped. We had this on our own village green.

When somebody says that people are opposed to Travellers, they mean that they are opposed to the unreasonable behaviour of some Travellers. That is what causes a lot of it. Of course there are examples of people who are prejudiced, but we should not generalise on this issue. I have some sympathy for my noble friend Lady Whitaker’s amendment and that of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Garnier, who has genuinely tried to find a way forward on this.

I thank the Minister; we had a useful meeting, and I suggested to her that one thing that could be done is to set up local liaison committees—they may exist already—which would involve representatives of Travellers, residents and local authorities. I have not tried to define specifically what they would be but there certainly needs to be more contact and communication between the groups. It would be useful if the Minister could give some examples of what she considers best practice around the country; I believe some examples have been usefully quoted.

A minority of Travellers behave in ways that are unacceptable to communities. If that behaviour could be stopped or condemned, I think there would be a totally different attitude within communities. It is about proportion, about getting the balance right. Have the Government got it absolutely right? I am not sure—I am waiting to hear the Minister’s response—but polarising the debate in this House as some have done by saying that it is all based on people’s innate prejudice and discrimination against Travellers does not help.

There is a genuine problem, and it may be that the Government’s solution is not absolutely right. I was interested in the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Pannick; I might have known that he would put his legal finger on it when he asked whether, if someone was behaving reasonably and gave an excuse that there was no other stopping place, that would be considered a reasonable response in the circumstances.

I look forward to the Minister’s reply. I hope my noble friends will recognise that although I have not entered this debate with the most popular view, I have tried to show that I do not discriminate against Gypsies, Roma and Travellers—far from it. I continue to want to support their rights, but on the basis that they recognise that they too have responsibilities.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill Debate

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Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

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Monday 13th December 2021

(2 years, 6 months ago)

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Read Full debate Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 72-II Manuscript amendment for Report, supplementary to the Second Marshalled List - (13 Dec 2021)
Earl Attlee Portrait Earl Attlee (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I most sincerely apologise to the House for not being present at the start of this debate. I strongly support the thrust of the amendment about bridge-bashing in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley. One day the holes in the cheese will line up and there will be a very serious accident, and the whole world will ask why we did not use technology to avoid such accidents. I strongly support the amendment from the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, about “exceptional hardship”; I would not actually vote against the Government on it, but I strongly support it.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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We welcome the fact that the Government are committing to a call for evidence on road safety issues next year. Like other noble Lords, I should be interested to know how long this exercise is expected to take. Also, is it purely a DfT matter, or a cross-departmental matter—and, if so, which departments are involved? On the general issue of road safety, I comment briefly on what the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, just said. You could always reduce the number of road accidents fairly dramatically if you reduced the speed limit everywhere to 10 miles an hour, but, as a Government, you might not survive very long politically if you did that.

On “exceptional hardship”—the subject of one of the other amendments—maybe there are cases where courts are a bit too lenient. You have to draw the distinction between hardship and inconvenience, because the two are not the same. You do, however, get cases where there could be exceptional hardship and you have to think long and hard. An example would be a single parent who loses access to a car. That could have quite a profound impact on the children, particularly if they do not realistically have anyone else to help them out. You could also end up with a situation where the disqualification of a carer might involve significant impact—hardship perhaps not so much for the carer but for the person being cared for. When you are faced with some of these situations, it is not quite as straightforward as saying “You’ve broken the law, you’ve reached 12 points and you’re off the road”: you may need to look at the consequences. I note with interest the amendment on exceptional hardship. It may well be taken into account in the review what exceptional hardship means and whether it is being applied too leniently and too frequently.

We support Amendment 58—the minimum driving disqualification periods—as we have the increases in sentences for those offences, including causing death by dangerous or careless driving. We welcome the change that the Government propose.

I think that Amendment 64, relating to hit-and-run, mentions a maximum sentence of 14 years in custody. That seems quite a dramatic increase from the current limit. I am not sure whether it is envisaged that if an accident has caused a serious or fatal injury the maximum of 14 years for not stopping is in addition to what you would get for causing the fatal injury—in which case you could get quite a high sentence. I am just commenting on the fact that it seems to be raising the maximum sentence for failing to stop quite considerably. I do not know what the Minister will say about this on behalf of the Government but again, presumably, there is no reason why that should not be considered as part of the review.

With regard to the new amendment on the hitting of bridges, which my noble friend Lord Berkeley has proposed, I have some sympathy with the view that has been expressed that surely there must be a way that technology can reduce the frequency of these events. Perhaps one is a bit too prone to make speeches saying that technology must be able to resolve these issues for us, but one would have thought that this is one area where technology should play a role, and I hope that the Minister will take this issue away and that the Government will reflect on it as part of their general look at road safety issues. I will leave it at that, without commenting on the other amendments in this group.

Lord Berkeley of Knighton Portrait Lord Berkeley of Knighton (CB)
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My Lords, with regard to Amendment 58, I welcome the fact that the Government are taking to task the causing of death through careless driving or being under the influence of drugs or drink. For many families that have lost loved ones to then sit in court as the perpetrator gets a ludicrous sentence for the taking of life while not having the personal responsibility to control their behaviour, especially in terms of being under the influence of alcohol or drugs—that can only be described as insult added to injury. I therefore very much welcome that amendment.

On Amendment 63, can the Minister find some common ground between the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, and noble Baroness, Lady Randerson? Both their points seemed to me to carry weight.

Not stopping after a collision can lead to the serious deterioration of an injury where the other party is unable perhaps to summon help. The situation is seriously exacerbated if someone drives away without reporting it.

Finally, I make a small point about e-scooters. This occurred to me only this evening, when driving here, and then listening to the noble Baroness opposite. Somebody pulled out in front of me on an e-scooter, and the real problem was that any light it might have had was below the bonnet or even wheel of the vehicle behind—even if it was there in the first place. There was no lighting or reflective clothing on this person above shoe level, and none on the helmet; it is completely impossible to see somebody like that, and it gave me a terrific start. I could so easily have seriously damaged this person; it would not really have been my fault, but I would have felt profoundly disturbed by it. That is just a small point that the Government might want to look at in due course.

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Baroness Randerson Portrait Baroness Randerson (LD)
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I was very pleased to add my name to Amendment 61. Alcohol has been a factor in road safety for as long as there have been roads, but we know a lot more about it now and there is worldwide evidence of what works. That evidence has been taken up across Europe and, indeed, across the world, by a large number of countries.

In Committee, I was surprised to hear doubt being cast on this issue on the basis of an apparently disappointing impact in Scotland of lowering the limit. However, this is a very misguided approach, casting doubt on the scientific evidence rather than looking to see, if it has not worked in Scotland in the way that was hoped, why. Indeed, I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, that there are sound grounds for saying that it has had an impact in Scotland.

There are two factors involved in all this: the level at which it is illegal to drive and the enforcement of that level. There is scientific evidence for the former and a debate to be had on the best ways of enforcement, which is why I did not sign the other amendment, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Brooke. That does not mean that I do not agree with it, but I think that there is a serious debate to be had about how you enforce it most fairly. The story in Scotland is that enforcement has been weak. All social change requires a combination of legislation, enforcement and social debate. There has been proper legislation in Scotland and some social debate, but also a lack of enforcement.

I want to concentrate on the statistics. In Committee, I made the point that with Scotland remaining at a stable level and things getting worse in England and Wales, you could say that Scotland was a success story. I am very pleased that the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, has done her maths and confirmed that this speculation is possibly accurate. However, I want to turn to government analysis, because government statistics say that overall, 5% of casualties in reported road accidents in 2019 occurred when at least one driver or rider was over the limit. In Wales, the figure was 6.9%, which is very disturbingly high. In England, the figure was 5.1% and in Scotland it was 4.6%, despite the fact that Scotland has a lower limit, which you would expect to lead to a higher percentage of those involved in accidents being over the limit.

So the difference might be marginal, but at least these statistics show a positive impact in Scotland—and, remember, each percentage point represents lives saved. I can think of no reason why British drivers and riders should be different from those across the world. We need to modernise, and this should be a top priority for the review of road traffic legislation—but I will be supporting the noble Lord if he presses this to a vote.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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I well remember the debates that we had on this issue shortly after Scotland decided to reduce the drink-driving limit in 2014. My recollection was that the Government were in effect saying, “We want to wait and see what the outcome is in Scotland”, while others were saying, “Why wait to see what has happened? Why not just proceed and lower the limit to the same level as Scotland has done?”—which, as has already been said, would be in line with most other countries. The Government held their line that they wanted to wait for evidence from Scotland and would then look at the matter. I may be wrong, but I think that there was a general feeling that if it had had an impact on reducing drink driving in Scotland, the pressure would have been quite considerable on the Government to move, as far as this country was concerned.

Not all the suggested difficulties that might have arisen from reducing the limit in Scotland actually materialised. My understanding is that there was not a significant impact on pubs and restaurants, which is one thing that was said. We did not end up, as I understand it, with the police and the courts in Scotland being overloaded. My understanding—although obviously I will stand corrected if I am wrong—is that the lower limit was generally accepted by the public in Scotland. But it did not have the impact that many of us hoped it would have as far as drink-driving in Scotland was concerned. As I understand it—once again I will stand corrected if I am wrong—there have been academic studies by Bath University and Glasgow University that rather confirm that situation.

This is clearly an important issue and it needs looking at. There must be some logic in saying that one would have expected that reducing the drink-drive limit would have an impact on the level of such driving, to the benefit of us all—but it does not seem so far that it has had a great effect on the number or severity of accidents in Scotland. Views have been expressed this evening about lack of enforcement and lack of publicity for the change as far as Scotland was concerned, but certainly Scotland is not providing a particularly robust evidence base at present, subject to further studies and a more robust evidence base—the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, referred to issues concerning the figures. We need to look at all the factors that might contribute to making people safer, including, although it is only one, the level of enforcement, and the culture.

The Government have said that they are putting out what they describe as a wide call for evidence on a number of road safety issues. It is supposed to be starting in a month’s time. I hope we will be told that this will be a major one, because the question is repeatedly asked why we have a much higher limit than virtually everywhere else, and that surely the logic would show that if you reduce the limit you ought to get a benefit from that in a reduction in drink-driving.

So we welcome the call for evidence that the Government are making. I know that I cannot speak for all my colleagues in saying this, but we accept that the evidence from Scotland is not showing that the change has had the effect many of us thought it would have. There may well be reasons for that and perhaps that needs further investigation and study, but our view is that, as long as the Government commit to look at this seriously in the review that is being undertaken and the call for evidence on a number of road safety issues, we should not vote on this issue immediately but wait for that further review. However, we have heard points raised quite validly about whether this review will go on and on, or whether it will be conducted within a reasonable timescale to enable decisions to be made that could involve further legislation.

The Government need to say what plans they have to bring down the level of drink-driving. One hopes that that will emerge from the review that is being undertaken and that the course of reducing the limit might well be part of it. In the meantime, we will wait for this call for evidence and the outcome of the review. We want some understanding that it will be conducted within a reasonably speedy timescale. In the meantime, we could not support the amendment that my noble friend Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe has moved if he decided to push it to a vote.

Lord Berkeley of Knighton Portrait Lord Berkeley of Knighton (CB)
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My Lords, like the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, I would have some concerns about Amendment 62 and what that might lead to in terms of random breath testing. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, would have some thoughts about that.

I will say just one thing on the principal amendment. I thought what the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, said was very enlightening and I do not think we can totally ignore it. The Government’s slogan, on which they have spent a great deal of money, is “Don’t drink and drive”. It is not “Drink less and drive”. So I would have thought that anything that hammers that home could be only a good thing.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill Debate

Full Debate: Read Full Debate
Department: Ministry of Justice

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Lord Rosser Excerpts
Moved by
104A: After Clause 172, insert the following new Clause—
“Child criminal exploitation
In section 3 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 (meaning of exploitation), at the end insert—“Child criminal exploitation(7) Another person manipulates, deceives, coerces or controls the person to undertake activity which constitutes a criminal offence and the person is under the age of 18.””Member’s explanatory statement
This new Clause would introduce a statutory definition of child criminal exploitation.
Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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My Lords, a similar amendment was debated in Committee as part of a series of amendments relating to ensuring that safeguarding and tackling the criminal exploitation of children are a central part of the duty to reduce serious violence as set out in Part 2, with its duties on specified authorities to collaborate and plan to prevent and reduce serious violence. Children who are groomed and exploited by criminal gangs are the victims and not the criminals. A statutory duty to reduce violence cannot be effective on its own without a statutory duty to safeguard children. This amendment would provide a statutory definition of child criminal exploitation, putting a recognised definition in law for the first time.

The present lack of a single clear statutory definition has contributed to local authorities responding differently to this form of exploitation across the country. The Children’s Society says that just one-third of local authorities have a policy in place for responding to it, yet child criminal exploitation does not stop at local authority boundaries and requires a shared understanding and approach nationally. Barnardo’s has said that it has found that agencies, including police forces, do not routinely collect or record information on this type of exploitation. It reports that a number of reviews have found that children at risk are passed between agencies without meaningful engagement. Indeed, many children are not seen as victims of exploitation and abuse but instead receive punitive criminal justice responses.

A statutory definition, as we now have for domestic abuse, would improve awareness and understanding of child exploitation and its signs, and encourage joined-up working not only across the justice system but across all partners included in the serious violence reduction duty. It would give a common definition of what we are seeking to tackle in response to the abhorrent coercion and manipulation of children and vulnerable young people. This is not a minor issue. More than 25,000 children in the United Kingdom are presently at risk of gang exploitation, according to the Children’s Commissioner.

The response of the Government in Committee to establishing a statutory definition of child criminal exploitation was that they had considered it with a range of operational partners and had concluded that the definitions of exploitation within the Modern Slavery Act were sufficient to respond to a range of child criminal exploitation scenarios. However, the operational partners with whom presumably the Government considered a statutory definition will include the local authorities which according to the Children’s Society do not have a policy in place for responding to child criminal exploitation, the police forces and other agencies which Barnardo’s found are not routinely collecting or recording information on this type of exploitation, and the agencies which pass children at risk between each other without meaningful engagement. The evidence indicates that there is no consistency of approach across the agencies on child criminal exploitation, so it is clear that the existing definitions on which the Government relied when rejecting this amendment in Committee are not assisting in the way they should in responding to abhorrent child criminal exploitation scenarios.

I hope that the Government will be prepared to reflect further on this issue of a much-needed definition of child criminal exploitation as provided for in this amendment, which I move.

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Portrait Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (GP)
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I would be remiss if I did not point out to the Benches opposite that this is an issue that I have talked about quite a lot, in the context not of county lines and gangs but of the Met Police. I did not even realise that there was not a statutory definition, so I welcome this amendment. The definition talks about another person who manipulates and so on, and, of course, the Met Police manipulates children. We are assured constantly that it is a very small number, but it happens and does so apparently lawfully because the Government have not stopped it, so the Government are complicit in a crime.

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Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, for setting out the case for the amendment and to all noble Lords who took part in this short debate. I wholly agree that the targeting, grooming and exploitation of children who are often the most vulnerable in our society for criminal purposes is deplorable. This Government are committed to tackling it.

Before I start, I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, that the Government are not complicit in crime. I remember CHIS being debated quite extensively in your Lordships’ House. They are subject to significant and stringent safeguards, so I think that we can leave that there.

This amendment seeks to establish a statutory definition of child criminal exploitation. As I indicated in Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Field of Birkenhead, the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, and Maria Miller MP undertook an independent review into the Modern Slavery Act 2015, the findings of which were published in May 2019. The definition of exploitation in Section 3 of the Act was explored as part of this review in response to calls that it should be amended to explicitly reflect new and emerging forms of exploitation, such as county lines.

The review heard evidence from the CPS, which warned against expanding the scope of the meaning of exploitation or defining exploitation so precisely that it would lack flexibility when applying the legislation to a changing profile of criminal conduct. The authors of the review agreed and recommended that the definition should not be amended, as it is sufficiently flexible to cover a range of circumstances, including new and emerging forms of modern slavery.

We agree that front-line practitioners need to have a clear understanding of child exploitation; the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, made these points very well. That is why child exploitation is already defined in statutory guidance, including the Keeping Children Safe in Education and Working Together to Safeguard Children statutory guidance. It is also set out in non-statutory practice documents for those working with young people, such as the Home Office Child Exploitation Disruption Toolkit and the county lines guidance.

We recognise that the vast majority of child criminal exploitation cases occur in the context of county lines. That is why the Home Office is providing up to £1 million this financial year to the St Giles Trust to provide specialist support for under-25s and their families who are affected by county lines exploitation. The project is operating in London, the West Midlands and Merseyside, which are the three largest exporting county lines areas. We also continue to fund the Missing People’s SafeCall service. This is a national confidential helpline service for young people, families and carers who are experiencing county lines exploitation.

I listened carefully to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Gloucester, who made some powerful points. She mentioned the Children’s Society. I should point out that the Home Office is funding the Children’s Society’s prevention programme, which works to tackle and prevent child criminal exploitation, child sexual abuse and exploitation, modern-day slavery and human trafficking on a regional and national basis. This has included a public awareness campaign called “Look Closer”, which started in September. It focuses on increasing awareness of the signs and indicators of child exploitation and encourages the public and service, retail and transport sector workers to report concerns to the police quickly.

Back to county lines and drugs. They devastate lives, ruin families and damage communities. That is why this Government have recently introduced a 10-year strategy to combat illicit drugs using a whole-system approach to cut off the supply of drugs by criminal gangs and give people with a drug addiction a route to a productive and drug-free life. Through the strategy, we will bolster our flagship county lines programme, investing up to £145 million to tackle the most violent and exploitative distribution model yet seen.

Clearly, we are all in agreement that tackling child criminal exploitation must be a priority. I have set out some of the steps that the Government are taking to do just that. However, the Government remain unpersuaded that defining child criminal exploitation in statute would aid understanding of the issue or help such exploitation. As I have indicated, we should pay heed to the conclusions of the independent review of the Modern Slavery Act, which commended the flexibility afforded by the current definition of exploitation. For these reasons, I ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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First, I thank the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby and the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, for adding their names to this amendment. Indeed, I thank all noble Lords who spoke in this debate.

Basically, the Government have repeated what they said in Committee. There is nothing new and no response to the point that a statutory duty to reduce violence cannot be effective without a statutory duty to safeguard children, which is what this amendment would provide by putting a recognised definition in law for the first time. There has not really been a response to that.

I made the point that the evidence indicates that there is no consistency of approach across the agencies on child criminal exploitation. Clearly, the definitions on which the Government relied in Committee, which they have now repeated on Report, are not assisting in the way that they should in responding to child criminal exploitation scenarios. It is a bit depressing to find no movement at all on the Government’s stance and, if I may say so, no attempt to respond to my point that, bearing in mind the inconsistencies, the existing definitions are clearly not doing the job that the Government claim they should be doing and, indeed, claim they are doing. That clearly is not the case.

I do not intend to test the opinion of the House on this. I say only that the issue is not going to going away. If we continue, as I suspect we will, with the inconsistencies of approach that have been identified by Barnardo’s and the Children’s Society and referred to during this debate—that is, if the Government do not address them, which is what this amendment in effect invites them to do—this matter will not go away. I am quite sure that it will be the subject of further discussion and debate if the present highly unsatisfactory situation continues in respect of child criminal exploitation. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 104A withdrawn.
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Baroness Jolly Portrait Baroness Jolly (LD)
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My Lords, as we said in Committee, we are in principle supportive of this amendment. However, we would want in an ideal world a balancing amendment to ensure the possibility of recall and by-election should a police and crime commissioner be found guilty of misconduct, along the lines of the Recall of MPs Act 2015. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Bach, about the discrimination of early offences. Currently, because police and crime commissioners are democratically elected, they can be replaced only by means of another election, and as things stand there is no mechanism to force such a by-election. It is hoped that a disgraced PCC would resign but this should not be at the sole discussion of the PCC concerned. Therefore, we are reluctant to support the amendment without another along the lines of the one described earlier. My noble friend Lord Paddick says that he thinks it is unfortunate that the noble Lord, Lord Bach, did not take the hint that he gave him in Committee.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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My Lords, I will be brief. I recall that the Minister said in Committee on this amendment

“I fear that my ice thins a little here”.

One can only say that I think it has got even warmer since then. The Government said in Committee:

“Having said all that, I have heard everything that has been said around the Chamber this evening, across party, and I will make sure that those arguments are reflected back to the Home Office.”


What happened when those arguments were then reflected back to the Home Office, to whom in the Home Office were they reflected back to, and what was the response?

The rules on previous convictions, which the Government said in Committee were necessary to ensure

“the highest levels of integrity on the part of the person holding office and to protect the public’s trust in policing”

do not seem to have been very effective or relevant in North Yorkshire on two occasions already where two different PCCs have already departed the scene in interesting circumstances.

I conclude, in indicating our support for this amendment and thanking noble Lords for all the arguments and points made, that in Committee the Government referred to part 2 of the review of police and crime commissioners. They said that it is “currently under way” and that

“this review will also assess the benefits and demerits of a trigger mechanism for the recall of PCCs; it is being debated.”—[Official Report, 22/11/21; cols. 649-50.]

Will this part of the review of PCCs also now look at the issue of the current bar, in its present form, on a potential candidate being able to stand for the position of police and crime commissioner, which is the issue we are debating tonight? If the Government cannot even say that this will now be included in part 2 of the review, what is the reason for that stance?

I very much hope, like my noble friend Lord Bach, that the Government will accept this amendment, or at the very least agree to reflect on it further prior to Third Reading so that it can be brought back again if the Government’s reflections are not very satisfactory.

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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My Lords, first, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Bach, for giving us a further opportunity to discuss the disqualification criteria for those wishing to be elected as police and crime commissioners and for joining the meeting yesterday when we discussed this issue online. I thank all noble Lords who have participated in this debate and, to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, I do fear my ice is rather thinner.

However, this latest amendment would allow anyone convicted of an imprisonable offence before the age of 21 to stand as a police and crime commissioner. I commend the noble Lord for seeking some middle ground to address this issue, but the amendment would still dilute the current high standard of integrity we expect of PCCs—namely, preventing anyone convicted of an imprisonable offence to stand for or hold the office of PCC.

As I said on this matter in Committee, the rules governing who can stand as a PCC are the strictest of all elected roles in England and Wales. We believe that this is necessary to ensure the highest levels of integrity of the person holding office and thus protect the public’s trust in policing. Any dilution of that high standard, as proposed by the noble Lord, could still undermine public confidence in a PCC.

Under the noble Lord’s amendment, it would be open to a person convicted of and imprisoned for a very serious violent offence at the age of 20, for example, to stand for election as a police and crime commissioner. That is inappropriate, given the nature of the role the PCC plays in holding the chief constable and the force to account. I suggest that were a PCC to hold office with a previous conviction for an imprisonable offence, both the PCC and the chief constable may find it untenable to maintain a professional and respectful relationship.

The current standard was set with cross-party agreement and the support of senior police officers. If the current standard is lowered, the Government maintain that it would be a very serious risk to public confidence and the integrity of the PCC model at a time when we should be doing all we can to protect and increase public confidence in the police.

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Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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With regard to public confidence, I go back to what I said earlier: this was originally designed with cross-party support and with the assistance and advice of police chiefs.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, may I have a response to my question? Bearing in mind that in Committee the Government were prepared to tell us that part 2 of the review will

“also assess the benefits and demerits of a trigger mechanism for the recall of PCCs; it is being debated,”—[Official Report, 22/11/21; col. 649.]

may I ask for an assurance that part 2 of the review will also look at the issue raised by my noble friend Lord Bach in this amendment about the bar on being able to seek office as a PCC? May I have that assurance?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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I am sorry I forgot to answer the noble Lord’s specific question. The problem is that I do not have the terms of reference to hand so I cannot give him the assurance he seeks, but I will write to him.

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Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, as other noble Lords have just said, serious and organised food crime can have very serious consequences. To free up scarce police resources by giving the National Food Crime Unit the powers that it needs seems sensible. According to the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, the National Police Chiefs’ Council supports this change, so I am looking forward to hearing from the Minister what I am missing, because I cannot immediately see any reason why this amendment should not be accepted.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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As has been said, this amendment raises the issue of food-related crime and the powers and resources available to tackle it. I will make just one or two comments that may seem almost irrelevant, in view of the very strong case that my noble friend Lord Rooker has already made, as we anticipated he would.

As my noble friend said, the National Food Crime Unit, which is part of the Food Standards Agency, works to tackle serious organised cases of food-related crime. My noble friend Lord Rooker powerfully and persuasively made the case that there are blocks on the powers that the unit can access and that it is often reliant on the police, who are overstretched across competing priorities, to be able to use certain powers or apply for warrants, for example. The amendment that my noble friend has moved would allow the unit to access powers directly, under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, rather than waiting for police support to become available.

I will spell out exactly the Oral Question that my noble friend asked in February last year:

“My Lords, does the Minister accept that the National Food Crime Unit is operating against organised crime with its hands tied? Investigations are being hampered. Does the Minister agree that investigation powers should be strengthened to include powers to collect the necessary evidence to a higher standard? In other words, will the Government agree that the Police and Criminal Evidence Act powers should be granted to the National Food Crime Unit? The National Police Chiefs’ Council agrees to this to remove the burden from local police forces, which actually agree that food crime is not a high priority.”


As my noble friend said, the Minister replied:

“The noble Lord entirely has a point. I completely agree with him that the National Food Crime Unit has a formidable task ahead of it and that its investigatory powers could be enhanced and its impact improved. That is the view of the Government, industry and the police, and that is why we are committed to the dialogue”.—[Official Report, 22/2/21; col. 614.]


That is what the Government said in reply.

We welcome this commitment and would have given appropriate support to a resulting legislative process, which is why we are supportive of what my noble friend Lord Rooker seeks to achieve with this amendment. The Government have thus previously recognised that this is a problem, but what action has been taken so far since that clear recognition, which was repeated last February? Will the Government now accept the amendment my noble friend has moved? If not, why not?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, for raising this important matter. I acknowledge that there is considerable experience of the Food Standards Agency in your Lordships’ House. We support, in principle, the proposal to increase the investigative powers available to the National Food Crime Unit. The fraud cases of which we have been made aware by the chair of the Food Standards Agency, Professor Susan Jebb—as referred to by the noble Lord—are truly shocking.

Food crime is a very serious issue, with fraud in our food supply chains costing billions of pounds each year. The National Food Crime Unit, which was established to investigate these crimes, should be empowered to tackle them, to improve the response to these cases and to reduce the burden on its colleagues in law enforcement. As such, we are still committed to working with the Food Standards Agency and DHSC, its sponsoring department, on extending certain Police and Criminal Evidence Act powers to the National Food Crime Unit. However, in doing so, we need to work through the implications of this. It may assist the noble Lord if I briefly set out some of the issues we think we would need to explore further.

First, the exercise of any PACE powers by the National Food Crime Unit must be necessary, proportionate and legitimate. As such, it is important that there are suitable governance, accountability, oversight, investigations and complaints arrangements in place, as there are for the police. The National Food Crime Unit is not a statutory body, nor does it have a separate legal identity. Oversight, governance and the complaints processes sit with the Food Standards Agency board, which commissions independent reviews and facilitates a complaints process which ultimately reports to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman. There is therefore no formal independent oversight.

There is also a lack of clarity on the necessary protocols when PACE powers would be exercised, including in relation to post-incident procedures on seizure, retention and evaluation of evidence, and the treatment of arrested persons without police presence. These are all issues which, I have no doubt, can be resolved but I am sure noble Lords would agree on the necessity of ensuring that the appropriate accountability and governance arrangements are in place, given that we are dealing with intrusive powers of the state. As such, we do not believe that it would be appropriate to extend the search and seizure powers in PACE to the National Food Crime Unit without further consultation on the issues I have described. I do not think the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, misses very much, but that is the answer to his question.

I reassure the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, that we are committed to taking this work forward with the Food Standards Agency. I do not have a specific answer to the question of the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, on where the dialogue is at the moment. On that basis, I hope that the noble Lord will be content to withdraw his amendment.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill Debate

Full Debate: Read Full Debate
Department: Home Office

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Lord Rosser Excerpts
Moved by
114C: After Clause 55, insert the following new Clause—
“Accountability of public authorities: duties on police workforce
(1) Members of the police workforce have a duty at all times to act within their powers—(a) in the public interest, and(b) with transparency, candour and frankness.(2) Members of the police workforce have a duty to assist court proceedings, official inquiries and investigations—(a) relating to their own activities, or(b) where their acts or omissions are or may be relevant.(3) In discharging the duty under subsection (2), members of the police workforce must—(a) act with proper expedition,(b) act with transparency, candour and frankness,(c) act without favour to their own position,(d) make full disclosure of relevant documents, material and facts,(e) set out their position on the relevant matters at the outset of the proceedings, inquiry or investigation, and(f) provide further information and clarification as ordered by a court or inquiry.(4) In discharging their duty under subsection (2), members of the police workforce must have regard to the pleadings, allegations, terms of reference and parameters of the relevant proceedings, inquiry or investigation, but are not limited by them, in particular where they hold information which might change the ambit of the proceedings, inquiry or investigation.(5) The duties in subsections (1) and (2) are subject to existing laws relating to privacy, data protection and national security.(6) The duties in subsections (1) and (2) are enforceable—(a) by application to the relevant court or inquiry chairperson by any person affected by the alleged breach, or(b) by the court or inquiry of its own motion, or(c) where there are no extant court or inquiry proceedings, by judicial review proceedings in the High Court.”Member’s explanatory statement
This would establish a duty of candour on members of the police workforce.
Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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Amendment 114C would place a statutory duty of candour on members of the police workforce. It would create a duty on law enforcement to act at all times in the public interest and with transparency, candour and frankness, and to assist in court proceedings, official inquiries and investigations where the activities of members of the police workforce, including omissions, may be relevant. The issue was discussed at some length in Committee and I certainly do not intend to repeat all that was said then.

In his 2017 report on the pain and suffering of the Hillsborough families, Bishop James Jones proposed a duty of candour to address

“the unacceptable behaviour of police officers—serving or retired—who fail to cooperate fully with investigations into alleged criminal offences or misconduct.”

In June 2021, the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel, which I believe took eight years to report, found:

“There was not insignificant obstruction to the Panel’s work … the Metropolitan Police did not approach the Panel’s scrutiny with candour, in an open, honest and transparent way”.


The panel recommended

“the creation of a statutory duty of candour, to be owed by all law enforcement agencies to those whom they serve”.

The chair of the panel, the noble Baroness, Lady O’Loan, said in this House that

“the creation of the duty of candour in matters such as this is vital for the integrity and effectiveness of policing”.—[Official Report, 22/6/21; col. 134.]

Last June, the Government told us in this House that they were still considering the duty of candour in response to Bishop James Jones’s report four years earlier. We now have before us a flagship home affairs and justice Bill from this Government, which prioritises new offences against those who protest but is silent on the failures of justice highlighted in the Bishop Jones report and by the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel and the resulting call, both in the report and by the panel, for the statutory duty of candour provided for in this amendment. It is time for action and a decision, and an end to this seemingly never-ending continuing government consideration of this issue. I beg to move.

Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd Portrait Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd (CB)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I have added my name to this amendment for four reasons. First, the need is clear: we need complete protection of victims and the public interest, and to make certain that recalcitrant are no longer able to delay. Secondly, the duty of candour is clear: there is no doubt about what it entails. Thirdly, the remedies provided in the proposed new clause are extensive and proportionate. Finally, there can be no reason for delay. Why does it need consultation? It does not. The proposed new clause and the need are clear; we should pass this amendment.

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Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
- Hansard - -

I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in the debate, particularly the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, for adding their names to the amendment. I also thank the Minister, speaking on behalf of the Government, for the Government’s response.

The fact that we are now four years on from Bishop James Jones’s report and the Government are still considering their response to the call for a duty of candour simply indicates what a relatively low priority this issue must be for the Government. The Government said in Committee, and indeed the Minister repeated it today, that:

“The Government have already made significant changes to ensure that officers can be disciplined if they mislead the public, and we are committed to properly consider and respond to the recommendations for a duty of candour, as highlighted in Bishop James Jones’s report.”—[Official Report, 3/11/21; col. 1255.]


In the light of what the Government have just had to say, which appears to be that they think that the steps they have taken are more significant than a duty of candour, there must surely now be a real likelihood that the Government will eventually decide against a statutory duty of candour, deciding that internal disciplinary codes and practices are sufficient, when, as the noble Baroness, Lady O’Loan, and others have said, they clearly are not. We now have a statutory duty of candour in the National Health Service.

I conclude by quoting the words of the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, in Committee, on 3 November 2021, which can be read in Hansard:

“The statutory duty of candour is vital not just to affect the culture of the police and enhance public confidence in policing but to give confidence to those police officers who face enormous internal pressures from their colleagues not to be candid. They need support; they need a statutory regime they can point to in order to justify to their colleagues what is required.”—[Official Report, 3/11/21; col. 1253.]


I wish to test the opinion of the House.

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Baroness Altmann Portrait Baroness Altmann (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I have added my name to these amendments. I congratulate the noble Viscount, Lord Colville, on his excellent introduction. This is the first time I have spoken this evening but my remarks apply to many other aspects of this Bill and many of the other areas that we are voting on.

There are some excellent and important measures in this Bill. I agree that banning dangerous or violent protestors is important; I am pleased that my noble friend the Minister said in an earlier debate that the law must protect the public and prevent extremist protests such as those by Extinction Rebellion and Insulate Britain. However, I respectfully suggest that the measures in Clause 59 are like using not a hammer but dynamite to crack a nut.

The Conservative Party has always championed law and order but also freedom of speech and expression, most importantly around Parliament Square—the very heart of our democracy. Amendments 133A and 133B would protect the public’s right to demonstrate and express views in Parliament Square, which is so important. I hope that colleagues on these Benches will consider supporting these important changes to the Bill.

I do not believe that the Government really intend to ban peaceful protest. My noble friend the Minister will assure the House that such protests can still proceed, and I have no doubt that she is sincere in that assurance. But I respectfully point out that, without these amendments, this legislation could prove a Trojan horse, allowing future Governments to introduce the shadow of repression into our country, and could represent a potential attack on the most fundamental freedoms of our democracy. We could allow this and any future Government to ban large demonstrations around Parliament Square on the basis of a ministerial diktat and police connivance. Indeed, the grounds on which such protests can be criminalised are quite flimsy. One example, as the noble Viscount, Lord Colville, mentioned, is proposed new subsection (4A)—to be inserted by Clause 59(3)(c)—which states that

“obstructing the passage of a vehicle includes making the passage of a vehicle more difficult.”

What does that mean? Is it a 30-second delay? Every large protest would be banned, which would effectively change the way our democracy has worked for centuries.

This country has a proud record of standing up to despots, authoritarian rulers and corrupt dictatorships. We have offered sanctuary to those fleeing repression, for which I will be eternally grateful. The most recent example is of Hong Kong residents fleeing Chinese repression, who witnessed their Government recently tearing down the statue memorialising the Tiananmen Square massacre. When those Hong Kong exiles arrive here and learn that this mother of all parliaments no longer allows large protests outside its door, at any time, what will they think?

Democratic Governments must not surround themselves only with yea-sayers, hearing only what they want or choose to hear and squashing dissent. I believe it is important for noble Lords to stand up for our cherished freedoms, prevent any descent into authoritarian rule and support these wholly reasonable amendments to this Bill.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, my name is also added to the amendment in the name of the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, which he moved so eloquently and comprehensively. I really do not want to take up any more of the House’s time, but simply say that we support this amendment and what was said by him, the noble Baroness, Lady Altmann, and the noble Lord, Lord Paddick. If the noble Viscount is not happy with the response he gets and decides to test the opinion of the House, we will support him in the vote.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, these amendments relate to Clauses 59 and 60, which ensure—as was originally proposed by the right honourable Harriet Harman, as chair of the JCHR, to whom we send our deepest sympathies—that vehicular access to the Parliamentary Estate is not prevented by protests or other activity; and Clause 61, which restates the common-law offence of public nuisance in statute.

I begin with Amendments 133A and 133B in the name of the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, which I was able to discuss with him and Dominic Grieve last week. They seek to avoid a perceived outcome of Clause 59 that the Greater London Authority will no longer authorise large-scale assemblies on Parliament Square, due to the risk that such assemblies could obstruct vehicles entering or exiting the controlled area around Parliament.

I am most grateful to the noble Viscount for meeting me last week to raise his concerns about Clause 59. I understand that he is concerned that this clause may have the unintended consequences that the Greater London Authority, which is responsible for Parliament Square Garden, would no longer be able to authorise assemblies in the garden if they risk blocking vehicular access to the Parliamentary Estate. I reassure him tonight, as I did the other day, that this is not the case.

The GLA’s by-laws for Parliament Square Garden require that written permission is granted for certain acts to be conducted in the garden; organising or taking part in an assembly is one of those acts. It is important to note that this by-law applies to the garden itself and does not extend to Carriage Gates, nor the road around the garden. The by-laws state that permission will not be given in respect of any matter defined as a “prohibited activity” under Section 143 of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011. Clause 59 amends this section to include obstructing the passage of a vehicle into or out of an entrance or exit to the Parliamentary Estate as a prohibited activity.

In practice, this means that the GLA could not permit an assembly in Parliament Square Garden if its stated and primary aim is to obstruct vehicular passage in and out of Parliament. However, nothing in Clause 59 means that permission could not still be granted for any other assembly, even if that risks some individuals in attendance obstructing vehicles entering and exiting Parliament. This is the point I was trying to impress the other day.

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All these measures are vital to protecting the country from the highly disruptive tactics employed by a small number of people. The rights to freedom of speech and assembly are, as we have all said, a cornerstone of our democracy, and the Government will not shrink from defending them. But a responsible Government, who stand up for the rule of law, must also defend the rights and freedoms of the law-abiding majority. Their rights cannot and must not be trampled on by a small minority of protesters, who believe they should not be answerable to the law and should be given carte blanche to cause any amount of disruption at any cost. As a Government and as legislators, we have a duty to protect and defend the rights of our citizens. These amendments are a necessary and proportionate means for achieving that balance of rights and responsibilities. I have no hesitation in commending the government amendments to the House. I beg to move.
Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
- Hansard - -

We have amendments in this group, and I will refer also to the new government amendments. I will try to be brief since I do not wish to test the patience of the House, but I have a bit to get through. In that context, I congratulate the Minister on the quite enormous stamina which she has shown so far. I have to admit that it is way in excess of my stamina for this kind of thing.

We oppose the group of new government clauses on protest. In our view, they should not be added to the Bill, which already contains government proposals in relation to protests. The Bill has been in Parliament for some 11 months. However, these sweeping, significant and further controversial powers from the Government have not been looked at for a single minute by the elected House, which is normal practice in relation to controversial measures. In this House they have had just over one hour’s consideration, after midnight at the end of Committee, which meant, in effect, that the overwhelming majority of noble Lords were denied the opportunity to participate. We have now started to debate them here on Report at 9.50 pm and have been told that Report has to be completed tonight, whether before or after midnight. This is, frankly, an outrageous way to legislate. Sometimes a Bill needs late additions to respond to events that have to be addressed immediately. However, the Government did not apply this approach to abusive and intimidating protests outside schools and vaccine centres. Instead, this House compelled them to do so last week.

We support increasing sentences for those who protest dangerously by blocking motorways. This is also likely to cause a clear risk to life, and we were all aware of ambulances being impeded last year when motorways were obstructed and of members of the public being unable to complete time-critical journeys in the timescale required. Our Amendment 150A to government Amendment 150 would apply these increased sentences where they should actually be targeted: not at every road and highway across the board but at wilful obstruction of the motorways and major roads in the 4,300-mile strategic road network—SRN—at the core of our national transport system. Instruction of the SRN results in the most disruption due to volume of traffic, a lack of alternative routes and the difficulty of getting off such a major route because of infrequent junctions, for the large amounts of traffic obstructed. Our amendment would also largely prevent the higher penalties applying to obstruction of a grass verge or pavement, which may be interpreted as part of a highway.

The Government’s proposed locking-on amendment provides an exceptionally low threshold for a broad offence. It can be triggered by an act that is capable of causing disruption to two people. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services is not convinced of the need for this power. Its report on balancing protest powers states that

“most interviewees did not wish to criminalise protest actions through the creation of a specific offence concerning locking-on.”

The reality is that powers already exist for dealing with lock-ons. What we should be looking at is proper guidance, training and, as the inspectorate raised, improving our use of existing resources and specialist officers.

Our Amendments 160A to 160C are based on recommendations of HMICFRS, including consolidating police guidance on public order in one place and keeping track of national and local needs for specialist officers. These are examples of what could have been debated and worked on, if these proposals had been given proper scrutiny time, to find the best way through, but this House has not had that opportunity. I will make a reference to suffragettes: since locking on was used by the suffragettes, I hope that the Government are not going to tell us that it emerged as a tactic for the first time between Second Reading and Report, and that they had no opportunity to bring forward carefully drafted legislation instead of the rushed, broadly drafted power now in front of us.

Government Amendments 151 to 153 on obstruction of major transport works and key infrastructure are overreaching and unnecessary, as there are already existing public order powers that can apply to these situations. Amendment 151 will have an impact particularly on environmental protesters. Frankly, we have reached a sorry state of affairs when we legislate still further specifically against those concerned about the proven threat of climate change and its impact on our way of life and that of our children and grandchildren, and the tardy action on environmental issues. As the Prime Minister himself once committed to lying down in front of the bulldozers in opposition to a third runway, one wonders how much thought he has given to these widely drawn new powers.

We are opposed to the new stop and search on suspicion powers in Amendment 154. We have concerns over their disproportionate use in relation to black and minority ethnic groups and those groups’ level of trust in the police—a problem that we have not faced up to in other uses of stop and search; we also have concerns over how widely the powers are drawn.

It is, though, the final two powers—on suspicionless stop and search and serious disruption prevention orders—that we believe are the most extreme and pernicious. Suspicionless stop and search is a power that, until now, we have used to target serious violent crime and terrorism. These new government clauses would replicate that power to target peaceful protests. Where the power is used, it would permit any member of the public near a protest to be stopped and searched without cause and without suspicion.

The second of the final two powers—serious disruption prevention orders, which can be made without a conviction—are, in effect, essentially protest banning orders. HMICFRS has said that it believed that protest banning orders

“would neither be compatible with human rights legislation nor create an effective deterrent.”

Like serious violence prevention orders, serious disruption prevention orders can be made using inadmissible evidence; they can be extended indefinitely; and breaching them is a criminal offence with terms of imprisonment attached.

These final two powers are overreaching, unwarranted powers which affect the rights of the British public. They should most certainly not be included in the Bill. The Government are trying to force them in through the back door, without full and necessary parliamentary scrutiny, including by this House.

The reason cannot be lack of parliamentary time to provide such full scrutiny—the Commons Chamber finished at 3.30 pm last Wednesday, following the Prime Minister’s performance at PMQs. We cannot support any of these last-minute, rushed and ill-thought-through broad powers in this group of new government amendments, with the exception of approving the increased sentences for wilfully obstructing motorways and major roads.

The absolute priority for us has to be opposing the Government’s suspicionless stop and search and the serious disruption prevention orders being put into statute. These, however, are down as the last new clauses in this group. Frankly, it is already quite late, and we ought to seek to have these votes as soon as possible, to ensure that as many noble Lords as possible can cast a vote.

I conclude by simply referring to what my noble friend Lord Blunkett wrote in April last year:

“Protest might be inconvenient for politicians, but it acts as a pressure valve, allowing citizens to express their views and vent frustrations that could otherwise boil over … If we suppress protest, we could see more anger towards institutions including the police, the judiciary and parliament.”


That is the direction in which we think the Government are heading with these new protest clauses.

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Portrait Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (GP)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I shall speak briefly, because I too want to get to the votes. Despite government claims to the contrary, these are draconian laws that are part of a wider assault on our democracy. We have a Government who are passing rules for us but not acting according to those rules themselves. The police protect the powerful, while getting more oppressive powers to use against the voiceless. This is an autocracy, not a democracy. The Government know that they will face bigger and more vocal protests while they get on with their dog whistle policies, which fail at the moment to distract from the terrible impact of their politics.

There will be a lot of climate change protests in future—I can see myself getting arrested, perhaps more than I have so far. Climate change is the biggest threat to human civilisation. It is an existential threat, and this Government are not acting fast enough.

The Government claim to speak for ordinary people, but it is ordinary people who protest on the streets, and the Government do not speak for them anymore; they do not speak for the great British public, because the great British public find the Bill and these late amendments offensive. The Greens here will be voting against all of these late amendments. We will not support the Labour amendment on the obstruction of the highway, only because it opens the door to the Government bringing back their original amendment. I just hope that the Government listen.

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Moved by
150A: Leave out subsection (2) and insert—
“(2) After subsection (1) insert—“(1ZA) If a person, without lawful authority or excuse, in any way wilfully obstructs the free passage along a highway which is part of the Strategic Road Network he is guilty of an offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 51 weeks or a fine or both.””Member’s explanatory statement
This is an amendment to Government Amendment 150 creating a prison sentence for anyone wilfully obstructing a highway which is part of the Strategic Road Network, removing reference to a general highway.
Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, on my amendment, I just say that I did not think that the real problem of wilful obstruction was on side roads; there has certainly been a problem of wilful obstruction in relation to motorways and major roads in the strategic road network for the reasons that I mentioned. The fact that there could be an issue of wilful obstruction on other, lesser highways is not, frankly, a justification for including all highways in these powers under government Amendment 150—hence our Amendment 150A, restricting it to the strategic road network. I wish to test the opinion of the House on Amendment 150A.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill Debate

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Department: Ministry of Justice

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Lord Rosser Excerpts
Moved by
Amendment 2: leave out Clause 80
Member’s explanatory statement
This clause is consequential on a clause which was not added to the bill, as it was defeated by a vote of the House. This clause therefore provides background detail for a power and a clause that do not exist. This amendment would remove this non-operational clause from the bill.
Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, my amendment would leave out Clause 80. The clause is consequential on a new clause from the Government that this House declined by a Division last week to add to the Bill. That new clause introduced the offence of “interference with use or operation of key national infrastructure”. What is now Clause 80 should surely not have been moved following that vote; it provides background detail for a power and a clause that do not exist. It starts off, for example, by saying:

“This section has effect for the purposes of section (Interference with use or operation of key national infrastructure)”,


and goes on to define types of national infrastructure for the purpose of the Government’s new clause to which this House disagreed. My amendment would thus remove that non-operational clause from the Bill. I understand that the Government will not be opposing this necessary tidying-up amendment, and I thank the noble Baroness the Minister for that. I beg to move.

Lord Harris of Haringey Portrait Lord Harris of Haringey (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I want to make the very simple point that even if the Government were not going to accept the amendment, the clause would be pretty nonsensical due to the very strange way in which it defines “national infrastructure”. It has a unique set of definitions that includes some things that would not normally be regarded as infrastructure and excludes other things that are critical to the nation and the way it operates.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, who has explained that the amendment would remove Clause 80 from the Bill. It defines “key national infrastructure” for the purposes of the Government’s proposed offence of interfering with the operation or use of key national infrastructure. Of course, I was extremely disappointed that the House voted not to add this new offence to the Bill on Report. The proposed offence would help protect the British public from the misery that certain individuals targeting our key national infrastructure have been able to cause.

The Government fully defend the right to peaceful protest, but we stand behind the British public in protecting them from the serious disruption caused by some who think their right to protest trumps the rights of the public to go about their daily lives. That said, the fact remains that as your Lordships did not support the introduction of the new offence, we are not going to play games: what is now Clause 80 of the Bill is redundant, and, consequently, the Government will not oppose this amendment.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
- Hansard - -

I had moved the amendment and wanted to put it to the vote, and I hoped that the House would be prepared to accept it. I thank the Minister for what she has said.

Amendment 2 agreed.
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Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
- Hansard - -

I say to my noble friends behind me that I will resist the temptation to make political comments on the Bill. After all the days we have had in Committee and on Report, I am sure they will understand why I do not wish to go down that road.

I thank the Minister, the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Trafford, and the noble Lords, Lord Wolfson of Tredegar and Lord Sharpe of Epsom, for all the work that they have so obviously done on this Bill. I also thank them for the meetings we have held and the changes that have been secured through government amendments or government support for amendments.

I also thank my noble friends Lord Coaker, Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede and Lady Chapman of Darlington. As the Minister reminded us, my noble friend Lord Kennedy of Southwark has also been involved, as has been my noble and learned friend Lord Falconer of Thoroton. We seem to have had a fairly large Front Bench on this side of the House, and I am extremely grateful to all of them for the work that they have done.

I too thank the Bill team. Everything that the Minister said about them we would certainly endorse and wish to be associated with. They have been extremely helpful, and we have appreciated that. I also thank the many outside organisations with an interest in the terms of this Bill for the briefings that they have given us, both written and verbal. That has been extremely helpful too.

Talking of help, I would like to thank for the vital and invaluable work they do colleagues in our office here in the Lords, particularly Grace Wright, who has been a key figure and has certainly kept me on the straight and narrow. I am quite sure that any mistakes I have made have been nothing to do with her; she has prevented me making an awful lot as it is.

The Bill has been improved by amendments that this House has made and, in some cases, by resisting amendments to which this House has not agreed. As the Minister said, it now goes back to the Commons. Like her, I too wait to see what the Commons will now make of this Bill as amended by your Lordships.

I again thank everybody whom I have mentioned, and I am quite sure that there are others whom I should have mentioned but have not done so. For that, I apologise.

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

My Lords, I remember looking at this 307-page Bill—or at least it was 307 pages to begin with—in August and wondering how on earth to tackle it. I was reminded that the way to eat an elephant is one piece at a time, which is the approach we took. This was about five Bills stapled together, except the PPO could not staple them together because it was too big. The Bill returns to the other place considerably improved, although you cannot make a silk purse out a sow’s ear—these are separate metaphors; I am not mixing them—or should I say a boar’s ear in these days?

I shall not resist what the Minister has said about the Bill. As far as we on these Benches are concerned, the existing legislation to control protest was adequate, and the measures that we have removed from the Bill were not necessary in the first place. The majority of the police consider that a lack of police officers is the limiting factor when it comes to policing of protests rather than a lack of legislation.

I would normally thank the Minister and the Bill team for their engagement, but, certainly, I am not alone on these Benches, at least as far as the home affairs side of things is concerned, in feeling that the Government have not reached out to us as much as they could or should have done. None the less, we have all been in this together over a considerable period, and I am grateful for the time that the Government have given in allowing us to debate these issues.

I thank the Official Opposition, both the leadership and Back-Benchers, the Cross- Benchers, non-affiliated Peers and the Greens for their support and co-operation. In particular, I thank Elizabeth Plummer and Grace Wright for their invaluable help on the Bill, as well as all the outside organisations which helpfully provided us with briefings. We would not have done any of this without that help, and we hope that the Government will see the improvements that we have made to the Bill as improvements when it is considered by the other place.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill Debate

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Department: Home Office

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Lord Rosser Excerpts
Consideration of Commons amendments & Lords Hansard - Part 1
Tuesday 22nd March 2022

(2 years, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 123-I Marshalled list for Consideration of Commons Reasons and Amendments - (21 Mar 2022)
Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, we support Motion A1 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Rooker. Compared with other important issues that the House is considering today, it is a relatively minor one. None the less, it will save no time if we abstain, so if the noble Lord divides the House, we will support him.

On Motion J, although the repeal of the Vagrancy Act is very welcome and something for which Liberal Democrats have been campaigning for many years, it is unfortunate that the Government are still insisting on delaying the repeal of the outdated and unnecessary Act until replacement legislation is in place, as we believe that existing alternative legislation is sufficient. Unlike the noble Lord, Lord Young of Cookham, I heard the Minister say that the Government will commence, not conclude, repeal in 18 months—I wrote it down. If I am right and the noble Lord is wrong, can the Minister tell us how long it will take to repeal the Act in its entirety?

On Motion L, serious violence reduction orders will allow the police to stop and search people without any suspicion that those targeted have anything on them at the time they are stopped and searched that they should not have in their possession. It is another form of stop and search without suspicion, which is notorious for being ineffective. It is even less effective at finding weapons than stop and search based on suspicion and it is disproportionately focused on black people, even compared with stop and search based on suspicion. As a consequence, it is notorious for the damage that it causes to the relationships between the police and the communities they are supposed to help. The Government’s own impact assessment shows that these measures will disproportionately impact black communities and fly in the face of the Government’s response to the report by the independent Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities.

The police need to work together with communities suffering serious violence to build trust and confidence and to demonstrate that they are on the side of the community—not using powers disproportionately against it, as these new powers, by the Government’s own admission, will continue to do. Even Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services says that the disproportionate use of powers against certain communities is “undermining police legitimacy”.

Like the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester, we have concerns. We believe that serious violence reduction orders are likely to make serious violence worse, as they further alienate the very communities the police need to co-operate with to identify the perpetrators. However, we have reluctantly agreed to see how SVROs, arguably a manifesto commitment, work in practice in a limited number of pilot areas. We supported an amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, on Report that would have strengthened the proposed pilot evaluation and prevented SVROs from being introduced beyond the pilot phase until a report on the pilot had been laid before Parliament and both Houses had agreed to the rollout.

The Minister has given assurances that the pilot will be independently evaluated and that the Government will not continue with the scheme if it proves, as we suspect, to be ineffective or counterproductive. The evaluation must include crime reduction outcomes and community impact assessments. Given those reassurances and the Government’s strengthening of the pilot evaluation, we have agreed with the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, not to insist on her amendments, but we will be watching the pilots very carefully and listening to the communities affected, whose trust and confidence in the police is essential if knife crime is to be tackled effectively.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
- Hansard - -

There are three issues in this group and I wish to say something about all of them. Starting with Motion A1, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Sharpe of Epsom, for sending me a copy of his letter of 22 February to my noble friend Lord Rooker on Lords Amendment 58, which relates to the Food Standards Agency. As the letter says, the amendment gives powers available to the police under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 to the National Food Crime Unit of the Food Standards Agency. However, the Commons disagreed with the amendment, giving this reason:

“Because it is premature to confer new search and seizure powers on the Food Standards Agency until the accompanying accountability arrangements, including in respect of the handling of complaints about the exercise of such powers, have been determined.”


Yet Lords Amendment 58 does not lay down a specific date or timescale by which powers available to the police under PACE have to be given to the National Food Crime Unit. It simply says:

“The Secretary of State may by regulations apply any provisions of this Act to investigation of offences conducted by officers of the National Food Crime Unit in respect of search and seizure.”


If I am right, the Commons reason suggests that the Commons and the Government never actually read the terms of Lords Amendment 58. That is surprising, since the letter from the Minister to my noble friend Lord Rooker states that

“the Government agrees in principle that these powers should be conferred upon NFCU officers in order to support their vital work tackling food crime.”

There is no argument about whether the powers should be given, but simply over when they should be given. Lords Amendment 58 would give the statutory authority to the Secretary of State to give those powers but leaves it up to the Secretary of State to decide when the time is right. So what is the problem with the amendment?

The letter from the Minister goes on to say:

“Food crime is a very serious issue and empowering the NFCU to investigate these offences independently will ensure that their specialist knowledge is put to best use and that the burden on police forces is reduced”.


Yet the Commons and the Government have disagreed the amendment. The Minister goes on to say that

“further work is required to fully work through the implications of these proposals to ensure that any exercise of police powers by a non-police body is necessary, proportionate and legitimate and that suitable governance and accountability arrangements will be in place”,

and:

“For these reasons we have tabled a motion to disagree with Lords amendment 58”.


But Lords Amendment 58 does not say that the Secretary of State has to do it; it would simply give the Secretary of State the necessary statutory power to do it if and when the Secretary of State so wishes, which is the point being made by my noble friend Lord Rooker. Frankly, the Government really are struggling to think of a credible argument why Lords Amendment 58 should not be accepted.

The powers currently available to the Food Standards Agency under food law relate to the enforcement of regulatory matters. The NFCU investigates cases of serious crime, often involving offences such as fraud. However, the FSA’s existing powers do not sufficiently equip the NFCU to investigate these crimes fully and lawfully, and to collect evidence to the higher standard needed to prove criminal intent, without the support of partners in the hard-pressed environments of policing or local authorities.

As part of the FSA, the NFCU already has access to sensitive law enforcement powers around directed surveillance, securing communications data and the management of convert human intelligence sources. But NFCU officers have not yet been given essential investigatory powers, including the power to apply to courts for warrants to search premises and seize evidence, or to interview suspects without police officers present. The unit has to rely on the support of partners, including the police forces, to carry out these activities. This means that the courts are not hearing from the experts familiar with the cases, which can increase the likelihood that warrants are not authorised.

As I understand it, competing demands on police time have led to delays in several NFCU investigations. At present, the NFCU needs the police to go to court and swear warrants on its behalf, so investigations are delayed if the police decline or take time to do so, or if the court refuses to authorise the warrant, which is more likely if the person swearing it cannot answer questions about the case. The NFCU also needs the police to be present when warrants are executed, which can lead to delays in the unit being able to carry out searches or seize critical evidence if the police have other priorities. As I understand it, the evidence seized then needs to be taken into police custody before it can be transferred to the NFCU. These issues can and do create delay, which is a problem in running a live investigation and trying to gather evidence before it is moved or destroyed.

I understand that NFCU investigations have been impacted by all the issues to which I have referred. I am also advised that the FSA’s view is that these additional powers are essential to enable the National Food Crime Unit to properly investigate and pursue complex food crime cases. As has been said, this was also identified as a gap in its systems to keep food safe in the independent review by Professor Elliott in I think 2014 following the horsemeat scandal.

In the Commons debate on this Lords amendment, the Minister said that the chairman of the Food Standards Agency had written to the Minister for Crime and Policing on 11 August 2021, expressing concern that the existing powers of the National Food Crime Unit were insufficient for their purpose. The Minister responded in October by expressing support for the request and indicating the Home Office’s intent to work with the NFCU to find a suitable legislative vehicle.

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Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, in relation to Motion C, one of the main recommendations of the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel, led by the noble Baroness, Lady O’Loan, was for the police to be subject to a statutory duty of candour, as has been introduced into the National Health Service, and Lords Amendment 71 sought to establish that. The Government with their Amendment 71A, in Motion C, claim that police officers are already under a duty to co-operate during investigations, inquiries and formal proceedings and that it would be premature to add such a provision pending further consideration by the Government.

The provision to which the Minister referred makes a lack of candour a matter for police misconduct proceedings, except in the most serious cases where a complaint is made by someone who is not a member of a police force and who is directly affected by the conduct. Whether a police misconduct investigation is held, or misconduct proceedings are brought, is a matter for the relevant chief constable of the police force concerned.

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services has today published a report in which it describes the Metropolitan Police’s approach to tackling corruption as “not fit for purpose”. Publishing the report, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary, Matt Parr, said:

“It is unacceptable that 35 years after Daniel Morgan’s murder, the Metropolitan Police has not done enough to ensure its failings from that investigation cannot be repeated. In fact, we found no evidence that someone, somewhere, had adopted the view that this must never happen again.”


That is why we need a statutory duty of candour. In the case of the issues covered by the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel, there was systemic and institutional withholding of information by the police sanctioned at the highest level. Arguably, the current Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, who as an assistant commissioner decided to withhold essential information from the panel, would have had to order an investigation into herself under the provisions that the Minister is relying on.

The provision that the Government are relying on is not fit for purpose in the circumstances of police cover-ups, even when there is a member of a police force who is a whistleblower, because the whistleblower is a member of the police force and cannot bring a complaint against his or her own force. However, work is ongoing by the families of the victims of the Hillsborough disaster and the family of Daniel Morgan to ensure that a comprehensive, effective and legally binding duty of candour is imposed on all public institutions. Therefore, we have reluctantly decided not to insist on Lords Amendment 71.

In relation to Motion K, we are grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson, for clarifying that there is no legal barrier to local authorities setting up and running academies and for the Government’s acknowledgement of the important role that local authorities have played in the past in running secure accommodation for young offenders.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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There are, as has been said, two issues here, the duty of candour and secure academies. I note what the Minister said on the duty of candour and must say that our views are rather more in line with those just expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick. One might think it rather odd, particularly at the present time when trust in the police appears to be at such a low level, that the Government and the Commons decided to disagree with such an amendment, but it is their prerogative to do so.

As the Minister said, this issue is not going to be dropped. There are people within Parliament, including ourselves, and people outside Parliament, to whom reference has been made, who intend to pursue the issue of a duty of candour. I think I am right in saying that the Minister referred to the fact that the Government would further consider the position—indeed, that is given as a reason for disagreeing—and that they would come up with conclusions later this year. While indicating that we intend to pursue the issue, we will, with some reluctance, leave this in that context. It is certainly not going to be pushed to one side now. It will be pursued and we will wait to see what conclusions the Government come up with later this year. The issue of trust in the police is a serious matter and I know the Government agree. We need to make sure that the mechanism is in place to improve the levels of trust that currently seem to exist.

On secure academies, the Government and the Commons have disagreed the amendment from the noble Lord, Lord German, which would put explicitly in the Bill that local authorities can establish and maintain secure academies. The aim of the amendment was to put beyond doubt that applications from local authorities to run secure academies would be welcomed and would be considered on their merit, on a level playing field with other providers.

The Government’s response has been that there is no legal barrier to local authorities setting up an entity that could enter into an academy arrangement with the Secretary of State, so there is not a legal barrier to them establishing a secure academy. The Government said that the Ministry of Justice

“will assess in detail the potential role of local authorities in running this new form of provision, before we invite applications to run any future secure schools.”—[Official Report, Commons, 28/2/22; col. 803.]

The Minister also made that point.

Our response in the Commons was that this does not go far enough. We argued that local authorities have the expertise needed to run services and provide care for vulnerable children with a high level of need in a secure environment and that the Government should widen the pool of expertise that providers bring and ensure that local authorities are explicitly brought into the fold when planning for secure academies.

We recognise that the Government have committed to look at the involvement of local authorities in providing secure academies before any new applications are invited, so we will now deal with and pursue this issue outside of the Bill. However, we strongly support the noble Lord, Lord German, in saying that what is needed, and what we will keep calling on Ministers to deliver, is, frankly, not vague statements that a local authority could provide a secure academy but a proactive change to bring the expertise that local authorities have into that pool of providers.

Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar (Con)
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My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lords who took part in this debate. I will take matters fairly briefly, given the amount of other business before the House.

On the duty of candour, I emphasise the essential point that the disciplinary system provides clear sanctions that can lead to dismissal. We should not introduce criminal sanctions for the police alone. Ultimately, the inspectorate can determine whether forces are following the guidance. We will monitor that extremely carefully.

I do not want to take up the House’s time too much on the report, which has been published in the last half an hour. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has already issued a statement, which noble Lords will be able to find online, but my understanding is that the Metropolitan Police has 56 days to respond formally to the report. The Home Secretary will of course return to Parliament to provide a full government response once the final report and responses have been received.

I am grateful to all noble Lords for their engagement on the issue of secure schools. I have tried to set out the legal position clearly. I hope that the undertaking that I have set out will be sufficient. Again, with apologies to the House for not dealing in too much detail with the new report, because I am sure there will be other opportunities to debate it, I beg to move.