3 Baroness Mallalieu debates involving the Scotland Office

Wed 12th Jun 2019
Sentencing (Pre-consolidation Amendments) Bill [HL]
Grand Committee

Second reading committee (Hansard): House of Lords & Second reading committee (Hansard): House of Lords & Second reading committee (Hansard): House of Lords

Royal Commission on Criminal Justice

Baroness Mallalieu Excerpts
Wednesday 15th July 2020

(3 years, 11 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Lexden Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord Lexden) (Con)
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I call the noble Lord, Lord Hastings of Scarisbrick. No? Then I call the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu.

Baroness Mallalieu Portrait Baroness Mallalieu (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I first declare an interest as a retired criminal barrister and the mother of a practising one. It is clear that the report of the royal commission is a very long way away. Will the Minister tell us what is happening right now to clear the trial backlogs, by reopening courtrooms that have been mothballed, opening new ones, using part-time judges—as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Garnier has just suggested—overhauling the case-listing system and ensuring that there is adequate technology to tackle the crisis in the criminal justice system, which is the result of a long period of chronic underfunding which far pre-dates the current crisis?

Lord Keen of Elie Portrait Lord Keen of Elie
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My Lords, we are looking at all the matters addressed by the noble Baroness and we have taken steps to open additional courts across the country. We continue with that endeavour to address the backlog of cases that has emerged since the pandemic.

Royal Commission on Criminal Justice

Baroness Mallalieu Excerpts
Wednesday 3rd June 2020

(4 years ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Keen of Elie Portrait Lord Keen of Elie
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The position with IPP prisoners has been addressed frequently in the past. Of course the legislation in 2012 was not and could not be retrospective. I cannot give a precise number as at today’s date of IPP prisoners held nor of their ethnic backgrounds, but I will write to the noble Lord with up-to-date information and place a copy of that letter in the Library of the House.

Baroness Mallalieu Portrait Baroness Mallalieu (Lab)
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I declare a personal interest, having a daughter who is a practising member of the criminal Bar. While the commission is welcome and long overdue, the immediate problem needs to be dealt with today as the criminal justice system is on the point of collapse. What steps do the Government propose to take to increase the number of court sitting days, given that there are empty courts and centres throughout the country that were mothballed to save money; that there are recorders who are ready and willing to sit tomorrow alongside the judges; and, as has been said, that there is a backlog of some 30,000 trials, many of them with people in custody?

Lord Keen of Elie Portrait Lord Keen of Elie
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Along with the judiciary, we seek to utilise all the court capacity currently available to us by developing the use of remote hearings. We are also addressing how we can best accommodate jury trials within court accommodation. We will continue to monitor that to see where it can be improved and developed.

Sentencing (Pre-consolidation Amendments) Bill [HL]

Baroness Mallalieu Excerpts
Second reading committee (Hansard): House of Lords
Wednesday 12th June 2019

(5 years ago)

Grand Committee
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Baroness Mallalieu Portrait Baroness Mallalieu (Lab)
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My Lords, I welcome the Bill as the first legislative step towards the creation of a much-needed sentencing code. In doing so, I declare interests both past and present, including 40 years at the criminal Bar—some of that was as a recorder, although I am now retired—and a present interest in a daughter who, against all my personal advice, has gone to work as a criminal barrister down on the western circuit.

The Council of Her Majesty’s Circuit Judges did not exaggerate when it described the present state of sentencing law as a “disgrace to our jurisprudence”. As a barrister, the words I dreaded hearing from a judge in court were, “What are my powers in this case?”. Sometimes, indeed quite often, extensive research involving complexity, uncertainty and multiple pieces of legislation with multiple amendments was needed to give a reply of any sort, or at least our best guess. As a result, mistakes by both advocates and the judiciary are not uncommon—the figures for them are startling—requiring further court time and expense to correct them. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Keen, indicated, that sometimes goes on long after the sentence has been delivered and the case has had to go to the Court of Appeal.

A single code for most criminal law, updated regularly and kept in one place, is essential and long overdue, as is the clean sweep to be introduced so that the law on the day of sentencing will be applied after the code is enforced. For the Bar, there will be no more looking back, particularly in the all-too-frequent historical sex abuse cases that currently fill our courts to try to find out what the sentence was for indecent assault 20 years ago when the offence was committed. This legislation is urgently needed. I am therefore particularly pleased that the Law Commission and others have found time to consider the Bill and its consequences; I am very grateful. Too often, when a much-needed Law Commission Bill has been prepared after a vast amount of work it sits and waits, sometimes almost indefinitely, for some legislative time to be made available.

I also strongly support the way in which this House has chosen to scrutinise this legislation with the pre-consolidation amendments. Having sat for some years on the Joint Committee on Consolidation Bills, where the legal subject matter is almost invariably highly technical and, on occasion, very obscure—as in this case—I have no doubt that the effective scrutiny of detail that Bills receive there would clear the Floor of the House in minutes. It would take a very long time if dealt with in that way. In this case, the special Public Bill Committee proposed will provide an excellent opportunity for that detail to be examined and for evidence to be given, if necessary. I therefore welcome the procedure.

A sentencing code will be a boon not just to lawyers and judges but to members of the public—not just those who are convicted—who deserve certainty and transparency. Additionally, the estimated net financial benefit over 10 years is a staggering £255.57 million, made up from freed-up court resources and reductions in delay. I express my hope that some of that money might be devoted to other aspects of our criminal justice system, which are in dire need. I almost wish I was back at the Bar.