Baroness Sater debates involving the Scotland Office during the 2019 Parliament

Thu 25th Jun 2020
Sentencing Bill [HL]
Lords Chamber

2nd reading (Hansard) & 2nd reading (Hansard) & 2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords & 2nd reading

Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions) Order 1975 (Amendment) (England and Wales) Order 2020

Baroness Sater Excerpts
Thursday 10th September 2020

(3 years, 8 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Sater Portrait Baroness Sater (Con) [V]
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My Lords, I am grateful to be able to speak in this short debate. I welcome these orders, which would amend the filtering rules that govern what is automatically disclosed through the standard and enhanced criminal record certificates issued by the DBS. Removing the automatic disclosure of youth cautions, reprimands and warnings, as well as the multiple conviction rule, will help to strike the right balance between rehabilitating offenders and protecting the public.

I have been a keen advocate of reform around childhood criminal records, and here today we see real progress towards greater support for improving outcomes of those with minor criminal records and their future in society. Making errors of judgment in childhood should not prevent those who are trying to turn their lives around leading a fulfilling and rewarding life and contributing positively to their community.

My time as a youth magistrate and a member of the Youth Justice Board gave me a real insight into the debilitating effects of minor criminal records that hung over young people who were trying to put the past behind them and get on with their lives. Too often, the current disclosure system acts as a barrier to employment, as well as to other things, such as housing, education and insurance, which in turn minimises the chances of rehabilitation.

We know that employers use DBS certificates as part of their recruitment process to help them consider a person’s suitability for certain roles, particularly those requiring a high degree of public trust. We also know that securing a good job can notably increase the possibility of desistance. It is therefore very welcome that these changes will particularly benefit those with childhood cautions and those with minor offences who have moved on from their past. Too often, you hear from young people who seem resigned to the fact that because they have a criminal record, they have zero chance of securing a job and getting on with their lives.

It is right, however, that convictions and adult cautions for offences specified on a list of serious offences, and which received a custodial sentence, are recent or unspent, will continue to be disclosed. Additionally, enhanced criminal record certificates may also include any information that a chief officer of police reasonably believes to be relevant and, in their opinion, ought to be included.

I am grateful to the safeguarding Minister in the other place, Victoria Atkins, for bringing this new legislation forward. I agree with her that making these changes will help to ensure that vulnerable people are protected from dangerous offenders, while at the same time ensuring that those who have turned their lives around or live with the stigma of past convictions from their childhood are not held back. These changes build on the Government’s commitment to increase employment for ex-offenders and are a very welcome step. I believe that a wider review of criminal records would highlight further improvements that could be made to deliver better outcomes, but that is not for now.

Sentencing Bill [HL]

Baroness Sater Excerpts
2nd reading & 2nd reading (Hansard) & 2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords
Thursday 25th June 2020

(3 years, 11 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Sater Portrait Baroness Sater (Con) [V]
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My Lords, I declare that I have sat in the youth court for more than 20 years. I warmly welcome this Bill. It would introduce one coherent Sentencing Code. I join other noble Lords in paying tribute to the assiduous work of the Law Commission and note that it has received widespread support from judges, lawyers and academics, as well as the other place.

I particularly welcome the introduction of the clean sweep. It brings much-needed clarity to the application of sentencing law, deleting layers of historic sentencing legislation and making it possible for offenders to be sentenced under the new code, regardless of when an offence was committed. It is a significant step that will help avoid errors and appeals resulting from historic or redundant aspects of the legislation being incorrectly reflected in sentencing decisions.

The Bill makes important steps to simplify criminal sentencing, not only for the judiciary and legal practitioners—crucially, it also improves the clarity, accessibility and understanding of the law to defendants, witnesses, jurors, victims and the public at large. Once the Sentencing Code is enacted, I ask the Minister to do all he can to ensure that the training measures are in place, so that the judiciary who use it are able to do so to best effect and that it is applied correctly and appropriately.

I am pleased that in his remarks in the other place the Lord Chancellor focused on defendants. They are at the sharp end when it comes to sentencing and we should not lose sight of the fact that these matters affect the lives of real people. The Bill will improve the confidence that all users of the criminal justice system need in sentencing, including the public, defendants and victims. Clearer law will lead to greater understanding. I agree with the Lord Chancellor and others that for far too long there has been a gulf between what the practitioner and the lawyer might understand and how it is explained to the public.

The passing of correct sentencing is crucial, based on the right legislation and procedure, which will bring increased public confidence. The coherent Sentencing Code that will be enacted through this Bill is therefore not only desirable but utterly essential and long overdue.

Royal Commission on Criminal Justice

Baroness Sater Excerpts
Wednesday 3rd June 2020

(3 years, 11 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Keen of Elie Portrait Lord Keen of Elie
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I cannot at this stage specify the precise terms of reference that will be submitted. Of course, once those terms of reference are accepted and proceeded with, they cannot be altered.

Baroness Sater Portrait Baroness Sater (Con)
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My Lords, having sat as a youth magistrate for over 20 years I ask my noble and learned friend whether he agrees that, for the royal commission to be a comprehensive review, it must take into account the developments in the delivery of youth justice—substantially different from that of adults—that have occurred since the last royal commission over a quarter of a century ago.

Lord Keen of Elie Portrait Lord Keen of Elie
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Clearly the royal commission will seek to embrace the terms of reference that are finally agreed. As the manifesto indicated, there was the intention to cover the areas of prosecution, trial, sentence and parole.

Offender Management: Checkpoint Programme

Baroness Sater Excerpts
Thursday 27th February 2020

(4 years, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Sater Portrait Baroness Sater (Con)
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My Lords, I am very grateful to my noble friend Lord Bates for introducing this debate and I welcome innovative and holistic approaches like this one which build on much of the work I have witnessed over the years in the youth justice system.

We know that early intervention and out-of-court disposals have been effective in contributing to the reduction of youth custody and keeping children out of the criminal justice system. While there are, of course, differences between this approach and the Checkpoint programme, the principle of early intervention is the key parallel. Subject to successful completion, specifically designed interventions will help address the underlying causes of offending, including drug and alcohol abuse and mental health issues and will leave offenders without a criminal record, which so often is a huge barrier to breaking the cycle of reoffending. It will also allow them to go on and lead a life free of crime. Prison will remain the right option for those who commit serious crimes, but prisons themselves are all too aware that rehabilitation outcomes are not good enough, although there are notable success stories,

We should and need to focus our time and resources on dealing with these underlying issues at the earliest opportunity because of how prevalent they are among offenders entering prison. It is good to see that Durham Constabulary’s interim impact figures are promising—as my noble friend Lord Bates mentioned—and that other police forces around the country are adopting innovative programmes to tackle these issues head on. Prison, after all, is the last resort.

We must not forget the victim and at no time should the safety of the public be compromised. We owe it to the offender and the victim, as well as society, to find a way to reintroduce reformed or reforming individuals so that they can become fully contributing members of society. Unless we continue to try and explore alternative solutions such as Checkpoint and address the underlying issues before people end up in prison, we will not make progress.

Getting the balance right between tough sentencing and rehabilitation will always be challenging, but there can be no greater prize than taking someone out of a life of crime and supporting them back into being a contributing member of society. This will always be worth fighting for.