Lord Bishop of Gloucester debates involving the Ministry of Justice during the 2019 Parliament

Lord Bishop of Gloucester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Gloucester
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My Lords, from listening to this debate, I am struck again and again by how so much of what we are saying was said in this House during the passage of the Domestic Abuse Bill. We need to listen to and be aware of that. I hope the Minister will reflect on that.

I agree with much of what has been said this afternoon. I will briefly add my voice in support of Amendment 79, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, to which I have added my name. I simply echo her frustration that we are no further forward in securing a long-term solution for migrant victim survivors of domestic abuse who are subject to the no recourse to public funds condition. I raised this during the passage of the Domestic Abuse Bill. As has been said, we were told then that the Government needed more evidence before implementing policy change, and here we are three years later, with so much evidence produced, both officially and unofficially, about the need for reform but a reluctance from the Government to make the much-needed change. I simply hope that the Minister might answer the very valid questions raised by the noble Baroness, especially on the inadequacy of the reform to the migrant victims of domestic abuse concession.

Baroness Benjamin Portrait Baroness Benjamin (LD)
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My Lords, I fully support my noble friend Lady Brinton’s Amendment 19 and her passionate and common-sense contribution, which I hope the Minister will consider. I will speak on Amendments 62 and 71, to which I have put my name.

Child abuse and exploitation affects hundreds of thousands of children across this country each year. Sadly, any child, in any place, can be a victim of abuse. Children are also disproportionately impacted by abuse. The Centre of Expertise on Child Sexual Abuse found that children are the victims of 40% of sexual offences. Being a victim of abuse has a devastating effect on children, with the impacts often staying with them for the rest of their lives. Yes, childhood lasts a lifetime.

Despite this, we are leaving our most vulnerable children without access to essential child-specific victim support services and child-specific victim support roles. It is key that, when commissioners decide what services and roles to commission to support victims, they must pay attention and due regard to the need for child-specific victim support services and roles to meet the need in their local area.

That is why I put my name to Amendments 62 and 71. These amendments would strengthen the duty to collaborate in the Bill and have a huge impact for children who have experienced the most horrific crimes. Child-specific victim support services play a crucial role in helping a child to start to recover from abuse and trauma, giving children a space to work through their trauma and offering mental health and counselling services.

However, support services are hugely underfunded and undervalued, and children are facing a postcode lottery in accessing them. Recent research by the Centre of Expertise on Child Sexual Abuse found that across England and Wales there are only 468 services providing support to victims and survivors of child sexual abuse. This is despite an estimated half a million children suffering from some form of sexual abuse every year. Barnardo’s, which offers child sexual exploitation services—I declare an interest as its vice-president—has found that an additional 1,900 child independent domestic violence advisers and almost 500 child independent sexual violence advisers are needed across England and Wales to support the number of identified child victims of domestic and sexual abuse.

Employment of People with Criminal Convictions

Lord Bishop of Gloucester Excerpts
Monday 26th February 2024

(3 months, 2 weeks ago)

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Lord Bellamy Portrait Lord Bellamy (Con)
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My Lords, I can give your Lordships a variety of examples. I was talking to a prisoner from HMP Winchester the other day; he was very pleased and said, “It’s been great. I’ve completed the IT course and for the first time in my life I can do a Word document and an Excel spreadsheet”.

Your Lordships may have seen the report in the press this morning about HMP Liverpool, which has been completely transformed. The brewery Marston’s has a mock-up of a pub, where prisoners can train to work in hospitality. In HMP Swansea you will find the mock-up of an HGV with which you can qualify for your HGV licence. In HMP Humber you can do the same thing with a forklift truck. There is a great deal going on in our prisons, and we should be very proud of our Prison Service for pursuing those initiatives.

Lord Bishop of Gloucester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Gloucester
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My Lords, from these Benches I add our own sadness at the death of Lord Cormack. His contributions to this House and to the Church will be sorely missed.

As has been said, there has been a serious decline in rehabilitation and release planning services in recent years. Prisoners need to be engaged with purposeful work; there needs to be planning ahead of their release—including release on temporary licence—to secure employment, if we are to prevent reoffending. What steps are the Government taking to increase release on temporary licence?

Lord Bellamy Portrait Lord Bellamy (Con)
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My Lords, the Government are very keen to allow prisoners release on temporary licence wherever that is possible. I emphasise the work that has gone into preparing prisoners for employment; there is now an employment lead in every one of our 93 prisons, and an employment hub where prisoners can access vacancies, make applications, et cetera. Every prisoner has an ID, a bank account and accommodation arranged when they are being released. There is an employment advisory board in every prison, and these measures are taking effect.

Lord Bishop of Gloucester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Gloucester
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My Lords, my right reverend friend the Bishop of Bristol, as has been said, regrets that she cannot be in the Chamber today but along with her, I support Amendments 7 and 11. The children of victims of modern slavery are currently underserved by support services, despite that lasting and intergenerational trauma which witnessing the crime of modern slavery can cause. We have already heard about the organisation Hestia. In 2021, it estimated that as many as 5,000 vulnerable children could be identified within the NRM as children of victims of modern slavery. I want to add that there is an urgent need to extend victims’ rights to this group, and I am glad to see these amendments.

Non-custodial Sentences: Public Confidence

Lord Bishop of Gloucester Excerpts
Monday 22nd January 2024

(4 months, 3 weeks ago)

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Asked by
Lord Bishop of Gloucester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Gloucester
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To ask His Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the public’s confidence in non-custodial sentences.

Lord Bellamy Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Bellamy) (Con)
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My Lords, it is important that the public have confidence in non-custodial sentences. The Government’s response to the Justice Select Committee’s report, Public Opinion and Understanding of Sentencing, was published last Thursday, 18 January. The Government are currently considering the Justice and Home Affairs Committee’s report of 28 December 2023, Cutting Crime: Better Community Sentences, and further note the Sentencing Council’s current consultation on revised guidelines for the imposition of community and custodial sentences.

Lord Bishop of Gloucester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Gloucester
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I thank the Minister for that Answer. I look forward to the Government’s response to that committee report, given that a 2019 report by the Sentencing Academy suggested that public attitudes to sentencing are, in part, due to a lack of evidence-based information. Our prisons are overcrowded and, overall, what we are doing is not working to break cycles of reoffending and change the lives of offenders, victims and communities. So what more can the Government do to raise evidence-based awareness of the effectiveness of sentences and, perhaps, share outcomes from the female offender strategy and women’s centres to promote public support for an alternative model for both male and female non-violent offenders?

Lord Bellamy Portrait Lord Bellamy (Con)
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My Lords, the Government accept that we can do more to increase public understanding of the working of the criminal justice system. We are committed to open justice: broadcasting judges’ sentencing remarks is a notable step forward; the further availability of transcripts of those remarks is another step that we can take. It is also important to publish sentencing and other information in an accessible form, on GOV.UK and on social media. We should be ambitious to improve the data that we already publish on criminal justice statistics. The Sentencing Council website has extensive information on how sentencing works, and a number of other steps can be taken to improve public knowledge of what is happening.

Domestic Abuse: Defence for Victims who Commit an Offence

Lord Bishop of Gloucester Excerpts
Tuesday 21st February 2023

(1 year, 3 months ago)

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Asked by
Lord Bishop of Gloucester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Gloucester
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To ask His Majesty’s Government, further to the commitment by Lord Wolfson of Tredegar on 3 February 2021 (HL Deb col 2286) to “regularly reassess the effectiveness of any law and associated practices in protecting victims”, what recent assessment they have made of the need to review the existing defences for individuals whose offending or alleged offending results from their experience of domestic abuse.

Lord Bellamy Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Bellamy) (Con)
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My Lords, we are determined to protect and support victims of domestic abuse and bring perpetrators to justice. During the passage of the Domestic Abuse Act, we committed to undertake a review of defences to homicide where the offender was a victim of domestic abuse. That review, undertaken by Clare Wade KC, highlights several important and complex issues. I understand that the Government will publish that review very shortly, together with their views on its recommendations and the next steps.

Lord Bishop of Gloucester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Gloucester
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for his answer and for naming Clare Wade’s review, and I look forward to hearing more. At least 60% of women supervised in the community or in custody have experienced domestic abuse. I meet them regularly when I visit prisons in my role as Anglican Bishop for prisons. Will the Minister say when a Victims’ Commissioner will be appointed to protect the interests of all victims, including those who are themselves accused of offending?

Lord Bellamy Portrait Lord Bellamy (Con)
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My Lords, I cannot give a date for the appointment of the next Victims’ Commissioner but I think it will be made as soon as possible.

Lammy Review

Lord Bishop of Gloucester Excerpts
Monday 28th November 2022

(1 year, 6 months ago)

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Asked by
Lord Bishop of Gloucester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Gloucester
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To ask His Majesty’s Government what progress they have made towards implementing the Lammy Review, published on 8 September 2017.

Lord Bellamy Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Bellamy) (Con)
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My Lords, the Lammy Review, which the Government warmly welcomed, made 35 recommendations and the Government undertook actions in respect of 33 of them; only two others relating to the judiciary were left on one side. We have now completed 29 out of the 33, and outstanding actions continue in respect of the remaining four. Since the Lammy Review in 2017, our work has evolved considerably and the Government’s Inclusive Britain strategy, published in March this year, is central to this work.

Lord Bishop of Gloucester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Gloucester
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I thank the Minister for that Answer. Despite it being pledged in the Conservative manifesto, we have heard no more about the royal commission on the criminal justice system. Might the Minister be able to say, first, when we will hear more and, secondly, whether racial disparities will be prioritised by that commission?

Lord Bellamy Portrait Lord Bellamy (Con)
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My Lords, I am not in a position to help the right reverend Prelate on the question of the royal commission on the criminal justice system. However, I can say that we are making considerable progress in matters relating to racial discrimination, which is the subject of this Question.

Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Lord Bishop of Gloucester Excerpts
Saturday 10th September 2022

(1 year, 9 months ago)

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Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall Portrait Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall (Lab)
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My Lords, I am afraid it is very hard to know where one comes in the pecking order in this debate, so I apologise to anyone who feels that I have stepped ahead of them.

The impact of Her late Majesty’s death has been immense, as we have heard in this debate and beyond. We are all diminished, shocked and thrown off balance by the loss of such a key figure in our life, the life of the nation and indeed the world. Our thoughts are with her family and especially with His Majesty the King, who is assuming his onerous new role at a time of great personal sadness. His first address to us all was profoundly affecting. For me, as he spoke those words from the end of “Hamlet”, in my head I heard the opening chords of another farewell, doubtless familiar to many of your Lordships: the “Angel’s Farewell” from Elgar’s setting of Cardinal Newman’s “The Dream of Gerontius”:

“Softly and gently, dearly-ransomed soul,

In my most loving arms I now enfold thee”.

The King, who I believe has long understood the consoling power of great art, will need our love as well as our allegiance as he takes up his duties.

I was born in the reign of King George VI and, indeed, attended his lying in state in 1952 when I was a very small child. I am not entirely sure why my father thought it appropriate to bring one so young to queue on Westminster Bridge in the February fog, and to be honest I do not remember much about it, but I am glad I have the photograph to prove that I was there.

What I absolutely remember is going over a year later to the pub in our village to watch Her late Majesty’s coronation on television. I had never seen a television before. The screen was tiny and the room was hot and crowded, but none the less the grandeur and magic of the ceremony came through clearly. Although I have watched it many times since, that first impression stays with me of a radiant young woman at the centre of a magnificent piece of theatre embarking on a lifetime of service—and, my word, what a lifetime it turned out to be.

I shall speak very briefly, because much that needed to be said has already been said, mostly by the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, about the Queen’s relationship with the arts, particularly with the theatre, where she was closely involved with the two organisations with which my I spent most of my professional life: the Royal Shakespeare Company, of which she was patron from the granting of its royal charter in 1961 until her death, and the Royal National Theatre, where she was recently succeeded as patron by the Duchess of Cornwall, now Queen Consort. Her Majesty’s patronage was hugely important to those organisations, as indeed it was to the whole cultural sector, which benefited so much from her interest and support.

I was privileged to meet her several times. I was going to share an anecdote, as so many noble Lords have done, but in the interests of brevity I have decided not to. Maybe there will be another time; noble Lords will just have to wait and see. What I wanted to say is that monarchy must be performed, as Shakespeare knew very well. I think Her Majesty was one of the great performers of our age. She famously said, “I have to be seen to be believed.” She knew that convincing performance is never about faking or pretending; it is about embodying truth. Throughout her life she had an unfailing capacity to understand exactly who she needed to be in every different circumstance, from great occasions of state through to taking on, as we have heard referenced so many times, an animatronic bear, and completely upstaging him with quietly impeccable comic timing.

She knew how to scale up and to scale down. She understood the diversity of her audiences and could adapt to their different needs while remaining always essentially herself. This ability was partly a natural gift, certainly, but also, as with all great performers, the result of meticulous preparation and unremitting hard work. As we saw, Her Majesty never stopped working at it right up until the end. She was and will remain an example to us all. May she rest in peace.

Lord Bishop of Gloucester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Gloucester
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My Lords, we have heard many wonderful tributes to Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Like others, I want to give thanks for her life of service, love and humility, rooted in her faith in Jesus Christ. I am delighted that the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York mentioned those jigsaws and those barbecues in winter. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London, in a moving and poignant way, mentioned the experience of paying homage. I want to add one slightly amusing story to the wealth of tributes that relate to paying homage because, as has been said, our late Queen had an amazing smile and a great sense of humour.

As with all diocesan bishops, after I was announced as Bishop of Gloucester, I went to Buckingham Palace to pay homage. I was the first female diocesan bishop she had ever received and there was a certain amount of fluttering before the doors opened about whether I should curtsy or bow, wearing my robes. Just before we went in when, as usual, the Bible was being carried in on a cushion open at the verse I had chosen, I was told that I would be asked to kiss the Bible at the appropriate moment. There were a few moments of anxiety as I said, “I can’t possibly do that”, and some anxious glances as if there was some deep theological reason why I would not kiss this amazing Bible. I simply said, “I’m wearing lipstick”; that had never been experienced before. I was told simply to put my nose into it, which is what I did.

After the formalities of paying homage, she immediately put me at my ease and, as we chatted, spoke to me about being the first female diocesan bishop. Rather amusingly, she said that her husband Philip wondered what on earth my husband would do, and indeed what the husbands of other bishops would do. I found that rather amusing because I thought of all people in the country who should know what the husband of a bishop would do, one was the Duke of Edinburgh.

At this time of huge loss and mourning, I give such thanks to God for a life well lived—a life of faith and love. As I recall, the verse I chose that day of paying homage was from the Gospel of John, and it is one that the Queen lived. In Jesus Christ’s words to his followers: “Abide in me”. She did and she does. May she rest in peace and rise in glory. God save the King.

Lord Anderson of Swansea Portrait Lord Anderson of Swansea (Lab)
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My Lords, la reine est morte, vive le roi. We have had such a wealth of personal stories illustrating the humility of Her Majesty, her warmth and her faith. My own immediate memory, alas, is of shame to me. I was sitting next but one to her at a Commonwealth conference in Westminster Hall when, alas, my mobile phone went off and I was the subject of a well-deserved regal stare, which stayed with me for a very long time.

Historians will see the last week as the end of an era, the like of which we shall not see again. The new King faces formidable tasks. He will have little difficulty in improving on the record of Charles I and Charles II, but he will have extreme difficulty in following in the footsteps of his beloved and late mother, in spite of his unprecedentedly long apprenticeship. For a person with strong and controversial views, many of which I share, he will have difficulty in not airing them in public but will seek inspiration from the discretion of his late mother and her serene sense of duty. Where she did have strong views, the only ones she could express in public related to horses, family and her corgi dogs.

One feature which has been mentioned, particularly by the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, was that the late Queen was a great reconciler. If we think back to the 2011 visit of Her Majesty to Dublin, no politician could have achieved what she did at Croke Park and in Dublin Castle when she put a veil over all the troubles of the past and paved the way for a much warmer relationship with our cousins in the Republic of Ireland. History will certainly see her as one of the greatest monarchs—possibly the greatest, as the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, said, suggesting that perhaps she should be named “Elizabeth the Great”. As a Welshman, I much prefer the precedent of Hywel Dda—Hywel the Good. Perhaps, given her many superlative moral qualities, “Elizabeth the Good” might be a far better title for her. She was part of the glue keeping together the Commonwealth and our union, both of which are suffering the possibility of great turbulence in the future.

Nationality and Borders Bill

Lord Bishop of Gloucester Excerpts
Lord Bishop of Gloucester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Gloucester
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My Lords, I have added my name to Amendment 105 and the intention to oppose Clause 31 standing part of the Bill. I too am grateful to Women for Refugee Women and others for their briefings and support.

In the New Plan for Immigration and the briefings for the Bill, the Government have argued repeatedly that the existing asylum and refugee system is weighted against vulnerable women. The Home Secretary has repeatedly made the point that the large majority of channel crossings are by men aged under 40, for example. Given this, there might be some expectation that the Bill would contain some good news or ambitions on the part of the Government for better reaching and helping the women and girls who make up 50% of the world’s refugees and displaced people. Unfortunately, I do not see any such commitments. As a sting in the tail, in Clauses 31 and 32 we find proposals that seem to significantly disadvantage women further.

I will not repeat but endorse the arguments that it is already disproportionately difficult for women, particularly survivors of gender-based violence, to have their claims for refugee protection status correctly determined. Clause 31 can only exacerbate this situation, which is a disaster for many vulnerable women. That is also true of Clause 32, unfortunately, and I am very grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, for laying out the issue here so clearly. I am very pleased to add my name in support of her Amendment 105.

I have no wish to take up time repeating the arguments, but it is critical to reiterate the point that the “particular social group” reason is an essential lifeline for survivors of sexual and gender-based persecution not otherwise covered by

“race, religion, nationality or political opinion”

in the reasons set out in the 1951 convention, as we have heard from other noble Lords. I will listen closely to the Minister’s response on this, but it is very difficult to see the justification for this move, which goes in the face of existing legal practice. It is so important for these survivors.

Many of my best memories of this place come from last year’s excellent debates on the Domestic Abuse Bill, which really showed politics in its best light. I know that this cause is taken seriously by the Government, but it seems that there is a blind spot on migrant women. We will discuss this again on later amendments, including my right reverend friend the Bishop of London’s forthcoming Amendment 140, but I end with a plea to the Minister to look again at these clauses and, if these amendments are not right, to present others that will ensure that vulnerable women are not further disadvantaged by this change.

Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Portrait Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle (GP)
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I offer the support of the Green group for all the amendments in this group and express horror at the whole nature of this part of the Bill. It is a great pleasure to follow the right reverend Prelate and to agree with everything that she said about the gender aspects of the Bill as it now stands, as also mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Lister.

I want to address Amendment 111 and make a simple observation: the average length of a prison sentence in England and Wales in 2021 was 18.6 months, compared with 11.4 months in 2000. Is this really something extraordinary? Is the UNHCR right in saying that this change in terminology is not right? I think that it clearly is.

I want to draw out what the noble Baronesses, Lady Lister and Lady McIntosh, said, both of them reflecting on different elements of how this law is throwing out 25 years of British legal tradition. I am not going to reopen the discussion on the last group about particular political labels, but I will note that this is happening in a country where only a couple of years ago we saw our most senior judges under attack on the front pages of certain newspapers. That is the context in which this is occurring.

I want to reflect—a number of people have talked about this but I shall boil it down—on what the Government’s proposals are likely to do: produce a large number of people who are denied status but who cannot be sent home because it is clearly impossibly unsafe and dangerous to send them there. That leads to a situation of more chaos and more forced black-market employment, which surely no one could want.

Criminal Justice: Royal Commission

Lord Bishop of Gloucester Excerpts
Monday 7th February 2022

(2 years, 4 months ago)

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Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar (Con)
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My Lords, I am grateful to have the opportunity to express real gratitude for the work done by prison chaplains, particularly during the pandemic when the chaplaincy had to move from face-to-face to telephone or video conferencing. Access is of course ultimately a matter for prison governors, but if the noble Lord has particular concerns in this area, he knows that he can speak to me; I am very happy to have a discussion with him.

Lord Bishop of Gloucester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Gloucester
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My Lords, disproportionate outcomes for racially minoritised people in the criminal justice system are well documented, including of course in the Lammy review. Does the Minister agree that care should be taken to prioritise these concerns through the royal commission?

Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar (Con)
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My Lords, I have said on a number of occasions from this Dispatch Box that racial inequality in our criminal justice system goes back many decades. We are absolutely focused on it, and I am sure that any royal commission in this area would want to look at it.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

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Lord Beith Portrait Lord Beith (LD)
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My Lords, I agree with all the arguments my noble friend brought forward for having an overall look at sentencing and how it operates, and how that needs to be done at arm’s length from government. I will simply add two questions to the list he created, which the noble and learned Lord just very helpfully added to.

The first question is: can we find a way in which society can assert its abhorrence at various kinds and levels of criminality that does not automatically increase the amount of time people spend in prison, or the amount of money we as a society spend on prison? Sentences are often used as ways of indicating, quite necessarily, that society will not stand for crimes of various kinds, but simply spending a lot of money keeping someone in prison, feeding them for the next decade or two, is not necessarily a cost-effective way to achieve that.

That leads me to my second point. Prison commands resources. It does so automatically. The impact statement for this Bill indicates that the Government anticipate that 300 more prison places will be required by the measures in the Bill, quite apart from all the other factors, leading us to spend more money on prisons. We have to ask: is that a good use of money for the purpose of preventing further crime?

Very interesting discussions took place in the US, particularly in Texas, in which the lead in changing the approach was taken by some of those on the Republican side, who said, “This is the taxpayer’s dollar, and it’s our responsibility to spend it efficiently and effectively.” In our country, it is our responsibility to spend the taxpayer’s pound efficiently and effectively to achieve the reductions in crime that taxpayers would like to see. Pouring money into more and more prison places is not demonstrably a way of achieving that objective, and we ought at least to look at how it might be done differently.

Lord Bishop of Gloucester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Gloucester
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My Lords, I fully support the amendment. Sometimes I feel a bit as if I am in “Groundhog Day” as we listen to things that are said again and again. When we first discussed the Bill in this House, many people far more learned than me commented on all the issues with the Bill and the fact that so much of it is piecemeal—that we are trying to put sticking plasters over things without looking at the issues holistically and without looking at evidence. So much of it seems to be a reaction—often to populist headlines, let us be honest. There is so much evidence that we are not looking at, and so much of what we are discussing is not backed up by the evidence.

For that reason, I warmly recommend taking a holistic look at what we are doing, why people end up in prison in the first place, what we are doing when we sentence people, what is going on in our prisons and what it means for when people come out through the gate. As has been said, even if people are utterly callous and care only about finance, what we are doing at the moment makes no financial sense whatsoever. I wholeheartedly applaud this amendment.

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Portrait Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (GP)
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My Lords, I also support the amendment. The noble Lord, Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames, has given us an opportunity to make things a lot better. During that quite irritable debate two days ago—I was irritable, anyway, and I think people got irritable with me—on this policing Bill, it struck me that we just should not have as many women in prison. Some of the things that women go to prison for are ridiculous. It costs a lot of money; it disrupts lives, especially for the women, their children and their support networks; and there is an opportunity cost when compared to the opportunities that we should be providing via rehabilitation and reintegration. Women go to prison for things like not paying their TV licence or their council tax, and that really should not happen. It is hugely disruptive, the cost of doing so exceeds the unpaid debt many times over, and lives are ruined.

For the vast majority of women in the criminal justice system, solutions within the community are much more appropriate. Community sentences could be designed to take account of women’s particular vulnerabilities and their domestic and childcare commitments. Existing women’s prisons should be replaced by suitable, geographically-dispersed, small multifunctional custodial centres. More supported accommodation should be provided for women on release in order to break the cycle of offending and custody. Prisoners should have improved access to meaningful activities, particularly real work, education and artistic and creative facilities. And, of course, all prisoners should be able to attain levels of literacy sufficient to allow them to function effectively in modern society.

That all seems so obvious, but it does not happen at the moment because this Government are obsessed with being “tough on crime”. What does that mean? If it means sending more and more people to prison then it is a very disruptive and damaging way of handling the problem of crime. A royal commission seems an incredibly sensible way forward just to rethink the way in which we handle prisons, prisoners, crime and, in particular, women in prison who really ought not to be there.

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I can see therefore that, sadly, although the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, has brought forward a very good amendment, it is very unlikely to be passed. Obviously it is completely wrong that the police, instead of rescuing children from situations of criminal exploitation, can send them back into dangerous situations to work for them as undercover spies. It is not enough to say that they give loads of good intelligence and so on; I have seen from many years of watching undercover police that they suffer trauma and extremely miserable lives and come out with all sorts of PTSD from those undercover situations. It is very hard to be a different person day after day with some potentially very dangerous people. If it can happen to trained police officers, how much worse is it for young children who have to do that sort of thing? They have to lie to all their compatriots and cover up meetings with their handlers. It is exceptionally nasty and I wish the Met police would understand that it is a wrong, illegal thing to do. They call them juvenile CHISs—covert human intelligence sources—which sort of neutralises the moral outrage because no one really understands what they are. However, it is by definition child criminal exploitation. If we could put the definition on the statute book, we would be one step closer to ending this vile practice undertaken by our own police—and Government.
Lord Bishop of Gloucester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Gloucester
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My Lords, I speak in place of my right reverend friend the Bishop of Derby, who sadly cannot be here today. She and I support this amendment, to which she has added her name. I declare her interest as vice-chair of the Children’s Society. These are her words.

In Committee, my right reverend friend the Bishop of Durham spoke in the place of my right reverend friend the Bishop of Manchester. I will not repeat all that was said, but I will reiterate a few fundamental points as we consider this amendment. As a Church living and working in every corner of this nation, we support families and children, often in the most vulnerable of contexts. We have seen the devastating consequences when children are coerced and exploited, including through serious violence. Those consequences have ripple effects through not only the life of that child but the wider community. Visiting young offender institutions, I am struck by how many of these children and young people are victims first. Their stories could have been very different if intervention had occurred earlier. They have been groomed and coerced in the same way as children groomed for sexual exploitation; as such, they should be treated as victims. They need support rather than the further trauma of being charged and prosecuted.

I share with noble Lords the story of a young person supported by the Children’s Society which illustrates how many victims of child criminal exploitation are not recognised as such. Bobby—not his real name—aged 15, was picked up with class A drugs in a trap-house raid by the police. Bobby had been groomed, exploited and trafficked across the country to sell drugs. After his arrest, he was driven back to his home by police officers, who had questioned him alone in the car and used that information to submit a referral through the national referral mechanism, which did not highlight Bobby’s vulnerability—instead, it read like a crime report. Bobby had subsequently been to court in Wales and, because his referral to the NRM failed and his barrister did not understand the process, he was advised to plead guilty, which he did.

At this time, he was referred to the Children’s Society’s “Disrupting Exploitation” programme. With its help, Bobby challenged the NRM decision and worked to ensure that he was recognised as a victim instead of an offender, enabling him to retract his plea of guilty. The Children’s Society was able to work with Bobby, his family and the professionals around him to ensure that they recognised the signs of exploitation and how it can manifest.

But for many young people who are criminally exploited, that is not the case. Many will be prosecuted and convicted as offenders, while those who groomed and exploited them walk free. Agencies that come into contact with these children are not working to the same statutory definition of what constitutes child criminal exploitation.

What this amendment hopes to achieve is for statutory services to recognise that these children have not made a choice to get involved in criminal activity. I whole- heartedly agree that local multiagency safeguarding arrangements are key to responding to child exploitation. However, we need a clear, national definition and understanding of the types of child exploitation that they must safeguard against. Front-line agencies all agree: there is no evidence that the system as it stands is working consistently to protect these children from exploitation.

We are committed to the flourishing of all people. That includes children and young people from the most marginalised and disadvantaged circumstances—those for whom real choice is out of their grasp. We must do all within our power to give hope to victims and dare to dream of a different future for these children.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, in Committee I recalled my own experience of visiting the only young offender institution in Scotland, where the governor told us that every young person in her institution had suffered multiple adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs. These are potentially traumatic events that occur in childhood and include experiencing violence, abuse or neglect, particularly head trauma; witnessing violence in the home or community, something that is becoming all too common; and having a family member attempt or die by suicide. Also included are aspects of the child’s environment that can undermine their sense of safety, stability and bonding, such as growing up in a household with substance use problems, mental health problems or instability due to parental separation or household members being in prison.

ACEs also make children particularly vulnerable to criminal exploitation and it is important that this is recognised in statute to ensure that a trauma-informed approach is taken to child victims of criminal exploitation, rather than a criminalising, punitive approach. This amendment provides that statutory definition and we strongly support it.