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

Tue 23rd Apr 2024
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Victims and Prisoners Bill
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Mon 18th Dec 2023
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Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
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Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill
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Committee stage:Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords

End of Custody Supervised Licence Scheme: Extension

Lord Bishop of Manchester Excerpts
Monday 13th May 2024

(1 week, 6 days ago)

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Lord Bellamy Portrait Lord Bellamy (Con)
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My Lords, there are certainly problems in some prisons, but the overall picture is by no means as painted. We have had major refurbishments at sites including HMP Birmingham, HMP Liverpool and HMP Norwich. Your Lordships may have seen the picture of Liverpool the other day in the papers. It was a most impressive refurbishment. Constructions of new houseblocks at four prisons are going on; we have opened HMP Fosse Way and HMP Five Wells. I would encourage noble Lords to visit those very modern and effective prisons. We now have outline planning permission for two more.

Lord Bishop of Manchester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Manchester
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My Lords, I declare that I am a trustee of the Clink Charity: we are involved with training people in prison for qualifications for restaurants, catering and the like. Those last few weeks in prison are often a crucial time for prisoners gaining the qualifications they need to get a decent job when they are released. I am sure every prisoner wants to go as soon as they can, but is the Minister aware, and will the Government take consideration, of the effect of prisoners not receiving their qualifications because they have not quite been completed by the time their advanced release date comes?

Lord Bellamy Portrait Lord Bellamy (Con)
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My Lords, it is a priority of this Government to improve employment opportunities for persons in prison. I would like to pay particular tribute to the Clink Charity, which has done excellent work over the years. The rate of prisoners in employment six months after their release has significantly increased under this Government, and various steps, which I think I have outlined on previous occasions, have been taken to improve the qualifications of prisoners leaving prison.

Lord Russell of Liverpool Portrait Lord Russell of Liverpool (CB)
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Nearly—soon, I devoutly hope, but I have more to talk about, sorry. My Amendment 59 is about the inclusion of stalking within the scope of the duty to collaborate. Alongside the noble Baroness, Lady Newlove, I had the privilege of speaking at a conference of the Suzy Lamplugh Trust this morning, because this week is National Stalking Awareness Week. I say on the record that we are extremely grateful that the Home Office issued some new guidance yesterday on the creation of stalking protection orders, which has significantly changed the game. Previously, one had to reach the level of criminality for a stalking protection order to be put in place, but it is now at the level of a civil offence, which is a great improvement that we are extremely grateful for. But I can only emphasise again how important it is that stalking is included. The Suzy Lamplugh Trust made a freedom of information request to every police force about what they were doing on stalking, and only seven had a dedicated stalking officer in place, while 12 of them admitted to having none at all. You have to concentrate on this really hard to make people realise that they have to take it seriously.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester will, I am sure, speak to his amendments, so I will not go on about them, other than to say that I broadly support them. I will listen carefully to the arguments he puts forward and to the Minister’s reply. I understand that any plea that involves pounds and pence does not go down terribly well with His Majesty’s Government at the moment, but I will listen carefully to what they have to say.

Lastly, Amendments 62 and 71 are in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Polak, who is unable to be here. I suspect that the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, will speak to those later—I see her nodding, so I do not need to go on at length about them. They are part of our campaign, working with the children’s coalition, to better support children through the provision of services and of advocacy for children, both of which are incredibly important.

Lord Bishop of Manchester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Manchester
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My Lords, I will speak to my Amendments 60, 64 and 70, which echo amendments on support services for victims that I tabled in Committee. I am grateful to the Minister for his responses at that stage and for his kindness in meeting me and representatives of Refuge and Women’s Aid in the interim. In light of those conversations, it is not my intention to press any of these amendments to a Division today. However, I hope that, in this debate and in the Minister’s response to it, we can clarify a little further how His Majesty’s Government will seek to ensure that victims across the country have access to quality support services provided by organisations that hold their confidence and understand their specific circumstances. As we are now on Report, I will not repeat the detailed arguments of Committee, but I think their force still stands.

Amendment 60 places a duty on the Secretary of State to define in statutory guidance

“the full breadth of specialist community-based support domestic abuse services”.

This would ensure that victims receive quality support that meets their needs, and that they are made aware of the variety of community-based support available to them. Victims seek various forms of support, which might include advocacy, outreach, floating support, formal counselling or being part of a support group. All of these have a vital role to play. The guidance could cover the holistic support intersectional advocacy that is often provided by what we call “by and for” services —these are particularly helpful for black and minoritised women—as well as those providing specialist advocacy to deaf and disabled people and LGBT+ victims.

The implementation of the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 demonstrates why a clear and precise definition is now critical. Under Part 4 of that Act, a statutory duty was placed on local authorities to fund domestic abuse support in safe accommodation. We found that organisations with a much wider remit than domestic abuse, and often services that had no expertise at all, because they are eligible for refuge funding under the duty, have now moved into that area, entering a sector previously run by specialists who really understood the service users.

What we find when local commissioning bodies rely too much on non-specialist organisations—which can be for financial reasons, or because they are easier to get hold of or to deal with—the result is that victims, particularly those from minority backgrounds or specialised contexts, receive much poorer support, yet these are, of course, often among the most vulnerable in our society. The amendment would simply ensure that commissioning bodies have to pay attention to their needs. Although I am not pushing it to a Division, my question to the Minister is: in the absence of placing a duty on the Secretary of State in the Bill, what assurances can he offer us today that the Government will place appropriate pressure on local commissioning bodies to procure the full range of specialist services from specialist organisations that such victims need?

Amendment 64 would require the Secretary of State to address the funding gaps identified by joint strategic needs assessments and support local authorities, integrated care boards and police and crime commissioners to deliver their duties under the duty to collaborate. The amendment has been framed so as to avoid requiring the Secretary of State to go outside the normal spending review processes, which I hope will give some assurances that this is not about trying to break the bank.

Without sufficient funding, it will not be possible for local commissioners to have regard to their joint assessments when producing strategies and providing services. The gaps in service provision that will likely be identified are already known, and there simply is not the funding available to plug them. Ultimately, the scale of the funding shortfall facing local commissioners —and in turn those specialist services—means that the Government do have a role to play.

Although the Ministry of Justice has committed to increasing funding for victim and witness support services to £147 million per year until 2024-25, this funding is not ring-fenced to domestic abuse services. Of course, existing commitments are simply insufficient to meet the demand around the country. Women’s Aid has found that a minimum of £427 million a year is really needed to fund specialist domestic abuse services in England: £238 million for community-based services and £189 million for refuges. Moreover, specialist services are now feeling the effects of this concerning rise in local authorities issuing Section 114 notices. This is a crisis that will only get worse.

However, I welcome the Minister’s statement in Committee that a ministerially led national oversight forum will be set up to scrutinise the local strategies. This could be the vehicle to identify systemic shortfalls in service provision, and hence to put pressure on commissioning bodies to plug the gaps. It could also provide the evidence to justify more adequate funding settlements, with specific requirements to include specialist community-based services. I would therefore be grateful if he could say a little more about how the ministerial-led forum he has promised will function.

Finally, Amendment 70 would require the Secretary of State to include advice on sustainable, multi-year contracts with statutory guidance. I know that the Government are already committed in principle to multi-year contracts in the victims funding strategy. The problem is that in practice, this is not happening. Refuge monitors all commissioning opportunities nationally, and half of commissioning opportunities are for less than three years. There is no enforceability mechanism for the victims’ funding strategy, and in the absence of that, short-term contracts are prevalent across the specialist domestic abuse sector. Such contracts make recruitment and retention of staff more difficult as services cannot offer fixed-term contracts. That leaves survivors forced to find alternative sources of ongoing support at critical points in their recovery and prevents services being able to take root properly in local communities. This is why I feel that a statutory requirement is necessary.

This amendment is a change from the one I proposed in Committee, where I sought to put the requirement into the Bill. I am glad that the Minister acknowledges the problem and would be grateful if, in responding, he could set out what further action the Government will take to ensure that longer-term contracts for specialist service providers become the norm and not the exception.

Finally, I support other amendments in this group, in particular Amendment 79 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, but will leave my right reverend friend the Bishop of Gloucester to speak to that.

Lord Meston Portrait Lord Meston (CB)
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My Lords, I will speak briefly again in relation to the provision of transcripts covered by Amendment 19. I fully understand the point and the force of the amendment and wish to emphasise a point that perhaps the noble Baroness did not. She is not, in fact, talking about transcripts of the whole trial or transcripts of sections of evidence. I could not help suspecting that the costly examples she gave were of much lengthier transcripts than transcripts of the summing-up and sentencing remarks about which she seeks to make provision under this amendment.

To that extent, the noble Baroness may well have undermined her own case, because I suspect that transcripts of the sentencing remarks and summing up are much cheaper, but I cannot give expert evidence on that. Particularly important to some victims is the transcript of the sentencing remarks, because that gives the victim, and those who may advise or support them or provide them with therapy and counselling, an appreciation of what the judge assessed to have been the culpability of the offender and the impact on the victim.

As far as it concerns the provision of a transcript of the summing up and sentencing remarks, I support this amendment. This is subject to the caveat I mentioned at an earlier stage: in the case of sexual offences the distribution of transcripts needs to be subject to safeguards, because otherwise they can and do fall into the wrong hands. From time to time, I have been asked to authorise the distribution of a transcript, and a lot of thought has to go into who can and cannot see them and what happens to them once provided. If they get into the wrong hands, it will do the victim, among others, a great disservice.

To close, I will leave your Lordships with this thought. I know that the Minister, whom I admire greatly, will tell the House that this amendment would create a precedent. However, in 2015, following the Sousse terrorist attack on UK holidaymakers on a beach in Tunisia, the Government, directed by the Prime Minister, set up a cross-government task force, of which I was a member, to co-ordinate support for the victims and their families. It achieved a great deal in a short space of time. It even established a compensation scheme for them. It showed me that, where there is a political will, we can move mountains. Today, I am not asking noble Lords to move mountains; I am asking them to show the political will to bring these families, who find themselves in exactly the same situation as the Sousse families, in from the cold and give them the legal entitlements they rightly deserve.
Lord Bishop of Manchester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Manchester
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My Lords, I will speak very briefly to Amendments 5 and 8, to which I have added my name. One of the things that has changed hugely over my adult lifetime is an understanding of just how lifelong traumatising events that take place in childhood are. For that reason, we need to be very clear and careful when working with children.

In the current legislation, there are the things on the statute book that refer, in different places, to child criminal exploitation, but the definitions given there are not consistent. In the previous debate, the Minister very wisely spoke about the need to have materials that are clearly understandable by children, but we need to be equally clear about when a child falls under the terms of this Bill as somebody who ought to receive support because they are a victim of child criminal exploitation. At the moment, the conflicting definitions in other bits of legislation do not give us that clearly enough. Therefore, I urge your Lordships to support the amendments, which will give us a clear definition that will help to support children. Even if just one or two children fall through the net as a result of not having a clear definition, their lives would be scarred worse than they would be otherwise—and for ever.

Baroness Brinton Portrait Baroness Brinton (LD)
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My Lords, I have Amendment 7 in this group and have also signed Amendments 3 to 5 and 8. I will refer to Amendment 7 and then briefly cover the others.

My Amendment 7 is similar to the one I tabled in Committee. I thank the Minister for arranging for Restitute CIC, which is championing the amendment, and me to have a meeting with his officials, and for his recent letter to me. I am disappointed that the Government are not going further by producing their own amendment, but I hope that there will be recognition soon that family members who relive the experience of their loved ones, as they help them to recover, may actually be victims themselves. Many have had mental health support themselves and have had to give up work. Often, other family relationships have been fractured, and the lives of all involved have been completely and utterly changed. I am disappointed by the lack of progress and feel that this is something that will keep coming back to bother Ministers as more Bills come down the line in the criminal justice area.

We have heard some very moving contributions on Amendment 2 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Russell, on homicide abroad; a similar amendment was tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, in Committee. I also thank the Minister for his extremely helpful meeting. We really need to support this amendment because the sort of service that the noble Baroness, Lady Newlove, described, which was set up specifically for one particular tragedy, is absolutely vital. We heard from officials that, in theory, the arrangements are in place through co-ordinators to make sure that those links are made. But in practice, without formal guidance for every single department that victims will come to, there are far too many holes and victims’ families are absolutely not getting the help that they need. I hope that the Minister will consider that in future.

On Amendments 5 and 8 on child criminal exploitation, I remind your Lordships’ House that Home Office data from 2023 sets out that more than 7,000 referrals relating to children have been made to the national referral mechanism, the framework for identifying potential victims of modern slavery and criminal exploitation. That was an increase of 45% since 2011. The most common reason for referral was criminal exploitation. However, the problem is that the lack of a legal definition means that there is no effective data collection across the UK; there is a patchwork of data, which includes just the tip of the iceberg. A statutory definition of CCE is essential in ensuring a consistent understanding of and response to child criminal exploitation across the country by all agencies and sectors. Crucially, the experts think that will help to identify exploited children more quickly.

I turn now to anti-social behaviour. We have not heard yet from the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, but the very moving speech from the noble Baroness, Lady Newlove, in Committee set out the reality of the devastating consequences of repeated and escalating anti-social behaviour. I will not repeat what has already been said today in your Lordships’ House, but we on these Benches will support the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, if he wishes to test the opinion of the House.

Lord Polak Portrait Lord Polak (Con)
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My Lords, I support the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, on Amendment 5. The Bill offers a landmark opportunity to make a difference to victims’ and survivors’ lives and has the potential to restore confidence in our criminal justice system.

As noble Lords know, alongside organisations focused on supporting women and children, and together with many other noble Lords from across the House, we fought hard for children experiencing domestic abuse to be recognised as victims in their own right, and I am proud that that is included in the Domestic Abuse Act 2021. However, I am saddened—I think that is the word I am looking for—that we are having to make this very same case again.

Sadly, children experience multiple forms of abuse and exploitation, sometimes including domestic abuse. The Centre of Expertise on Child Sexual Abuse has found that it is common that victims and survivors experience multiple forms of victimisation in childhood. Over half of adults in England and Wales who reported being sexually abused before the age of 16 also experienced another type of abuse, whether physical, emotional, or witnessing domestic abuse. As has been said, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse found that 52% of victims and survivors who gave evidence spoke about experiencing at least one other form.

As the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, suggested, we were reminded of these facts just last week at a meeting here in Parliament. We were given the privilege, I would say, of hearing directly from the survivors of child abuse about what this opportunity means to them. At this event hosted by the Children’s Charities Coalition, they all shared the same vision: that the Bill offers an opportunity to transform our response to children affected by abuse and exploitation. Often, it is not until you speak directly to victims and survivors of crime that you truly understand the magnitude and impact of what we are discussing today. Yet their ask is very simple: recognition and support for all children who experience abuse and exploitation.

At the event, we heard harrowing experiences from survivors of child sexual abuse and exploitation. In sharing their experiences, they also shared their bravery and resolve to improve support for children today and for generations to come—which, in some cases, was so lacking when they truly needed it. We heard from David Tait, who shared his experience about the horrific abuse he faced as a child. He challenged the room and asked whether any of us felt it was appropriate that children were not specifically recognised within the Bill. The room was silent, in realisation that it is almost unthinkable that children are not specifically recognised. I offer my deepest gratitude to all those who bravely spoke out. It sharpened my own focus on how the Bill can truly make a difference for them.

The final report of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse gives a glimpse into what it is like for these children and why it is so important for all children who have experienced, and, sadly, will experience, abuse and exploitation to be recognised. Many victims and survivors said they were traumatised by child sexual abuse. Olivar, a survivor, described the “traumatic long-term effect” of sexual abuse:

“I’ve thought about it for over 50 years”.


Another survivor, Laurie, said that

“hardly a day goes by where I do not think about the events from 58 years ago”.

Another survivor described feeling “misery” and “bewilderment” after being sexually abused as a child. Finally, a survivor shared:

“I was never able to be nurtured … I have to grieve for the childhood I never had”.


I support this key amendment in ensuring that these children and all children are recognised. This Bill must recognise all children as victims in their own right and we must get that definition and recognition put at the heart of the Bill. Children have distinct needs and require a child-centred approach and specialist support. Let us not go through the pain that we had last time with domestic abuse, let us get children into the Bill now.

Lord Bishop of Manchester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Manchester
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My Lords, as I said at Second Reading, this is a good Bill for victims. It contains many provisions that I strongly support. I hope and believe that we can make it an even better Bill by working across the House, which is the mood tonight, as it was then.

I put my name to Amendment 10 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby. I also support other amendments in this group, including those that my right reverend friend the Bishop of Bristol, who is unable to be in her place today, has signed. Amendments in this group seek to clarify how the Bill properly addresses the needs of children.

Amendment 10 places on the face of the Bill a short but clear definition of “child criminal exploitation”. This would include any child under 18 who is

“encouraged, expected or required to take part in any activity that constitutes a criminal offence”.

This is not widening the definition of a victim, merely giving it clarity. I learned in my teens that if I was on the receiving end of some wrongdoing, I was a child. By contrast, if I was deemed the perpetrator, I suddenly became a youth.

We have also heard too often in your Lordships’ House of the adultification of children. It is an ugly word for an ugly phenomenon, where a child is treated as a grown-up when they are caught up in wrongdoing. Moreover, we know that in the absence of a strong countervailing pressure, this is disproportionately applied to black children. This has been a long-standing concern of many civil society organisations focused on countering the exploitation of children. I hope we can begin to respond to it today.

In my own diocese of Manchester, we are still reeling from the discovery of the extent of grooming gangs exploiting children for sexual crimes, most notably—but I doubt exclusively—in Rochdale. If the children caught up in these crimes had been seen by the authorities primarily as victims, and treated as such, I believe that the gangs would have been brought to justice far sooner.

Getting a clear definition of child criminal exploitation into the Bill will, I hope and pray, not only improve this legislation but set a precedent for how we treat child victims better, both in future legislation and in practice at every stage of the criminal justice system. I hope that the Minister will either accept our words as on the Marshalled List or come back to us on Report with a suitable government amendment to that effect.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Portrait Lord Hunt of Kings Heath (Lab)
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My Lords, I have Amendment 9 in this group. It concerns verbal abuse to children and, in terms of the challenges the Minister set us with the four As, it is concerned with raising awareness.

I share the view of other noble Lords that it is important to get children into the Bill, particularly in relation to this clause. My amendment seeks to make it clear that when it comes to the definition of “harm” in Clause 1(4)(a), it should include a definition that embraces children and includes verbal harm.

My amendment has been inspired by the work of an inspirational, newish charity called Words Matter, which I believe to be the first charity in the world focused solely on verbal harm to children. It aims to eradicate this damaging and underestimated form of abuse, and I pay tribute to its inspirational founder, Jessica Bondy.

We all understand verbal abuse. It can mean negative words, and language that causes harm to children. It can take the form of blaming, insulting, belittling, intimidating, demeaning, disrespecting, scolding, frightening, ridiculing, criticising, name-calling or threatening a child. It does not constitute only shouting. In fact, abuse can be quiet, insidious and subtle in tone, where volume and facial expression play a part. We have probably all personally experienced verbal abuse, certainly in the profession we are in. It can be extraordinarily damaging, particularly to young people.

We know that children’s brains are responsive to relationships as they grow up with words, tones and sounds around them. The noble Lord, Lord Polak, has just talked about the long-lasting impact on people who were sexually abused many years ago, and destructive language can have some of the same impact. If one looks at what comprises child maltreatment—physical, sexual and emotional abuse, and neglect—verbal abuse is a key attribute of many of those aspects. It can also be individually damaging to a child’s development, perhaps as damaging as other currently recognised and forensically established subtypes of maltreatment.

We believe that emotional abuse, including verbal abuse, is on the rise, and is perhaps the most prevalent form of child maltreatment. A systematic review of childhood abuse undertaken by UCL and Wingate University in the US found that verbal abuse does profound damage to a child over their lifetime, affecting their self-esteem, confidence, future potential and ability to function at home, school and the workplace, really affecting life outcomes for them.

The study commissioned by Words Matter found that this kind of abuse is pervasive in society. That study, which it recently undertook, revealed that two in five children aged 11 to 17 experience adults regularly using hurtful and upsetting words to blame, insult or criticise them—that is, around 2 million children in this country.

The real problem here is a lack of awareness, because without awareness you cannot have strategies and policies to try to deal with it or engage in the educational programmes that are needed, particularly to help teachers, parents and other adults who are in a situation to try to change their behaviour. I do not pretend that an amendment tonight would magically deal with this issue, but in the spirit of the Minister’s wind-up on previous groups, I hope that by drawing attention to it he will be able to say something constructive about how we might tackle verbal abuse and protect children in the future.

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I very much hope that the Government will accept this amendment. They know of the value of RJ; what we need to ensure is that victims know of its availability and accessibility right across the system. The way to ensure that is to make it part of the Bill. Earlier in the debate, the Minister set out his four As: awareness, accessibility, accountability and affordability. I suggest that, if RJ were part of the Bill, people would be more aware it, it would be more accessible and those responsible for administering the system would feel more accountable for it. While it might cost more if more people took it up, it would surely be a good thing if that made victims feel more satisfied, and it would reduce reoffending.
Lord Bishop of Manchester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Manchester
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My Lords, I will speak in support of Amendment 15 in my name. I also offer my support to the other amendments, not least that in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Gohir, which seems to be an uncontroversial proposal that simply corrects a lacuna in the Bill.

One of my abiding mantras is that there is no such thing in our society as a hard-to-reach group. What we have—and have all too often—are services that fail to make sufficient effort to ensure they reach all those they are intended to assist. It is not good enough for a service to exist; the people it is meant to support have to know it is there and be able to access it. The noble Baroness, Lady Newlove, spoke powerfully earlier this evening. I gather that she spoke at a Women and Equalities Committee oral evidence session where she emphasised that many victims are unaware of the support services available to them. I will not go any further, because I think she may want to speak in a moment; I will not steal her thunder.

The intention of the amendment in my name is to make it clear that responsibility for ensuring that victims can access services does not lie with the potential service user. We need it in the Bill because too many victims are simply not aware of what they ought to be able to look for for help—or they cannot access that help in a format that meets their needs.

I gather that in the other place the Minister claimed that the duty on criminal justice agencies to use reasonable steps to make victims aware of the code would suffice. Yet signposting is much more than enabling someone to know that a service exists. It means putting them in a place from where they can access the service. Sometimes that cannot be done by a leaflet, however good, or a few words spoken to a traumatised victim in the immediate aftermath of a tragedy. It requires enduring engagement by service providers until the message can be heard, and that may be some considerable time later.

The Women’s Aid Survivor’s Handbook provides a clear example of what practical support should be included. Such support can be a lifeline to victims of abuse who, for example, may be planning to leave their perpetrator. The ability to access thorough information on a full range of issues, with easy-to-follow guidance, is crucial. It is also imperative that black and minoritised women, deaf and disabled women and LGBT+ victims are able to access support that meets their very specific needs and is sensitive to their experiences of additional inequalities and intersecting forms of discrimination. Victims should also be made aware of the range of helplines and online support, including the Women’s Aid live chat helpline and other appropriate domestic abuse and violence against women and girls support. Simply saying that there is a code will not bridge the gap between the victim and the service they need. I hope the Minister will feel able to offer proposals to strengthen the signposting requirements in the Bill ahead of Report.

I finish by recollecting that exactly one week ago in your Lordships’ House we debated, for a good hour and a half, what makes for good signage and who is responsible for it. Specifically, we discussed changes to the requirements placed on warning signs for level crossings between private or heritage railways and farm tracks—it was more interesting than you might imagine. Surely if we can improve signage to help a farmer get his sheep across a railway track, we can properly sign victims to the services they need.

Lord Garnier Portrait Lord Garnier (Con)
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My Lords, I will not follow the right reverend Prelate down the byways of Manchester, or the sheep farmers and their signposts, but I support him and indeed the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, in the thrust of the amendments that they have introduced. I am part of a catholic gathering which supports the amendments tabled by the noble and right reverend Lord. I do it because I think it is a sensible, practical thing to do, but also because I have seen it work.

Many years ago, when I was the shadow Minister for Prisons in the other place and my noble friend Lord Cameron of Chipping Norton was the leader of the Opposition, I visited a huge number of prisons. I think I visited about 75 of the 145-odd prisons, secure training units and young offender institutions in England and Wales, and in a number of prisons, certainly adult prisons in London, in Wales and in other parts of England, I saw restorative justice in action.

It is a delicate process and one needs to be very careful that it is, as the amendment tabled by the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, makes clear, carried out where appropriate and that it is available where appropriate. Not every victim is ready to enter into a conversation with the person who committed a crime against them. I have been in the room when RJ took place between prisoners and the victims of murder, the victims of serious violence and the victims of domestic burglary. It takes a very strong person to go into a room and listen to the explanation, the apology, the regret of a prisoner who has killed your husband or your son or your daughter. You need to be very strong and very brave. Equally—I suppose to some extent it is easier because there is, if you like, an advantage to the prisoner to be seen to be behaving in a humane way—I think it is fair to say that for many of the prisoners, some of whom were not very articulate, who had not been educated and who had many social, economic and other disadvantages, it was quite brave of them to come to terms with the horrific things that they had done. So I think “appropriate” is the most important word in the amendment tabled by the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries.

Also, tailoring the scheme, or the particular episode of restorative justice, to the needs of that particular victim is so important. It is not just a blanket answer: putting two people in a room with a presider, if you like, to make sure that it goes well. You need to think about it extremely carefully and treat the individuals concerned extremely carefully; it cannot be forced and it cannot be rushed.

But I believe that restorative justice is a hugely important factor in the reduction of crime and recidivism. It brings together people who have been perpetrators and those who have been victims in what can only be a traumatic experience—namely, the experience of the crime but also the experience of meeting the person who committed the crime against you or a loved one.

I am delighted that the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, has tabled his amendment, as I am that the right reverend Prelate and the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, have tabled theirs. This is a subject which has been discussed many times but has never been properly resolved. It has to some extent been seen as a luxury add-on to the criminal justice system; it is not—it is vital and fundamental in the appropriate cases. I say this as someone who has looked at the practical effects of it not only as a shadow Minister but also as a trustee of the Prison Reform Trust, which has been well-invested in this aspect of the criminal justice system.

Finally, I thank the noble Baroness for tabling her Amendment 13. I thought I knew quite a lot about the criminal justice system, but I had absolutely no idea that the oddity she highlighted this evening existed. It needs correcting.

Lord Bishop of Manchester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Manchester
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My Lords, I am grateful to His Majesty’s Government for introducing this Bill. I am also grateful that shortly we will hear a maiden speech from the noble Lord, Lord Carter of Haslemere. His long experience of the law and the Civil Service will serve your Lordships’ House well. I look forward to his remarks today and on many future occasions.

I also welcome the focus on victims that lies at the heart of the Bill. As we have just heard, it builds on the report of my right reverend friend Bishop James Jones, a former Member of your Lordships’ House, into the Hillsborough tragedy. I was a young member of the clergy called into the stadium to support bereaved families. I will never forget the sight of iron barriers twisted out of shape by the pressure of human bodies being crushed against them. Hence I warmly commend the proposal for independent public advocates in cases such as that and the Manchester Arena attack, to which the Minister referred in his opening remarks—I thank him for doing so. As Bishop of Manchester, it fell to me to help lead my city’s response to the brutal murder of 22 people and the injuring and traumatising of hundreds of others.

How inquiries are set up and resourced is vital to whether they gain the confidence of the public in general and of survivors and bereaved relatives in particular. I hope that as the Bill progresses we can reflect on whether the current draft does enough to ensure that. Specifically, it would be well to widen the cases in which an advocate would be appointed to include all incidents where there is a deep public interest in ensuring a thorough investigation. If the advocate is to be truly independent, as the noble Baronesses, Lady Brinton and Lady Sanderson of Welton, have reminded us, they need their own data controller powers and for the powers of the Secretary of State in relation to their appointment and functioning to be the minimum. All that is achievable through amendments to the Bill, which I hope to support later.

I also welcome placing IDVAs and ISVAs on a statutory footing, but the word “independent” matters and I hope that we can clarify, in the Bill or in statutory guidance, that they are fully independent from both the police and the criminal justice system. Many victims find community-based services, especially those led by people with lived experience of the issues they themselves face, to be the most accessible and most useful means of support. However, the vast majority of such services struggle financially—around 90%, according to a recent report—with inadequate, short-term, unreliable funding; that threatens their continuance. Hence, along with the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and others, I agree with the suggestion from the domestic abuse commissioner of a clause placing a duty to collaborate on PCCs, local authorities and ICBs in the commissioning of appropriate local services. Alongside this, we need to think more widely, as the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, indicated, about how we fund the community-based services that are the bedrock of so much support across Britain.

With one or two notable exceptions, it is some time since most of us were children. Hence we need to scrutinise legislation with particular care to ensure that children’s needs are properly included. I am glad that so many speeches this afternoon and evening have referred to that. I support the call from many of our major children’s charities that every child in England and Wales affected by abuse and exploitation must have access to specialist advocacy support. The Bill should establish the role of independent child sexual violence advisers, independent child domestic violence advisers and independent child trafficking guardians as a support offering for children and young victims. It must also provide central funding for their employment.

Beyond this, I hope we can also explore, as others have said, the establishment of a statutory definition of child criminal exploitation, perhaps along the lines proposed by Barnardo’s and the Children’s Society, which define it as when

“another person or persons manipulate, deceive, coerce or control the person to undertake activity which constitutes a criminal offence where the person is under the age of 18”.

If we can get to a better definition over the next few weeks, well and good, but let us not miss this opportunity to have some definition in the Bill.

As the noble Baronesses, Lady Chakrabarti and Lady Hamwee, have reminded us, at present the Bill contains measures to disapply Section 3 of the Human Rights Act. While I understand that reducing risk to the public must be a high priority, I hope we will scrutinise this very carefully. Human rights are not something we earn through good behaviour, and nor should they lightly be taken from us. We rightly accept that such rights may be qualified when they conflict with other human rights but, like the noble Baroness, Lady O’Loan, a few minutes ago, I urge that we be very restrained in enacting wider restrictions.

Finally, I am aware that my native northern bluntness can on occasion lead me to what some may perceive as an over-acerbity of comment, but today I wish to be entirely kind to the Bill and to the Government for bringing it before us. I believe that with some non-partisan working and a little careful amendment in your Lordships’ House, it can become a stronger and better Bill. To that end, I and my colleagues on these Benches look forward to engaging with it in detail in the new year. Our society will then be better for it being added to our statute book.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Lord Bishop of Manchester Excerpts
However, the most serious omission for me—that is true of this Bill as well—is the exclusion of government department services from any responsibility under the Armed Forces covenant, let alone a duty. I have amendments on this and some of the other issues I have raised on the covenant in the Armed Forces Bill, which is currently going through your Lordships’ House. The Home Secretary and Ministers need to understand that in creating a covenant, they create demand. However, without a duty for any of the bodies to provide that, it is nothing more than warm words. These amendments try to remedy that, but they will need to go further. Can the Minister assure me that the Government, government departments and other public duty areas such as councils will be required to deliver the duties under the covenant?
Lord Bishop of Manchester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Manchester
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My Lords, I draw your Lordships’ attention to my interests in the world of policing as set out in the register, particularly in policing ethics, both with the Greater Manchester Police and the National Police Chiefs’ Council.

At Second Reading I referred briefly to the culture of policing. I did not specifically mention a policing covenant given that time was so short, but I have been intrigued by the debate we have had this afternoon. I note the way in which Members have referred to the Armed Forces covenant. That is helpful in some ways, although I am just a little concerned. As I said at Second Reading, the heart of the policing model is that our police are civilians in uniform; they are not the Armed Forces. We need to be careful not to put police too easily into the same category as the Armed Forces. The Armed Forces are agents of the state while police are agents of society in a slightly different way. That is an important civilian distinction I would want always to hold before us.

Nevertheless, I support the amendments in this group, and I believe that we can do better for policing. A covenant is the right way forward—we are working on a similar thing for clergy in the Church of England at the moment—and these amendments will strengthen the initial proposals to help us that way. Over these last 18 months, when I have been chairing Operation Talla, the Covid operation ethics committee, on behalf of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, we have had in our minds and hearts not just how to police effectively but the tensions and pressures put on policing during the pandemic and how to advise police forces to implement the various regulations that were coming from government, sometimes in rapid succession, in ways that were proportionate and would not place undue extra pressure on the mental health of police. We monitored sickness rates throughout that process, and it has been a great example of how we worked together to ensure that policing did not lose its civilian base in the course of the pandemic. Therefore, I support these amendments, but I treat with a little caution how closely we draw parallels with the military covenant.

Lord Bach Portrait Lord Bach (Lab)
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My Lords, I no longer have to declare an interest but some Members here may know that I was until May this year police and crime commissioner in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland. As such, I will make a very brief contribution to this first debate in Committee.

I personally support—I hope from my experience—the early amendments that have been proposed. As has been said already, it is quite clear that anyone who works with the police nowadays, knows them or sees them closely at work, will know that for a long time, I suspect, as in the rest of society, mental health, mental illness and all that follows from it was not given anywhere near the importance it should have been. I am glad to say that it is my experience, certainly in the police force I was close to, and I am sure in others too, that chief officer teams are now giving the issue of mental health due regard. That is why any covenant that left this out would be lacking; I do not want to comment on the covenant— good points have been made on it.

I urge the Minister and the Government to consider seriously these obviously non-partisan suggestions, which are meant to be helpful. That is all I want to say, but my experience tells me that this is becoming a larger and larger issue as year follows year for police forces up and down the country.

Queen’s Speech

Lord Bishop of Manchester Excerpts
Tuesday 18th May 2021

(3 years ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Bishop of Manchester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Manchester [V]
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My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Fullbrook, whose wisdom I look forward to hearing more often, for an excellent maiden speech. I also refer to my interests, stated in the register, in policing and housing.

A number of Bills mentioned in the gracious Speech will require our police to enforce new laws and regulations. We have already seen considerable disquiet expressed regarding what might amount to a very significant reduction in the ability of the public to engage in peaceful political protest, particularly where such protests directly or indirectly impact on others. I will reserve more detailed comments on this Bill for when it reaches your Lordships’ House, although I note the wise comments made earlier by the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti. For now, I want briefly to lay it alongside my experience of 12 months of rapidly changing coronavirus regulations.

On many occasions, the precise boundaries between regulations—matters that police can enforce—and guidance, to which they can only direct our attention, have been seriously blurred. Meanwhile, ministerial statements have put pressure on our police to issue fixed penalty notices, but the Crown Prosecution Service is quite clear that an adequate chain of evidence will be almost impossible to achieve.

I fear that the nine Peelian principles, which have shaped UK policing since 1829, are being eroded. Behind those principles, carved out in the years immediately after the Manchester Peterloo massacre of 1819, lies the central tenet that the power and authority of our police come from the consent of the public, not the power of the state. The will of the people cannot be collapsed into the ambitions and policies of the Government of the day, no matter what mandate or majority it may hold in the lower House of this Parliament. Our police must never be turned from agents of the public into agents of the state, let alone the enforcers of mere ministerial policy. I look forward to some robust debates in this House during the forthcoming Session.

I turn briefly to two other matters. Several weeks ago, the noble Lord, Lord Greenhalgh, the Minister for Housing, assured me that he would arrange for national representatives of those living in unsafe apartment buildings to meet not only himself and his staff, as they have been doing, but representatives of Her Majesty’s Treasury. I know that the noble Lord has made strenuous efforts to fulfil that promise; meetings have been arranged but then postponed or cancelled due to the Treasury not being available. It is simply not good enough for a major department to delay and obfuscate in this way. I would be extremely grateful for reassurances, either in this debate or in writing straight after, that this matter will be promptly rectified.

Finally, I am grateful that legislation to ban conversion therapy is now under consideration. I share that sense of urgency of the noble Lord, Lord Smith, and the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, who both spoke in the last few minutes, and pray that the necessary consultation will be focused and time-limited. The General Synod of the Church of England passed a motion to outlaw such therapy several years ago, and by massive majorities, including my right reverend friends on these Benches. However, I fear that too much emphasis may be placed on the methods such so-called therapies employ. Good criminal law concentrates on the impact on the victim; scrutiny as to the traumatic impact of the particular techniques used by perpetrators is far better entrusted to the courts, which can carefully weigh up the evidence in each case, rather than make it central to the legislation.

I look forward to our debates throughout what will be my first full Session as a Member of this House.

Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill

Lord Bishop of Manchester Excerpts
Committee stage & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Tuesday 9th February 2021

(3 years, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Bishop of Manchester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Manchester [V]
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My Lords, I draw the Committee’s attention to my interest in criminal justice matters, specifically as chair of the Greater Manchester Police independent ethics committee, as set out in the register.

I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, for tabling Amendment 28. I also note with interest Amendment 27 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Anderson. His arguments are powerful, not least in distinguishing clearly between belief and a mere suspicion, a distinction which for me as a bishop lies at the heart of my day job.

As I indicated to your Lordships’ House in my maiden speech at Second Reading, this is a Bill that I welcome and support. My city of Manchester has all too recently suffered a terrorist attack that killed 22 innocent people and maimed and traumatised hundreds more. We remain deeply grateful for the support we received from members of this House, government Ministers and many others at that time and since.

What I seek from the Bill are provisions that will most effectively reduce terrorism across our nation. My concern, particularly with regard to this clause, is that sanctions that are deemed by particular sections of the British public as either too severe or to be based on insufficient evidence will prove counterproductive. Measures that are overly harsh or that can plausibly be presented as such breed a sense of injustice and resentment, and if those sanctions appear to be directed against particular sections of the community, that may deepen into alienation, and alienation remains one of the most effective recruiting sergeants for incipient terrorists.

We rightly demand a high level of proof for a criminal conviction and a lesser but still significant standard on the balance of probabilities for civil cases. What we are presented with in Clause 37 as it stands is far weaker. All we are offered as an evidential base for a TPIM is “reasonable grounds for suspecting” an individual. That turn of phrase, suspicion, has a somewhat troubled history. Large sections of our community have, I would argue “reasonable grounds for suspecting” that policing interventions justified by reference to that phrase have been used disproportionately against people of their colour, religion or lifestyle. To apply this suspect standard to something as significant as a TPIM, which may be extended for some years, will increase the very risks to our society that it is intended to address.

In his Amendment 28, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, offers us a modest strengthening of the wording to include a test of probability alongside that of reasonableness. I hope that the Minister will be able indicate to this House that some form of strengthening the clause, either through Amendment 28 or otherwise, will be supported by Her Majesty’s Government as we continue to debate the Bill.

Lord Strasburger Portrait Lord Strasburger (LD) [V]
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My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the right reverend Prelate, particularly because he and I are cuckoos in this nest of lawyers. I speak in opposition to the Question that Clause 37 stand part of the Bill.

The TPIM system is seriously problematic because it bypasses the criminal justice system to avoid the usual safeguards that protect liberty and fairness. The system allows a Government to rely on secret, undisclosed evidence while bypassing fair-trial rights and impose measures that severely interfere with the right to liberty, privacy, association and movement, and makes a breach of those measures a criminal offence. I do not expect to win the argument today about TPIMs per se but must object in the strongest terms to Clauses 37, 38 and 40. Between them, they make this troubling TPIM system far more constrictive while removing the main current safeguards.

The Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, Jonathan Hall QC, called the combined effect of Clauses 37 and 40 a “double whammy”. Taken together, they significantly lower the burden of proof at the same time as allowing TPIMs to endure forever for a person who has not been formally charged or prosecuted. The independent reviewer made it clear that he supports not changing the burden of proof and advises that it be left as it is. To my knowledge, the Government have yet to come forward with any convincing evidence for hardening the TPIM regime in any of the three ways that these clauses, Clauses 37, 38 and 40, would bring about. Indeed, the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation said in his note on the proposed reforms that it is,

“not clear why there is any need to change the law in the manner proposed.”

Even a third-ranking police officer, an assistant chief constable, who was wheeled out to support the Bill in oral evidence to the Bill Committee, conceded that,

“there have not been occasions thus far when the current burden of proof has prevented the application of a TPIM”.—[Official Report, Commons, Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill Committee, 25/6/20; col. 20.]

Therefore, my two questions to the Minister are: why have the Government ignored the independent reviewer’s advice and where is the evidence to justify that decision? I look forward to his answers. I hope that he can do better than the “another tool in the box” mantra.

Clause 37 will reduce the burden of proof to such a low level as to make it almost no barrier at all. “Reasonable grounds for suspecting” covers a host of situations where an innocent person could unjustly lose their liberty and other rights, perhaps on the basis of a single, flimsy and uncorroborated piece of evidence. The courts have interpreted the standard of suspicion as a belief not that the person is a terrorist, only that they may be a terrorist. If a Minister merely believes that a person may be a terrorist, that is sufficient justification under this clause to impose a TPIM on them. With the best will in the world, this is such a low burden of proof that it makes the ministerial decision to impose a TPIM into a rubber-stamping exercise, more or less, with no constraints on the action whatever. The implications of such a severe and unfettered executive power should worry every Member of this House.

Combined with Clause 38, Clause 37 would mean that a Minister would have the authority to severely constrain the liberty of a possibly innocent person for ever, on the flimsiest justification, possibly cooked up by a rogue policeman, intelligence agent or government official, or it might just be that someone in the chain of command made an innocent mistake. We cannot allow this proposed new power to deprive someone of their liberty and other rights indefinitely—possibly longer than if they were convicted of a terrorist offence in a criminal court—when the process that put them there is so wide open to errors and abuse. There must be a meaningful burden of proof, but Clause 37 removes that. It therefore must not stand part of this Bill.