All 10 Lord Falconer of Thoroton debates involving the Home Office

Thu 12th May 2022
Wed 8th Dec 2021
Mon 22nd Nov 2021
Wed 17th Nov 2021
Wed 27th Oct 2021
Wed 27th Oct 2021
Mon 21st Sep 2020
Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill
Lords Chamber

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

Queen’s Speech

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Excerpts
Thursday 12th May 2022

(3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
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I warmly welcome the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson, to the naughty step. The precise nature of our misbehaviours may vary from time to time.

I agree with everything the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, said, in particular about the talking-shop blancmange collapsing at ping-pong. I think the Cross Benchers thought, when they were electing the noble and learned Lord as Convenor, that they were electing Gregory Peck—because of his looks and because of the fact that he played Atticus Finch. In fact, as his revolutionary sentiments this afternoon have indicated, they elected Jane Fonda without realising it.

This is a Government where power is focused on a small number of elected politicians, unconstrained by the law, because they control lawmaking; unaffected by parliamentary scrutiny, because they use their Commons majority to reduce scrutiny as much as possible; and fighting back against the courts, not by responding to judgments, but by making it clear to the courts that if they find against the Government in important cases, those judges will pay a political price. This is completely exceptional in my experience. I describe an elective dictatorship, possible because the Executive control Parliament.

We are a liberal democracy: not liberal in the sense of “progressive” but in the sense that the Government govern for all the people, constrained by law and constitutional convention. We are not a dictatorship democracy where, once elected, the Government can do exactly what they like and ignore the interests of those who did or might vote against them. The consequences of a dictatorship democracy, which we are moving towards, is a divided society; a politically corrupt elite running the country; and an incompetent Government, because they are never properly scrutinised. Our constitution is designed to stop this happening. The combined power of parliamentary scrutiny and the force of law are the main constraints. These constraints have been significantly undermined over the last decade.

The degradation of those constraints is going to be accelerated by the constitutional proposals contained in the gracious Speech. This has happened because of the character of the Government over the last 10 years. Of course, there is the position of the current Prime Minister, who exudes an utter disdain for Parliament, for the courts, for Scotland, for law and lawyers. Every constitution depends on the sensitivity of the head of Government to constitutional propriety. The current Prime Minister’s attitude is brilliantly summed up by the noble Lord, Lord Hennessy, much revered in this place, who described him in an interview in January this year as,

“absolutely tone deaf to all the niceties of this. He hasn’t got a single feel for either proper behaviour, proper procedure, not a single nerve end. He has got no sense of the restraints you need to make this work. If a bit of it annoys him or gets in his way, he tries to cast it aside, like proroguing parliament, like the Standards Committee”.

But it goes much deeper, I say, than a PM who could not give a damn; it also involves a Government which deceive about their policies. If noble Lords have a moment, read the evidence of the noble Lord, Lord Pickles, before the Grenfell Tower inquiry, where he chides counsel for the inquiry for suggesting that the way we discover what the Government were doing was to look at the press releases of the Government at the time. These describe a policy of “two regulations out, one in”, which they used to reduce fire regulations. The noble Lord criticised Mr Richard Millett QC, for suggesting to him that one should view that as an indication of what the Government stood for.

Priti Patel is currently doing Rwanda. She previously suggested she had a policy of push-back: asylum seekers were being pushed back in small boats. Court proceedings were begun. The courts insisted on getting a copy of the policy in writing. The Government said, “No—public interest immunity: you cannot have it.” The courts rightly swept that aside. When the document was produced, it was revealed that the policy was explicitly not to apply to asylum seekers. It is wrong that we need the courts in order to discover what is going on in the Government. Part of this trend is the determination to reduce the basic rights of the citizens, their civil rights.

The gracious Speech, as many have said, refers to restoring

“the balance of power between the legislature and the courts by introducing a Bill of Rights.”—[Official Report, Commons, 10/5/22; col. 6.]

We know what this means, because it is set out in the consultation paper the Government have issued. The Government take issue with the idea that legislation should be construed, as far as possible, to be consistent with the Human Rights Act. They attack the notion that the framework documents for citizens’ rights should be living instruments that move with the times. They attack the notion that, for example, the law, through the European convention, was able to eradicate the idea that, if you were illegitimate, it was acceptable for the state to discriminate against you; that it was acceptable for corporal punishment, the birch, to be used as an answer to crime; or that, if you were gay, it was possible to discriminate against you. All those were put right by the idea of a law being able to move with the times. This Government want to ensure that only the Commons majority can determine where we should be, and that would be only on the basis of a dictatorship democracy.

I agree with the words of my illustrious predecessor, Lord Hailsham, in 1976, when he railed against an elective dictatorship:

“My object is continuity and evolution”—


and so is mine—

“not change for its own sake.”—

And so is mine—

“But my conviction remains that the best way of achieving continuity is by a thorough re-construction of the fabric of our historic mansion. It is no longer wind- or weather-proof. Nor are its foundations still secure.”

With respect, I agree that those words apply now.

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Lord Strathclyde Portrait Lord Strathclyde (Con)
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My Lords, in her speech the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Basildon, gave us the theme of the constitutional importance of the House of Lords, which is one of the things I wish to discuss today.

I listened carefully to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, who made a great speech. He prayed in aid Lord Hailsham of years ago and his “elective dictatorship”, and I recognised the speech, because it is one I have made many times—or at least a version of it. The noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, prayed me in aid when he talked about my being involved in ping-pongs three or four times—not for many years now. Then the noble and learned Lord the Convenor of the Cross Benches himself talked about Henry VIII powers, skeleton Bills, rebalancing Parliament and the Executive and the constitutional importance of understanding that balance, and the complexity of legislation. Surely the noble and learned Lord is the inheritor of the late noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, who placed such importance on these issues. Who would disagree with the noble and learned Lord? I would not, and I suspect that most of the House would agree with him that some of these things need to change. The question is how to do it.

Occasionally, we need reminding that the Government have no majority in this House—and nor should they. The Government can be defeated here on virtually every Division. That adds a responsibility on us not to do that, but to pick our targets with care where there is support in the party in government in the House of Commons and where there is a chance that the Government might listen. On the other hand, here is how not to do it. In the last Session of Parliament, there were 129 government defeats. There were 12 in one night on the borders Bill and, on 17 January, 14 in a day on the police Bill. The previous record for that number of defeats was in 1975-76. Of the 12 government defeats on 4 April, the Cross Benches voted 61 against the Government, no doubt independently and not en bloc, as a pack or all together.

Increasingly, on Lords consideration of Commons amendments, which should be a small, short procedure, we instead hear noble Lords rather pompously say, “I think we should ask the Commons to think again, one more time”. Then away it goes, back down to the House of Commons, to be soundly defeated and returned here a few hours later, utterly pointlessly. Speeches are repeated at length. So much self-discipline has—

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
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We have heard this speech before.

Lord Strathclyde Portrait Lord Strathclyde (Con)
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Well, the noble and learned Lord has been repeating some of my speeches.

The more we defeat the Government because we can, the more the Government will ignore us and look at ways to stop us. It will not be the old debate on who should sit here. We tried that 25 years ago, with the Government who the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, supported so much. It did not do us much good then and it will not do so now. Instead, this time, they will turn to what my noble friend Lord McNally used to call a wing-clipping exercise and look at our powers. It would be a terrible mistake and one that I would deprecate, but this is the route we are heading down: reducing the Parliament Act delays, limiting the times an amendment can be rejected or opposing a limit of a few weeks to return a Bill to the House of Commons, leading inevitably to guillotines in this House. We should never have this in the House, but this is exactly what will happen if we continue in the way we are.

It sometimes feels as if we have developed a kind of anarchy in the House of Lords—an incontinence of Divisions. I understand that, during the period of lockdown, it was too easy to just press a button from a deckchair in your garden, but this kind of thing needs to stop. We are at last returning to voting in the Division Lobbies, so if we had 13 Divisions in a day, we would not move out of the Lobbies very much at all.

We also need to remember that here in the Lords we do not represent anybody. We have no responsibility or accountability. We have the huge privilege of being legislators here, but we have not been elected. We have constitutional purpose; it is quite limited, but it is important. A lesson is that you can never win a general election from the House of Lords. We scrutinise, revise and debate the great issues of the day. Of course we can defeat the Government, and we should vehemently argue against them and oblige Ministers to come forward and explain what they are doing, but we must always remember that the House of Commons is elected and we are not.

The Government, for their part, need to improve the quality of legislation.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Excerpts
Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
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Is the Minister saying—I take Clause 9(5)(a) as an example—that, when considering necessity and proportionality under the data protection legislation, the existence of this power is not relevant because the data protection legislation will determine whether it is necessary and proportionate, and the only significance of the words in brackets is to make it clear that this opens a new gateway?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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Can the noble and learned Lord elucidate?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
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Under the data protection legislation, whether or not to disclose the information depends in part on its necessity and proportionality, which is a balancing act. I think the noble Baroness is saying that the words in brackets are there—I am taking Clause 9(5)(a) as an example—only to make it clear that we are opening a new gateway here. They are not there to say, “In considering necessity and proportionality, have regard to the fact that this new power is given”. Is that what the noble Baroness is saying about how the words in brackets operate? If it is too late at night and I am not clear enough, she can by all means write to me, but it is quite important.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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The words provide that the processing is lawful under data protection legislation.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
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Is that separate from the words in brackets?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, as I understand it, they must be read with Article 6 of the GDPR, so it is a read-across. Yes, I am tired—my brain is not working very fast today.

Clauses 9, 15 and 16 also already ensure that data can be disclosed only in compliance with the data protection legislation; I mentioned that that requires a case-by-case consideration of the necessity and proportionality of a disclosure.

Obligations of confidence and other restrictions on disclosure are not breached by a disclosure under Clauses 15 or 16, or regulations made under Clause 9, but patient information and personal information held by a health or social care authority should not be shared in line with our proposed amendments, as it is vital that authorities are able to share their data when necessary to determine what is causing serious violence in local areas. Our draft statutory guidance provides some additional steers on this, and the guidance will be subject to formal consultation following Royal Assent and can be revised if it needs further clarification.

I turn to Clause 17, and first I shall answer a point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton. A direction under Clause 17 cannot be made to require information requested under Clause 16 to be provided if the information is patient information or if the health or social care authority is requested to provide personal information. I hope that she finds that clarification helpful.

Amendment 35 strikes out Clause 17, which confers a power on the Secretary of State to direct a specified authority, educational, prison or youth custody authority, where it has failed to discharge its duty imposed under the Bill. I assure the House that we expect these powers to be seldom used and utilised only when all other means of securing compliance have been exhausted. However, in order for this duty to be effective, there needs to be a system in place to ensure that specified authorities comply with the legal requirements that we are proposing to help prevent and reduce serious violence.

I hope, in the light of my explanation, that the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, and the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, will be content not to press their amendments and support the government amendments.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Excerpts
Wednesday 24th November 2021

(8 months, 3 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Relevant documents: 1st, 4th and 6th Reports from the Joint Committee on Human Rights, 6th and 13th Report from the Delegated Powers Committee, 7th Report from the Constitution Committee
Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
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My Lords, before my noble friend Lady Blake comes to move her Amendment 292H, everybody will have seen what the plans are for today by looking at the groupings. They basically involve five groups dealing with things that have stood over from the pre-protest section of the Bill, and then three or four groups dealing with all the protest sections in the Bill, including one group, I think, dealing with all the proposed new clauses that have been added.

On any basis, the grouping is inappropriate. The proposed new clauses have the additional feature that they have not been debated at all in the Commons, from where this Bill originated. They have had no Second Reading of any sort in this House and now, to have Committee stage with them all crammed in effect into one or two groups means that there will be no proper scrutiny in this House.

Can I make a suggestion and ask a question? In relation to the new clauses, could we treat, without any additional formality, the proceedings today as a Second Reading in effect and then have an additional day in Committee so that there is proper consideration? In addition to that, could one have more time to deal with these very important clauses?

My concern is that this marginalises the House of Lords in relation to considering these provisions in detail—although I am sure that was not deliberate on the part of the Whips. It may well be that these provisions are needed; our role is to look at them line by line. The effect of the way in which this has been done is that now that is not possible. The House as a whole was entitled to look for protection in that respect from the Leader of the House and the Government Chief Whip. Instead, they have just gone along with the Government, like so many institutions, in pushing the institution to one side—and it is not right.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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I support the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, in what he has just said. I have heard two rumours—one, that the Government Chief Whip is urging people to keep their comments on the Bill today short. I wish to declare to the Government Chief Whip that that is not possible, bearing in mind the number and complexity of issues that we are supposed to debate today. The other rumour that I have heard is that, if the House is still debating at 2 am, only then will the debate be adjourned. If that is right, looking at the timetable, that means that the most contentious parts of the Bill—the new amendments, as the noble and learned Lord said, which have not even been considered by the House of Commons—will be debated either side of midnight. That is no way for this House to be treated.

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Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
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To pick up on that last remark, the Government are going to withdraw the new amendments—so how will they regard Report? Will it be treated like a Committee stage?

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

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I thank the noble Lord for trying to wrap the discussion up in that one important question. I will take it away. When my noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord Best, speak to Eddie Hughes, the Minister, we will see what progress has been made at that stage. But at this stage, I wonder whether the noble Baroness, Lady Blake, will be happy to withdraw her amendment.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
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I apologise for interrupting. We have had an hour and 19 minutes on this, but the answer that the Minister gave on the problems with Amendment 320, to which I have put my name, were difficult to follow. She made the point that begging or sleeping rough does not in itself amount to action causing alarm or distress in the absence of other factors under the 2014 Act, with which I agree and which the drafters of Amendment 320 explicitly reflect in subsection (3). I am simply unable to understand her reasons for not accepting Amendment 320.

This is important. It is not possible to say, “Well, here are some incomprehensible reasons that nobody in the Chamber understands, therefore we need the completion of a review.” I did not follow whether the review is part of the way through, whether it is finished or whether there is an expected date for its conclusion. Will the Minister answer two questions? First, what is wrong with Amendment 320 if it precisely reflects what she said? Secondly, where has the review got to? When did it start and when will it finish?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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As for what is wrong with Amendment 320, I explicitly said to the noble Lord, Lord Best, that the Government agree that the time has come to consider the Vagrancy Act. There is an opportunity to speak to the appropriate Minister before Report to answer some of the questions that have been asked this afternoon. I do not know the answer to the second question, but I will write.

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Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lady Brinton for introducing these amendments, which we support. The “Helen’s Law” campaign has achieved a great deal by persisting in campaigning for victims and their families by ensuring that failure to disclose the whereabouts of a victim’s body can increase the killer’s time in custody. These amendments go further, as my noble friend has explained. She has worked with Helen’s mother, Marie McCourt, and others on these amendments, proposing to create specific offences of desecration of a corpse and concealment of a body.

These amendments address serious and real human suffering caused by preventing a victim’s family from recovering the body of their loved one, whose life has already been cruelly snatched from them. The proposed offences would respond to that cruelty in a way that may be inadequate in reducing the hurt, but at least they reflect the justified anger we all feel when killers compound their inhuman actions with further callousness and inhumanity. As my noble friend explained, the existing legislation is not only inadequate but rarely used. We support her amendments.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
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My Lords, I pay tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, for the clarity with which she has put this forward. The driving force behind this amendment is Marie McCourt whose daughter Helen McCourt was murdered by Ian Simms, and the body was never found. Ian Simms never indicated where the body was, refused to acknowledge what had happened, and was eventually released on parole. Prior to him being released on parole, Marie had campaigned successfully for a change in the law, which said in effect that if you did not indicate where the body was, parole should normally be refused.

Now, very effectively and with great understanding, Marie McCourt has pressed for a change in the law to make sure that there is, in effect, a crime of desecrating the body of somebody you have murdered. This is a greater problem than previously. In recent times, 54 murder trials have taken place without a body. We on this side of the Committee strongly support this offence. It might be asked whether this matters if you are being charged with murder. It matters to the victims’ families and therefore it should matter to the law. That is why we support this amendment.

Lord Stewart of Dirleton Portrait The Advocate-General for Scotland (Lord Stewart of Dirleton) (Con)
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My Lords, I will address the two amendments in reverse order, starting with Amendment 292L. This creates a new offence of concealment of a body and repeals the existing offence of obstructing a coroner. As it stands, to obstruct or prevent a coroner’s investigation of any body found, when there is a duty to hold one, is to commit an offence. That offence is a common-law one, triable only on indictment, and carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. The common-law offence is therefore wide-ranging. Proof of the offence does not require a person to conceal or attempt to conceal a body, or proof of a specific intent to obstruct a coroner—only that the coroner’s inquest is obstructed or prevented.

Amendment 292L replaces that wide-ranging offence that covers several ways in which a coroner is obstructed with a more narrowly defined offence which relates to obstruction by concealing a body or to facilitate another criminal offence. The specific offence proposed by the amendment also has a maximum penalty of three years—less than the life sentence that can be imposed under the current law. This approach, in our view, creates gaps in the coverage of the law compared with the existing common law and reduces the ability of the court to sentence for the full range of the offences.

We agree that concealing a body in this context should always be recognised by the law, and it already is in several ways. First, in the circumstances where an offender is responsible for a homicide, the fact that they concealed or mutilated a body is a clear aggravating factor in sentencing. As a result, the sentence will be increased to reflect the additional harm caused. Noting what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, said about the increasing number of trials that take place without a body, we acknowledge that as forensic techniques have improved, so has the determination or ingenuity of the criminal to try to erase traces.

Secondly, where the concealment of a body is part of a course of action that includes the killing, the sentence for murder—or for manslaughter, I imagine—will include that aggravating factor in deciding on the starting point from which the sentence should be imposed.

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On that last point, the sentence inflation in my professional life has been incredible. That inflation springs from Parliament and the way that this place works. When judges see sentences being doubled, they feel they have to respond and put up the sentences accordingly. However, I maintain that a long and objective look at how we deal with offenders, free of rhetoric and populism, is essential for the safety and security of the people of this country. I beg to move.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
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I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, for moving this amendment. I had not realised, until he mentioned it, his own critical role in the constitution of the UK as it is now through the evidence that he gave to the Kilbrandon royal commission, rightly described as important. Now we know where to look when we see problems in relation to the constitution.

I wholeheartedly agree with the underlying point that drives the way the noble Lord put his case. The criminal justice system is in a terrible mess. He described the position of the prison system, which is also a terrible mess and is not delivering on its aims, particularly to protect the public from crime and reoffending. However, it does not just go to imprisonment; the whole range of sentencing is now in a terrible mess. It goes even beyond that, to the way that the criminal justice system operates in terms of both its procedures and its effectiveness. Surely the time has come for a long hard look to be taken at the criminal justice system.

This is not remotely a criticism of the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, because a royal commission is a worthwhile thing, but I can imagine no more profound exercise in futility than a royal commission promoted by your Lordships’ House, moved by the marvellous noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, and the wonderful noble Lord, Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames. Can your Lordships imagine this Government —the Government who approximately an hour and a half ago wagged their finger at us and told us we had to finish the consideration of this Bill by the end of tonight, no matter what time it ended—listening to a royal commission’s proposal for an objective look at sentencing? My own judgment is that, sadly, although the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, makes a very powerful point, the same finger of this Government would be waved at the royal commission and no attention would be paid to it. I share the noble Lord’s feeling and analysis but I fear that, because of the nature of this Government, it would be a waste of time.

Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd Portrait Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd (CB)
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May I add a more hopeful note? It has been wonderful to see this Government bring forward Professor Ormerod’s work on the Sentencing Code and bring it on to the statute book, and in this Bill—this is a good point—the code is being amended rather than there being any new proliferation of legislation. So one ought to say thank you for that.

However, the Sentencing Code shows the problem. I do not know how often the Minister looks at it but it is a fiendishly complicated set of sentences that we have accumulated over the years. Although we have seen a lot of criticism of the 2003 Act, I would say in its defence that an awful lot of thought was given to it. It may not have been quite right, and there was one area which has gone badly wrong. As I complimented one side, I now compliment the other: when we looked at the 2012 reforms to sentencing, a huge amount of thought went into that. A lot of sentences that were thought to be apposite were brought forward or modified, but at least there was some thinking.

We have now reached a stage where we need—on, I hope a nonpartisan basis—to think again. Is it too complicated? The answer must be yes. Have we got the sentencing regime right in terms of its outcomes and, equally importantly, its cost and whether the money can be spent better? There can be no better mechanism for that than a royal commission. I would hope that the initial thoughts of those who drafted the manifesto could be taken forward, at least in that respect. I would hope, though maybe I am being optimistic, that when it was all laid out what an awful state our sentencing regime is in, logic would prevail and we would see some reform. However, that is just an expression of hope by a person who is not a politician.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Excerpts
Moved by
284: After Clause 170, insert the following new Clause—
“Harassment in a public place
(1) A person must not engage in any conduct in a public place— (a) which amounts to harassment of another, and(b) which he or she knows or ought to know amounts to harassment of the other.(2) For the purposes of this section, the person whose conduct is in question ought to know that it amounts to harassment of another if a reasonable person would think the conduct amounted to harassment of the other.(3) For the purposes of this section—“conduct” includes speech;“harassment” of a person includes causing the person alarm or distress.(4) Subsection (1) does not apply to conduct if the person can show—(a) that it was for the purpose of preventing or detecting crime,(b) that it was under any enactment or rule of law or to comply with any condition or requirement imposed by any person under any enactment, or(c) that in the particular circumstances it was reasonable.(5) A person who engages in any conduct in breach of subsection (1) is guilty of an offence.(6) A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale, or both.”Member’s explanatory statement
This would create a specific offence of street harassment.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
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These important amendments deal with the attempts to make this Bill a reset as far as violence against women and girls is concerned. They create a number of new offences and indicate that there should be reviews in certain areas in relation to harassment and other related things. I will go through each one in turn.

Amendment 284, in my name, would create a specific offence of street harassment. It is not limited to sexual harassment because the experience of men and women on the street is not restricted to sexual harassment. In July 2021, the Home Secretary indicated that she was thinking of introducing a crime of sexual harassment. There are a whole range of studies about the effect, particularly on women, of harassment in the street. A United Nations study, not restricted to the United Kingdom, said that 70% of women had been affected by street harassment, 4% said that it was worth complaining about it and 45% said that it was not. The sort of harassment that one has in mind in relation to this offence is wolf-whistling, people being called out to, people being the victim of people treating them with a total lack of respect in a way that might cause alarm or distress. As I say, it is not restricted to women; other groups are affected as well. Members of the LGBTQ community speak of harassment that they suffer in particular places. It would be wrong to restrict the terms of this offence to a particular type of harassment or a particular group of people, but this proposed new clause makes it an offence to subject somebody to what a reasonable person would regard as harassment, and harassment includes causing that person alarm or distress.

I very much hope that the Government will take up the opportunity that the Home Secretary herself indicated was worth taking up. That would indicate that the sorts of behaviour that in many cases occur throughout the length and breadth of the country would no longer be acceptable, and if people behave better and do not commit acts of harassment, that will have an affect right up the scale. In terms of the drafting, the proposed new clause sets it out very clearly, but we are open to any suggestions about how it may be drafted better.

Amendment 285 makes it an offence to kerb-crawl. We define it as

“an offence for a person, from a motor vehicle while it is in a street or public place … to engage in conduct which amounts to harassment in such manner or in such circumstances as to be likely to cause annoyance, alarm, distress or nuisance to any other person.”

That seeks to deal with people in their cars winding down their windows and shouting, barracking and making life difficult, often with a sexual undertone or more than an undertone. Again, that should be a crime, and something that we very much hope that the Government will treat as a serious matter. We hope that they will take up the suggestion that has been made. Again, if there are better ways of drafting it, we are more than open to hearing them, but Amendment 285 provides the basis for such a crime.

Amendments 292A and 292B are about sex for rent, which should be a crime. This is where an individual offers accommodation at a reduced cost or free in exchange for sex. This arrangement can be either at the beginning of a tenancy or enforced during a tenancy, often when tenants are experiencing difficulties in finding somewhere to live or in paying the rent. Sex for rent arrangements force people, especially women, into the most vulnerable of situations, often in enclosed private spaces to which a perpetrator has constant and unrestricted access. This has been a matter of campaign for a considerable period, particularly from groups such as Generation Rent. Politicians from all parties have picked it up and investigative journalists have too.

This Bill provides an opportunity to do something about it. A 2016 Shelter survey found that 8% of women had been offered a sex-for-rent arrangement at some point in their lives. In 2018, YouGov and Shelter estimated that 250,000 women had been asked for sexual favours by their landlords in exchange for free or discounted accommodation at some point between 2013 and 2018. More recent research by Shelter, which regards this as a serious issue, suggested that 30,000 women in the United Kingdom were propositioned with such arrangements between the start of the pandemic in March 2020 and January 2021. It is not difficult to imagine that the question of how one affords accommodation became more and more difficult for certain people during the pandemic.

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
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My Lords, I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, for setting out these amendments, which call for new offences to tackle street harassment and so-called sex for rent, propose a review of the offences of exposure and administering a substance with intent, and seek to address cases which involve the so-called rough sex defence.

On Amendments 284 and 285, tabled by the noble and learned Lord, no one can doubt the gravity of the issue these amendments seek to address. Like the Committee, the House and the whole country, I was very shocked by the tragic events of September; first, Sabina Nessa and then the revelations about how the murderer of Sarah Everard had abused his position as a police officer to commit his awful crimes. While these are the most serious violent crimes which can happen to women, they form just one part of what Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary referred to in its recent report as an epidemic of violence against women and girls.

What is so striking is how these crimes have galvanised so many women and girls across the country to talk about their experiences and their suffering. To many of us—although not, of course, to those who experience it—the sheer scale of the problem has been shocking. Many of the more than 180,000 responses which we received to the call for evidence on the Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls strategy addressed this issue, as did the report published by Plan International UK in September. Figures released by the Office for National Statistics in August about perceptions of personal safety and experiences of harassment were equally shocking. For example, two out of three women aged between 16 and 34 had experienced one form of harassment in the previous 12 months. Thankfully, those experiences are not of the same level of gravity as what happened to the women who I have just spoken about, but they are still deeply traumatic to their victims.

I assure noble Lords that tackling violence against women and girls is a huge priority for this Government. We published our new Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls strategy in July. As the Home Secretary wrote in her foreword, violence against women and girls is not inevitable, and

“This Strategy will help bring about real and lasting change.”


On the issue of sexual harassment in public places, it sets out a number of commitments. A national communications campaign will challenge this kind of behaviour and ensure victims know how and where to report it. To ensure police are confident about how to respond to public sexual harassment, the College of Policing will provide new guidance for officers; this work is already well advanced. To prevent the behaviour happening in the first place, we will work to deepen our understanding of who commits these crimes, why they do it and how this behaviour may escalate, including through our new funding on what works to tackle violence against women and girls.

The strategy confirmed that we will pilot a tool, StreetSafe, which will enable the public to anonymously report areas where they feel unsafe and identify what it was about the location that made them feel that way, so that police can use that information to improve community safety. The pilot launched in August. The strategy also confirmed that the Government are investing a further £25 million in the safer streets fund to enable local areas to put in place innovative crime prevention measures to ensure that women and girls feel safe in public spaces. The successful bids were announced in October. The strategy also confirmed that the Home Office would launch a £5 million safety of women at night fund focused on the prevention of violence against women and girls in public spaces at night. The successful bids were announced on 10 November, and our commitment to this issue cannot be in doubt.

However, there is rightly considerable interest in the legal position, including whether there should be a new law specifically targeted at this type of behaviour. I pay tribute to parliamentarians in both Houses for their campaigning on this issue and to the organisations Plan International UK and Our Streets Now—the latter, as the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of Cradley, said, set up by two sisters out of a determination that other women and girls should not suffer sexual harassment as they had.

As noble Lords will know from the tackling VAWG strategy, while there is not a specific offence of street harassment, there are a number of offences in place that capture that behaviour—I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Marks, who talked about behaviours—depending on the specific circumstances, including offences under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, the Public Order Act 1986 and the Sexual Offences Act 2003. However, we are looking carefully at where there might be gaps in existing law and how a specific offence of public sexual harassment could address those. That work continues and is being informed by the results of the call for evidence and by our direct engagement with campaigners on this issue. We have not yet reached a position on it and I cannot commit to have done so ahead of Report; as the strategy notes, this is a complex area and it is important that we take time to ensure that any potential legislation is necessary, proportionate and reasonably defined.

On Amendments 292A and 292B, we can all agree that so-called sex for rent is an exploitative and abhorrent phenomenon that has no place in our society. That said, there are existing offences under the Sexual Offences Act 2003 that might be used to prosecute the practice, including the Section 52 offence of causing or inciting prostitution for gain and the Section 53 offence of controlling prostitution for gain. Both offences carry a maximum penalty of seven years’ imprisonment and can capture instances of “sex for rent”, dependent on the circumstances of the individual case. The Section 52 offence would apply when the identified victim had been caused or incited to engage in prostitution. In addition, the online safety Bill will also place duties on sites that host user-generated content, such as social media companies, to protect their users from illegal content. This would include posts that are committing the offence of inciting—

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
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I apologise for interrupting, but is it right that those existing sexual offences all require the victims in “sex for rent” cases to be characterised as engaging in prostitution?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I was going to get on to that, because I had noted the noble and learned Lord’s point. There are two answers. The first is that anyone who makes the report to the police will benefit from the anonymity provisions in the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1992. The second is that the Section 52 offence applies when an identified victim has been caused to engage in prostitution or incited to do so, whether or not the prostitution takes place. In other words, a victim does not have to identify as a prostitute for the Sections 52 and 53 offences to be used. I hope that partly answers his question, although he does not look entirely convinced.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
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How can the Minister tell when I am wearing my mask?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I can see the noble and learned Lord’s eyebrows.

In 2019, the Crown Prosecution Service amended its guidance Prostitution and Exploitation of Prostitution to include specific reference to the potential availability of charges under the Sections 52 and 53 offences where there is evidence to support the existence of “sex for rent” arrangements, and—as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, and the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of Cradley, pointed out—in January this year the CPS authorised the first charge for “sex for rent” allegations under Section 52.

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In conclusion, we agree with the sentiments behind these amendments. We need to ensure that the criminal justice system, and indeed wider society, responds effectively to these offences, but it is important that we create new offences only where there is a clear need to do so. As I said, we continue to explore whether further legislation is needed to tackle street harassment, and we continue to keep the law as it applies to so-called “sex for rent”, exposure, spiking and the so-called “rough sex defence” under review. On this basis, I hope that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, would be happy to withdraw his amendment.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
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I am very much obliged to everybody who has taken part in this incredibly important debate. It is terribly unfortunate that this debate is happening at this particular time—I am very glad to see the Minister nodding. This is incredibly unfortunate when we are talking about violence against women and girls, which is the big issue in relation to this Bill. This is no attack on the Whips, but they asked prior to the dinner break that we get on as quickly as possible. It is an incredibly unfortunate way for this House to look at legislation such as this.

I thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, for his support for Amendment 284, which concerns street harassment. I take note of what he said in relation to Amendment 285 and the difference between the penalties. He was suggesting that there might be a way to amalgamate the two. That suggestion seems to be very well made, and I hope that when we come back with this on Report, we might try to follow it up. I was grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, for her support in relation to all of the amendments.

I take note of what the noble Baroness, Lady Fox, said in respect of the review on spiking. One is in a bit of a dilemma: there is already some degree of anxiety in relation to spiking. I think that what she was saying was, “Do not have an immediate review because that increases the anxiety,” but if you do nothing about it, the anxiety continues. My own judgment would be that one should have the review.

Separately, the noble Baroness, Lady Fox, asked whether one should be worried if one is criminalising through harassment conduct including speech. I do not think that that criminalises free speech, because the sorts of speech that we would intend to criminalise under the harassment crime would be cajoling, offensive behaviour—not expressing an opinion but insulting people or demanding sex or other things of people in a wholly inappropriate way. I do not think that would give rise to the risk of an attack on free speech.

Baroness Fox of Buckley Portrait Baroness Fox of Buckley (Non-Afl)
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I suppose it is following on from what the noble Lord, Lord Marks, pointed out, about the broadness of that amendment. Since 2016, I have been subjected to a “fair amount of verbal”, as they say, walking around the Westminster village, from people who did not approve of my Brexit views. It was not pleasant: it was not sexual, but it was particularly obnoxious and offensive; but I do not know whether that should be against the law. I might have a moral view of it, but I would not want them all to be arrested. I am saying that, while verbal harassment is unpleasant, there is a question as to whether it should be made criminal. I just do not want everyone being locked up for things they say, even if what they say causes distress.

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Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
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I completely take the noble Baroness’s point. The law has been very, very aware of that. There is a difference between people saying to you on the street, “I very much disagree with your views on Brexit” and others saying, “Why are you such a stupid, awful” and then a series of expletives, and chasing you down the street, just abusing you. The law is capable of making distinction.

Baroness Fox of Buckley Portrait Baroness Fox of Buckley (Non-Afl)
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It was the latter rather than the former, I have to say.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
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Then there might be a point where that becomes harassment.

I found the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames, to be terrible. He sounded like a Government Minister in relation to this, thinking of excuses why not to do something about harassment, not just against women—against other people as well—but particularly against women. I was very struck by the fact that the Minister at least acknowledged that there is a real problem in relation to this. Her speech accepted that something had to be done about it, which that of the noble Lord, Lord Marks, did not.

There was a difference between the view of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, which was broadly to accept the proposals that I am making in Amendment 284, and that of the noble Lord, Lord Marks, who raised two particular points in relation to street harassment. One was about the breadth of the offence, which is not limited to sexual matters. I do not think it should be limited to sexual matters. If somebody who is disabled is chased down the street by a group of people taunting them for being disabled, that should be harassment. The second point the noble Lord was worrying about was “ought to know”. The sort of conduct that we are seeking to criminalise here is where people behave in a way that is wholly unacceptable. If you say, “I did not know that it was criminal to wolf-whistle and chase somebody down the street,” the fact that you did not know that should not be any defence. Those were the only two points he made in relation to it.

Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames Portrait Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames (LD)
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I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord for giving way and I am sorry that he found my speech terrible. I think he missed the point. I am not suggesting that there should be no criminalisation of the sexual offences. It may well be that the behaviour about disability that he mentions is already criminal. The point I am making is that you have to be very careful to delineate offences so that they are criminalising only conduct that ought to be criminal.

The noble Baroness, Lady Fox of Buckley, with whom I do not always agree, made the distinction very well. In my understanding of the Minister’s speech, she and I were on exactly the same page. We both believe that violence against women and girls has to be treated extremely seriously. We both believe—and if I sound like a Government Minister, the noble and learned Lord knows that I am not and never have been one—that the Government have a responsibility to ensure that the ambit of the criminal law is kept within the ambit of the law that people can trust and have confidence in. They cannot do that if you randomly criminalise behaviour that ought to be without the criminal law.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
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I do not know where to start in relation to that intervention. I agree with the noble Lord that we need a clear delineation. We need to come forward with something. We have come forward with something that, interestingly enough, the former Lord President of the Court of Session in Scotland found completely acceptable but the noble Lord, Lord Marks, does not, for the two reasons that he has given that seem to me to be ill founded. We need to make progress in relation to it. We are not going to have an opportunity to do it. What I take the noble Lord, Lord Marks, as saying is that he will co-operate with us in trying to delineate an offence for the purposes of this Bill because something needs to be done now.

Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames Portrait Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames (LD)
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The noble and learned Lord invites a response. I can certainly say that we will co-operate with that and I completely agree with him that the degree to which we are forced to rush this legislation inhibits progress on the kinds of proposals he is making. The difficulty is that one has to look at these offences in detail.

The noble and learned Lord suggested—rather unfairly, I think—that the two points I made against the street harassment offence he was particularly concerned with were the only two points I had. I made it absolutely clear in my speech that these were just examples. I agree with the Minister that you have to look very carefully at the whole area of new offences. That is why the reviews are important in relation to the spiking and exposure offences. You simply cannot legislate in a hurry to create new offences, as his amendment seeks to do.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
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I have no idea whether that was a yes or a no to my question. I assume the two points the noble Lord made were his two best points and the other two were no better than that, so I do not know where the Liberal Democrats stand in relation to that now.

In relation to the sex-for-rent offence, various points were made about whether the case of the landlady who seduces the male tenant and then does not charge rent should be an offence. I am more than happy to work out whether there should be certain defences available. As the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of Cradley, made clear, it is something that urgently needs criminalisation—and criminalisation that does not require the victim to be either characterised as engaged in prostitution or incited to commit prostitution. The implication of the law, even if it gives the victim anonymity, is that by succumbing to the sex-for-rent proposal the person is forced to become engaged in prostitution. That is not the way the law should be. There should just be a straightforward criminalisation of it.

Of course, I am sure that the offence can be made better in terms of its drafting but it is a drafting issue, not an issue of substance between us. If we do not do it in this Bill, when will we do it? The point that the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of Cradley, makes is almost unanswerable: there has been one prosecution. I could not work out whether there is maybe another one coming, from what she said. That would make it two, over years, and it is wholly unacceptable that that is the position.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Excerpts
Earl Attlee Portrait Earl Attlee (Con)
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My Lords, my role as a loyal government Back-Bencher is to help my noble friend the Minister, and I think I can do that best by strongly supporting these amendments.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
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We on this side of the Committee strongly support these excellent amendments. The Youth Justice Board was set up in 1998. Its first chair—a Member of this House, the noble Lord, Lord Warner—gave it a really good start. The whole point is that it gives real drive, not as part of government but within the state, to make changes, because everybody recognises that children and young people have different needs, both to divert them from the criminal justice system and when they are there. Similarly, in respect of women, this is a real opportunity; give it drive.

Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Wolfson of Tredegar) (Con)
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My Lords, as the amendments’ explanatory statements make clear, and as the noble Lord, Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames, identified, the intention is to provide for the establishment of a women’s justice board for England and Wales which mirrors the rather lengthy provisions setting up the Youth Justice Board. I am grateful to the noble Lord for his kind words. I can assure him that I gave his amendment very careful thought, and my approach to it has not been adversely affected by the support given to it by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb. I also heard what my noble friend Lord Attlee said about his role being to help me: with noble friends being so helpful—well, I will leave that one there.

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Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames Portrait Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames (LD)
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My Lords, I will not address the detail of the noble Earl’s amendment, but I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, that there is a great deal of merit in the call for more and better training within the penal system. We have long taken the view that training within prisons in particular is inadequate, poorly arranged and often unavailable. We therefore commend the noble Earl for the thrust of his amendment and certainly commend him for the care and dedication that he has given to setting it out in detail and in the briefing that he circulated.

We are not convinced of the need for a new sentence of detention for training at Her Majesty’s pleasure but we agree with the heart of the amendment, which is the focus on skills to train for future employment, for which there is a great need. The classroom-style of training does not always work. What is needed is training for skills on the job and for soft skills because, as the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, pointed out, not everyone is suitable for the basic training that perhaps the noble Earl has in mind. There should be a combination of practical, soft and technological skills. We are all for better training. However, we seek the Government’s work to be directed towards the provision of that sort of training—better training and more of it—within the criminal justice system and overcoming the barriers to prisoners being work-ready by the time they finish their terms of imprisonment because, at the moment, there is a serious deficiency in that area.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
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My Lords, I join noble Lords in commending the noble Earl for the effort and work that he has put into this and the fact that he has thought it through. I also commend what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, said. It was obviously not a detention for training centre that he was passed to, but his experience was successful in diverting him from the criminal justice system. That is an indication that it worked, even if he ended up in the criminal justice system as the Lord President of the Court of Session and a member of the Supreme Court.

I very much agree with what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, the noble Lord, Lord Marks, and the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, said. There are parts of this that we would all agree with. However, we on this side would not support this as a separate sentence. If one looks at the detail, it requires the setting up of a number of rural detention centres. The right thing is for the Government to look at the elements aimed at trying to rehabilitate those in the criminal justice system and use them in the existing system, rather than setting up a whole new network. We admire the noble Earl’s work but think that this is not the appropriate way forward.

Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar (Con)
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My Lords, the amendment from my noble friend Lord Attlee would seek to introduce a new sentence of detention for training at Her Majesty’s pleasure. It is aimed at offenders who are at least 18 and under 27. The key principle is that release would be gradual and dependent on the offender reaching the required performance levels in conduct, education and training. It would be served in training sites in remote rural areas.

I thank my noble friend sincerely for presenting his genuinely interesting idea—I was going to say “novel”, but we have all watched “Yes Minister”. He has done what he said others have not by thinking positively and constructively about what we can do in the future, rather than just criticising what we do now. I think that we all share his desire to reduce the reoffending rate for young adults. Training and education can enable people to turn their lives around and stop reoffending. I reassure my noble friend and the Committee that the Government are already taking action that addresses those issues.

My noble friend is right to be concerned that offenders leave prison illiterate and innumerate and is right to say that that significantly increases the prospects that they will reoffend. We all share those concerns. I can reassure the Committee that many offenders already achieve accredited qualifications in the fundamental basic subjects of English and maths while in prison. We recently published data that shows that, between April 2019 and March 2020, over 30,000 prisoners started English and maths courses and over half of this number completed the courses and received accreditations. Over and above that, many more will also have undertaken vocational training. However, we are not sitting on our laurels. We recognise that there is more to do. We welcome external scrutiny by the Education Select Committee, which has launched an inquiry into prison education, and Ofsted, which recently announced that it will be conducting a review of reading in prisons.

On employment, we want to make sure that the prison education and skills offer for prisoners is aligned with what employers want and need. We know that there is a correlation between getting a job when you come out of prison and not reoffending. We want to prepare prisoners for employment and the Deputy Prime Minister has made that a clear priority. We want to have partnerships with more businesses and build on the work that we already do with companies such as Halfords, Timpson and Willmott Dixon. We are also making sure that the Civil Service plays its part. In the beating crime plan, we have committed to recruiting 1,000 prison leavers into the Civil Service by 2023.

Over and above that, we want to make sure that we have effective community supervision. Not only will that keep the public safer by providing early intervention, it will deflect offenders away from future offending as well. We set out in our sentencing White Paper an agenda of reform for not only punishing but, importantly, rehabilitating low-level offenders. We have set out a number of measures in this Bill as well: problem-solving courts, suspended sentence orders and extending the use of electronic monitoring. I believe that those measures will support offenders to change their lifestyles for good. In that, of course, I share the aims set out by the noble Lord, Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Excerpts
Moved by
78: After Clause 35, insert the following new Clause—
“Domestic homicide reviews
(1) Section 9 of the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004 is amended as follows.(2) For subsection (2) substitute—“(2) The Secretary of State must in all cases which meet the circumstances set out in subsection (1) direct a specified person or body within subsection (4) to establish, or to participate in, a domestic homicide review.”(3) After subsection (3) insert—“(3ZA) The Secretary of State must by regulations set out—(a) the type of data relating to domestic homicide reviews which must be recorded, including—(i) the number of domestic homicide reviews taking place across England and Wales annually; and(ii) the time taken to complete each individual domestic homicide review;(b) that the data must be recorded centrally in a Home Office database; and(c) that the data must be published annually.””Member’s explanatory statement
This new Clause seeks to modify the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004 to force the Secretary of State to automatically direct a domestic homicide review in circumstances as outlined in Section 9 of the Act. The new Clause also aims to improve data collection methodologies around domestic homicide reviews.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
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This amendment deals with domestic homicide reviews, which are provided for in Section 9 of the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004. Domestic homicide reviews are concerned with where a domestic murder or manslaughter occurs, meaning where somebody over 16, living in the same household as somebody else, is murdered or is the victim of manslaughter, or some other crime, leading to death. The purpose of the domestic homicide review pursuant to Section 9(1) of the 2004 Act is to identify the lessons to be learned from the death. It is envisaged that it will be a multiagency review.

These domestic homicide reviews have proved to be of real value because they have identified the sorts of things which, if they were remedied, could help to prevent subsequent occurrence. The two big issues to emerge, time and again, in domestic homicide reviews are the proper recording of domestic violence complaints and whether the risk that the recording revealed has been properly dealt with, particularly by the police but also by other agencies. The Home Office published what lessons have been learned from a whole range of domestic homicide reviews in a 2016 document. I cannot find any subsequent document that brings together lessons learned.

We seek to do two things by this amendment, and there is a connected issue that I raised with the Minister before coming to this debate today. First, according to Section 9(2) of the 2004 Act, the Secretary of State has a discretion as to whether he orders a domestic homicide review in any case. On this side of the House, we consider that there should be a domestic homicide review in every case. Documents emanating from the Home Office suggest that it believes that there is such a position. Looking at Section 9 of the 2004 Act, it is quite difficult to ascertain whether or not there is an obligation in every case for there to be such a domestic homicide review. We think that there should be, and our proposed amendment to subsection (2) seeks to achieve that. I would very much welcome the Minister telling us what the position is in relation to it and what legal duty exists to ensure that there is a domestic homicide review. If there is any doubt about it, can he confirm that the Government’s position is that there should be a domestic homicide review in every case and that he would consider making the necessary legal changes to ensure that?

Secondly, we take the view that there should be proper recording of all that is learned from domestic homicide reviews, and, in particular, that the information is readily available in a centralised place to determine the sorts of things that lead to domestic homicides, so that it is available to everybody, in particular every police force that is dealing with it.

Thirdly, and separately—this is not specifically covered by the amendment, but I raised it with the Minister beforehand—a domestic homicide sentencing review was commissioned by, I think, the previous Lord Chancellor, on 9 September 2021. This has involved the instruction of Clare Wade of Her Majesty’s Counsel to look into the sentencing of people convicted of a domestic homicide. Will the Minister please say what the terms of reference of Clare Wade’s review are? When is it expected to report, and what will be done with its recommendations?

We start, on this side, from the premise that this Bill does not sufficiently address violence against women and girls in particular. In two-thirds of domestic homicides, of which there are about 150 a year, a woman is the victim. The pattern of sentencing by courts has evolved in such a way that in the case of victims of stabbing outside of a domestic context the courts are guided to give very heavy sentences, while for victims of stabbings in a domestic context the courts are not given such stringent guidance. We think that that needs to be looked at: a domestic killing should not be treated as less serious than one committed outside the home. I would be grateful to hear the Minister’s explanation of the position in relation to the review. I beg to move.

Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Portrait Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle (GP)
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My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton. My noble friend Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb signed this amendment but is, unfortunately, unable to be in the House tonight and I speak in her place.

Essentially, I agree with everything the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, said. I will add just a couple of points. It is worth noting that the National Police Chiefs’ Council and the College of Policing produced a report on domestic homicide in August, which described it as

“an entrenched and enduring problem.”

The report makes very disturbing reading. It records that just over half of suspects were previously known to police from domestic abuse cases, and another 10% were known for other offences, while 44% of households not covered by those categories were known to some other agency in some way. There is clearly an issue, therefore, with lessons learned.

It is good to have a report such as this: it is very useful and informative. But what is being proposed here is a register—something ongoing that can be a continual source of information and learning. We should make a couple of comparisons here. One is with air safety, where there is an assumption that whenever anything goes wrong every possible lesson will be learned and every piece of information will be extracted from it. We should be looking at domestic homicides in the same way.

Another parallel is with the Vision Zero approach to road crashes which many nations are increasingly adopting. We should be among them, and we should be looking to have zero serious injuries or deaths on the road. We know from the report that in nearly all cases of domestic homicide there has been an opportunity for someone to intervene. We should be looking towards a Vision Zero for domestic homicides.

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Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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I thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, for his conversation this afternoon, which was very gracious of him.

As the noble and learned Lord has set out, this amendment seeks to amend the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004 to require the Secretary of State to direct a domestic homicide review to be carried out in circumstances outlined in Section 9 of that Act. The amendment also aims to improve data collection methodologies around domestic homicide reviews. I shall go into that now and, I hope, answer noble Lords’ questions in the course of my remarks.

As the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, noted, domestic homicides are an abhorrent crime. Every death is a tragedy. I will explain some of the measures we are taking to tackle the perpetrators of these crimes, because it is germane to this amendment. In 2020-21 £7 million was awarded to police and crime commissioners to fund 28 perpetrator programmes, including the Drive project, which works with high-harm and high-risk perpetrators. This year we have also allocated £11.3 million to further expand the geographic scale of perpetrator programmes.

I return to the amendment. Domestic homicide reviews are a valuable mechanism for understanding what lessons can be learned from these deaths to prevent further tragedies. We recognise that there is room for improvement in the way these reviews are conducted and the lessons applied.

Domestic homicide reviews should be considered where the death of a person appears to have been caused by someone to whom they are related or had an intimate relationship with, or by a member of their household, with a view to identifying lessons from the death. The statutory guidance dictates that these decisions are to be made by community safety partnerships at local level. The Home Office should be notified of these decisions by the CSP. CSPs comprise representatives from responsible authorities: police, local authorities, probation and health services.

The chair of the CSP holds responsibility for establishing whether a homicide is to be the subject of a DHR by giving consideration to the definition set out in Section 9(1) of the 2004 Act, as noted by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, and whether the statutory criteria in that section are satisfied. There will be occasions where a CSP may consider it inappropriate to conduct a DHR based on the information before it, either because the statutory criteria are not met, in its view, or for other reasons.

The Home Office expert quality assurance panel reviews all decisions not to proceed with a review. The decision is then ultimately escalated to the Secretary of State, who can exercise her reserve power in Section 9(2) of the 2004 Act to direct a community safety partnership to conduct a review. This was first utilised in the very tragic case of Ruth Williams. Since March 2021, the Home Secretary has made four such directions.

In a very small number of cases, it is possible that the criteria for a domestic homicide review are met, but it is agreed that a review is not the best way to ensure that lessons are learned from the tragic death, for example when there is inadequate information to proceed or when a different safeguarding review would be more appropriate. I reassure the noble and learned Lord that these decisions are taken very carefully by the quality assurance panel and the Home Secretary.

In short, domestic homicide reviews already take place in the great majority of cases where the criteria in the 2004 Act are met. Given this, and the existence of the Home Secretary’s reserve power to direct a review, we are not persuaded that the framework for triggering these reviews is wanting and in need of change.

Turning to the second aspect of the noble and learned Lord’s amendment, I accept that there are concerns about the collection of data relating to domestic homicide reviews. This is why the Home Office has undertaken to create a central repository to hold all domestic homicide reviews. Funding has been secured for this and it is expected to go live next year. Once introduced, all historical reports will be collected to ensure that there is a central database on domestic homicides.

Furthermore, I should add that Section 17 of the Domestic Abuse Act 2021, which comes into force on 1 November, will amend Section 9 of the 2004 Act to make it a requirement for CSPs to send all completed DHRs to the domestic abuse commissioner as soon as reasonably practicable after completion. This will be a useful source of information from which the commissioner can drive forward change.

To go on to the noble and learned Lord’s final question about the sentencing review, the Government recognise the legitimacy of the concerns around the sentencing of domestic homicide cases raised by the families of Poppy Devey Waterhouse and Ellie Gould and those highlighted by the Victims’ Commissioner and domestic abuse commissioner. That is why we are conducting a review into such cases. It will be a targeted review of how domestic homicide cases—specifically those involving fatal attacks on intimate partners or ex-partners—are dealt with by our justice system, and will take account of sentencing outcomes and available data. The first stage of this review, an analysis of data and relevant sentencing for cases of domestic homicide tried between 2018 and 2020, is now complete.

As the noble and learned Lord noted, Clare Wade QC has since been appointed as the independent expert to conduct the second and final stage of the review. This will involve the consideration of both internal findings and existing external analysis carried out by academics and campaigning organisations, followed by the identification of potential options for reform. The expectation is that Ms Wade will report back to the Secretary of State before the end of the year.

In conclusion, I hope that the ongoing work in the Home Office on domestic homicide reviews and the domestic homicide review repository that I have described reassure the noble and learned Lord that the objectives he seeks through this amendment are already in place or under way. On that basis, I hope that he will be content to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
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I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, and the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, for speaking in the debate. I am also grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Sharpe, for his very comprehensive answer, though I find the answers that he gave quite concerning for three reasons.

First, he did not give a coherent basis for why there are domestic homicide reviews in some cases but not others. I completely accept that there might be cases where it was not appropriate, but the set-up of the statute gives no real indication in relation to that. He indicated that the Secretary of State had intervened on a few occasions, but did not give the basis. It would be helpful to know how many domestic homicides had a review and how many did not in the last two years and what was the basis for the selection. If he feels able to write, that would help me in considering what to do with this next.

Secondly, on the centralisation of information, he did not really come forward with a proposal for how one would improve the information in relation to that. I need to consider what he said on that. Thirdly, I may have missed it—I will need to read Hansard—but he did not say what the terms of reference are for Clare Wade’s review. Are they written down somewhere? Could somebody let us see them?

At this stage, of course, I withdraw my amendment.

Amendment 78 withdrawn.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Excerpts
It is clear that safeguards are needed to ensure that confidential material is not extracted inappropriately and that authorised persons consider the likelihood of a device containing this material, and any relevance to the inquiry, before any exercise of these powers. As I said, in the light of the Delegated Powers Committee’s report, we are considering whether to make suitable provision in the Bill rather than in regulations.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
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I apologise for intervening. The Minister has been very helpful with this comprehensive response, but she said that the Government were not going to respond to the Delegated Powers Committee’s report until “the next stage”. It would be wholly unsatisfactory if they did not respond to that detailed report, which was issued weeks ago, until just before Report, because we have submitted a range of amendments. The House trusts the Minister, so could she do a bit better than “the next stage” and respond before Committee is over?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, I will do my damnedest. I will take back the noble and learned Lord’s comments and see what is in the art of the possible. I can do no more than promise that, if he is happy with that—or rather, if he will accept it.

I will move on swiftly to Amendment 107, which seeks to remove immigration officers from Schedule 3, so that they can no longer exercise the powers in this Bill. Immigration officers play a vital role in protecting vulnerable people, in particular those who may be victims of trafficking, and it is important that they are able to obtain information that may be vital to these and other investigations. I therefore do not accept that immigration officers should not have access to these powers, subject to the same safeguards that apply to other authorised persons.

Finally, Amendment 106A relates to third-party material, an issue highlighted not just by the noble Lords, Lord Rosser and Lord Anderson, this evening, but by the Victims’ Commissioner, Dame Vera Baird. The amendment highlights a very important issue around the proportionality of requests for third-party material relevant to a victim. This material can be highly sensitive—for example, medical records. We agree that such material should only ever be sought where there is a reasonable line of inquiry, but we are aware that this is not always the case. There are examples where such requests cannot be justified, and this has a detrimental impact on the confidence of victims.

The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, also talked about written information given to victims. The police forces will use the digital processing notices developed by the NPCC for this purpose. The DPN, in layman’s terms, explains how the police extract the information, which information might be extracted, for how long it might be retained—that question was raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, and answered in part by my noble friend Lord Hayward—and what happens to irrelevant material found on the device. The DPN makes clear that investigators must respect individual rights to privacy and must not go beyond reasonable lines of inquiry.

The Government wholeheartedly agree that there needs to be a consistent approach to ensure that requests for third-party material are made with the victim’s right to privacy in mind and to ensure that the victim is fully informed. This principle is key to a number of actions in the Government’s end-to-end rape review, which we published in June.

Moving on to the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, on Amendment 106A, our understanding is that the NPCC agrees in principle to the need for legislation but has not taken a view on a particular legislative solution. As I have indicated, this issue requires further examination, so I thank the noble Lord. I understand that the CPS similarly accepts the need for appropriate controls on access to third-party material.

The police and the CPS are working on new guidance for the investigators and victims which can be finalised after the Information Commissioner’s Office publishes its report on data in rape cases, which is due imminently. We will also consider whether a change is required to the Attorney-General’s guidelines. This will give us an opportunity to consider the broader landscape with regards to proportionality in requests for evidence from victims and whether further steps should then be taken. In terms of DPNs and involvement of the Victims’ Commissioner: yes, she has been involved with the development of the digital processing notices.

I apologise again for the length of my remarks to the Committee. The Committee has raised important issues in respect of the privacy of victims and witnesses, and it is very important we get the framework in the Bill right. I hope noble Lords will agree that we have listened to the concerns that additional safeguards should be set out in the Bill and will be content to agree the government amendments in lieu of their own. I say to the noble Lords, Lord Paddick and Lord Beith, that we will consider further their Amendments 97 and 103, and to the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, that we are very alive to the issues around third-party material. For now, I ask the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, to withdraw Amendment 79.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Excerpts
Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
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My Lords, I am obliged to the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, for her clear but inevitably incomplete description of the Bill. Her incomplete description of it is not her fault. We support some of the measures in the Bill, in particular those that seek to increase penalties for sexual and violent crime, but the presentation of the Bill in this form is an affront to the rule of law and the role of Parliament: 177 clauses, 20 schedules, 62 new delegated lawmaking powers and amendments to 39 other statutes. Our constitution requires legislation such as this, particularly because it affects the liberty of the subject, to be properly scrutinised by both Houses of Parliament. With a Bill this size, that is well nigh impossible. Introducing a Bill in this way at this time does not accept, as the Government should, the limitations of time on a parliamentary process.

Quite separately from those complaints that I have about the Bill, the Delegated Powers Committee of this House has delivered a report which makes it absolutely clear that it takes considerable offence to a number of the Bill’s provisions that are giving power to the Executive to pass guidance; in particular, those that will give Ministers undue power because the effect of failing to comply with that guidance will lead to consequences in court, which will have an effect on the citizen. This is not the way to legislate. Yes, there are certain things that need to be done as far as the criminal justice system is concerned, but this Government should prioritise what those things are and then do them.

The Lord Chancellor said in another place that this Bill was designed to increase—or, in his words, restore—faith in the criminal justice system. It does not do that. There were things that he could have done to restore that faith, which is urgently required. I shall identify three things to indicate that. In the year to March 2021, a staggering 21.8% of victims said that they wanted to abandon their criminal case because they were fed up with the system—that is 945,000 cases involving the victims withdrawing their co-operation. A survey by Vera Baird, the Victims’ Commissioner, said that one-third of victims took the view that they would not report a crime again because of the experience they had had in the criminal justice system. As everybody in this House knows, because it has been repeated time and again, the number of complaints of rape goes up every year while the number of rape prosecutions goes down, and the number of convictions goes down as well.

Yes, we do need improvements to the criminal justice system, but a Christmas tree Bill of this size is not the way to deal with it. It is not possible in the time allotted either to me or to any of us to identify every single issue in relation to the Bill, but I will identify 11 issues that may be worth further consideration.

The first is on the policing of protests. The Minister will have seen what the Joint Committee on Human Rights has said in relation to the provisions that have been taken. It says absolutely explicitly that the Government have got the balance wrong between the right to protest and the powers being given to the Executive. To give the Executive the power to ban demonstrations because they make excessive noise is not proportionate; you would expect demonstrations to make noise and we will be looking in some detail at those provisions.

Secondly, there is the issue of unauthorised encampments in Clauses 62 to 64. These go much further than the Minister said. Contrary to what she specifically said, they are an attack on the Roma or Gypsy way of life. It is not necessary and, furthermore, it is not supported by the National Police Chiefs’ Council. It is something the Government have done which goes much further than necessary.

Thirdly, the Bill does not bring into effect right across the country Section 28 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999. If that section had been brought into effect, it would have allowed and led to the ability—right across the country—of victims of severe sexual assault to give their evidence straightaway before a judge. They would be cross-examined about it, but the film of that evidence would then be played at the trial at a much later date. That would allow the victim to avoid that awful period as they wait for the trial to take place. But the Lord Chancellor said in another place only that it should be further piloted. Why is it not being introduced right across the country? A reason given is because there are not enough judges to do it, and there would need to be judges to hear the evidence of the victim. Apart from offences leading to death—primarily murder and manslaughter—it is hard to imagine a higher priority for the judiciary than hearing serious rape and sexual violence cases, so the absence of judicial resource does not seem a good excuse. We would strongly urge that it be rolled out and will introduce an amendment to that effect.

Fourthly, I welcome what the Minister said about the extraction of information from the mobile phones of victims of serious sexual assault. Subsequent to the deliberations of another place, I think, a code of practice was produced as to the circumstances in which the extraction of material from mobile phones could be done. We share the concerns that that code of practice does not adequately protect the interests of victims. In particular, it needs some sort of third party to protect their interests in relation to that; again, that will be debated. I would be very interested if the Minister could indicate to me what protections for the owner of the mobile phone are contained in the code of practice, and whether they can be strengthened.

Fifthly, we think that there should be, subject to judicial discretion in appropriate cases, a minimum sentence for rape of seven years. The answer given by Ministers in another place was, “Well, two-thirds of people convicted of rape get seven years or more now, so why do you need a minimum sentence?” The answer is: so that it is clear what the view of the legislature is on the gravity of that crime. There needs to be some degree of judicial discretion, but that could be built in.

Sixthly, we take the view that the Bill should have addressed as a priority the problem of sexually offending behaviour and provided greater protection. Three specific steps were proposed in the other place. First, a whole-life term should be the starting point for a murder that involved the abduction and sexual assault of the victim. Secondly, there should be an independent review of the sentencing code in relation to domestic homicides. Thirdly, there should be a power to sentence offenders for up to two years if they identify an anonymous complainant in a case involving rape or serious sexual assault.

Last Thursday—I may have got the date wrong—the Government announced an independent review of the sentencing structure for domestic homicide. Clare Wade, a Queen’s Counsel, has been appointed to review the sentencing framework. I do not know and have not seen the terms of reference of that framework. Could the Minister set out what they are and indicate what the relationship of that review is to sentencing guidelines and the Sentencing Council?

Seventhly, this is a perfect opportunity to deal with the Vagrancy Act 1825, which makes it a crime, in effect, to be street homeless. Are the Government, who have been broadly supportive of changes to the Vagrancy Act, willing to see it repealed? An argument given in the past as to why it should not be repealed was that you need something to deal with “aggressive begging”. We on this side of the House believe that that is already covered by other legislation.

Eighthly, this is the opportunity to deal with indeterminate public protection sentences. We recognise the problem that there are certain people whom it would be difficult to release, but they should be a very exceptional and small category. Perhaps they should be a category of people upon whom, if there had not been an IPP sentence, a life sentence would have been passed instead of the IPP. It may well be that everybody else—the number is going up, not down, over a definitive period—should be released.

Ninthly, it was said in another place that the offence of assaulting a shop worker would be actively considered. Shop workers have been rightly praised for keeping the country and the economy going during the pandemic. We need a bit more than warm words. The Minister in the other place said that they would consider it. Can the Minister in this place tell us where they have got to in relation to that?

Tenthly, I understand that the Government are going to introduce in this place amendments in relation to the serious issue of pet theft, although I may be wrong. Could the Minister explain the position on that?

Finally, I turn to the issue of the children of mothers in prison. Time and again, prison sentences for mothers victimise their children. The Human Rights Committee of both Houses said that this is a perfect opportunity to deal with that issue, if on no other basis than that proper information and data be collected. I did not give the Minister notice that I would raise this issue, but if she could deal with it when it is convenient—perhaps not today but on another occasion—I would be grateful.

Separately from the things that we think are right—we have no problem with the police covenant or, as I have indicated, some of the strengthening of sentencing—we would like to focus on those eleven areas. I do not treat them as exclusive, and no doubt there are many things I have omitted, but this Bill is simply a scattergun that will not do enough for criminal justice.

I very much hope that, on 27 October, the key thing we will hear in the comprehensive spending review is that the criminal justice system will be properly funded and that recompense will be made for the 25% of funding that has been taken away from it by this Government.

Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Excerpts
2nd reading (Hansard) & 2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords & 2nd reading
Monday 21st September 2020

(1 year, 10 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
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My Lords, thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay, for introducing with such care and clarity this important Bill. We understand he has been thrown in at the deep end after the sudden departure from the Government of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Keen. He has acquitted himself impressively so far.

This is a significant Bill. The criminal justice response is key in the fight against terrorism but can never be the only response. While many of the recent terrorist atrocities have been associated with Islamist extremism, it is important to identify that there remain threats from others: as the UK’s top counterterrorism police officer, Neil Basu, recently confirmed, the fastest growing terrorist threat comes from far-right organisations. Of the 224 people in prison for terror-related offences, 173 are Islamist extremists and 38 are far-right ideologues; and of the 16 plots foiled by the end of 2018, four involved the far-right.

This Bill deals with four issues. The first is increasing sentences for terrorist-related offences. The second is changing the basis on which those convicted of terrorist offences can be released, and the terms thereafter on which they are on licence. The third is changing the TPIMs regime in three significant respects: reducing the burden of proof, making TPIMs last potentially indefinitely, and increasing the range of powers a TPIM can include. The fourth is removing the time limit for completion of the Prevent review, mandated by previous primary legislation.

On this side of the House, we will look carefully at the details of the increase in sentences and the proposed change to the way the system deals with early release of those convicted of terrorist offences. We will also look at when and how the Parole Board should be involved and how it should approach these issues.

While the detail matters a lot, we do not in principle oppose the first two parts of the Bill. There needs to be really tough sentencing for terrorists. Confidence in the system and justice for victims depends on it. The Deputy Mayor of Manchester, my noble friend Lady Hughes, described the gasp from the families of the victims of the Manchester Arena bombings when Mr Justice Jeremy Baker imposed a minimum term of 55 years on Hashem Abedi, who was convicted of plotting the Arena bombing with his brother. My noble friend described the gasp as a small amount of relief among their terrible anguish. It brings little comfort, but the pain of inadequate sentencing for the victims of terrorist bombings is real. The families of those who died in the bombing have themselves been sentenced to a lifetime of pain and loss. The very least they can expect is that the justice system pass sentences that reflect the gravity of what happened.

Coupled with that is the disregard with which the system is viewed when terrorists are released before their nominal sentence is concluded and commit offences again. The tragedies of Fishmongers’ Hall on 29 November 2019, and Streatham High Street on 2 February 2020, are terrible examples. At Fishmongers’ Hall, the bravery of the Polish porter, Lukasz Koczocik, helped to overpower the terrorists. Two former offenders, James Ford and Marc Conway, also became heroes when they helped tackle the attacker to the ground. Jack Merritt and Saskia Jones, who dedicated their lives to seeing the best in people, were working in offender rehabilitation, only to be killed at the rehabilitation conference at Fishmongers’ Hall. I pay a heartfelt tribute to them and extend my deepest sympathy to their families for their unimaginable loss. This terrorist attack, like the one on Streatham High Street on 2 February, was committed by an individual who was already convicted as a terrorist offender but had been released automatically halfway through their sentence. They were neither deradicalised nor deterred by their time in prison. In fact, their time at Her Majesty’s pleasure had made the position worse.

The most serious terror offences already attract what is known as extended determinate sentences, which require an offender to be referred to the Parole Board at the two-thirds stage of their custodial term, when they can be considered for release. At the end of the custodial term, the offender will be released on an extended licence. For terrorist offenders for whom the maximum penalty for their offence is life, this Bill removes the opportunity of Parole Board-directed release before the end of the custodial term, ensuring they serve a whole term in custody. This applies UK-wide and to both young and adult offenders. For this cohort of offenders, there will be no chance of parole before the end of the custodial term. This will give rise to prisoner management problems where there is no prospect of early release. However, that may well have to be faced. As the Bill goes through the House, we will need to consider whether that is appropriate for someone convicted under the age of 21. People seduced by appalling ideologies when teenagers should have some hope. There is agreement that, the younger the subject, the greater the hope for successful de-radicalising measures.

The Bill proposes that the maximum licence period for terrorists after release should be 25 years. We have concerns about the proportionality and cost of that reform, which have also been expressed by the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation. There is no explanation as to how this burden will be paid for in the context of a decimated probation service. Much of what happens on licence will depend on the effectiveness of the probation service. It is truly hopeless of the Government to blithely increase these licence periods, thereby appearing tough to the public, knowing full well that without proper additional expenditure on the probation service, these commitments and legislation will have little effect in the real world. Could the Minister provide the House with estimates of how much extra expenditure will be incurred by giving effect to these additional licence periods? How will probation afford them?

These are some of the issues in the first part of the Bill that we will wish to explore. I make it clear that, in principle, we support increasing the length of terrorist sentences and the significant tightening of the circumstances, outlined in the second part of the Bill, in which a person convicted of a terrorist offence may be released before the end of his custodial term. We consider it crucial that the criminal justice system be effective in catching and convicting terrorists, passing appropriate sentences and ensuring—consistent with the terms of their sentence—that they are not released before it is safe to do so. That does not mean that every terrorist is sentenced to an indeterminate sentence, but that the true length of the sentence passed and how it is implemented must have public confidence.

In connection with sentencing and early release, I have focused on what is in the Bill, but it is important also to focus on what is not in it. Inside and outside the criminal justice system, there must be a much more driven and focused effort on de-radicalisation measures. For many prisoners, such measures will have no impact whatsoever; moreover, many will manipulate the system to obtain early release by pretending they have had an effect. But that is not a reason to give up on those measures, both inside and outside prison. The Acheson review of 2016 dealt with de-radicalisation measures in prison. He made 69 recommendations, consolidated down to 11, eight of which were accepted. What happened to those recommendations remains a total mystery.

Mr Acheson himself said in a report published in 2019:

“Our unsafe prisons provide a fertile breeding ground in which predators, peddling extremist and violent ideologies, can prey upon the vulnerable, creating significant risks to national security and the public at large.”


He added:

“On the present trajectory, it is all too conceivable that a future terrorist will have been groomed and radicalised within our prison estate.”


Can the Minister provide details of which Acheson recommendations have been implemented, and give details of how they have been implemented?

The failure properly to address de-radicalisation measures in prison will haunt this country for generations, as we establish “academies of terrorism”. We must continue with these measures, as much for the prisoners—often young and vulnerable—imprisoned for non-terrorist offences, who end up radicalised and dangerous because of a total lack of push-back from the authorities against the vile, dominating hold of much stronger characters who are imprisoned for terrorist offences, certain of the rightness of their warped beliefs and able to seduce others into them.

In the world outside prison, it is equally important that the state ensures proper pushback against these warped ideologies. The Prevent strategy is designed to do that, but there are legitimate concerns about it and the extent to which its unintended consequences damage the fight against radicalisation. We are disappointed at the slow progress of the review; we are disappointed that there is no reviewer in place and that the Government are still in the process of selecting one. Can the Minister give the House details as to when they hope the review might report, and indicate what steps they are taking to ensure that it does so within a reasonable time? The removal of the time limit, which expired in August 2020, is plainly contrary to the wishes of Parliament when it introduced that amendment. Too often, this Government appear to make a concession in relation to legislation and then do all they can to undermine the effect of that concession. The Dubs amendment is a painful example.

The sentencing, early release and licence provisions in the first two parts of the Bill include a provision for polygraph tests, as mentioned by the Minister, which are to be used to inform licence conditions and their compliance and whether prisoners have broken those provisions. The unreliability of polygraph tests is well known. Can the Minister tell the House what view the Government take on their reliability, how—in light of that—they consider their use to be appropriate, and what studies they are relying on? Once they accept that it is not appropriate to rely on polygraph tests alone to determine whether conditions are satisfied, why rely on them at all?

Finally, the Bill makes it easier to get a TPIM, gives greater powers if a TPIM is granted, and allows it to last indefinitely without any change in circumstances. There will be cases where trial, conviction and sentence are not possible. It is right that the Government have the sort of power that a TPIM involves as part of their armoury against terrorism, but the changes are significant. Much anxiety has been expressed by non-aligned bodies about whether these powers are necessary. We will look very carefully at these powers. What is absolutely key is that the Government make a proper case for the need for these additional or changed aspects of TPIM. Can the Minister identify, in general terms, the difficulties experienced by those with the power to seek these orders, which currently arise from the balance of probabilities test? Can the Minister explain why it is thought necessary to extend them without a change in circumstances for longer than two years?

This is an important Bill. We will work constructively with the Government to deliver it, and will focus the whole time on equipping the authorities to be as effective as possible in combating terrorism. That means tougher sentencing and parole arrangements, but it also means effective measures to keep people from being radicalised or remaining radical.

Deaths in Police Custody

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Excerpts
Monday 30th October 2017

(4 years, 9 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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I say to my noble friend that there is not another “if”. It is important that the police protect the public with honesty and integrity and that they uphold the values set out in the policing Code of Ethics. Police integrity and accountability are central to public confidence in policing. A system that holds police officers to account helps to guarantee that, so the Government must ensure that the public have confidence in the police to serve our communities and keep us safe. I think that on that we all agree.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
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Dame Elish’s report is very good and I understand that it will take time to consider it. I am extremely worried by the answers that the Minister has given about inquest representation. I am afraid that the noble Lord who mentioned “ifs” and “buts” was putting it kindly. I have two questions. Please can the Minister confirm that there is an immediate change in approach by the Legal Aid Board to giving legal aid for representation of the relatives and families of those who have died in custody? It is unclear from the answer that has been given whether there is a change in practice. The Minister said that the starting point is that you will get legal aid but that it is subject to an overriding discretion. Please can she confirm that there is a change of practice and that the presumption is that you get legal aid unless there are exceptional circumstances? Secondly and separately, please can she provide details to the House of the legal aid review and of how representation at inquests is to be considered? When will the review report and will the timing of those recommendations be different from the timing in relation to the rest of Dame Elish’s recommendations?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, I suspect that I have sounded a bit cautious this afternoon but I can guarantee that the starting presumption is that legal aid should be awarded for representation of the bereaved at an inquest. There is a presumption to grant legal aid. It is a total change of approach, as I think the noble and learned Lord will agree, and I should have thought that the House would be happier about it. It is a total change of approach.