All 4 Baroness Noakes contributions to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022

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Mon 1st Nov 2021
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Mon 15th Nov 2021
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Lords Hansard - Part 2 & Committee stage: Part 2
Wed 15th Dec 2021
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Lords Hansard - part one & Committee stage
Monday 1st November 2021

(2 years, 7 months ago)

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Lord Cashman Portrait Lord Cashman (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, I was not going to speak to this amendment, but like the noble Baroness who spoke before me, having listened I am so minded. I will study the amendment very carefully, but a balance has to be struck. That is always most difficult on issues of human rights and freedom of speech.

We have to deal with the reality that hate speech, whether intended as hate speech or not, can often incite physical acts of violence. During the pandemic we have seen not only homophobia—as a gay man I have a particular interest in that, but my interest is in all physical hate crimes—but an enormous rise in physical hate crimes, some of them reported as happening on the crowded Underground or in domestic situations, because people are in much closer quarters than they would otherwise be.

My reason for speaking is to add a note of caution about how we proceed. I will study the amendment in detail, as I said, but we must respect that speech that could be defined as hate speech, or perhaps is not, can often encourage individuals to take actions against people who they feel should not be within their communities or do not belong.

Baroness Noakes Portrait Baroness Noakes (Con)
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My Lords, I support my noble friend Lord Moylan’s amendments in this group. Somehow, we have ended up in a position where freedom of speech—a precious part of our way of life—has been seriously constrained by something the police have invented themselves around perceptions of hostility. I find it incomprehensible that the Government have allowed the police to carve out this territory unchecked. Why has the College of Policing—a wholly unaccountable body—been allowed to invent a wholly new form of recording of behaviour that, by definition, is not criminal? Can my noble friend the Minister explain how we got here?

The recording of non-crime hate incidents is not trivial. It drains police resources from the other things they should be doing: reducing knife crime; actually solving crimes rather than recording them; or making women feel safe on our streets—just a few of the things that ordinary people think are more important. As we have heard, those who have non-crime hate incidents recorded against them are often completely unaware that it has happened, which, if nothing else, is a denial of justice. The information can be kept indefinitely and, most chillingly, can be reported to third parties under the Disclosure and Barring Service. This means that the police have created for themselves the ability to wreck people’s careers.

We live in a society where the expression of views that others disagree with is becoming dangerous. The case of Dr Kathleen Stock is the latest example of this. Disagreement is too often and too rapidly equated with hate or hostility. The mere existence of non-crime hate reporting fuels this intolerance. The police are actively encouraging non-crime hate reporting by giving a platform to people who claim to be offended by the views of others. It is a cancer in our society that we should eliminate before it becomes dangerously pervasive.

Amendment 106 is a complex amendment and I pay tribute to my noble friend Lord Moylan for his clear introduction of it. I hope that my noble friend the Minister will not hide behind a critique of the amendment but engage positively with the substance of the issues that my noble friend and others have raised.

Baroness Butler-Sloss Portrait Baroness Butler-Sloss (CB)
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Having listened with great interest to what the noble Baroness, Lady Fox, read out as to the current guidance given by the College of Policing, and given the balance referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Cashman, it seems that the very first thing is that the guidance should be scrapped. It should not be waiting for the conclusion of this rather long-winded Bill. Somebody should be getting in touch with the college and either telling those there not to give any guidance at all or getting the Government to tell them in the meantime the sort of guidance that could go forward pending this excellent amendment, which I support.

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I am simply pointing out that the Home Secretary has been in touch with the College of Policing to see if this issue can be improved and reformed further. I was saying, “Let’s count nothing in and nothing out.” I hope that my noble friends Lord Moylan and Lord Forsyth of Drumlean will take comfort in my right honourable friend the Home Secretary having identified a problem for which she is seeking a solution.

There will be more to be said in the coming months, but I hope that for now I have said enough to reassure my noble friend Lord Moylan and that he will see fit to withdraw his amendment.

Baroness Noakes Portrait Baroness Noakes (Con)
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My Lords, my noble friend invited the House to wait and see. Can she give us some idea of how long that wait might be?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I can certainly promise my noble friend and noble Lords who have been involved in the debate this afternoon that I will go back and see if I can put a timeframe on it.

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Lords Hansard - Part 2 & Committee stage
Monday 15th November 2021

(2 years, 7 months ago)

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Lord Russell of Liverpool Portrait Lord Russell of Liverpool (CB)
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I think I was quoting from the Equality Act, but if I was not—the noble Lord here says I was right, so if one looks at the Equality Act and the protected characteristics, that is one of them. If I am wrong, I apologise in advance.

Baroness Noakes Portrait Baroness Noakes (Con)
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The noble Baroness, Lady Falkner of Margravine, is no longer in her place. Gender is not a protected characteristic under the equality legislation. Gender reassignment is.

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Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
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The following characteristics are protected under the Equality Act: age—something else that we do not need to worry about; gender reassignment; and sex. There are others, but those are the three. Sex being a protected characteristic means that you are entitled not to be discriminated against on the ground of your sex, whether you are a man or a woman. That means that if you are a transgender woman, you will be entitled to be protected on the grounds of sex because you are a woman, and on the grounds of gender reassignment. So, the noble Lord says that gender is not a protected characteristic under the Equality Act, but a person is entitled, as one would expect, not to be discriminated against because of their sex.

Baroness Noakes Portrait Baroness Noakes (Con)
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I thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, for his lesson in equalities law. My Amendment 219A was degrouped from Amendment 219 late last week. While it is drafted more broadly than Amendment 219, I tabled it to address the very same issues covered by Amendment 219. I therefore believe that, for the convenience of the Committee, I should speak to my Amendment 219A now. I hope that the other noble Lords who have added their names—the noble Baronesses, Lady Ludford and Lady Grey-Thompson, and the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath—will do so as well. On that basis, I will not move Amendment 219A in the next group. I hope that, given all the amendments left still to be debated, the Committee will welcome this.

My Amendment 219A, like Amendment 219, does have cross-party support, so the issues raised by both amendments are not party-political in any sense. Indeed, I find myself in the unusual position of being on the same side of the argument as the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford; neither she nor I ever thought that we would be in that position. I have two main problems with Amendment 219, the first of which is directly addressed by my Amendment 219A. Amendment 219 pre-empts the work of the Law Commission, which, as we have heard, has been working on hate crime for some time now. Its consultation document runs to over 500 pages, with over 50 dedicated to sex or gender.

The Law Commission has received many thousands of consultation responses and is now working on its final position. I believe that its work should conclude before we legislate in this area, and my Amendment 219A gives the Government a regulation-making power to amend Section 66 of the Sentencing Act 2020 to implement the Law Commission’s recommendations. That gives the Government, if they agree with and accept the recommendations, the fastest possible implementation route. The Law Commission’s final recommendations may well be controversial and therefore would not qualify for the special procedures for Law Commission Bills that we use in your Lordships’ House, if primary legislation were the route taken. Amendment 219A therefore uses the draft affirmative procedure to enable some additional parliamentary scrutiny.

I believe that it would be wrong for Parliament to anticipate the final views of the Law Commission. There are different views on both the principle and the substance of the extensions to the hate crime laws, and noble Lords would be wise to wait for the Law Commission’s final recommendations, rather than proceed on the basis of its provisional views.

On the extension of hate crimes to sex, the Law Commission was clear that it believed that two of its criteria for amending the hate crime legislation—demonstrable need and additional harm—were met, but it was far less clear that its third criterion of suitability was met. To mitigate that, its consultation includes some very significant potential carve-outs, covering, for example, domestic abuse and sexual offences so that, if hate crime were extended to sex, the very crimes that I know some noble Lords are particularly concerned about might not be included in the Law Commissioner’s final recommendations. This is not an area where there is a settled view about what should be done.

My second problem with Amendment 219 is a substantive one about whether, if hate crime laws are extended to sex, they should be—

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
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Does the noble Baroness know when the Law Commission might produce its final report and what the timetable thereafter would be—for example, how long there would then be before the Minister has to respond and how long thereafter before there would be some provision in relation to it?

Baroness Noakes Portrait Baroness Noakes (Con)
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I think that was a trick question from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
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It is not a trick question; I would have thought that that piece of information might be quite important to evaluating her amendment.

Baroness Noakes Portrait Baroness Noakes (Con)
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I will tell the noble and learned Lord what I know, which is that the Law Commission said that it hopes for a final report by the end of this year. It is then normal to give a period of time for the Government to consider their response and then there is a period after that for deciding on a legislative route.

My amendment offers a fast way through. If the Law Commission makes certain recommendations and the Government decide to accept them, my amendment gives the Government the power by regulations to amend Section 66 of the Act to achieve those recommendations. That is the best I can offer. I am sure the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, can give me a long lecture on all those Law Commission studies that have never ended up in law and the length of time taken. But this is another good reason why we should not, I think, proceed in haste on this.

I was about to move on to the second reservation I have with Amendment 219, which is whether, if hate crimes were extended to sex, they should also include gender. Amendment 219 includes the formulation “sex or gender” and that was, indeed, the Law Commission’s provisional view. However, its conclusion was rather more tentative than some of the other conclusions in the consultation document, and I think this is an area where its final views will be particularly important. In its very large consultation document on hate crime, it did not spend very much time on whether gender should be included as an addition to sex, and I suspect there will be a fuller examination on the basis of the responses to its consultation.

Sex is a concept that is easily defined: it is binary, based on biological reality and recorded on everyone’s birth certificate. Sex, as we have been debating, is a protected characteristic in equality legislation. Gender, on the other hand, is a social construct. It has no ready legal definition and is most definitely not a protected characteristic. While gender is sometimes used in legislation, it has in the past genuinely been as a synonym for sex. However, I believe that it is increasingly problematic for the word “gender” to be used in that way because it is being used by those who claim that gender is different from—and sometimes more important than—sex, and it is not binary. Some describe gender as a spectrum, some say that there is a finite number of genders, but there is no consensus on how many genders there are, with claims in excess of 100 genders.

I can illustrate how difficult the use of “gender” is becoming from something I discovered called nominalgender. Nominalgender means,

“a gender where the person’s gender is so much just them that no one else can even experience it. Most nominalgender people will define their gender as a mashup between other genders of a certain kind (like beegender, angelgender, etc) but it’s not a multiple gender, it is one”.

Who knew, my Lords? This new lexicon of gender is part of a gender identity theory. It is a controversial issue and has not hitherto found its way into legislation for very good reason. I believe that legislating for hostility towards gender would make for very uncertain law. The use of the word “gender” has moved well beyond an attempt to achieve drafting neutrality and has started to acquire a very different meaning.

There was discussion earlier about where transgender fits in. I do not believe adding “or gender” is necessary to meet any needs of those in the transgender community. Hostility related to transgender is already included in hate crime legislation. If the term “sex” was added to Section 66, hostility towards, say, a transgender woman would be automatically covered, either because she is transgender or because she is presumed to be of female sex. Therefore, there is no need for the ambiguity of “gender” to be introduced into the definition of the hate crime because there were no people excluded from that.

I have deliberately not addressed the substance of Amendment 219, which is whether misogyny should be added to the list. I am personally not convinced that the case has been made, but I did not table Amendment 219A to oppose the extension of hate crime to sex. Indeed, my amendment would allow a fast-tracked route to legislating for it if that were the outcome of the recommendation from the Law Commission. I believe that Parliament would be negligent if it rushed through a solution without waiting for the Law Commission to report on this difficult subject. I know that many noble Lords feel strongly about misogyny, as I do as a woman, but I entreat noble Lords not to legislate in haste.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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Could I ask the noble Baroness a question on her remarks? She said that sex was binary, male and female, as recorded on birth certificates. How does she account for people who have a gender recognition certificate, who are able to change the sex on their birth certificate in those circumstances?

Baroness Noakes Portrait Baroness Noakes (Con)
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My Lords, that is dealt with by the Gender Recognition Act. In that case, the birth certificate is altered and for many purposes, though not for all, that person is treated as a woman.

Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe Portrait Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe (Lab)
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My Lords, I rise to support Amendment 219 and to reinforce all the powerful arguments made by the noble Baroness, Lady Newlove. I am not a lawyer, but it seems bizarre that sex and gender have explicitly not been recognised in existing hate crime legislation. Crimes motivated by hostility to disability, transgender identity, race, religion and sexual orientation are all recognised, but not those motivated by sex and gender. Yet, in a report published in January this year by UN Women UK, 71% of the 1,000 women polled had experienced sexual harassment in a public place, rising to a staggering 97% of women under the age of 25.

This is made worse by the sad fact that there is widespread scepticism among women and girls about reporting violence and abuse to the police because they have no confidence that their claims will be acted on or even taken seriously. Violence against women and girls does not occur in a vacuum, of course. Hostility towards women and girls creates a culture in which violence and abuse is tolerated and repeated. That culture has to be changed, so a reform to legislation, which this amendment proposes and which I hope the Government will support, must be accompanied by a transformation of attitudes within the police.

I believe that there are encouraging signs that this is happening, albeit slowly. I was fortunate to attend the briefing that has been mentioned on this amendment given by the former chief superintendent of police for Nottinghamshire, Sue Fish—a pioneer of this approach —and Stuart Henderson, North Yorkshire Police’s hate crime co-ordinator, who is currently delivering this policy. It was absolutely fascinating to learn how much of a difference can be made when the leadership of the force is committed to driving a policy forward. A number of other forces are doing the same, and I commend this approach to the Metropolitan police force as it struggles to respond to the tsunami of criticism on gender-based hate crimes.

Because not all police forces have signed up, there is no consistency of reporting or approach to these crimes. That is why the amendment is necessary: to ensure that every woman and girl right across the country can feel confident that the role of misogyny in what they experience on a daily basis will at last be taken seriously and dealt with appropriately. It is also necessary because it would require police forces to record instances of motivation by hostility to the victim’s sex or gender, enabling them to monitor much more effectively the incidence of these crimes and so address and prevent them. Evaluation of this approach in Nottinghamshire showed improved victim confidence to come forward and report crimes, and benefits to the local police in their efforts to combat these crimes. It is a great tribute to Sue Fish that she persisted in pursuing the need for this change, and to Nottinghamshire Police for embracing it as pioneers.

Finally, I am aware that the Government have asked the Law Commission to look at this, and it is due to report imminently. I hope the Government will not use that as an excuse to kick this into the long grass; even if the Law Commission reports soon, too many of its reports are ignored by the Government and not implemented. In replying today, I hope the Minister will acknowledge the urgency of this issue and commit to concrete measures, as set out in the amendment, to address it speedily.

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Wednesday 15th December 2021

(2 years, 6 months ago)

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Moved by
78DA: After Clause 102, insert the following new Clause—
“Maximum sentence for an offence under section 70 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003
In section 70 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 (sexual penetration of a corpse), in subsection (2)(b) (penalty on conviction on indictment), for “2” substitute “10”.”
Baroness Noakes Portrait Baroness Noakes (Con)
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My Lords, this is a probing amendment. It increases the maximum sentence for the offence of sexual penetration of a corpse in Section 70 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 from two years to 10 years.

I am tabling this amendment in the light of the appalling case of David Fuller. He was convicted month of the murders of two young women more than 30 years ago. When the police finally caught up with him, thanks to advances in DNA techniques, they discovered in his home evidence of some appalling sexual crimes, including 4 million images of sexual abuse. The most terrible of these images had been created by David Fuller himself. He had recorded himself sexually abusing the dead bodies of women and girls in the mortuary of the Tunbridge Wells NHS hospital—both the old one in Tunbridge Wells and its replacement in Pembury. This is where I live, so it is an issue that is close to my heart. It is also close to the heart of my right honourable friend Greg Clark, the MP for Tunbridge Wells.

Fuller had raped the dead bodies of more than 100 women and girls over a period of 12 years up to 2020. The youngest was nine; the oldest 100. Sometimes he repeated the offence on the same body. He kept records of his acts. There are no words to describe the depths of this kind of depravity.

Last month, Fuller pleaded guilty to the two murder charges, to 33 counts of the sexual penetration of a corpse involving 59 individual victims and to some other important charges. Unsurprisingly, this afternoon he was given a whole life sentence.

This case has shone a spotlight on the maximum sentence of only two years which is available for the offence of sexual penetration of a corpse. The judge today emphasised that there is no sentencing guideline for this offence. She in fact gave Fuller a 12-year concurrent term for the totality of his other crimes.

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Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar (Con)
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My Lords, Amendment 78DA, moved by my noble friend Lady Noakes, is in regard to the maximum penalty for the sexual penetration of a corpse. I first place on record my shock and horror at David Fuller’s horrifying offending; my thoughts are with the victims and their families. I assure the House that the Government are committed to looking in detail at what happened in this appalling circumstance to ensure that it simply never happens again.

As we have heard, just this afternoon Mr Fuller has been sentenced to a whole-life term of imprisonment. An investigation into other aspects of his offending is ongoing. The House will understand why I will not comment on the sentence passed in this case, but I thank all those in the police, the CPS and the wider criminal justice system for bringing him to justice.

The Government have announced an inquiry into the events that occurred in hospitals in Tunbridge Wells. This will help us understand how the offences took place without detection in the trust, identify any areas where early action by the trust was necessary and consider wider national issues, including for the NHS as a whole. The Government have already made good progress in establishing the independent inquiry. I understand from colleagues in the Department of Health and Social Care that the inquiry’s chair, Sir Jonathan Michael, has developed draft terms of reference already and will engage with the families on them in the new year before they are published.

As well as that inquiry, I assure the House that the Ministry of Justice is reviewing the existing penalties available for the offence of sexual penetration of a corpse. The statutory maximum penalty for that offence is, as my noble friend indicated, two years’ imprisonment.

I reassure your Lordships, however, that that is the statutory maximum penalty for one offence. Where the offence is sentenced alongside other offences, each offence will be sentenced individually. The overall sentence passed will therefore reflect the totality of the offending behaviour.

I also pay tribute to my noble friend’s work in supporting the inclusion of this offence when it was debated during the passage of the Sexual Offences Act 2003. It was created primarily to deal with a different circumstance—different circumstances were in mind at the time. The focus was on the situation where a murderer abuses the corpse of their victim after death, and it was therefore perhaps thought likely that those sentenced for this offence would, for the most part, be sentenced at the same time for another offence, such as murder—which of course carries a mandatory penalty of life imprisonment. As we have seen in the Fuller case, that is sometimes the case but may not always be so.

It is therefore right that, in view of this depraved—which is not a word I use often, but I think is appropriate in this context—and horrifying offending where we have seen an individual commit this offence independently of other offending in relation to that victim, we review the current statutory maximum penalty for the Section 70 offence. It may also be that this review, and the public inquiry into the offending in hospitals in Kent, will highlight other issues that need to be considered relating to the existing offences that deal with sexual abuse of corpses.

To be clear, I am not saying—I cannot this afternoon —that the Government will adopt the specific approach taken in this amendment, but neither do I rule out future changes to the maximum penalty. Rather, we are reviewing the maximum penalty in its context, and speaking with DHSC officials to ensure that learning from the inquiry into events in hospitals can be taken into account into our review of the penalty. That is the best way to reach a considered conclusion about how to amend Section 70 appropriately.

As to timing, the inquiry into the events at hospitals in Kent is due to publish interim findings in the new year, with the full report at a later stage. I will write to my noble friend, and place a copy in the Library, with any further information on the inquiry’s timescales as soon as that is available. Our review of the available maximum penalties is likely to follow a similar timescale, to ensure that findings from the inquiry can be taken into account in our conclusions. It is therefore important that we await the findings of the inquiry before amending the current legislation. I listened carefully to how my noble friend opened this short debate, and I therefore ask her formally to withdraw this amendment.

Baroness Noakes Portrait Baroness Noakes (Con)
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My Lords, this has been a short but important debate, and it will be particularly important for the families of those who died who were abused by that man. Clearly, they have suffered hugely. My noble friend is right to point out that I made clear that this was a probing amendment and therefore have no intention of pressing the amendment. My main purpose was to ensure that the Government are set upon dealing with this issue properly, and I was much reassured by what I heard from my noble friend. With that, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment 78DA withdrawn.

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Moved by
114G: After Clause 55, in subsection (3), leave out “or gender”
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Baroness Noakes Portrait Baroness Noakes (Con)
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My Lords, my Amendment 114G amends my noble friend Lady Newlove’s amendment and removes “or gender” from subsection (3) of her proposed new clause. When my noble friend tabled a different misogyny amendment in Committee, she constructed it using the formula “sex or gender”, and I argued against that formulation.

My noble friend’s new clause is headed “Offences motivated by hostility towards the sex or gender of the victim”, but the text of the clause is puzzling. Subsection (1) defines “relevant crime”, for the purposes of the new clause, in terms of

“hostility or prejudice based on sex”—

not on sex or gender. Of course, because it is the perception, that would also cover the perception of trans people. Sex has a definition, which picks up on that of the Equality Act 2010. When we get to subsection (2), which is about the recording of relevant crimes, that, too, because it makes no reference to gender, would clearly apply only to relevant crimes expressed in terms of sex, as set out in subsection (1).

Those of us who received the briefing this afternoon from the honourable Stella Creasy MP will have noted that it claims that this amendment refers throughout to sex and gender, but it quite clearly does not. Subsection (1), which governs subsection (2), refers only to prejudice or hostility based on sex. The problem is when we get to subsection (3), which is where my amendment bites. It states:

“A court considering the seriousness of an offence arising from a relevant crime”—


remember that a relevant crime is expressed in terms of hostility or prejudice based on sex—

“must treat the fact that the offence is aggravated by hostility or prejudice towards sex or gender as an aggravating factor”.

I really do not understand how that is supposed to work, and I do not think that “or gender” can fit with the definition of “relevant crime”, as it has been defined wholly in relation to sex in subsection (1).

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Baroness Newlove Portrait Baroness Newlove (Con)
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My Lords, I thank everybody who has participated in this debate, whether you agree or not I think it has been—

Baroness Noakes Portrait Baroness Noakes (Con)
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I believe I should deal with my amendment to my noble friend’s amendment before she gets into winding up. Much as I would love to wind up the whole debate, I will confine my remarks to my amendment, which simply sought to remove “or gender”. I think that is the smaller issue that we are dealing with today. The bigger issue is whether this is an appropriate addition to our hate crime framework in law. I will leave my noble friend to wind up on that, and I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment 114G (to Amendment 114F) withdrawn.