All 30 Baroness Williams of Trafford contributions to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022

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Tue 14th Sep 2021
Wed 20th Oct 2021
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Committee stage & Lords Hansard part one & Committee stage part one
Wed 20th Oct 2021
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Lords Hansard - part two & Committee stage part two
Mon 25th Oct 2021
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Lords Hansard - part one & Committee stage part one
Mon 25th Oct 2021
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Lords Hansard - part two & Committee stage part two
Wed 27th Oct 2021
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Lords Hansard - part one & Committee stage part one
Wed 27th Oct 2021
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Lords Hansard - part two & Committee stage part two
Mon 1st Nov 2021
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Lords Hansard - part one & Committee stage part one
Mon 1st Nov 2021
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Lords Hansard - part two & Committee stage part two
Wed 3rd Nov 2021
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Lords Hansard - part one & Committee stage part one
Wed 3rd Nov 2021
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Lords Hansard - part two & Committee stage part two
Mon 8th Nov 2021
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Lords Hansard - part one & Committee stage part one
Mon 8th Nov 2021
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Lords Hansard - part two & Committee stage part two
Mon 15th Nov 2021
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Lords Hansard - Part 2 & Committee stage: Part 2
Wed 17th Nov 2021
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Lords Hansard - part two & Committee stage part two
Mon 22nd Nov 2021
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Lords Hansard - part two & Committee stage part two
Wed 24th Nov 2021
Wed 8th Dec 2021
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Lords Hansard - Part 2 & Report stage: Part 2
Mon 13th Dec 2021
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Lords Hansard - Part 1 & Lords Hansard - part one & Report stage: Part 1
Mon 13th Dec 2021
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Lords Hansard - Part 2 & Lords Hansard - part two & Report stage: Part 2
Wed 15th Dec 2021
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Lords Hansard - Part 2 & Lords Hansard - part two & Report stage: Part 2
Mon 10th Jan 2022
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Lords Hansard - Part 1 & Lords Hansard - part one & Report stage: Part 1
Mon 10th Jan 2022
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Lords Hansard - Part 2 & Lords Hansard - part two & Report stage: Part 2
Tue 25th Jan 2022
Tue 22nd Mar 2022
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Consideration of Commons amendments: Part 1 & Lords Hansard - Part 1
Tue 22nd Mar 2022
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Consideration of Commons amendments: Part 2 & Lords Hansard - Part 2
Thu 31st Mar 2022
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Consideration of Commons amendments & Consideration of Commons amendments
Tue 26th Apr 2022
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Consideration of Commons amendments & Consideration of Commons amendments

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill Debate

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Department: Home Office

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Baroness Williams of Trafford Excerpts
Moved by
Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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That the Bill be now read a second time.

Relevant documents: 1st, 2nd and 4th Reports from the Joint Committee on Human Rights, 6th Report from the Delegated Powers Committee, 7th Report from the Constitution Committee

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
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My Lords, the first duty of any Government is to keep the country safe. This means working together to prevent and reduce crime, backing the police—ensuring that they have the powers and tools they need—and a fair justice system which ensures that the punishment fits the crime but allows offenders who have paid their debt to society to make a fresh start.

We have already recruited nearly half of the promised 20,000 additional police officers and overall police funding has grown in real terms for the fifth consecutive year. We have also already ended the automatic early release of the most serious offenders sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment or more, we are implementing our landmark Domestic Abuse Act and we have published our new strategy to tackle violence against women and girls. However, we need to do more to protect our communities, and the measures in this Bill are directed to that end.

The police undertake a uniquely challenging role in helping to keep communities safe. They make enormous sacrifices to protect the public and, in turn, we should protect them. The police covenant will demonstrate our commitment to back police officers and staff and ensure that the police workforce do not suffer any disadvantage as a result of their role. The Bill will require the Secretary of State to report annually to Parliament on key issues that we want to prioritise, particularly the health and well-being of the workforce, their physical protection and supporting their families.

Our police and other emergency workers are committed to serving their communities. The overwhelming majority of the public applaud and salute that service but, shockingly, the latest figures show that assaults on police officers increased by 14% compared with the previous year. Obviously, that is unacceptable. The Bill therefore doubles the maximum penalty for assaulting an emergency worker to two years’ imprisonment, ensuring that those who carry out these attacks receive a punishment that is commensurate with the crime that they have committed.

Sorry, some of my speech is missing, but I will carry on. Moving on swiftly, the end-to-end rape review acknowledged that the invasive nature of the process around disclosure has long been an issue for victims. We need to do more to assure victims that information will be extracted from their mobile phone only where it is necessary and proportionate to do so in pursuit of reasonable lines of inquiry. To that end, the Bill establishes a statutory framework, backed up by a code of practice, for the extraction of information from electronic devices. Our focus is on protecting privacy and supporting victims of crime and others who voluntarily provide information to the police. In the Commons debates we heard concerns, including from the Victims’ Commissioner, that these provisions do not yet provide sufficient safeguards. We owe it to vulnerable victims and witnesses to get these provisions right and we are continuing to explore how they might be strengthened.

I return to the issue of serious violence. It blights our communities and we cannot look to the police alone to solve it; that has to be a shared endeavour, with all relevant agencies working together. Part 2 of the Bill will require local authorities, specified health authorities and fire and rescue authorities, along with the police and other specified criminal justice agencies, to come together to prevent and reduce serious violence in their area. They will be required to formulate an evidence-based analysis of the problems associated with serious violence in their locality and then produce and implement a strategy detailing how they will respond, including through early interventions. To support such collaborative working, the Bill introduces new powers to share data and information for that purpose.

One way to prevent serious violence is to ensure that we learn the lessons from the far too many deaths involving knives that we see on our streets. Each of these is an individual tragedy, with the most devastating consequences for victims and their families. We will therefore introduce offensive weapons homicide reviews—to be undertaken jointly by the relevant police force, local authority and clinical commissioning group or health board—which will examine the circumstances surrounding a death and identify lessons to prevent such tragedies in future. These homicide reviews will first be piloted to ensure that we design a review process that is as effective as possible before we roll them out across England and Wales.

Part 2 of the Bill also reforms pre-charge bail. As noble Lords will recall, changes made in 2017 sought to address legitimate concerns that individuals who had not been charged or convicted of any offence were subjected to bail conditions restricting their liberty for months or, in some cases, years while the police pursued their investigation. Noble Lords will recall that the experience of the last four years has shown that the pendulum has swung far too far in the other direction, leading to concerns that bail is not being used in appropriate cases to protect vulnerable victims and witnesses.

To address those concerns, the Bill will remove the current statutory presumption against pre-charge bail, instead adopting a neutral position. This is designed to encourage its use when it is necessary and proportionate to do so, based on each case’s individual circumstances and the list of risk factors now set out in the Bill. These changes will be reinforced by statutory guidance issued by the College of Policing to help establish a consistent approach across all forces.

Lastly, in relation to Part 2, we are extending the positions of trust offences in the Sexual Offences Act to protect 16 and 17 year-olds in a wider range of circumstances—namely, in a sporting or religious context—where adults hold a position of particular influence or power. I know this change will be particularly welcomed by the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson.

There has been much comment about the public order provisions in Part 3. The right to peaceful protest is a fundamental part of our democracy. This is not about stifling freedom of speech and assembly but about balancing those rights with the rights of others, including protecting the free press and ensuring that people can get to their work and that ambulances can quickly transport patients to hospital.

We have listened to policing professionals who have told us that the distinction made in the Public Order Act between processions and assemblies is out of date and does not reflect the operational reality. We have listened to the independent Law Commission, which recommended that the common-law offence of public nuisance be put on a statutory footing. We have listened to the cross-party Joint Committee on Human Rights, which recommended strengthening powers to ensure unhindered access—including for noble Lords—to the Parliamentary Estate. We have listened to the independent policing inspectorate, which concluded that the measures we have proposed in Part 3 would improve police effectiveness without eroding the right to protest.

Part 4 of the Bill delivers on an express manifesto commitment to tackle unauthorised encampments. These measures are not about restricting the nomadic lifestyle of Travellers but about protecting all communities from the distress and loss of amenity caused by unauthorised encampments. In particular, the Bill provides for a new criminal offence of residing in a vehicle on land without permission. It is important to stress that the offence applies only where a person fails to leave the land or remove their property without reasonable excuse when asked to do so and they have caused or are likely to cause significant damage, significant disruption or significant distress. I do not think any noble Lord would want to condone such behaviour.

The sentencing measures in the Bill will target the most serious violent and sexual offenders and those who pose the greatest threat to the public. That includes those who commit the premeditated murder of a child, those who kill through dangerous driving or careless driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs, and those who become more dangerous while in prison. However, we are aware that delivering public protection and building confidence in the criminal justice system is not just about making better use of custody. In many cases, particularly for low-level offending, effective early interventions and community supervision keep the public safer by preventing further offending. To that end, we are simplifying the adult out-of-court disposals framework, making provision to pilot adult problem-solving courts and increasing the curfew options that are available to sentencers. In addition, we will aid offender rehabilitation by reducing the time periods after which some sentences become spent so that they do not have to be disclosed to employers for non-sensitive jobs or activities.

The Bill includes measures on sentencing and remand for children. We intend these measures to increase confidence in community sentences as a robust alternative to custody and to ensure that custodial remand is used only as a last resort. They also ensure that sentences for the most serious crimes provide justice for victims and reflect the seriousness of those offences. The Bill also includes measures to enable the trialling of secure schools in order to fulfil our vision of secure environments centred on individualised education and care.

I turn now to Part 10, which includes the provision for serious violence reduction orders. These deliver on another manifesto commitment to introduce a new court order to target known knife carriers, making it easier for the police to stop and search those convicted of knife crime. These new orders are intended to help tackle high-risk offenders, by making it easier for the police to search them for weapons, and to help protect more vulnerable offenders from being drawn into further exploitation by criminal gangs. The targeted use of stop and search, as part of a wider approach to intervening and supporting offenders, will help safeguard those communities most at risk.

In Part 10 we are also strengthening the powers to manage sex offenders—one of a number of measures in the Bill which will help tackle violence against women and girls. In particular, the Bill will help positive requirements to be attached to sexual harm prevention orders and sexual risk orders; for example, by requiring perpetrators to attend a treatment programme.

Finally, the Bill includes a number of measures to improve the efficiency of the Courts & Tribunals Service. Our aim is to modernise the delivery of justice, including through the greater use of technology, but only where it is appropriate to do so. We are facilitating the ongoing use of audio and video technology in our courts and tribunals, building on its successful use during the pandemic. This will ensure shorter waiting times and less unnecessary travel for court participants. However, a full hearing in court will always be available when needed and where the court considers it to be in the interests of justice. The decision as to how a hearing is conducted will remain a matter for the judiciary—the judge, magistrates or tribunal panel—who will determine how best to protect the interests of justice on a case-by-case basis.

This is a multifaceted Bill, but there is one overarching objective: to keep the public safe. It promotes multiagency working to prevent and reduce crime; it gives the police the powers they need to fight crime and prevent disorder; it introduces tougher punishments for violent and sexual offenders; it helps end the cycle of reoffending; and it enhances the efficiency of the courts to help deliver justice for all. I commend the Bill to the House.

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in today’s debate. I start by thanking the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, for his kind words about the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson; I am sure that I echo the words of the whole House in sending him our good wishes. I pay tribute to my noble friend Lord Sandhurst for the very interesting maiden speech he made during this important debate—there were times when I wondered whether he might just pop down to the Front Bench and help me on some of the Ministry of Justice issues. I very much look forward to working with him in the future.

A couple of noble Lords, including Front-Bench speeches from the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, talked about the size of the Bill. I agree, and I know that the noble Lords will lead by example and not add to its size. I welcome the support for many of the measures in the Bill, including those in relation to the police covenant, supported by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, and others. I note the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, about other parts of the covenant that he would like to explore: doubling the maximum penalty for assaults on emergency workers, the amendments to the Sexual Offences Act in respect of positions of trust, and the provisions relating to the rehabilitation of offenders.

It is fair to say, however, that some of the other measures have not been quite so well received by your Lordships’ House. Many points have been raised, and my noble friend Lord Wolfson and I will need to consider some of these further. I will take this opportunity to touch on some of the main themes in today’s debate, but I know your Lordships will understand that I will not get through every single point made by every noble Lord—or else we will be here until tomorrow morning.

I will first address the concerns of a number of noble Lords regarding the public order provisions in Part 3 of the Bill. I had some very thoughtful, although contrary, contributions from my noble friends Lady Stowell and Lord Moylan, and the noble Lords, Lord Blunkett and Lord Walney. In particular, the noble Lord, Lord Walney, spoke about the fragility of democracy, which I thought was a very interesting point. The noble Lord, Lord Sikka, gave several examples of how, historically, our right to protest might have been curtailed. I have to say that I disagree with him. I think the right to protest peacefully is as fundamental to our democracy now as it has ever been. To be a bit mischievous, I add as a postscript that the Labour Party boycotted the Jarrow marches.

That said, we must respect the rights of others who might be affected by the increasingly disruptive tactics used by some groups. We saw further examples of such disruption during the recent protests by Extinction Rebellion, with protesters stopping emergency workers from attending to members of the public—as the noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, said—as well as gluing themselves to trains to stop ordinary working people from going to work.

The policing inspectorate found earlier this year that the balance between protesters’ rights and the rights of local residents, businesses and those who hold opposing views leans in favour of the protesters and called for a modest reset. The Bill does just that, by enabling police to better manage highly disruptive protests. These new measures will balance the rights of protesters with those of others to go about their business and their day unhindered.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, the noble Lords, Lord Rosser, Lord Oates, Lord Beith and Lord Dubs, and the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, referred to the powers conferred on the police to attach conditions relating to the generation of noise. We accept that many protests are, by their very nature, noisy—they would not be protests otherwise—and the overwhelming majority of protests will be unaffected by these provisions. But in recent years we have seen some protesters use egregious noise, not as a method of legitimately expressing themselves but to antagonise and disrupt others from the enjoyment of their own liberties and rights. This power can be used only when the police reasonably believe that the noise from a protest may cause serious disruption to the activities of an organisation or cause a significant impact on people in the vicinity of the protest.

The noble Baroness, Lady Jones, and the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, talked about the lack of a definition of serious disruption and annoyance. Part 3 of the Bill uses many terms that are already used in the Public Order Act 1986 and other legislation and that are familiar to the police and the courts. The police are very well versed in applying the tests set out in legislation in an operational context. The tests in Sections 12 and 14 of the 1986 Act as currently drafted necessarily require the exercise of judgment based on the circumstances of a particular protest, and the amendments to the 1986 Act do not change that. To assist them in this, the police receive extensive training in public order delivered by the College of Policing.

Many noble Lords, including the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, and the right reverend Prelates the Bishops of Blackburn, Manchester and Gloucester, expressed concerns about the provisions in Part 4 relating to unauthorised encampments. I must assure the House that this is not an anti-Traveller measure and it should not be portrayed as such. Those who cause harm are a small number, who often give an unfair and negative image of the vast majority of Travellers, who are completely law-abiding. The measures allow police to tackle unauthorised encampments where they cause significant damage, disruption and distress to communities and landowners. It has to be considered that it must be time-consuming and often costly for landowners to have unauthorised encampments removed or indeed to have to clean up after them. It is only right that the Government seek to protect law-abiding citizens who are adversely affected by some unauthorised encampments, a point well made by my noble friend Lord Goschen.

On Wales, I can assure the noble Lord, Lord German, and the noble Baroness, Lady Humphreys, that we have engaged extensively with the Welsh Government on this and other provisions in the Bill.

Another major topic of discussion this evening has been the serious violence duty. My noble friend Lady Bertin sought reassurance that the serious violence duty will cover domestic abuse and sexual violence. My noble friend Lord Polak, among others, also spoke on this issue. We have intentionally refrained from including a list of crime types or prioritising one type of victim over another in the legislation. This is to allow local strategies to take account of the most prevalent forms of serious violence in the locality and the impact on all potential victims. Different forms of serious violence will vary between geographical areas, and we want to enable partners to adapt and respond to new and emerging forms of serious violence as they arise and are identified. That is why we have built in flexibility for specified authorities to include in their strategy actions that focus on any form of serious violence should it be prevalent in a local area. This could include, for example, domestic abuse or sexual violence, or other forms of violence against women and girls. What we do not want to do through legislation is to restrict things from being in scope.

On the concerns about longer sentences, the noble Lords, Lord Beith, Lord German and Lord Hendy, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Gloucester and my noble friend Lord Attlee expressed concern that this legislation will lead to further increases in the prison population. We are committed to a sentencing framework that takes account of the true nature of crimes and targets specific groups of offenders accordingly. The proposals aimed at serious offenders do just that—they are highly targeted interventions for the most serious and most dangerous offenders, and those of most public concern. However, at the other end of the scale, the Bill also looks to divert offenders away from a life of crime and support them into rehabilitation.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Gloucester, the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, and others raised the issue of female offenders. We are actively looking to target female offenders through our problem-solving courts pilot, aiming to reduce the volume and frequency of reoffending, increase health and well-being and improve the maintenance of familial relationships compared to standard court processes and disposals for vulnerable female offenders. We intend to pilot these measures in four to five courts, at least one of which is anticipated to focus on piloting problem-solving measures for female offenders who meet the eligibility criteria. The Government remain fully committed to delivering the female offender strategy, which sets out a very ambitious programme of work to address the specific needs of female offenders.

The noble Lords, Lord Dubs, Lord Rooker and Lord Pannick, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Gloucester raised the issue of the sentencing of primary carers. The case law in this area makes it clear that the court must perform a balancing exercise between the legitimate aims to be served by sentencing and the effect that a sentence has on the family life of others, particularly children. The effect of a sentence on others may be capable of tipping the scales so that a custodial sentence which would otherwise be proportionate becomes disproportionate. However, there will be cases where the seriousness of the offending is such that, despite the existence of dependants, a custodial sentence is warranted. In such cases, it will still be open to the court to find that the effect of a sentence on others is such as to provide grounds for mitigating the length of a custodial sentence.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, asked about the review of sentencing in cases of domestic homicides. I am happy to report that this work is now well under way and the first stage has been completed. He was right to identify the appointment of Clare Wade QC as an independent expert to lead the second stage of the review. The terms of reference of the review have now been finalised following a period of consultation with her, and we will publish them shortly. Ms Wade will examine the findings from the initial stage of the review and then produce a report for Ministers which will consider whether the law could better protect the public and ensure that the sentences reflect the severity of these awful crimes.

A number of noble Lords, including the noble Lords, Lord Thomas of Gresford and Lord Pannick, and my noble friend Lady Sater, asked about the use of audio and video links in criminal proceedings and how it will be implemented to ensure quality and that trials remain fair. The use of live links will continue to be subject to judicial discretion, and they will be used only where the court is satisfied that it is in the interests of justice, having considered any representations from parties to the proceedings. We recognise that children have specific needs; the courts have a statutory duty to have regard to the welfare of children. They will need to be satisfied that it is in the interests of justice for a child to participate by live link, having considered any representation from parties and the relevant youth offending team.

My noble friend Lord Lexden spoke about the historic disregards and pardons for what were historically same-sex offences but are offences no longer. I have to ’fess up: I thought this was dealt with in the Armed Forces Bill, and it is not. I will immediately get on to this. I feel quite ashamed that I thought it was being dealt with, so I apologise to my noble friend.

My noble friend Lord Young of Cookham, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton and the noble Lord, Lord Best, suggested that the Bill might be used to repeal the Vagrancy Act 1824. The Government are very clear that no one should be criminalised simply for having nowhere to live. We agree that the time has come to reconsider the Vagrancy Act. It is complex, it might not be a question of simply repealing the 1824 Act and putting nothing in its place, but we reserve judgment on that. We also need to consider the devolution implication, given that it extends to Wales. I can assure noble Lords that we are on the case, and I am sure the House will hold me to account for those words.

The IPP is something that noble Lords, particularly noble and learned Lords, are concerned about. The noble and learned Lords, Lord Judge and Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood, and my noble friend Lord Garnier argued that the Bill should address the issue of offenders still subject to the IPP sentences. We acknowledge that there are concerns about the IPP sentence, but our number one priority is to protect the public. We must not forget that many of these prisoners pose a high risk, and that the measures are working, but I acknowledge the point that the noble and learned Lords have made.

The noble Lords, Lord Rosser and Lord Paddick, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, argued for the introduction of a new offence of assaulting a retail worker. Were the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy of Southwark, here, he would be arguing for it as well. I share their concerns about the unacceptable increase, during the pandemic, of assaults on shop workers. There is already a wide range of offences which criminalise disorderly and violent behaviour that would apply in cases of violence towards people whose work brings them into contact with members of the public. These offences cover the full spectrum of unacceptable behaviour, from using abusive language to the most serious and violent offences. None the less, the Government have agreed to actively consider whether legislative change is necessary and to bring forward any proposal if it is.

A number of noble Lords, including my noble friends Lord Blencathra and Lord Garnier, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, and the noble Lord, Lord Beith, referred to the reports published in the last few days by the DPRRC. I am very grateful to that committee and the Joint Committee on Human Rights for their careful scrutiny of the Bill. We will consider, very carefully, each of their conclusions and recommendations, and respond fully in due course.

A couple of noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, mentioned the extraction of information from electronic devices. We agree that there is a need for strong privacy safeguards when dealing with people’s sensitive personal information. We owe it to vulnerable victims and witnesses to get these provisions right. I assure noble Lords that we are continuing to explore how they might be strengthened.

I know that I have not been able to respond to all the points raised by noble Lords during the course of the debate. I will look at Hansard; I can already think of things that I have not had a chance to respond to tonight.

I will finish by reiterating what I said in my opening speech. This is a multifaceted Bill. We want to keep the public safe and I know that together, as the House of Lords, we will make this Bill better as we work on it in the coming weeks. I commend the Bill to the House.

Bill read a second time and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill Debate

Full Debate: Read Full Debate
Department: Ministry of Justice

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Baroness Williams of Trafford Excerpts
I hope noble Lords will forgive me for speaking at length on this issue, not least because it has been motivated to some extent by personal interest—or, should I say, to ensure that others do not have to cope largely without support in the way I and my colleagues and former colleagues have had to until now. I am pleased to be able to start this Bill on a positive note, although we believe that this part of the Bill can be improved, as colleagues around the House and I have suggested.
Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in an incredibly thoughtful debate this afternoon. I welcome the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, to his first Committee and the tone in which he opened this debate. I also pay tribute to his father. I jolly well hope that he is sitting at home watching this afternoon. I am also grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, and the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, for setting out their amendments to the first clause of the Bill, which relates to the police covenant.

I echo other noble Lords’ comments on PC Harper and Sergeant Matt Ratana, who gave their lives protecting the general public. To echo the words of the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, there is no doubt that our brave police encounter some of the most challenging circumstances on a daily basis, often operating in some of the most difficult and traumatic situations imaginable. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, for outlining, albeit in very graphic detail, some of the experiences he has had to endure during his policing career. I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Bach, for bringing to this House a unique experience as Parliament’s only PCC, and I wish him well in his retirement.

What we have talked about this afternoon is what makes the police covenant so important, with its central tenet the health and well-being of members and former members of the police workforce, their physical protection, and support for their families. It is a priority for the Government, and I am very pleased that we have brought this forward.

We recognise the very positive intention behind Amendments 1, 3 and 4, and I could not disagree what most noble Lords have said. However, what I would say is that they are not necessary, on the basis that consideration of mental health, including having regard to programmes offering advice on assessment and treatment, the impact of trauma and support and the training for health and resilience, are already well within scope of Clause 1, under the banner of health and well-being.

The noble Lord, Lord Coaker, asked me to outline what the provision includes, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Harris and Lady Brinton, talked about PTSD, which affects an awful lot of police officers, both when serving and after their career. I shall outline some of those things. First, we will ensure that occupational health standards are embedded in all forces, holding chiefs to account for providing the right quality and investment in their workforce. The National Police Wellbeing Service has been working hard to embed occupational health standards in forces, including for mental health. I think it was the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, who said that people should receive the right support that they need at the right time. That is absolutely central to providing effective mental health services.

The other thing that will be contained is consideration of a new chief medical officer for policing in England and Wales, and a review of what a good support model for families looks like, drawing on established good practice and research from other sectors and international partners. Once agreed, forces will be required to implement locally, bespoke to their local infrastructure, development of training for GPs around the role of the police, similar to military veterans GP training, and the development of pre-deployment mental health support provided to the police workforce, particularly in light of the Covid-19 pandemic and the effect that this will have had on the police workforce, some of whom I have already spoken to.

There was quite a lot of talk about the interface between the Armed Forces and the police covenant, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester clearly made the distinction between the two forces, which are very different in terms of the demands on them. The work under the police covenant will recognise the specific issues that affect those working or who have worked in policing—to answer the question posed by the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, it will include those who have retired—as a result of their role, and will seek to provide support to them and their families in addressing these issues. The police covenant and the legislation underpinning it have been drafted to ensure that they reflect the specific, unique needs of our police as they currently stand.

The heading is deliberately broad to allow the Secretary of State to consider the issues as they arise. We consciously framed the provisions in this way to enable a flexible approach to ensure that the issues that matter most to members and former members of the police can be taken into account and addressed in the annual report as they arise. This flexibility will allow the police covenant to evolve to respond to the most pertinent needs of current and former members of the police workforce in a timely manner. What we do not want to do is create a hierarchy of issues by explicitly listing specific issues in the Bill, where they will fall within those broader priorities.

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Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
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My Lords, I am very grateful for the opportunity to speak to Amendment 8, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, and of which the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, is a co-signatory. It is an important amendment. I was particularly moved by the comments made by the noble Baroness, reminding us that of course it is from a police officer’s point of view but that this is also about a complainant’s point of view. It is from both sides that this debate has taken place.

Sometimes you look at an amendment and wonder whether it is as important as some others. Listening to the moving opening remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, and those of the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, and others, I have been struck that this is a crucial amendment and a crucial discussion which is of huge significance to the police, communities and our country, particularly in light of issues that have arisen over the last few months. However, investigations that are delayed and drag on without resolution are completely unacceptable for the complainant and the officer in question.

I was completely unaware and absolutely astonished to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, from his experience as a former Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, that officers under investigation have been waiting for 10 years. Whatever the rights and wrongs of what happened and whether they were guilty or innocent, that cannot be right. This has got to be looked at by the Minister who now has responsibility for this, wherever you come from in the debate. I am sorry if other noble Lords knew this, and that I was the only person here who was unaware of it. I knew that there were delays, but frankly, that is astonishing. We have just had a significant and important debate on protecting the mental health of our officers. One can only imagine the mental health implications for people under investigation but also, as the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, reminded us, for people who have made the complaints. It does not serve justice for anybody.

There is some suggestion about delays in driving cases, but if she knows, can the Minister tell the Committee whether there is a particular delay in one area or a general problem across investigations? The noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, mentioned firearms, and the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, mentioned some other examples, but is there a particular problem which emerges when a complaint is made in a particular area? There have been many references to certain offences not being taken seriously even when complaints were made, but it would be interesting for the Minister to come back to us on that.

I think that, at its heart, this amendment is saying that if we do not get this right, public confidence is undermined and eroded, and it is of no benefit to any of us not to be confident in the system. We must believe that the investigations which take place are fair, operate in a timely manner and are done with that integrity which people can understand and believe. We all accept that. Nobody here would disagree that this is the process which must happen and should be in place. However, as we have heard, that is not happening. Therefore, the amendment rightly asks us whether the answer is to set a time limit, to lay out a process that is better and more effective. The key question for the Minister is: what plans are there to review and update the disciplinary process, to restore public confidence and to reassure all of us that, at the end of the day, not only those who are complained against can feel confident but those who are making the complaint? That is the resolution that we all want from this important amendment.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, set out, this amendment seeks to further improve the timeliness of disciplinary and misconduct proceedings against police officers. It seeks to do this by amending existing regulations governing complaint and misconduct investigations by the IOPC, as well as those conducted by force professional standards departments. In substance, they seek to introduce a new system of separate independent adjudicators with powers to close down investigations which have taken longer than 12 months, where they decide that there is no “good and sufficient” reason for delay.

Again, with this amendment, I agree with the thrust of what the noble Lord and others said, namely that disciplinary and misconduct investigations should be conducted and completed in a timely fashion, for the reasons set out by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, and the noble Lords, Lord Paddick and Lord Hogan-Howe. Like the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, when I heard “10 years” I was utterly shocked. However, this amendment comes at a time when investigation timescales are already reducing and when the Government have worked hard to reduce bureaucracy in the system and not add to it.

Under the IOPC’s predecessor, the Independent Police Complaints Commission, investigations would on average take 11 months. Since 2018, under the IOPC, that has fallen by almost 30% to just eight months. The IOPC has closed more than 90% of its cases in under 12 months and is making strong progress on the number of cases that it closes in under nine months and even in under six months. However, as the noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, said, it is in nobody’s interest for investigations to drag on for long periods unnecessarily. We recognise the impact that this can have on everyone concerned.

It might be helpful in terms of explaining the trajectory that the Government introduced a package of reforms in February last year to the police complaints and disciplinary systems. It included new provisions to improve timeliness, with an expectation that investigations will normally be completed within 12 months. If not, the investigating body must provide a written explanation of any delays and steps to bring the investigation to a conclusion. The Government expect the IOPC to go further, and it now has targets in its business plans to complete many of those investigations in under nine and six months, as I said.

There are a number of reasons why cases might take too long, including the complexity of a case, the time- scale being impacted by parallel criminal investigations, and delays in obtaining expert evidence or post-mortem reports. It might be further complicated by delays in obtaining accounts from key police witnesses and subjects. That said, it is not acceptable for investigations to go on for too long, but the trajectory of timescales is certainly downwards.

The noble Lord’s amendment would introduce an additional layer of cost and bureaucracy. It would also risk creating perverse incentives for investigators to rush to meet deadlines at the expense of the quality of an investigation, particularly in those complex cases or if historic matters are at stake.

If an investigation into police wrongdoing was terminated without being concluded and that officer might have had a case to answer for gross misconduct—I can think of very recent cases which are relevant here—this would significantly undermine public confidence and potentially the course of justice. I am sure that is not the intention of noble Lords.

The amendment also risks undermining the independence of the police disciplinary system, blurring the lines between when legally qualified persons are appointed to this role and when the same person is appointed as a legally qualified chair of a misconduct hearing. These individuals would be selected from the same pool. That fundamentally changes the role of a legally qualified chair and jeopardises the independence of their position and the disciplinary system.

In conclusion, the Government have already taken steps to reduce investigation timescales and we will be monitoring the timeliness of investigations, drawing on new data collection requirements that we introduced as part of recent reforms. I hope that, for the reasons I have outlined, the noble Lord will be happy to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have contributed to this important debate, particularly the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, for her support for speedy justice. Obviously, this impacts the complainant as well as the officers.

I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, for his contribution. It seems very strange standing here and talking about a former commissioner in that way, but I am in police mode at the moment, I think. He made a very important point about firearms officers who volunteer to take on this enormous responsibility and are then treated so badly by the system.

The Police Federation—I am grateful for its support of these amendments—accepts that there will be delays if a criminal investigation is involved. However, there are still significant delays even after the criminal matters have been dealt with, as I outlined in the examples I gave.

I thank the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, for his promise to come back all guns blazing, as it were, if I bring the amendment back on Report.

It is interesting that there is a parallel with the Armed Forces again. I spoke to a former soldier who was resigning from the police service and asked him why. He said that he was leaving because, in the Armed Forces, when something goes wrong, the most senior officer involved takes responsibility and faces a court martial, while in the police service, the responsibility is pushed down to the lowest-possible level, to alleviate the responsibility of senior officers. That is an aspect of the culture of the police service; I agree with that officer’s conclusions.

The noble Lord, Lord Coaker, talked about public confidence. If there is no confidence in the Independent Office for Police Conduct and the police complaints system, this will be partly due to the undue delays. Complainants are beginning to think “What are they trying to cover up? Why is it taking so long?”. It is essential that these things are dealt with in a timely manner.

I thank the Minister for her support in principle, but the examples I gave were not complex cases; they were simple, but they still took years. They did not involve expert witnesses, yet there were still delays. These are recent cases from last year.

I am sorry but I do not accept the Minister’s assertion that this amendment would result in a rush to complete investigations. These completely independent people would assess whether there were justified reasons for investigations going on as long as they had. Clearly, if these investigations were not being dealt with in a timely manner, they would have something to worry about. This is about picking up those cases in which there is unnecessary and unreasonable delay. Of course, the same chair would not adjudicate over whether an investigation was going on too long and then chair the discipline investigation.

We are on to something here and I am very grateful to the Police Federation for bringing it to my attention. We may well need to discuss this further on Report, but at this stage, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill Debate

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Department: Home Office

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Baroness Williams of Trafford Excerpts
Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, there are a number of general points I need to make about the new legal duties to support a multiagency approach to preventing and tackling serious violence. I will try to make them in the appropriate group of amendments, but I hope the Committee will accept that there is a great deal of overlap.

The overwhelming response of the non-governmental organisations I have met with which have concerns about this part of the Bill is that, as drafted, it is actually about forcing agencies to support a police-led enforcement approach to serious violence—not a public health approach, or even a multiagency approach, to preventing and tackling serious violence. The Government’s own consultation on this issue gave three options: a new legal duty on specific organisations to effectively share information with the police; a new legal duty to revise community safety partnerships, the existing and well-established mechanism where local authorities and police forces work together to prevent and tackle crime, and where the local police chief and local authority chief executive are equal partners in doing whatever each partner and others can do to reduce crime and disorder; and a voluntary non-legislative approach. There was more support for a legislative approach than a voluntary one, but more respondents favoured enhancing community safety partnerships—40%—compared with a new legal duty to provide information to the police—37%—and, tellingly, the police supported equally options one and two.

Even the police, the sector most likely to benefit from a police-led enforcement approach, were ambivalent as to whether it should be a truly multiagency approach by enhancing community safety partnerships or a police-led enforcement approach. So why did the Government opt for the latter and not the former? A police-led enforcement approach was the Government’s preferred option from the beginning. These amendments, which we support, are the first manifestation of challenging that police-led enforcement approach, in that the legal duty does not sufficiently recognise that many young people, particularly those involved in county lines, are victims of criminal exploitation rather than free-acting criminals. Henry Blake is a former youth worker who draws on his personal experiences of working with at-risk young people in his powerful film, “County Lines”—a drama about one young man who is drawn into county lines drug dealing. I would highly recommend this film to any noble Lord who is unaware of the realities of county lines.

Many young people lacking family support and living in poverty find themselves groomed by adults who appear to show them the love and concern they desperately seek, and who treat them to meals in burger restaurants and buy them new trainers—something their often lone parent cannot afford. They promise them money, not just so they can afford the latest designer clothing that they need if they are not to be bullied by gangs, who see those who do not wear designer labels—even Nike and Adidas—as targets. It is not just so they can go to McDonald’s whenever they want, but so that they can help their mum put food on the table and make sure their younger sister has decent clothes to wear. I hope noble Lords can see how easily vulnerable young people are drawn into criminality, not just for pecuniary advantage but for the sense of belonging and the sense that someone is at last paying them some attention. For many, it is as much an emotional need as a financial one.

Of course, the reality is very different. The adults exploiting these young people take the vast majority of the profits of the drug dealing in which they are involving these young people whom they have groomed, and the youngsters take all the risks, often ending in violence from rival drug dealers. These young people are victims of criminal exploitation, and each one of us is to blame—not them. It is our fault that their single mothers have to do three minimum wage jobs to pay the rent and put food on the table and so, through no fault of their own, can rarely be there for their kids as most wish they could be. It is our fault that too many people do not have a decent place to live, because they cannot afford private rents for an appropriately sized home in a good state of repair, and that there is a shocking shortage of social housing and much of what exists is in an appalling state of repair. It is our fault that, as the cost of living spirals upwards, we take away £20 a week in universal credit from those most in need. The Government’s response is to force other agencies to divulge information that makes it easier for them to prosecute these victims of criminal exploitation.

That is why the Bill needs to radically change from a police-led enforcement approach to preventing and tackling serious violence to a truly public health and multiagency approach, starting with—although this is only the beginning of the changes needed—putting the safeguarding of children involved in serious violence in the Bill. That must include, as the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, suggests in his Amendment 50, and as both Barnardo’s and the Children’s Society have suggested, including a statutory definition of child criminal exploitation in the meaning of exploitation in Section 3 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 and, as the noble Baroness, Lady Newlove, suggests in her Amendment 52, training for police officers in particular, to ensure that they are aware of child criminal exploitation and actively seeking evidence of such exploitation.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
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My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, for setting out the case for these amendments. I wholeheartedly agree that nothing is more important than safeguarding children at risk of harm. That is why we introduced reforms to safeguarding in 2017, which led to the establishment of multiagency safeguarding arrangements in 2019. The statutory safeguarding partners responsible for safeguarding—that is, local authorities, clinical commissioning groups and chief officers of police—are also named as specified authorities under the serious violence duty, so I would argue that it is truly a multiagency approach. This demonstrates the importance of safeguarding in protecting children and young people from involvement in serious violence. We expect that existing work to safeguard vulnerable children will link very closely with local efforts to prevent and reduce serious violence. Therefore, we do not believe that it is necessary to include a separate safeguarding requirement in this part of the Bill, and it would not be possible to do so without duplicating existing safeguarding legislation.

On Amendment 25, which would require specified authorities to prepare and implement an early help strategy, the noble Lord is absolutely right to highlight the importance of prevention and early intervention and this, of course, is the key aim of the serious violence duty. We recognise that early intervention and prevention are essential to reducing serious violence. The duty requires partners to work collaboratively to develop a strategy to reduce serious violence in their local area. We expect partners to work with upstream organisations, such as education providers and children’s social care, when developing this strategy to ensure that it covers actions that relate to early help and considers risks that occur before a young person becomes involved in serious violence. This ensures that any strategy will include early help for this cohort. We believe that it would be less effective to separate this out into an additional strategy.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill Debate

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Department: Home Office

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Baroness Williams of Trafford Excerpts
Lords Hansard - part one & Committee stage
Monday 25th October 2021

(2 years, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 40-III Third marshalled list for Committee - (25 Oct 2021)
Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, for raising the issue of medical confidentiality. She said the amendments provide that in exercising the serious violence duty, an authority or individual could not share or be required to share any information that would breach doctor-patient confidentiality as set out in the General Medical Council ethical guidance on confidentiality. One of the amendments would also remove clinical commissioning groups and local health boards from the list of authorities that are subject to the serious violence duty under Part 2 on the prevention, investigation and prosecution of crime.

As has been said, Clause 9 gives the Secretary of State the power to authorise by regulations the disclosure of information by or to a prescribed person, a specified authority or local policing body, an education authority, a prison authority and a youth custody authority. While the Bill states in Clause 9 that such regulations

“must provide that they do not authorise a disclosure of information that … would contravene the data protection legislation”,

that does not relate to a breach of any obligation of confidence owed by the person making the disclosure in respect of which the requirement is only that the regulations “may” provide that such a disclosure does not result in a breach.

Clause 15 on the disclosure of information provides for the disclosure of information but states:

“A disclosure of information authorised by this section does not breach … any obligation of confidence owed by the person making the disclosure”.


Yet, as has been said on more than one occasion today, it is the common-law duty of confidentiality that helps to uphold the trust of patients in health services, which can be extremely hard to gain and extremely easy to lose.

Clause 16, on the supply of information to local policing bodies, states:

“A local policing body may … request any person listed … to supply it with such information as may be specified in the request”,


but

“a person who is requested to supply information … must comply with the request”

and:

“A disclosure of information … does not breach … any obligation of confidence owed by the person making the disclosure”.


That sounds more like a demand than a request. The only caveat is that compliance with the request for information does not require a disclosure of information that would contravene the data protection legislation, although even then

“in determining whether a disclosure would do so, the duty imposed by that subsection is to be taken into account”.

The subsection in question is the one that the person so requested to supply information must comply with the request.

Could the Minister give a couple of examples of what that means in practical terms? What do the words

“in determining whether a disclosure would do so, the duty imposed by that subsection is to be taken into account”

actually mean in hard, practical terms?

Maybe I am wrong, but Clause 16 appears to legally require clinical commissioning groups and local health boards to provide confidential health information to the police, and Clauses 9 and 15 would grant CCGs and LHPs permission to share confidential health information with a wider list of recipients such as councils and educational authorities, as well as the police. Perhaps the Minister will put our minds at rest on this, but on the face of it this appears to introduce a mandatory blanket obligation for clinical commissioning groups and local health boards to share confidential health information with the police, replacing, as has been said, the existing system, which allows healthcare professionals to disclose confidential information on public interest grounds on a case-by-case basis if it is necessary for the prevention, detection or prosecution of serious crime or where there is an imminent risk of serious harm to an individual.

I hope the Minister, speaking on behalf of the Government, can address in her response the concerns that have been raised, and say what safeguards would prevent confidential medical information being inappropriately made available under the Bill, beyond the existing criteria, guidance and procedures for such disclosure in relation to public interest grounds. If the Government are saying—I am not entirely clear whether they are or not—that the present arrangements are not properly working or are no longer appropriate in today’s world, perhaps there is a need for further discussions by the Government on this aspect of the Bill to make sure that we get any change in the law right and maintain what has been referred to in today’s debate as “the right balance”.

We need to know far more about the real reasons for the change the Government are proposing, what its implications are and how it will be interpreted and applied under the terms of the Bill. I, too, hope the Minister will agree to further discussions on this issue in view of the concerns that have been raised and which are certainly worthy of a full and detailed response with examples.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate; it has been incredibly informative. On the last point made by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, about further discussions, and as requested by the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, I am very happy to convene a meeting. On that note, officials have met the GMC to discuss the data-sharing clauses. They have agreed to support the drafting of the statutory guidance and officials have also offered to meet the BMA, but a date has not been fixed. I would like to schedule the meeting that the noble Lord and the noble Baroness request, and it would be great if they would join it.

On the first point made by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, about a police-led approach, in the serious violence duty draft guidance it is writ really quite large that this is not led by one agency or another but is a shared endeavour towards a public health approach. There are two pages on that, and I think the noble Lord might find that really helpful. At this point, I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, for both giving the benefit of his experience and bringing balance to the debate; “balance” seems to be a word quite often used in this debate.

Information sharing between relevant agencies is absolutely essential to the discharge of the serious violence duty. The issue before us is how such information sharing, particularly when it relates to personal data of identifiable persons, is properly regulated, and the scope of any restrictions on data sharing. I recognise that there are concerns, particularly in respect of patient information, and that we need to examine them carefully, but I am also concerned that at least some of these amendments seek to significantly weaken the provisions in Chapter 1 of Part 2. Amendment 54 is a case in point. It would have the effect of removing specified health authorities—clinical commissioning groups or CCGs in England and local health boards in Wales—from Schedule 1 and consequently remove the requirement for such authorities to participate in the preparation and development of local serious violence strategies.

I know that noble Lords would agree that the health sector has a very important contribution to make to local partnership working to prevent and reduce serious violence. The provision of local health data will be necessary to take a comprehensive view of the levels of violence being brought to the attention of services in a local area. Local health services may also be involved in the implementation of local strategies, for example where health-related support services are to be commissioned for those at risk of or involved in serious violence. I therefore do not think that it is appropriate to remove specified health authorities from this part of the Bill.

On the point made by the noble Lords, Lord Paddick and Lord Rosser, I would like to be clear that the information-sharing provisions under the serious violence duty do not place any mandatory requirements directly on GPs, doctors or other practitioners to disclose information that they hold. The power to disclose information in Clause 15 applies to information held by CCGs in England and local health boards in Wales, as they are specified authorities. Local policing bodies can request information under Clause 16 from CCGs in England and local health boards in Wales only when it relates to them, their functions, or functions they have contracted out, and only where that information is for the purposes of enabling or assisting the local policing body to exercise its functions under Clause 13 of the Bill. I think that was the point that the noble Lord, Lord Patel, referred to, unless I am wrong.

Confidential patient information can already be lawfully disclosed in the public interest where that information can be used to prevent, detect or prosecute a serious crime. However, such decisions about whether disclosures of confidential patient data are justified must always be made on a case-by-case basis, in line with data protection legislation, which is also the case for the serious violence duty provisions.

On the common-law duty of confidentiality, the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, about balance was really pertinently made. So many crimes that we can all think of, particularly against children—he mentioned a case that involved children—could have been avoided had practitioners shared relevant information. Existing statutory guidance on the Care Act 2014 already signals specific circumstances where the common-law duty of confidentiality and data protection legislation would not be contravened by the sharing of personal data—for example, where there is an overriding public interest.

Confidentiality can be overridden if there is a necessity—namely, abuse or neglect. Ordinarily, consent should be obtained but, where this is not possible, practitioners must consider whether there is an overriding public interest that would justify information sharing—namely, risk of serious harm. Again, that point was made by the noble Lord, Lord Patel. Confidential patient information can already be lawfully disclosed in the public interest where that information can be used to prevent, detect or prosecute a serious crime. However, such decisions about whether disclosures of confidential patient data are justified must always be made on that case-by-case basis.

I hope that I have provided some reassurance on this matter. As I indicated at the start, I know that there are particular sensitivities about sharing patient information, but, having heard the concerns, I will reflect carefully on this debate and convene the meeting that noble Lords requested ahead of Report. I hope that, with that, the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, will be content to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
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Forgive me, but before the Minister sits down, can I ask her to reflect and, if she wants to come back, to address the issue of who decides? I am very grateful for her assurance about intention and that there is no attempt to go further than classical practice has gone, which is a public interest exception to general patient confidentiality. But if, for example, under the new provisions, there were to be a dispute between, say, the police and the relevant health authority and/or the relevant health authority and the individual practitioner, who would decide? That is of course crucial in relation to patient-doctor trust.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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The decision may be challenged, but the person who decides would be the person who holds the data.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, I am very grateful to the Minister for her explanations and for the promise of further meetings. It might help those further meetings if I raise the issues I have now. I am concerned at her saying that approaches cannot be made directly to medical practitioners but only through these other bodies. If the result was the same—that confidential medical information about individuals was divulged—that is not much of a reassurance. I am grateful for the information that officials met with the GMC and that it agreed to help with statutory guidance. Perhaps the Minister can meet with the GMC and it can help with amending the Bill.

The Minister said that the issue with some of the amendments is that they weaken the duties in the Bill. That is the whole purpose of the amendments. Regarding the draft guidance and its emphasis on a public health approach, that is not what is on the face of the Bill. The perception of all those I have spoken to—we will come to this issue when considering further groups—is that this is all about providing information to the police. To be fair, the Minister said so in her response. The belief among many authorities is that this is all about providing information to the police and is not a two-way process.

The Minister talked about the Care Act and said that there is already a duty to pass over confidential medical information if there is an overriding public interest. Where in the Bill does it say that there must be an overriding public interest before information is passed over?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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The detection and prevention of serious violence would be the relevant part, which also reads across to the Care Act 2014. There would have to be a public interest assessment and as I said, there is no mandation. But the body or doctor in question would, as the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, said, have to balance the importance of the prevention, detection, and reduction of serious violence with the disclosure of that information.

Baroness Brinton Portrait Baroness Brinton (LD) [V]
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken on these amendments, especially those who are doctors—the noble Lords, Lord Patel and Lord Kakkar—and those who are lawyers. The noble Lord, Lord Carlile, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, rightly pointed out the balance of decision-making that every doctor must strike. I too made that point in referring to the excellent GMC guidance on confidentiality and good practice in handling patient information. I apologise if my point was not clear. It is not that doctors do not have to navigate the boundaries of confidentiality, because they do and I am quite sure there are times when they can be improved, as I said. As my noble friend Lord Paddick and others have said, this Bill contains powers that appear to override these responsibilities, demanding that CCGs and health boards in Wales pass on personal medical information; however, the doctor who logged that data is unable to take part in any decision about it being passed on.

The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, explained the concerns of those of us who have signed these amendments about these duties, which clearly override a doctor’s choice in making such a decision. The noble Lord, Lord Patel, said that circumstances are vital, since under this Bill he, as a doctor, would not necessarily be consulted by the CCG in question before it passed on any sensitive data to the policing body. I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, for Amendment 48, the wording of which I will look at before any amendment is brought back.

The noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, and others talked about where the boundaries lie. We have heard repeatedly about the boundaries, but I want to pick up on my noble friend Lord Paddick’s question to the Minister. He asked her to point out to us exactly where in the Bill it sets the parameters for the GMC guidance and everything else we have discussed. I cannot find it, and nor can the GMC, the BMA and others who have briefed us. That is why we have tabled these amendments. We want this to be made clear. In a perfect world the data would be pseudonymised or anonymised, but we recognise that for some of these clauses that is inappropriate. Therefore, the doctor who has taken that medical information must be involved in any decisions.

I thank the Minister for the offer of a meeting and absolutely appreciate that this will happen. We understand that information will need to be shared between bodies—that is not the object of our amendment. We agree that the major issue is whether that information is identifiable and whether the doctor who made the original decision to record it is part of any decision about its being passed on. I completely understand the Minister’s concerns about Amendment 54. However, the question of the balance of the information being passed on—in this case, personal, confidential and identifiable medical data—clearly must be worked out more explicitly to give the registration bodies, doctors and nurses confidence that their use of the data will not be abused by others who may not have the full information required to address those difficult boundary issues. The doctor must have a say in any data being passed on.

I look forward to getting answers to my many questions in due course, so that we can all gauge who is making the decisions about the data being passed on and what level of information can remain confidential. I thank the Minister for her answers. I expect to return to this issue on Report and look forward to action in the meantime, such as meetings at which we can find those answers. For now, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

--- Later in debate ---
to the list of those who have a priority need for accommodation under the Housing Act 1989, if the provision would reduce or prevent the risk of that person becoming a victim of serious violence. My noble friend Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville quite rightly raised the issue of funding for local authorities to enable them to fulfil this vital duty.
Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, I am most grateful to my noble friend Lord Young of Cookham for setting out the case for these amendments. I fully agree with him that local authorities and housing associations are able to make a significant contribution to local efforts to prevent and reduce serious violence.

In light of the fact that local authorities have responsibility for delivering services such as housing and community safety in local areas, we expect that such services will be a crucial part of the contribution that they make to the partnership arrangements, as they participate in the preparation and implementation of the serious violence strategy. We believe that they are therefore well placed to provide that strategic overview of, and information about, housing issues in the local area.

The statutory guidance for the serious violence duty, which has been published in draft and to which we have referred a few times this evening, highlights such duties and emphasises their relevance, as part of the work to meet the requirements of the serious violence duty. We do not think that it is necessary to explicitly state in the Bill that local authorities must have due regard to their housing duties as they fulfil the requirements of this duty because there will be a requirement for them to have due regard to the statutory guidance in any case.

Furthermore, current legislation already provides for those in most need to be prioritised for social housing, and statutory guidance makes it clear that local authorities should consider giving priority to those who require urgent rehousing as a result of domestic abuse and other types of violence. We will continue to work with the relevant sectors to ensure that the statutory guidance is clear on this point, ahead of a public consultation following Royal Assent and prior to the serious violence duty provisions coming into effect.

But, of course, we must do all that we can to identify and provide support to the individuals who are most at risk of involvement in serious violence, including those occupying social housing or who may be at risk of homelessness. But including registered providers of social housing within the provisions for the serious violence duty will not be necessary to achieve this.

As part of the work to prevent and reduce serious violence, specified authorities in a local area will be required to work together to identify the kinds and causes of serious violence and, in doing so, establish the groups of individuals who are most at risk in a local area.

Legislation already sets out that, when a local housing authority makes such a request, a private registered provider of social housing or a registered social landlord shall co-operate to such extent as is reasonable in the circumstances in offering accommodation to people with priority under the authority’s allocation scheme. This includes properties provided to those in priority need, including those with urgent housing needs, as a result of violence or threats of violence. Statutory guidance on allocations issues earlier this year, to which local authorities may pay due regard, makes this clear. It is also worth noting that the Tenancy Standard, issued by the Regulator of Social Housing, contains specific provision to ensure that private registered providers of social housing co-operate with local authorities’ strategic housing function.

Those who are at risk of violence should already receive support, if they need social housing and/or homelessness assistance, but local authorities must be able to respond to their strategic housing function and individual needs on a case-by-case basis. There is a risk that these amendments would inadvertently undermine the work of specified authorities to establish the most prevalent crime types and cohorts most at risk by mandating that a particular group falls under this category.

Furthermore, we must make sure that the duties placed on registered providers and local housing authorities are proportionate, bearing in mind both their size—there are, after all, 1,400 private registered providers of social housing in England, some of which are very small, and 165 local authorities that are social landlords—and the extent of their direct levers to deal with serious violence. They may therefore have limited direct capabilities, if any, to help to identify or prevent serious violence in the area. This is particularly true of small communities with reduced capacity and resources. The duties would therefore impose a material and unresourced burden.

We must also bear in mind the risk that social tenants may be inadvertently stigmatised as at risk of serious violence. Stigma was a key theme to emerge from the social housing Green Paper consultation exercise, and we must therefore be particularly careful not to further this perception and feeling.

I turn to Amendment 51. It is vital that all victims of serious violence who need to leave their home in order to escape violence are supported to access safe and secure alternative accommodation. It may be helpful for noble Lords if I explain how the existing provisions in homelessness legislation apply in relation to victims of violence.

A household is considered to be homeless if it would not be reasonable for them to continue to occupy their accommodation. Section 177 of the Housing Act is clear that it is not reasonable for a person to continue to occupy accommodation if it is probable that this will lead to domestic abuse or other violence against that person or another member of their household. This means that victims of violence or of threats of violence that are likely to be carried out, who need to move because it is not safe for them to remain where they are currently living, are able to access support from council homelessness services. Furthermore, if a housing authority has a reason to believe that a person is homeless, eligible for assistance and has a priority need, Section 188(1) of the Housing Act requires the housing authority to provide interim accommodation while it carries out further investigations.

If homelessness is not successfully prevented or relieved, a housing authority will owe the main housing duty to applicants who are eligible, have a priority need for accommodation and are not homeless intentionally. Households containing dependent children have priority need, as in the examples raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Blake of Leeds, relating to gang-related violence, which was mentioned also by the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, and the noble Lord, Lord Paddick.

In addition, a person might be assessed as having priority need if they are considered significantly more vulnerable than an ordinary person would be if they became homeless as a result of ceasing to occupy accommodation by reason of violence from another person or threats of violence that are likely to be carried out. Homelessness legislation therefore already makes provision for victims of serious violence to receive support to access alternative accommodation.

Many local housing authorities already work with the police and other partners to reduce the risk of serious violence, including through the provision of alternative accommodation. Where this works well, it is clear that it is very important that services such as youth offending teams, educational authorities and the National Probation Service work together locally to provide support for the household and the victim of violence. Housing alone without that support is clearly not a sustainable option. The new serious violence duty will facilitate this and is intended to generate better partnership working locally to further protect this cohort.

The draft guidance is clear that local authorities are responsible for the delivery of a range of vital services for people and businesses in a local area, including but not limited to children’s and adult’s social care, schools, housing and planning, youth services and community safety, so they will have an essential role to play in partnership arrangements. The inclusion of this detail in the guidance for the new duty, alongside the existing homelessness legislation and guidance, is the most effective way of supporting victims of serious and gang-related violence to relocate and start afresh.

While it is so important that those at risk of serious violence who are homeless or are at risk of homelessness are supported to find an accommodation solution that meets their needs and reflects their individual circumstances, we do not think it is right to extend automatic priority need to other victims of serious violence that is not domestic abuse. While the violence or threat of violence may be present in their community, it does not usually take place in the home itself.

We think that the current legislative framework and accompanying statutory homelessness code of guidance, combined with the statutory guidance on social housing allocations, strikes the right balance as it considers the vulnerability of the applicant on a case-by-case basis and is the most appropriate means of determining priority for accommodation secured by the local authority. This approach ensures sufficient provision for homeless victims of serious violence who are vulnerable as a result of that violence, while also ensuring that finite resources, including temporary accommodation, are prioritised effectively and accommodation is there for those most in need.

The second part of Amendment 51 seeks to place a duty on the Secretary of State to

“issue a code of practice”

covering Section 177 of the Housing Act. I say to my noble friend at this point that the statutory homelessness code of guidance already provides such guidance for housing authorities when a person at risk of violence or the threat of violence approaches a local authority in housing need. The statutory guidance on social housing allocations also makes it clear that local housing authorities should consider giving preference to such persons.

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Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, can I ask the Minister to clarify something? I think the noble Baroness said that this additional duty was not necessary, as it was with domestic violence, because the violence does not happen in the home. In the example I gave, where a drug dealer owed money harasses and threatens a family to get their money back, surely you could say that that violence is happening on the doorstep, or perhaps inside the home if the drug dealer breaks the door down. Surely there is a need in those circumstances for that family to be rehoused to reduce serious violence and get them out of the way in a similar way to a victim of domestic violence.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I think what I said to the House was that households containing dependent children have a priority need and that a person may be assessed as having priority need if they were considered to be significantly more vulnerable than an ordinary person would be if they became homeless as a result of ceasing to occupy accommodation by reason of violence from another person or threats of violence that are likely to be carried out. In terms of domestic abuse, it is widely acknowledged that domestic abuse crimes are committed inside the home, out of the view of the public, by household members. The changes made to the Domestic Abuse Act to extend priority need to people who are homeless as a result of being a victim of domestic abuse reflected that.

Baroness Blake of Leeds Portrait Baroness Blake of Leeds (Lab)
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The Minister is setting great store by the guidance that is going to come forward. Can I ask her for reassurance that there will be adequate opportunity for those working on the ground to put across the point of view of the reality of dealing with families in some of the most distressing circumstances we could possibly imagine?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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Certainly, I completely concur with the noble Baroness and there will be ample opportunity to look at the draft guidance as well.

Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I am grateful to all those who have taken part in this debate, beginning with my co-pilot, the noble Baroness, Lady Blake, who made the point that this is all about prevention and early intervention, and housing is absolutely crucial if we are to achieve that. She mentioned the broad support for this group of amendments from organisations such as Shelter and Crisis and made the point that this is simply building on existing provisions and extending what is already the case for domestic violence to gang-related violence—I will come back to that point in a moment. The thrust of the amendment to which she spoke was to embed best practice in statutory guidance; she mentioned the tragic case of the child Chris.

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, who referred to the work of Mr Houlder on knife crime—the scourge of many housing estates—and also referred to the Edlington case, which he mentioned in an earlier debate. That underlined the point that there can sometimes be fatal consequences if there is inadequate consultation between the housing authorities and police authorities—a point that was underlined later in the debate by the noble Lord, Lord Bach. I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, for her support; she made the point that there is a potential resource implication behind these amendments if they are to be fully effective. Again, the experience of the noble Lord, Lord Bach, as a police and crime commissioner was of real value to the debate; he emphasised the importance of strengthening the link between housing and the police.

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, who expressed concern that the Bill was too focused on a police-led initiative. The impact of these amendments will be to broaden the base by including housing; other amendments later on will also help broaden the base. He was anxious that this should not be entirely police-led.

I am grateful to the Minister for a thoughtful, sympathetic and comprehensive response to the debate, informed by her experience as a council leader in the north-west but also by her time as a Minister in what was then the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, now the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities—he said with some hesitation. She made the point that she expected housing authorities to participate—they were well placed to do so—and referred on many occasions to statutory guidance. The concern that I have, and some other noble Lords may have, is that there is a gap between statutory guidance and what actually happens on the ground; hence the case for legislation to make it clear that this is not just guidance, there is an obligation so to do.

I recall listening to exactly the same arguments we have heard this evening in resisting what became the Domestic Abuse Act, which gave a statutory right to be rehoused to those suffering from domestic violence. Previously, the argument was, “There are adequate powers for local authorities to do this under the housing legislation.” However, we have now taken the step forward and put it in the Domestic Abuse Act, and this will build on that precedent and extend it to gang violence. I am concerned by the gap between theory and practice, and this would embed best practice in legislation.

Having said that, as I said, my noble friend gave a thorough response which I want to reflect on, together with the contributions of other noble Lords who have taken part in this debate, and in the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill Debate

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Department: Home Office

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Baroness Williams of Trafford Excerpts
Lords Hansard - part two & Committee stage
Monday 25th October 2021

(2 years, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 40-III Third marshalled list for Committee - (25 Oct 2021)
Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I have surprised myself, because I did not intend to speak on this group, but I find myself needing to speak in support of the noble Baroness, Lady Newlove. Generally speaking, I am not a great fan of machinery of government changes, new quangos or even of new, multiple statutory duties, but if we are taking the trouble to legislate on something as serious as serious violence, we need to think about transparency, accountability, enforcement and resourcing. Talk is cheap, and legislation is a little more expensive—but the colleagues in that Box do not get paid so much. These principles have been the undercurrent of the debate on this group.

The noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, spoke eloquently on the part of the Delegated Powers Committee, and I did not disagree with a word, save to say that I was once a lawyer in the department advising him, and we are not going to blame the officials. My recollection was that Home Office lawyers were actually terrified of the Delegated Powers Committee; it was sometimes Ministers who were a little more blasé. However, every substantive point the noble Lord made was important. There is no point having guidance if it is not to be published—unless it is guidance to the security agencies. More generally, the noble Baroness, Lady Newlove, nailed it, as did my noble friend Lord Coaker. We all care about these issues. I worked on the Crime and Disorder Act when it was a Bill all those years ago, but we have heard the figures.

If it is worth legislating in this area at all, it is worth looking at how the legislation is to be enforced and resourced. That cannot be done in secret and we cannot just have directions from central government to starving local authorities; it must be public, it must be accountable, so I speak in support.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have set out the case for the various amendments in this group. The noble Lord, Lord Coaker, pointed out that certain crimes are up, and he is absolutely right. He asked, rightly, how these strategies will be different. They will work only if they can measurably show something at the end. The noble Lord, Lord Russell of Liverpool, gave us some of the solutions: first, agencies working together in a multiagency approach, as the noble Baroness, Lady Newlove, says. Sharing data trends is one of the suggestions in the draft guidance: sharing those trends, where the hotspots are and where agencies can have a better focus on the needs of certain areas. Local needs assessment is going to be crucial, but the monitoring and reviewing against those three measures that the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, and, indeed, the Government set out will be the ultimate measure of success or otherwise. He is right to point out that successive Governments have had successive strategies to try to deal with these things—that is because it is just not that easy. If it were, someone would have worked it out by now. I think that is at the heart of what we are talking about this evening.

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Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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My Lords, I will be relatively brief, for two reasons. The first is the time. The second is that many of these issues were raised in our earlier debate on medical confidentiality.

The amendments in my name in this group would remove provisions in a number of clauses in this chapter of the Bill, allowing for obligations of confidence and restrictions on the disclosure of data to be breached. They target the same provisions that have already been raised by noble Lords in this debate. At this stage, the intention of my amendments is to probe the intended effect of these powers.

As we have heard, the Bill provides:

“The Secretary of State may by regulations authorise the disclosure of information”


between authorities involved in the serious violence duty. Clause 9(4) provides that those regulations

“may provide that a disclosure under the regulations does not breach … any obligation of confidence owed by the person making the disclosure, or … any other restriction on the disclosure of information”.

Subsection (5) goes on to qualify this somewhat, stating that the regulations must

“not authorise a disclosure of information that … would contravene the data protection legislation”.

However, it then provides that,

“in determining whether a disclosure would do so, any power conferred by the regulations is to be taken into account”.

What restrictions do the Government envisage being breached under the provision for “any other restriction” in Clause 9? What restrictions do they mean? Do these provisions differ from what is in place for existing duties that require joined-up working? The Bill states that the one restriction the regulations are not intended to breach is data protection legislation but, as I have said, it then seems to suggest that this will be qualified by the powers under the Bill. Can the Government expand on that in their response? In what way should

“any power conferred by the regulations”

be taken into account? Can the Minister give some examples?

The sharing of information and the prevention of silo working are, as has been said, vital for tackling crime and for safeguarding purposes. We have heard in previous groups, not least from my noble friend Lady Blake of Leeds on housing provision, what can happen when services are not able to work together to put necessary or urgent support in place. However, the wording in the Bill has given rise to considerable concern in organisations working on these issues, as has been said already. I will not repeat the points already raised but will touch briefly on a few issues before I conclude.

First, one of the key concerns that has been raised by organisations, and which was raised again during the debate this evening, is the erosion of trust that is risked if people feel that private information about them may be passed on in unexpected ways. In particular, there is a risk of young people feeling they cannot build the relationships of trust with social workers, teachers or service providers which are absolutely irreplaceable for preventing violence and keeping those young people safe. Do the Government recognise that risk that breaches of trust risk make it harder to achieve the aim of reducing violence? Who makes the decision about when it is or is not in a young person’s best interest that information is shared, an issue which my noble friend Lady Chakrabarti raised in an earlier debate?

Secondly, later in the Bill, we will spend time debating provisions to protect the privacy of victims of crime. This section explicitly defines

“becoming involved in serious violence”

as including victims of crime. How will these data-sharing provisions impact the victim of crime?

Finally, the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime and the Information Commissioner’s Office have both reported significant problems with the Met’s gangs violence matrix, an existing tool to identify and risk assess individuals involved with gangs. The key issues included the disproportionate inclusion of young black males on the matrix, and data protection, including serious data breaches. What proactive learning has been undertaken from the experience of the gangs violence matrix to prevent the same problems arising again under the provisions of this Bill?

I said I would be brief; I hope I have achieved that. Like other noble Lords, I look forward to the Minister’s reply.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I thank the noble Lord for his brevity and thank the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, and other noble Lords for setting out the case for these amendments. The noble Baroness put forward Amendments 34 and 60 which seek to avoid possible conflicts with competing duties. As the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, said, the arguments put forward in this debate are very similar to those discussed in relation to earlier amendments.

To engender an effective multiagency approach to preventing and reducing serious violence, we need all the relevant parts of the system taking equal responsibility and playing their part. The specified authorities for the serious violence duty, being the police, local authorities, probation, youth offending teams and fire and rescue authorities, clinical commissioning groups in England and local health boards in Wales, have been intentionally chosen because of the direct link between the work they already do and the need to prevent and reduce serious violence. Therefore, I do not feel it is necessary or correct to provide such authorities with the opportunity to be exempted from the serious violence duty, as we expect that it would complement the existing duties of such authorities rather than conflict with them.

I understand that there are wider concerns that this duty may breach other duties of the specified authorities, such as duties of confidence, the point most frequently mentioned, and I will come to address those shortly. However, I think that Amendment 34 would unhelpfully weaken the impact of the serious violence duty.

Similarly, in relation to Amendment 60 to Clause 14, we have intentionally required the initial collaboration between specified authorities and education, prison and youth custody authorities as part of the preparation of the local strategy in order to ascertain whether any such institution ought to be involved in the implementation of the strategy or, indeed, need not be involved, as the case may be. This is a crucial step in ensuring that the institutions which are affected by serious violence will be drawn into the work of the local partnership without placing unnecessary burdens on those which may not. Therefore, I do not think that such authorities should be able to opt out of this consultation, given that it would ultimately be in their interests to engage with the specified authorities at this stage in order to ascertain whether their future engagement in the strategy’s implementation will be required.

I understand Amendment 35 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, to be a probing amendment about the relationship between the serious violence duty and the work of crime and disorder partnerships. I agree that crime and disorder reduction partnerships can and do play a vital role in ensuring community safety and reducing violent crime locally, but I do not think that they are or should be the only partnership model responsible for doing so. Again, the draft guidance makes it very clear in that context. The geographical reach of such partnerships might mean that they are not the optimum partnership model in all areas, which is why we have intentionally built in flexibility to allow local areas to choose the most appropriate multiagency structure to deliver this duty. However, I recognise that they have a key contribution to make to local efforts. That is why, in addition to creating a new duty, we will be amending the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 to include a requirement for crime and disorder reduction partnerships to have in place a strategy for preventing and reducing serious violence. Such a strategy would in any case meet the requirements of the serious violence duty if all relevant partners specified in the Bill are involved in its development and implementation.

The other amendments in this group bring us back to information-sharing. It might assist the Committee if I recap why we have included provision for the disclosures of information. The serious violence duty proposes to permit authorities to share data, intelligence and knowledge in order to generate an evidence-based analysis of the problem in their local areas. In combining relevant data sets, the specified authorities, local policing bodies and educational, prison and youth custody authorities within an area will be able to create a shared evidence base, upon which they can develop an effective and targeted strategic response with bespoke local solutions. Each of the authorities specified in the legislation has a crucial role to play, and it is vital that authorities are able to share their data to determine what is causing serious violence in their local areas. For example, information-sharing can contribute to local efforts by allowing authorities to identify patterns and trends, geographical hotspots and the most vulnerable victims. This data should be regularly reviewed by authorities to determine the effectiveness of the interventions they put in place at a local level.

I shall explain what we mean by information-sharing in this context. The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, asked a pertinent question. Clause 15 will create a new information-sharing gateway for specified authorities, local policing bodies and education, prison and youth custody authorities to disclose information to each other for the purposes of reducing and preventing serious violence. I must be clear that this clause will permit, but not mandate, authorities to disclose information to each other. It simply ensures that there is a legislative basis in place to enable information to be shared between all authorities exercising functions under Chapter 1 of Part 2. However, the clause ensures that any disclosures must be made in compliance with data protection legislation and cannot be made if certain prohibitions on disclosure set out in the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 apply.

The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, asked for examples of data types that may be shared by partners. To be fair, he asked me that under a previous group as well and I completely forgot to answer him, so I hope to combine the two answers in one at this point. Examples include hospital data on knife injuries, the number of exclusions and truancies in local schools, police recorded crime, local crime data, emergency call data, anonymised prison data, areas of high social services interventions, and intelligence on threats such as county lines, including the activity of serious organised crime gangs in drugs markets. I hope the noble Lord finds that information helpful.

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Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the noble Baroness for her explanation. I did not quite understand when she seemed to suggest that this was all facilitation and to enable different authorities to share information—and that there was no compulsion to do so. Could she therefore explain Clause 17, where it says that,

“if the Secretary of State is satisfied that … a specified authority has failed to discharge a duty imposed on it by section 7, 13(6), 14(3) or 16(4), or … an educational authority, prison authority or youth custody authority has failed to discharge a duty imposed on it by section 14(3), (4) or (5)(b) or 16(4)”,

then

“The Secretary of State may give directions to the authority for the purpose of securing compliance with the duty”


and can enforce that requirement by a mandatory order? In what way is that voluntarily facilitating the exchange of information? Clause 17 is all about the Secretary of State forcing authorities to share information.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, the hour is late. Might the noble Lord permit me to discuss, perhaps in the next few days, the seeming contradiction between those two things?

Baroness Meacher Portrait Baroness Meacher (CB)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, as the Minister says, the hour is indeed late. I thank the noble Lords, Lord Paddick and Lord Moylan, in particular for their support, and other noble Lords for their speeches. I was going to make a rather similar point to the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, because the Minister made this provision sound very amenable and voluntary—“Don’t worry about it. There is no problem with trust. It is all just about general information.” That is not my reading of these clauses at all.

The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, made one issue very clear, but there are actually various bits of these clauses that build that general picture of anything but voluntary disclosure. There is a lot about modifying data protection and so on.

I hope that, one way or another, we can have a discussion with the Minister before Report because, otherwise, I fear that we will have to bring these amendments, or something like them, back. We would much prefer to sort this out, if we possibly can. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill Debate

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Department: Home Office

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Baroness Williams of Trafford Excerpts
The last time we debated this issue, during the passage of the Domestic Abuse Bill, the Opposition Benches and Members on all sides of this House pressed for more robust action on stalking, including a register of dangerous perpetrators. Since that debate, more women have been failed and killed, and the list of bereaved families has grown longer. The Government, as others have said, should seize this opportunity to tackle the epidemic of violence against women and girls because currently this Bill is missing that priority. Recognising violence against women and girls as serious violence is a vital place to start and one of the key changes so many of us in this House are calling on the Government to make to this Bill.
Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I assure noble Lords that I will not be getting into a debate about the number of police forces we should have, but I will say two things on that: first, consistency is key; secondly, good leadership is crucial. That said, I am grateful to my noble friend Lady Bertin, the noble Baronesses, Lady Brinton and Lady Hamwee, and the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, for setting out the case for these amendments, which have, quite rightly, attracted a wide-ranging debate about the scope of the serious violence duty. I am also pleased about the gender balance of the tablers of the amendments, and I join my noble friend Lady Bertin in paying tribute to the DA Commissioner and join the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, in paying tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, with whom I have worked on many occasions on stalking.

I will start by addressing Amendments 55 and 56. The Government remain absolutely focused on tackling violence against women and girls. There is no place in society for these abhorrent crimes. That is why in July we published a new cross-government Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls strategy, which includes a range of actions to help ensure that more perpetrators are brought to justice and face the full force of the law and that we improve support to victims and survivors and work ultimately to prevent these crimes, as the noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, said, and send a message of clear expectation, as the noble Lords, Lord Carlile and Lord Rosser, pointed out.

The strategy builds on our existing work, as my noble friend Lady Bertin said, including the new legislation that we have brought forward, which includes specific offences of forced marriage, upskirting, and the disclosure of private sexual photographs. The Domestic Abuse Act, which secured Royal Assent in April and which I am very proud to have taken part in and led through your Lordships’ House, will strengthen our response to domestic abuse at all levels. The Act includes a new duty for local authorities in England to ensure the provision of support for victims of abuse, both adults and children, in refuges and other safe accommodation.

Amendment 55 seeks to make it clear on the face of the Bill that domestic abuse, domestic homicide and sexual violence are included within the meaning of “violence”. We recognise the importance of multiagency working to address these crimes, as my noble friend has stressed, and I assure noble Lords that the draft statutory guidance for the serious violence duty, published in May this year, does already make it clear that specified authorities will be permitted to include in their strategy those actions which focus on any form of serious violence which is of particular concern in a local area.

I note the point that noble Lords have made that domestic violence is prevalent in every area, but it could include domestic violence, alcohol-related violence, sexual exploitation, or modern slavery. Ultimately, the specified authorities are best placed to determine what the specific priorities are for that area based on the local evidence. However, all that said, I can see value in the intention of this amendment, to expressly provide on the face of the Bill—and avoid any doubt—that domestic abuse, including domestic homicide, and sexual offences, falls within the definition of “violence” that specified authorities should follow when considering what amounts to serious violence and making that evidence-based determination as to what the specific priorities should be for their area.

Regarding the specific addition of “stalking”, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, for drawing attention to this important issue. I recognise that there are other forms of crime which disproportionately affect women and girls which local areas may want to consider for the purpose of the duty, and the draft statutory guidance highlights that they may wish to do this. However, we might risk creating confusion if we specified too many crime types under the meaning of “violence”, and we must consider carefully where to draw the line. I discussed this with the domestic abuse commissioner the other day and she agrees that the definition of “domestic abuse” should be broad enough to draw attention to this issue where it takes place in a domestic abuse context. In addition, while many stalking offences do take place in a domestic abuse context or ultimately involve violent behaviour, that cannot be said for all, and so I am not convinced that an express reference is appropriate.

In any event, we remain completely focused on our efforts to tackle these crimes. The Home Secretary will chair a new violence against women and girls task force to drive cross-government activity and help maintain public confidence in policing. We are funding the first full-time national policing lead in this area, Deputy Chief Constable Maggie Blyth, as I mentioned during the Urgent Question yesterday, and later this year we will publish a new domestic abuse strategy.

Having listened to the debate, I am in no doubt about where the whole Committee stands on this issue. We can all agree in this place that we need to do much more to tackle violence against women and girls. The multi-pronged strategy we published in the summer is directed to that end. We intend to build on that further, having listened to the views of the Committee. The Government agree that part of the response must include the police, local authorities, health bodies and the other agencies to whom the serious violence duty applies, working together to prevent and reduce domestic abuse and sexual violence in their area. Therefore, I agree with the aim of my noble friend’s amendment and will work with her ahead of Report to agree how we might best reflect this.

Amendments 57 and 58 would require violence to be defined as serious in a local area should it result either in injury requiring emergency hospital treatment or in harm constituting grievous bodily harm. I agree that such consequences are clear indicators of the seriousness of the violence in question, but we want to consider further any implications of adding such specific language to the definition of serious violence in the Bill.

The Bill already specifies certain factors that specified authorities must consider when determining what constitutes serious violence for their local area: the maximum penalty that could be imposed for any offence involved in the violence; the impact of the violence on any victim; the prevalence of the violence in the area; and the impact of the violence on the community in the area. We expect the specified authorities to use the evidence gathered from their strategic needs assessment to answer these questions and set the priority areas for their local strategies accordingly. We think that current drafting ensures that specified authorities consider the most harmful types of violence, including those resulting in acute physical injury, as part of their local strategies. However, we recognise the need to further consider the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe.

Finally, Amendments 57A and 59A, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, raise another important issue. It is true that serious violence is often not contained by local borders and, owing to electronic communication, perpetrators of violence are able to have an extended impact in areas far across the country and beyond. We fully recognise this, and it is why Clause 8 permits specified and relevant authorities to work across local government boundaries with other authorities and, in doing so, to collaborate on strategies that cover areas greater than those where they primarily provide services. This could include collaboration with authorities in neighbouring areas or further afield. We have also included advice within the draft statutory guidance to this effect. For this reason, we do not think these amendments are necessary.

The Government have been clear that internet companies must go further and faster to tackle illegal content online. It is already an offence to incite, assist or encourage violence online, and we will continue to work with the police to support proactive action against and to address illegal material posted and offences perpetrated online.

In conclusion, I assure noble Lords that I will reflect very carefully on this debate and, in particular, on the amendments in the name of my noble friend Lady Bertin and the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton. I will continue to work with them to find an agreed way forward ahead of the next stage. On that basis, I hope my noble friend will withdraw her amendment, on the clear understanding that we will return to these issues on Report.

Baroness Bertin Portrait Baroness Bertin (Con)
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My Lords, first, I thank everyone for their powerful collection of persuasive speeches supporting the amendment in my name, for which I am hugely grateful. The House is at its best when it comes together on an issue that bridges the political divide and about which we all feel strongly. I am grateful to noble Lords for that. I thank the Minister for her support and what she just said in response, in particular to my amendment. She always gives a huge amount of time and she is such a diligent Minister. The Government are lucky to have her. I think I speak for the whole Committee when I say that she works incredibly hard and cares so much. I am grateful and I thank her.

I consider myself lobbied by my noble friend Lady Newlove, the noble Baronesses, Lady Brinton and Lady Royall—who is of course absent—and the noble Lord, Lord Hunt. My noble friend knows that I agree with every word she said on stalking. I cannot promise that I will change the amendment, but I promise that I will go to bat and lobby as hard as possible, because there is a huge problem here. Some 1.5 million people are being stalked a year, and less than 2,000 people are ever brought to justice. There is a massive problem here and, for too long, it has not been taken seriously enough. I want to work more on that, and I am grateful to my noble friend the Minister for saying that she will look at these amendments and that we can discuss this further before Report.

It is very difficult for me to respond to amendments that are not in my name, and I will probably not do justice to them, but I thank the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, for laying his amendments—he had hugely persuasive arguments—and the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, for the amount of work she does on these issues. She is absolutely right that social media companies need to be kept in check. I could not disagree with the points that she made.

That is where I will leave it, but I am grateful and look forward to Report. With that, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

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Moved by
59: Clause 13, page 13, line 25, after “body” insert “for a police area”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment clarifies that references in Clause 13(2) to “the police area” are to the police area of the local policing body mentioned at the beginning of that provision.
Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, Amendment 59 to Clause 13 is a drafting amendment. Clause 13 concerns the involvement of local policing bodies in local serious violence strategies. This amendment simply clarifies that references in Clause 13(2) to “the police area” are to the police area of the local policing body mentioned at the beginning of that provision. The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, has given notice of a stand part debate on Clause 13 so, if it please the Committee, I will hear from him, but, for now, I beg to move.

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Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
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My Lords, with apologies for rising at this late stage, I lay my cards on the table and say that I have never been the greatest fan of legislating to require public officials to work together and creating byzantine edifices of legislative partnerships. However, I think that the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, has a point. If this is to stand, we need to understand whether “may” means “may” or “may” means “must” or whether “may” will become “must” because of regulations that will be made under what Clause 13(4), as it is now, will eventually become. That is just good law-making.

Unlike my wonderful noble friend Lord Bach, I have not been a great enthusiast for police and crime commissioners. I have to be clear about that. I always thought that it would lead to a politicisation of the police and, I am sorry to say that in many cases I feel that that has been the case. I will not dwell on the very crass remarks made by a particular commissioner in the wake of the Sarah Everard case. I am not a fan of that particular politicised mechanism for holding the police to account.

We will no doubt come to this in later clauses, but of course we must have a public health or more holistic approach to tackling—dare I say it—the causes of crime, as well as crime. But setting the policing bit and the Home Office above the other parts of the partnership, with the powers to mandate and the money and so on, is a journey we began with the Crime and Disorder Act, probably 23-odd years ago, when I had the privilege of sitting over there, in the Box. It is a journey that we still seem to be on. I am sorry to say that the poor old Home Office is often the dustbin department, picking up problems in society when it is almost too late. A lot of the deep-seated causes of crime come from other places and need to be tackled; yes, by preventive action—many noble Lords have made that point—but such preventive action belongs in education, in health and in tackling poverty and inequality. We all know this—I am preaching to the choir—but to set up an edifice whereby the senior partner, with all the powers to mandate and all the money to donate, is the policing bit, the security bit, the interior bit and the Home Office bit, is something we need to explore further, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, intends, during the scrutiny of these clauses.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have contributed to this debate. Clause 13 provides a power for a local policing body—namely, a PCC, the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime, or the Common Council of the City of London in its capacity as a police authority—to assist authorities in meeting the requirements of the serious violence duty. The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, was absolutely correct, as was the noble Lord, Lord Bach—as I always say, we are immensely lucky to have Parliament’s only PCC in our place; the benefit of his experience is incredibly useful.

Local policing bodies have an important part to play in convening partner agencies. PCCs and the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime, as elected local policing bodies, are the voice of the local community in relation to policing and crime. This is reflected in their current functions in relation to community safety partnerships. Local policing bodies are responsible for the totality of policing in their force area—the noble Lord, Lord Bach, pointed out some of the things that they get involved with—as well as for services for victims of crime. They will therefore have shared objectives in relation to the prevention and reduction of serious violence. That is why this clause provides local policing bodies with a discretionary role in supporting specified authorities with the preparation and implementation of their strategies, as well as monitoring their effectiveness and impact on local serious violence levels. I underline that the PCC role is discretionary and that it cannot be mandated through regulations.

The PCC, the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime, and the Common Council of the City of London will not be subject to the serious violence duty as specified authorities. However, as with the existing functions of these local policing bodies in relation to community safety partnerships, they may choose to collaborate with local partnerships. They may also take a convening role to support effective multiagency working.

Regulations made by the Secretary of State may provide further detail on the ways in which local policing bodies may assist specified authorities, including convening and chairing meetings, requiring certain persons to attend such meetings and providing funding to a specified authority to support the implementation of the local serious violence strategy. They will also have a power to require information for this purpose, as set out in Clause 16. In undertaking their monitoring functions, local policing bodies may report their findings to the Secretary of State to ensure compliance with the duty.

Specified authorities will have a duty to co-operate with local policing bodies when requested to do so. However, we have made clear in the draft support guidance the need for the relevant local policing body to consider the proportionality of additional requests and anticipated costs to specified authorities before making any such requests.

The overall objective is to provide additional support and leadership, if and when required, and not to place additional burdens on those authorities subject to the duty. The approach is very similar to arrangements in place for CSPs. There has been a mutual duty on PCCs and CSPs to reduce offending since the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011. I am sure noble Lords will agree that, to engender an effective multiagency approach to preventing and reducing serious violence, we must ensure that all relevant parts of the system play their part and have sufficient support in place to enable them to do so. We believe that local policing bodies, including PCCs, are best placed to provide that support. I take also the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, about funding.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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I have just a couple of questions. First, what aspects of Clause 13 are local policing bodies currently not allowed to do that the clause allows them to do? Secondly—and I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, for articulating what is in the guidance—my understanding is that crime and disorder partnerships could be the mechanism chosen to deliver on the serious violence duties in a particular area, or it could be a different mechanism, and the police and crime commissioner might want to be part of that or might not. That does not appear to provide the clarity of leadership and accountability necessary to deliver a serious violence strategy. Perhaps the Minister can explain how this all works.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, I shall try to. At the moment, PCCs and other local policing bodies have the powers to work with the specified authorities to support multiagency working. The serious violence duty is a new duty, and the legislation clarifies how it will fit together. PCCs are the elected bodies; they work with local forces. The multiagency working can be through the CSPs, or there is flexibility around how the local partnerships are constituted. Because it is a new duty, it is definitely worth clarifying in legislation how it might work out.

Amendment 59 agreed.
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Moved by
72: Clause 17, page 17, line 5, leave out “consult” and insert “obtain the consent of”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment requires the Secretary of State to obtain the consent of the Welsh Ministers before giving a direction under Clause 17 to a devolved Welsh authority.
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I look forward to the Minister’s answers to these questions, because, in a sense, they go to the heart of the recognition of the police’s authority and the status of professionals when they are asked to disclose sensitive information.
Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, we expect that the duty will provide the right legal basis for improved multiagency working and draw in the correct set of partners to prevent and reduce serious violence effectively. We think it is right, however, to ensure that there are means of securing compliance should a specified authority refuse to play their part—in other words, in adherence of the duty. So we have included provision within Clause 17 for the Secretary of State to issue a direction to secure compliance, should a specific authority, educational institution, prison or youth custody authority fail to meet the requirements of the duty. For publicly managed probation service providers, prisons, young offender institutions, secure training centres or secure colleges, existing mechanisms can be utilised through the relevant Secretary of State to ensure compliance with the duty.

As a result of the amendment to this clause just agreed by the Committee, the Secretary of State must now obtain the consent of the Welsh Ministers before issuing a direction to a devolved Welsh authority, as the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, said.

I now take the opportunity to address concerns that were raised previously by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick —it was only on Monday night, but it seems quite a long time ago. Let me be clear: a direction can be issued only to certain specified or relevant authorities and not to individual front-line professionals or practitioners. In addition, directions can be issued only in respect of certain duties, as listed in Clause 17(1). On information sharing, no directions can be issued in relation to the exercise of the powers in Clause 15 or any regulations made under Clause 9, which enable but do not mandate information sharing. I hope that answers the question from the noble Lord, Lord Paddick.

Directions can be made by the Secretary of State in relation to a failure to discharge the mandatory duty in Clause 16 to share information with a local policing body. As I have said previously, the purpose of Clause 16 is to enable the local policing body—that is, the PCC and their equivalents—to request information in order to assist the specified authorities and monitor the effectiveness of local strategies. To reiterate—this may assist the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti—this power would not enable the Secretary of State to directly compel an individual doctor, teacher or social worker to disclose personal information. Additionally, any direction given to an authority cannot require a disclosure which would be in breach of the data protection legislation. If an authority refused to comply with the direction due to concerns that doing so would breach the data protection legislation, the Secretary of State could apply for a mandatory order and the court would then determine the question. I hope that this clarification is helpful.

I assure the Committee that, in any case, we expect these powers to be seldom used and utilised only where all other means of securing compliance have been exhausted. I am sure noble Lords would agree that, in order for this duty to be effective, a system needs to be in place to ensure that authorities comply with the legal regulations we are proposing to help prevent and reduce serious violence.

A direction by the Secretary of State may require the authority in question to undertake specific actions in order to comply under the duty, and directions may be enforced by a mandatory order granted on application to the Administrative Court in England and Wales. Further detail on this process will be set out in statutory guidance, which will be subject to a public consultation following Royal Assent. I commend Clause 17 to the Committee.

Lord Beith Portrait Lord Beith (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Can the Minister explain subsection (5), which sets out that

“the governor of a prison, young offender institution or secure training centre”

is not covered by these provisions?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, the direction power is not available in relation to probation services provided by the Secretary of State or publicly run prisons, youth offender institutions, secure training centres or secure colleges. As I said earlier, existing mechanisms will be available to ensure that they are meeting the requirements of the duty. In addition, as I have already outlined, the Secretary of State must also obtain consent from Welsh Ministers before exercising the direction power in relation to a devolved Welsh authority.

Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Before the Minister sits down, I have one further question about the protection on data protection. My understanding is that, essentially, it works by limiting the control and transfer of data to the purposes for which the data is held. However, if this legislation changes those purposes to include, for example, the serious violence duty, data protection will not help any more because there will be a purpose that overrides the existing primary purpose. Perhaps during the next few hours—or years—of this Committee, we could get some advice from our friends in the Box.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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The noble Baroness is absolutely right about data protection but there are exemptions. One is the detection, prevention and reduction of crime.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful to the Minister. I think I need to read what she said and compare it with what is in other clauses in the Bill because, although it is difficult to hold everything in one’s head, I am not sure that everything she said is consistent with what is in the Bill.

However, there are two specific questions that the Minister did not answer. The noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, asked what the sanction would be for failure to comply. Is it right that a mandatory order is an order of the Administrative Court to comply with a legal duty, and therefore failure to comply with a mandatory order would be in contempt of court? The second question, which I asked, was: can the Minister give examples of where public authorities involved in preventing and tackling serious violence have obstructed the efforts to achieve those objectives? If not, why is the clause necessary? I do not expect the Minister to have examples at her fingertips but perhaps she could write.

Baroness Meacher Portrait Baroness Meacher (CB)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the Minister for her response on Clause 17. However, I wish to express a bit of concern. Although she assured the Committee that an individual doctor or youth worker would not be required to provide information, nevertheless an authority might well provide information, without consulting the individual doctor or youth worker, that would identify individuals who were receiving services in that authority. After the Minister’s response, I am not at all clear that we can be completely sure that this will not happen; I believe that there should be some wording in these clauses to specify that information from authorities about individuals would not be accepted if they provided it. This is an incredibly dangerous situation if individuals find that their authority has been divulging information to the police; it could destroy the efficacy of our public services—it is that serious.

I am not trying to be awkward; I just feel that we need some assurances in these clauses that individuals will not need to be concerned about the disclosure of information about them. Various subsections in Clauses 15 and 16 and so on indicate that, in looking at data protection, you must take account of the regulations in this Act. It is quite complex but it is not reassuring, if I may say so.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, I am keen for this not to be left hanging in uncertainty. Perhaps a bit of further explanation will be helpful to the noble Baronesses, Lady Meacher and Lady Chakrabarti, and the noble Lord, Lord Paddick.

This is a backstop power that will be used rarely. However, if needed, it could be utilised; for example, where one of the specified authorities fails to participate in the preparation of the local strategy. If a direction was issued and the authority still refused to comply—that was the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick—on the basis that it believed that doing so would breach data protection legislation, the Secretary of State would need to apply for a mandatory order and the court would ultimately decide, but I do not think that there is any question of breaching data protection legislation.

Earl Attlee Portrait Earl Attlee (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, before the noble Baroness withdraws her objection to the clause standing part, I remind noble Lords that we are in Committee and can speak as many times as we like.

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Will the Minister accept the committee’s recommendation?
Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, that was quick for a Committee debate. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, for setting out the case for these amendments, which relate to the power to issue guidance in relation to the serious violence duty. I am sure we all agree that legislation works far better, in practice, when it is implemented alongside clear guidance. In the case of the serious violence duty, we want to ensure that the guidance is clear on the expectations of all specified authorities, that it provides sufficient advice in meeting them and that it highlights best practice from across England and Wales. It is also crucial that such guidance is developed in collaboration with and with input from those who will be subject to the legislation and those who represent them to ensure that it is fit for purpose.

That is why, prior to the implementation of Chapter 1 of Part 2, we will publicly consult on the guidance to support the duty. As a first step, we have published the guidance in draft to assist the scrutiny of these provisions. I have a copy of it here. We welcome feedback on the draft and will take that into account when preparing an updated draft for consultation following Royal Assent to the Bill.

Clause 18 already expressly requires consultation with Welsh Ministers, as the noble Lord said, in so far as the guidance relates to the exercise of functions under this chapter by a devolved Welsh authority. But we are committed to going further and, as part of the public consultation on the statutory guidance, we intend to invite views from key representative bodies and other relevant persons, such as the Children’s Commissioner and the domestic abuse commissioner. Given this commitment, I do not think it would be appropriate, at this point, to include a broader duty to consult in the Bill.

The stated aim of Amendment 73 is to enable the guidance to be scrutinised by Parliament. In principle, I have no difficulty with that at all; it is open to Parliament to scrutinise guidance at any time. However, the effect of this amendment, when read with the provisions in Clause 21, would be to make the guidance subject to the affirmative procedure. I am not persuaded that this level of scrutiny is necessary—and nor, for that matter, was the DPRRC, which recommended that the negative procedure should apply in this case. We are carefully considering that committee’s report and will respond ahead of the next stage. In light of the commitments I have given, would the noble Lord be happy to withdraw his amendment?

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister, but it was actually me who proposed these amendments.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I do apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Paddick.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My ventriloquism skills are not so good that the Minister would think I was the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby. But I am glad that the Minister is going to consider the regulations again. I am not sure that the intention of my amendment was to ensure that guidance would be approved through the affirmative procedure. Any procedure would be better than no procedure at all, and it does not look like there is any provision in the Bill for parliamentary scrutiny of guidance, so I am grateful for that undertaking. I will go back and look again at a later part of the Bill, which includes the need to consult on guidance. I may need to come back on Report and again challenge why, in that part of the Bill, guidance has to be consulted on, but not in this part. Having said that, I withdraw my amendment.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill Debate

Full Debate: Read Full Debate
Department: Home Office

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Baroness Williams of Trafford Excerpts
Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I have Amendments 80, 90A, 94, 96, and 97 in this group. I was hoping that this group might be an example of this House at its best, where reasonable and reasoned amendments have been tabled, the Government have seen and responded positively to them and the Bill could be improved as a result. We clearly do not all agree on everything yet, but what all sides of the House—including the Government —appear to agree on is that the Bill as drafted and passed by the other place in respect of Chapter 3 on the extraction of information from electronic devices is not fit for purpose.

I shall take my amendments first. The House of Lords Constitution Committee raised concerns about victims of crime not coming forward or withdrawing from the criminal justice process because they may have to hand over personal and sensitive data, particularly victims and survivors of violence against women and girls, including rape. Although the draft code of practice published by the Government includes guidance that suggests refusal to provide a device or to agree to the extraction of information from it should not automatically result in the closure of any inquiry or complaint—particularly in light of the dramatic reduction in charges and prosecutions for rape over the past five years—the committee recommended that safeguards that protect victims’ rights to privacy and guard against digital extraction as a condition for continuing an investigation or prosecution should appear in the Bill rather than in a non-binding code of practice. Amendment 80 addresses the issue raised by the Constitution Committee. I am very grateful for the support of the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, in her powerful and compelling contribution.

This issue is partially addressed by government Amendment 93, which states that a person must not have been placed under undue pressure to provide the device or agree to the extraction of information from it and that a written notice must be provided which states that the person may refuse and that the investigation or inquiry will not be brought to an end merely because of that refusal. As well as being given the information in writing, the person should be told this orally and be reassured by the investigating officer. The government amendment does not go far enough.

I would go further and say that what people store on their electronic devices and share with each other has changed dramatically over the years. In particular, those from older generations may not be aware of the degree of openness with which explicit images, for example, are routinely shared using electronic devices, potentially leading prosecutors and jurors to draw unjustified conclusions about the behaviour of victims of rape or sexual assault in particular, whether they be male or female. Thankfully, most right-minded people no longer think a woman wearing a short skirt is “asking for it”, but there may be a way to go before the sharing of intimate photographs, for example, is dismissed in a similar way. That is why it is essential that victims are reassured in the way these amendments are intended to provide.

Amendment 90A makes a slightly different point and covers a similar area to that provided by Amendment 92 from the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, in relation to the extraction of information from devices used by children and adults without capacity. In relation to both groups of users, the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, suggests that a “registered social worker” give authority for the extraction of information, in the absence of a parent or guardian, whereas, in Clause 37(3)(b), the Government suggest that

“any responsible person who is aged 18 or over other than a relevant authorised person”

can give authority. Although police constables and members of staff appointed as authorised persons by chief constables would be excluded, police members of staff not authorised would not be excluded.

From my own professional experience, I know that it is often difficult to get hold of parents or guardians or to get them to co-operate, for example by attending a police station when their child is in custody. Equally, it is difficult to get hold of a social worker, particularly outside office hours, where there may be only one or a few social workers on call, dealing with the whole range of social work responsibilities—hence the “appropriate adults” scheme was established to look after the interests of children and vulnerable adults in custody. Appropriate adults are volunteers, recruited through local schemes, who are selected for their ability to act with independence from the police. Schemes take into account volunteers’ attitudes and motivations and any other roles that they may hold. They undergo training in the appropriate adults role and undergo a criminal record—DBS—check, although a criminal record will not necessarily act as an automatic bar.

Amendment 90A seeks to find a compromise between allowing any responsible person aged 18 or over, including potentially those employed by the police, to give authority for the handing over and extraction of data from a child’s or vulnerable adult’s electronic device and the registered social worker who is not always readily available, proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, in his Amendment 89.

I apologise—this is a long group. Amendment 96 seeks to increase the authority level for the extraction of information to a senior officer—at a rank where someone of that rank is normally on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and readily available—who is independent of the investigation and can objectively assess whether the conditions that allow for the extraction of information have been met. There are precedents across policing: for example, custody officers or those authorising the deployment of covert surveillance, where someone independent of the investigation makes these kinds of decisions.

Amendment 97 is again intended to provide parliamentary scrutiny of guidance, as is Amendment 102, proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, to which I have added my name. I agree wholeheartedly with my noble friend Lord Beith’s Amendment 103 that the restrictions on the exercise of power to extract information in relation to confidential information must be in the Bill and not simply contained in regulations. I understand the reasons for wanting to exclude immigration officers from the list of authorised persons who can extract information from electronic devices, as proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, in his Amendment 107.

On immigration officers, we share the belief that there should be a firewall between criminal investigations and immigration enforcement, to the extent that details about the immigration status of victims should not be passed to the immigration authorities but should be dealt with elsewhere. I can envisage circumstances where immigration officers may need to download information from electronic devices—for example, to tackle people smuggling—although I accept what the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, said, which was that that should perhaps be a matter for the police rather than immigration officers.

I also accept the very important point made by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Bristol about the particular vulnerability of asylum seekers and their lack of knowledge of what the law allows and does not allow immigration officers to do, and how we need many more safeguards for asylum seekers in this provision. We also wholeheartedly agree with Amendment 106A regarding requests for third-party material. If I had not been overwhelmed by the volume of amendments added to the Bill every day, I would have added my name to that amendment.

We all in different ways have attempted to provide a more robust but workable regime around the extraction of information from mobile devices. The best way forward would be for all noble Lords, including the Minister, to withdraw their amendments, for the Minister and officials to meet with us before Report, and for officials to take the best from each of these amendments and those discussions, to produce a single set of amendments to which hopefully we can agree, rather than having to put down amendments on Report to the government amendments agreed in Committee. Taking the debate offline will save time on the Floor of the House on Report, when the agreed amendments could simply be nodded through. However, it appears that the Labour Opposition are content to allow the government amendments to be agreed at this stage, despite the clear differences between what they are proposing and the government amendments.

The noble Lord, Lord Hayward, made the important point, as we did on these Benches when this House debated the Domestic Abuse Bill, that these issues also affect men. The noble Lord also praised the police, who are in a very difficult position, which the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Ipswich, alluded to, where they find themselves under pressure from the Crown Prosecution Service to go further than maybe even police officers may be comfortable going in terms of accessing personal information from victims’ phones. I repeat the question asked by the noble Lord: who speaks for the Crown Prosecution Service in this debate?

I studied politics at university, I was a very senior police officer for years, I ran for Mayor of London twice and I have been a member of your Lordships’ House for over eight years, but I still do not understand politics. Suffice it to say that, without Labour support, there is no point in dividing the Committee if the Government move their amendments formally at this stage.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
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My Lords, I join the noble Lords, Lord Paddick and Lord Rosser, in apologising to the House for the length of my comments. It might assist the Committee if I begin with a brief overview of the provisions in Chapter 3 of Part 2 of the Bill. These provisions will establish, for the first time, a clear statutory basis for the extraction of information from digital devices with the agreement of the device user, and introduce safeguards to protect the privacy of victims, witnesses and others. I echo the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, that it is a vast intrusion. People’s lives are on their digital devices and I understand the sensitivity of that.

The current approach to the extraction of information from digital devices has been criticised as inconsistent and, as the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, says, as being tantamount to a digital strip search, where devices were taken as a matter of course and where, in many cases, all the sensitive personal data belonging to a device user was extracted and processed, even when it was not relevant to the offence under investigation. Clearly, that is unacceptable. This resulted in privacy and victims’ groups opposing this practice, particularly in cases where the device belongs to a victim or witness.

A consistent approach is clearly needed to ensure that requests for information are made with the victim’s right to privacy in mind and to ensure that all those agreeing to provide their sensitive personal data have all the information that they need to make that decision, including details on why their information is needed, how it will be used and their right to refuse to share that information without any negative consequences. This lack of consistency is of particular concern where the offences under investigation are those such as rape and serious sexual assault, where the victim is likely to be extremely distressed, as the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, said, and where rates of reporting and conviction are far too low.

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Baroness Fox of Buckley Portrait Baroness Fox of Buckley (Non-Afl)
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To back that up, I point out that Oliver Mears, Samson Makele and Liam Allan were three young men who were nearly the victims of miscarriages of justice in those circumstances. If we say that a victim’s phone will be looked at, we are assuming that they are the victim, but it is an ambivalent point while somebody is innocent until proven guilty. We just have to be a little cautious about the language we use, because in one instance the police suppressed information—they had the phone details but did not put it forward—but in the others, it was on the phone that the proof was found. We just need balance. I do not want digital strip searches, but I do not want miscarriages of justice. People are squeamish about looking for evidence on people’s phones because they are presented as victims.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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Perhaps I should have said “alleged victim”; that goes to my noble friend’s point. Each case is different, but usually the remedy is through the court process and it is established where the perversion of justice might be taking place. But I thank my noble friend for his point about the alleged victim.

Lord Beith Portrait Lord Beith (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I hope I am right, but surely there is nothing in the provisions being carried through now that would in any way relieve the prosecution of the obligation to disclose to the defence any material that came from this process and was potentially of assistance to the defence.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
- Hansard - -

The noble Lord is absolutely right, but I think my noble friend is making a point about where the tables are turned and the alleged victim is not the victim at all.

Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

In the sort of scenario being described, the suspect—not yet a defendant—will be able to say, “This was consensual and there is a text message that will demonstrate that.” Once that is asserted, that can be sought. It is not a justification for the kind of wholesale retention of mobile phones and trawling of data that people fear. I know that the hour is late and that the Minister wants to make progress, but I just want to put two questions before I sit down and let her finish her response.

First, I noticed while the Minister was speaking that the formulation used in my noble friend Lord Rosser’s Amendment 89 is “strict necessity”, whereas in the government amendments the test is of necessity—

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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If the noble Baroness would bear with me, I am going to get on to that point about the read-across to other things. I hope that I have made it clear that I totally empathise with and get the point that my noble friend is making and that the remedy should be established through the court process.

Amendments 99 to 101 address a further point raised by the Victims’ Commissioner; namely, that she and other like commissioners have a statutory right to be consulted on the code of practice. This will give victims and witnesses further confidence that their concerns and priorities are represented in this code of practice.

Amendment 105 will ensure that the Scottish Ministers and the Northern Ireland Department of Justice are consulted before regulations are made to add, remove or amend an authority with devolved competence under Schedule 3.

Government Amendments 108 and 109 add to the list of authorised persons in Schedule 3. Amendment 108 will ensure that authorised persons in the Insolvency Service can exercise the Clause 36 power for the purposes of the prevention, detection or investigation of crime in pursuit of their functions, which include tackling financial wrongdoing. This was initially a mystery to me, but the Insolvency Service is an executive agency of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, hence the language used in the amendment, but it is important to note that the reference to an officer of BEIS is qualified because any individual falling within that description may exercise the powers only for the prevention, detection or investigation of crime. Schedule 3 already enables the Independent Office for Police Conduct to exercise the Clause 36 powers. Amendment 109 adds the equivalent bodies in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

As I have said, we believe that the government amendments address many of the points raised in amendments tabled by the noble Lords, Lord Rosser and Lord Paddick, but I will now turn to some of the other amendments in this group. Amendment 79 seeks to provide free independent legal advice to device users before they agree to the extraction of information from their device. Government Amendment 93 will ensure that device users are fully informed of the reasons that the information has been sought and how the information will be used. We do not think that provisions in this chapter are the right place to address what is a broader issue about the provision of legal advice to victims and witnesses given the wider impacts across the criminal justice system as a whole.

As regards Amendment 89, the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, highlighted the alternative drafting in respect of the test for the exercise of the Clause 36 powers. As the Bill is drafted, the authorised person must be satisfied that the exercise of the power is necessary and proportionate to achieve the relevant purpose. Under Amendment 89, this necessity test would become one of “strictly necessary”. The matter was also raised by the Victims’ Commissioner in briefings to noble Lords.

We understand that the reason for the concern is the strict necessity requirement in the Data Protection Act 2018. The powers in Clauses 36 and 39 must be read alongside existing obligations under the 2018 Act or the UK GDPR. In every case where authorised persons are extracting sensitive personal information from a device under these powers for a law enforcement purpose, such as preventing, detecting, investigating or prosecuting crime, they must continue to meet the strict necessity threshold in the Data Protection Act. It is therefore not necessary to duplicate that existing legal requirement in the Bill; it is there.

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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.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, very briefly: I really am grateful to the Minister. It is a very big group, and it is difficult to take in everything she said. But we have to be very careful. People will be reading the record of this debate. I think I heard the Minister say that the authorised person must explain that the investigation or inquiry will not be brought to an end if they refuse to hand over their device. That is not what it says on the face of the Bill. It says the person must be given a written notice.

These might have been many decades ago, but I know of situations where police officers shoved a piece of paper in front of somebody who was either a victim or a suspect—even somebody who could not read—and said something different from what was on the piece of paper. So I think we have to make it absolutely clear in the Bill, not just in the guidance or the codes of practice, that this must be explained, which was the meaning of one of my amendments.

The other thing I think I heard the Minister say—it is late—is that the authorised person must explain to the victim that refusal would have no negative consequences. That cannot possibly be right. For example, in a rape case where consent is an issue—where, perhaps, the defence argued that there were exchanges of messages or some such things that go to the heart of whether consent is an issue—and the victim refuses to hand over their device, there could be negative consequences when it comes to trial. Again, I understand that the Minister wants to be helpful and reassuring to victims, but we have to be absolutely clear what we are promising here, if it is being said on the record in this Committee.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
- Hansard - -

The hour is late. Because these things are so important, I will reiterate them in a letter to the noble Lord.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

First, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate. I also thank the Minister for her detailed response. I do not think she need apologise in any way for the length of it, since I am sure noble Lords would rather have a full response to the points that have been made than a shortened response. Like other noble Lords, I will read carefully in Hansard everything she had to say in reply to my amendments, as I am sure other noble Lords will in relation to their amendments. This part of the Bill has certainly been improved by the government amendments, which we welcome. But, equally, it can and should be further strengthened and improved.

There are a number of outstanding issues of concern, which I and other noble Lords have raised this evening and which I know Minister is aware of. I hope that she will agree to further discussions between now and Report on those issues of concern that have been raised in this debate. I know that the Minister is usually very open to holding such discussions—I see she is nodding—and will agree to that, as I say, between now and Report.

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Moved by
81: Clause 36, page 29, line 26, at end insert—
“(za) in a case where the authorised person proposes to exercise the power for a purpose within subsection (2)(a), the authorised person reasonably believes that information stored on the electronic device is relevant to a reasonable line of enquiry which is being, or is to be, pursued by an authorised person,”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment has the effect that, to exercise the power in Clause 36(1) for the purposes of preventing etc crime, an authorised person must reasonably believe that information stored on an electronic device is relevant to a reasonable line of enquiry.
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Moved by
90: Clause 37, page 32, line 7, after “adult” insert “(within the meaning of this Chapter)”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment is consequential on the amendment in the name of Baroness Williams of Trafford at page 30, line 8.
--- Later in debate ---
Moved by
91: Clause 37, page 32, line 45, at end insert—
“(12) This section is subject to section (Requirements for voluntary provision and agreement)(requirements for voluntary provision and agreement).”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment is consequential on the amendment in the name of Baroness Williams of Trafford to insert a new Clause after Clause 37.
--- Later in debate ---
Moved by
93: After Clause 37, insert the following new Clause—
“Requirements for voluntary provision and agreement
(1) A person (“P”) is to be treated for the purposes of section 36 or 37 as having—(a) voluntarily provided an electronic device to an authorised person, and(b) agreed to the extraction of information from the device by an authorised person,only if the requirements of this section have been met.(2) An authorised person must not have placed undue pressure on P to provide the device or agree to the extraction of information from it.(3) An authorised person must have given P notice in writing—(a) specifying or describing the information that is sought,(b) specifying the reason why the information is sought,(c) specifying how the information will be dealt with once it has been extracted,(d) stating that P may refuse to provide the device or agree to the extraction of information from it, and(e) stating that the investigation or enquiry for the purposes of which the information is sought will not be brought to an end merely because P refuses to provide the device or agree to the extraction of information from it.(4) Subject to subsection (5), P must have confirmed in writing that P has—(a) voluntarily provided the device to an authorised person, and(b) agreed to the extraction of information from the device by an authorised person.(5) If P was unable to provide that confirmation in writing as a result of P’s physical impairment or lack of literacy skills—(a) P must have given that confirmation orally, and(b) an authorised person must have recorded P’s confirmation in writing.(6) If P’s confirmation was given in writing and in hard copy form, the authorised person must have given P a copy of that confirmation (in hard copy or electronic form).(7) If P’s confirmation was given orally, the authorised person must have given P a copy of the record of that confirmation (in hard copy or electronic form).” Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment sets out the requirements which must be met before a person is treated as having voluntarily provided an electronic device, and having agreed to the extraction of information from the device, for the purposes of Clauses 36 or 37.
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Moved by
98: Clause 40, page 34, line 19, at end insert—
“(1A) The code may make different provision for different purposes or areas.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment enables a code of practice under Clause 40 to make different provision for different purposes or areas.
--- Later in debate ---
Moved by
105: Clause 42, page 36, line 17, at end insert—
“(5A) The Secretary of State must consult the Scottish Ministers before making regulations under subsection (4) if and so far as the regulations make provision that would be within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament if it were contained in an Act of that Parliament. (5B) The Secretary of State must consult the Department of Justice in Northern Ireland before making regulations under subsection (4) if and so far as the regulations make provision that, if it were contained in an Act of the Northern Ireland Assembly—(a) would be within the legislative competence of that Assembly, and(b) would not require the consent of the Secretary of State.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment requires the Secretary of State to consult the Scottish Ministers or the Department of Justice in Northern Ireland before making regulations under Clause 42(4) which would be within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament or the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill Debate

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Department: Ministry of Justice

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Baroness Williams of Trafford Excerpts
Lords Hansard - part one & Committee stage
Monday 1st November 2021

(2 years, 6 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 40-V Fifth marshalled list for Committee - (1 Nov 2021)
Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Marks, said, it is unusual to have such unanimity across the House in Committee on something that is superficially a very complex matter. I agree with two noble Lords in particular. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, was very succinct: he said that the information that the police retain should be subject to parliamentary or government control and not to police guidance. I also agree with the noble Lord, Lord Marks, in being cautious about regulation and having a full role for Parliament in any rules that are introduced.

I am sure that this is a very complex matter. I have just been wondering whether, in my role as a sitting magistrate in London, I would see this information. I obviously routinely see the police national computer—PNC—list, which includes convictions, cautions and bail conditions. If we go ahead and have a “bad character” application for a trial, additional information may be disclosed to us—to do with allegations of, say, a domestic abuse nature.

I was also thinking about my role sitting as a magistrate in family court, where I routinely see allegations that have not been substantiated in any court but have been recorded over many years in social services reports. I think that it is right that I see those allegations when we as a court are making decisions about the way that children should be treated in the context of a family court.

I give those two examples, which are different to what noble Lords have spoken about, to acknowledge the complexity of the situation with which we are dealing. I am sympathetic to the points that have been made by noble Lords, but I am also sympathetic to the Government addressing this with an open mind. I will listen with great interest to what the noble Baroness says about whether they propose bringing back any amendments at a later stage of the Bill.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate, which has been very constructive. I thank my noble friend Lord Moylan for tabling the amendments. I applaud the noble Lord, Lord Cashman, for promoting the need for balance, and the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, for his concluding words.

I say at the outset that the Government do not disagree with my noble friend’s view that people should not be inhibited from saying what they think, provided that it does not transgress the legal framework that this Parliament has put in place. Noble Lords would all be concerned if the activities of the police were—even if inadvertently and quite possibly for the best of motives—having an adverse effect on particular individuals who had committed no crime. If that possibility were having a chilling effect, as the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, said, or causing people to temper their quite lawful remarks, that would be a most unsatisfactory state of affairs.

That is my starting point. I will try to set out some of the background to the issues raised by the amendments that are before noble Lords. My noble friend Lady Noakes asked: how have we got here? It is a key legacy of the Macpherson inquiry, set up to consider the issues surrounding the murder of Stephen Lawrence, and is intended to give the police the means to understand tensions within communities before they escalate to serious harm.

As the name implies, the data pertains to incidents that are not crimes. It can include location data to know where repeat incidents of apparent tension and hostility might occur—for example, outside a place of worship. In this respect, the data is vital for helping the police build intelligence to understand where they must target resources to prevent serious crimes that may later occur. The importance of such intelligence has been illustrated where its use could have prevented real harm. The tragic case of Fiona Pilkington and her daughter, subjected to persistent hate and abuse and where the police failed to draw the links to repeated incidents of harassment, is a prime example.

Of course, non-crime hate incidents may also include the collection of personal data. Some of these records will include an accusation of hate crime that has been made against a person but was not proven. I know there has been concern that such data might appear in enhanced criminal record checks, which are required for jobs such as working with children and vulnerable adults, and that a person could be inappropriately disadvantaged for expressing a sentiment that is in no way criminal.

Precisely to guard against that possibility, the disclosure of non-conviction data in such checks is covered by statutory guidance issued by the Home Office to chief officers of police. This makes it clear that the police should disclose such information only after careful consideration and when it is proportionate and relevant to the job in question. Data of this kind can be disclosed only on the say-so of a senior officer, who should also consider whether the individual concerned should be given the opportunity to make the case that the information is not shared. Individuals also have the right to request an independent monitor to carry out a review of whether information is relevant to the role for which they are applying.

In practice, it is rare for the police to disclose non-conviction information of any kind: only 0.1% of enhanced certificates included such information in 2019-20. However, I fully understand that the public are concerned with how the collection of non-crime hate incident data might infringe fundamental liberties, particularly free expression, and may harm a person’s future prospects. However, I do not think that it is as simple as saying that the issue could be resolved through the introduction of more stringent regulations governing the processing and disclosure of data. We need to avoid unintended consequences through any reform of this practice. First, we need to ensure that we do not tie the hands of police in collecting the non-personal location data that I describe, and which can be vital in building an understanding of hotspots where serious harm might occur; this takes us back to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Cashman, about balance.

Secondly, it is important to remember that the process of determining whether a crime has occurred is not always linear or simple. While the law on hate crime is clear, the process of determining whether an offence was committed may not be. The use of non-crime incident recording can exist in the grey space between the police making initial inquiries and making records such as this, and a decision to take no further action due to lack of evidence, or where a suspect cannot be identified. Non-crime hate incident records often form part of the normal record-keeping of early criminal investigations.

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Lord Forsyth of Drumlean Portrait Lord Forsyth of Drumlean (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I am not a lawyer, but can the Minister explain why she thinks that this is a matter for the College of Policing and not for Parliament and the Government?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
- Hansard - -

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)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

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)
- Hansard - -

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.

Lord Moylan Portrait Lord Moylan (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, when I tabled these amendments, I had no idea that they would find universal approbation in all parts of the House or attract the support of so many distinguished legal figures. It is quite humbling to look at the list and see my noble friends Lord Sandhurst and Lord Hailsham, the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, and the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss—all highly distinguished figures in one department of the law or another. Indeed, I may have missed some speakers whose careers I am not equally familiar with. They are all united on two fairly straightforward points: first, that the operation of the current system of recording can cause genuine harm, unjustly, to particular individuals; and secondly, that this process should be subject to statutory and parliamentary supervision. Really, that is the essence of the entire case for supporting these amendments.

There were many speeches, for which I am grateful. I do not have time to thank everybody but it was an excellent debate, with speeches made by many people who, like myself, do not have any pretensions to legal expertise, such as the noble Baroness, Lady Fox of Buckley, my noble friends Lady Noakes, Lord Forsyth of Drumlean and Lord Dobbs, the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti—

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Moved by
108: Schedule 3, page 202, line 6, at end insert—
“An officer of the department of the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment provides for an officer of the department of the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to be an authorised person for the purposes of Clause 36.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill Debate

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Department: Home Office

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Baroness Williams of Trafford Excerpts
Lords Hansard - part two & Committee stage
Monday 1st November 2021

(2 years, 6 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 40-V Fifth marshalled list for Committee - (1 Nov 2021)
Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, it is getting quite late in the evening, but I think everyone here would agree that this has been a fantastically high-quality debate on one of the most crucial issues facing our country today. I hope that many members of the public, let alone our fellow Peers, will read the brilliant contributions of my noble friends Lady Chakrabarti, Lord Hunt and Lady Blower, the noble Lords, Lord Carlile and Lord Paddick, and the noble Baroness, Lady Jones —I think I have mentioned everyone.

This really is an important debate, and at its heart is the trust and confidence the public of this country have in the police. We will not change attitudes and these issues with which we wrestle until we can ensure that the public trust the police. It is really hard, and it must have been difficult for the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, to say some of the things he did, but that is the reality and the police have to accept it. We all agree that the vast majority of police officers are good and do their duty, et cetera, but it does not alter the fact that the statistics tell us that there is a serious problem. This is not about blaming anybody; it is about saying what we are going to do about it.

I completely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, that this is not—and nobody has suggested it is—a competition of amendments. From his experience, my noble friend Lord Hunt knows that, between all noble Lords, we should be able to devise a set of amendments on which we all agree and which have, at their heart, a desire to improve the policing of this country and restore the confidence and trust of the British people. That is what all these amendments are about.

One or two issues arise from them. There has to be a statutory inquiry. I frankly cannot believe that the Government would resist that. There is just incredulity, because it just makes every sense. As my noble friend Lady Chakrabarti laid out, that is why the Inquiries Act was passed, and successive Governments have used it as the vehicle to deal with serious problems to which you want a response that people can agree with and have confidence in. You can set up other inquiries, which will all be well meant and do a good job, as the noble Baroness, Lady Casey, and others will. This is not to say that they will not do a good job, but I say to the Government that at the heart of this, public confidence is everything. It is the holy grail. It is the only vehicle that people will think of as correct. If you go to the supermarket, down the pub or to the sports club, or if you walk down the road and say it is a public inquiry led by somebody of stature, in whom people can have confidence, it will take you over the first hurdle, because people will believe its conclusions, whatever they are. All of us find it unbelievable that the Government are resisting this. Whichever amendment we choose as the best, surely we can agree on the principle of a statutory inquiry. It is certainly something to which we will have to return on Report, if the Government resist.

Why am I and the Chamber so exercised about this? We have heard very eloquently of the horror of the Sarah Everard case. Every now and again there is some horrible crime that unites us all in its horror. There is always something that ignites passion and fury within the public and the political establishment that demands action and that something more is done, beyond the normal “This is shocking, this is terrible”. This has to be a lightning rod that says, “No more, we’re going to change”. It cannot go on, and the Minister understands and knows this.

I googled it again. Time after time we hear it. This week, a serving Metropolitan Police officer was charged with rape. Channel 4’s “Dispatches” reports that 2,000 police officers have been accused of sexual misconduct over the past four years, which includes over 370 accusations of sexual assault and almost 100 of rape. A mugging victim came forward to the BBC with her experience when she reported her attack. The police officer on duty asked if he could take her out on a date, whether she was single, what she wore to work and whether he could take pictures of her. According to the BBC report, he was so confident that there would be no repercussions for his behaviour that he did it in writing on his official police email account. It is unbelievable and shocking at the same time.

I know Sue Fish because she is the former chief constable in Nottinghamshire, the area which I represented for a number of years. She said:

“This isn’t about an individual officer. This is about a prevailing culture within policing.”


We ought to be able to find a way around this. Notwithstanding the other amendments tabled by my noble friend Lady Chakrabarti, Amendment 281, tabled by my noble friends Lord Rosser and Lord Hunt, and the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, talks about a statutory inquiry to look at this issue of culture. Obviously, there is a need for some sort of statutory inquiry into what happened to Sarah Everard, but we must get to the root of what is happening with respect to the culture in the police. It is not everyone, but it is a significant number of police officers, which is why in Amendment 281 we have said that there must be a statutory inquiry

“into the culture of policing and the prevalence of violence against women and girls”,

to include members with specific

“expertise in the prevention of violence against women and girls”

and various recommendations to be made to it, and so forth and so on.

One thing I find here is that all noble Lords read the amendments, so I will not repeat everything that is in the amendment, but, if we cannot change the culture, we have a real problem. I will tell you what I think. The vast majority of police officers are sick of it and want something done about it, and the vast majority of police staff want something done about it. They are looking to our Government to do something about it, working with senior police officers. We talk about leadership, but we have a leadership role as well. It goes back to the signposting of a statutory inquiry as being so important—because that is the lightning rod that you hold up to the public to say, “We get it, we understand it, we realise why you’re so upset about it, we’re upset about it and that’s why we’re going to use a statutory inquiry to do something about it”.

I know that I am getting passionate about it, but if we resort to a calm, reasonable, almost closed-shop type of inquiry that has a look at it but does not have that sense of urgency, that sense that this is a moment when we need to grasp this issue, we will fail. We talk in later amendments about vetting and training. All those things are crucial, and something must be done about them.

Let me say this as well. I know that the Minister gets this, because she has already made a commitment to look at recognising violence against women and girls as serious violence, and to look at how it is assessed. That is a really important step forward, but the Government have the power to do more. They must not waste this opportunity, out of the horror of what happened in the Sarah Everard case, and in the horror of all the cases that we read about, all the inquiries recently by Zoë Billingham that talked about the “epidemic”, and all the recommendations in that report.

So what are we going to do now which shows that this time it will be different? Will we not have a statutory inquiry, however it is organised and whatever its terms of reference, which does something about what many people in this country are looking to their Government to do something about?

We want trust and confidence in the police. We have to find a vehicle by which the concerns that are raised in this House, the other place and across the country, are recognised, realised and something is done about them. A statutory inquiry surely has to be one way of doing that.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
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My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, and the noble Lords, Lord Coaker and Lord Carlile, for raising the very important issues arising from the terrible abduction, rape and murder of Sarah Everard, which has appalled us all and, as the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, says, time will not fade; every time our daughters leave the house it reminds us. It is imperative that Sarah’s family and the public understand how a police officer was able to commit such a terrible crime so that we can stop it from ever happening again and restore to our police forces that trust and confidence that the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, talked about.

As noble Lords will be aware, my right honourable friend the Home Secretary has recently announced her intention to launch a two-part non-statutory inquiry—I will go on to talk about that—into the circumstances surrounding Sarah’s murder. The first part of the inquiry will look at Sarah’s murderer and his tenure at the Metropolitan Police leading up to his conviction, as well as assessing any missed opportunities to hold him to account for his conduct.

The second part of the inquiry will look at any specific issues raised by the first part, which is likely to include wider issues across policing, including, but not limited to, vetting practices, professional standards, discipline, and workplace behaviour. A lot of noble Lords tonight have talked about the culture of the police, not just in the Met but all over the country. This is the opportunity to look at any systemic flaws in vetting or issues around policing culture that the noble Lord has highlighted in his amendment. We expect that the separate inquiry established by the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, being led by the noble Baroness, Lady Casey, into the culture and standards of the force, will feed into part two of the inquiry established by the Home Office.

I very much recognise the arguments around establishing an inquiry under the Inquiries Act, but I also understand the critical need to provide reassurance to the public at pace. A non-statutory inquiry satisfies the need to move at pace, allowing greater flexibility, and it can be tailored to the issues. We expect that the police forces for which Sarah’s murderer worked will all be witnesses to, and comply with, the inquiry. In February 2020 we amended regulations—this is an important aspect—to ensure that police officers are under a duty to co-operate as witnesses with investigations, inquiries and formal proceedings under the revised standards of professional behaviour. They are guilty of a disciplinary offence if they fail to do so.

The Home Secretary has also been clear that the Government will, following consultation with the chair, convert the inquiry into a statutory inquiry if it is determined that it cannot otherwise fulfil its functions. The Government are aiming to appoint a chair shortly and can then confirm the terms of reference. An update will be provided to the House at that point.

In relation to immediate concerns about the vetting of police transferees, the College of Policing updated its guidance this year having taken into account a recommendation from HMICFRS’s 2019 report Shining a Light on Betrayal: Abuse of Position for a Sexual Purpose. Forces should now assess details of transferees’ performance, sickness record, complaints, business interests, notifiable associations and corruption intelligence. Furthermore, the inspectorate is now undertaking an urgent thematic inspection of force vetting arrangements following a request from the Home Secretary. This will specifically look at whether forces are vetting transferees in accordance with the guidance.

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Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, I realise the hour is late, but there are two things I would like to mention. First, I am very interested in what the Deputy Commissioner Sir Steve House said. I do not know when he said it, but it does not seem to chime with the fact that, two weeks ago, I was challenged by a lone officer in plain clothes. That seems to be completely contrary to what the Minister said he announced.

Secondly, the Minister says there should not be an inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005 because we need to move at speed. I can tell noble Lords that the Metropolitan Police never moved quicker on racism than when it was announced that there would be an inquiry under the Inquiries Act. It was not when the inquiry reported that the Metropolitan Police swung into action to deal with racism. It was absolutely ready with an answer as soon as that inquiry reported, because it knew what the problems were and realising that this was all going to become public in an inquiry galvanised it into action.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I note the noble Lord’s points and I do not disagree with him. I ask the Committee to understand the commitment of the Home Secretary. She is deadly serious about ensuring that the inquiry moves at pace and, if necessary, converting it to a statutory inquiry if it is not meeting its commitments.

I will get the date for the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, and the Committee. The announcement from Dame Cressida Dick was on 20 October, some 11 days ago, but I will get the date on which Sir Stephen House made those comments.

Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
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My Lords, I am hugely grateful to all Members of the Committee for the substance and tone of our proceedings. I am particularly grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, who dealt with our minor points of detailed difference with such grace. If I may say so, what I really took away from his comments was the sense of a loving father speaking of his daughters and the hope that we might one day return to a moment when all our daughters and granddaughters can trust the police. I was also struck by the way he worked with the young woman lawyer in trying to bring matters forward with such urgency. I thank him so much for that.

I agree with my noble friend Lord Hunt of Kings Heath that we have to get to the culture of obfuscation and denial—understandable human instincts when we want to protect our colleagues and the service that we love. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, that if it had been a scandal of equivalent proportions at the Bar, we would feel as uncomfortable as the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, so we understand these things.

I say to my noble friends that my Amendment 275 also deals with culture, but this is not about precise amendments—this is too important for that—but about trying to persuade the Government on both of these issues, of trust and confidence on the one hand and effective change on the other, with which we are attempting to deal in this whole group of amendments. This is about trying to persuade the Government on the power of arrest on the one hand and the inquiry and the training and vetting on the other.

The noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, made such an important point when she talked about that period of lockdown and the way that that has, in a sense, exacerbated every problem in the world but also problems around the fault-lines between hard law, guidance, perceptions of the law and trust in policing and what really is the right thing. It was in that lockdown that this atrocity was perpetrated.

Of course, she was also the Member of the Committee who pointed out that, just hours or days after the perpetrator was charged, someone made the insensitive decision to police that vigil in that way. Whoever did so must have known what we were yet to find out. The noble Baroness, Lady Jones, spoke of the young woman who now features in all of the videos and photographs. We know that, subsequently, she has been stalked by serving police officers on her Tinder account. So we really are in trouble, and we are trying to respond to a really significant problem of culture and trust in policing in this country. We are not fabricating this. No one thinks that; I know that we are all on the same page.

My noble friend Lady Blower was also clear that guidance will not be enough. We have gone too far for that in relation to any of the really serious specific issues that the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, and I and others have been trying to address in these amendments.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, for everything that he is doing in this group and on the Bill more generally. I say to him and anyone who is now feeling very concerned about and suspicious of policing in this country that there is another side. I would like to believe that the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, still represents more of what is real and true in our policing service and in our democracy built on the rule of law. I hope that we can all listen to him and heed his practical advice. The word “gallant” is used for the military; there is no equivalent for the retired senior police officers in your Lordships’ House, but there are many retired commissioners and others here. But it is the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, who has been engaged with the Bill day after day and has spoken from the heart and from years of practical experience. We have to heed him. I was heartened by hearing him discuss, on Amendment 122, the approach where we do not want lone police officers driving off with arrestees, for the protection of either. That is best practice, but we now need to put that into hard law to reassure everyone and as a matter of good governance.

My noble friend Lord Coaker said passionately—and he is so right—that we have crossed a line in terms of public trust. Once lost, it is really hard to regain. That is why he made the point, again and again, that a full statutory and judge-led inquiry is part—just part—of trying to regain that trust. Can any of us imagine a Lawrence or Macpherson inquiry that was not judge-led and on a statutory footing, with all the iconography and symbolism of justice that comes with that?

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Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
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My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, for moving his amendment. As the Committee might be aware, I sit as a youth magistrate, usually at Highbury magistrates’ court. I have to say that I was not aware of the difference in the remand criteria; I should have known but I did not. I also thank Transform Justice for bringing this to my attention. The noble Lord has very thoroughly explored the differences in the number of youths remanded by the police versus those remanded by the courts. I would be interested to hear what the Minister has to say in response.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I thank the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, for raising this important issue of children remanded in custody. I quite agree that police custody is not a suitable environment for children and that they should not be detained there unless it is absolutely necessary.

The provisions introduced by this Bill will amend the “tests” set out by the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, also known as LASPO, which must be satisfied before the court remands a child to custody. These are intended to ensure that custodial remand is used only as a last resort, where there are no other options and it is necessary to protect the public.

Before the courts get involved, if a child is charged with an offence, Section 38 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 provides that the police must release them either on bail or without bail pending their appearance at court, unless one or more specified conditions apply. These conditions are that the child’s name or address are not known or are not believed to be genuine; there are reasonable grounds to believe the child will not appear in court to answer bail; the detention is believed to be necessary to prevent the child committing an offence, causing physical injury, loss or damage to property, or interfering with the investigation of offences; or the detention after charge is believed to be necessary for the child’s own protection or in their own interests.

I would like to reassure the Committee that there is already a degree of alignment between police bail and court bail, and the police custody officer must have regard to the same considerations as those that apply when a court is considering whether to grant bail under the Bail Act 1976.

I acknowledge the concern that many more children are remanded post charge by the police than are remanded by the courts while awaiting trial, as the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, outlined, and that this may give rise to consideration of risk-averse decision-making by the police. I do not necessarily believe this to be the case. It is important to remember that post-charge detention by the police serves a different purpose from youth remand in the courts, so it is unrealistic to expect an exact alignment of the conditions required to make decisions.

With this in mind, it is perfectly possible for the police to make a decision to remand a child post charge and for the courts to make a decision not to remand the same child to custody, and for both these decisions to be reasonable based on the evidence and circumstances before each party. In the overwhelming majority of cases, a child remanded by the police will be held for no more than 24 hours.

I also acknowledge the concern that police remand is a driver of custodial remand—that is, for example, that a court is more likely to view a child remanded by the police as dangerous. I am not aware of any data showing a causal link between police remand and custodial remand. A comprehensive evidence base comparing the circumstances whereby police bail after charge decisions are made under Section 38 of PACE would be needed, giving consideration to the threshold for grounds to refuse bail and whether custody officers have access to and apply all relevant information when making a bail decision.

Before I conclude, I take this opportunity to put on record my thanks and the Home Office’s gratitude to Brian Roberts, who was the department’s expert on the Police and Criminal Evidence Act. Sadly, he died last month after 50 years of public service as a police officer and then an official in the department. He is greatly missed by his colleagues.

On the basis of my remarks, I hope the noble Lord will be happy to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede, for his support.

I am afraid that there is a bit of a pattern developing here in the Government’s responses. On the one hand, the Minister said there is “a degree of alignment” between police remand in custody of children and court remand in custody. Some 4,500 children being remanded by the police and only 884 by the courts does not sound to me like alignment.

The Minister also said a child would never be remanded in police custody for more than 24 hours. Do courts sit on a Sunday? What happens to a child arrested on a Saturday afternoon? They are going to be in custody a lot longer than 24 hours.

Unfortunately, as I say, it is becoming a bit of a theme that the Government’s responses to amendments do not appear to be factually accurate. We need to review that. I am afraid I do not find the Minister’s response satisfactory, and no doubt we will return to this on Report. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill Debate

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Department: Ministry of Justice

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Baroness Williams of Trafford Excerpts
Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
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My noble friend asked me a very interesting question, but I am not sure that I can answer it. I suppose that the short answer is that I am very conscious that this is a divisive issue and one that the police themselves have strong views on. They do not agree with each other—I have certainly heard a range of views within the police about its effectiveness or its blanket use being ineffective. I think that the answer is that the Government need to look at this issue very sensitively and be very aware of the distrust that it breeds within communities, particularly ethnic minority communities.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords for their contributions and thank the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, for explaining the amendments, which relate to stop and search powers. We can always rely on him to share his experience on the ground. I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, for his very thoughtful contribution at the end.

Amendment 129 seems to be a step in the direction of decriminalising drug possession, but I do not think that the noble Lord has ever disguised his wish to see that happen—ditto, the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb. As the noble Lord will know, this Government have no intention of decriminalising drug possession. Our approach on drugs remains clear: we must prevent drug use in our communities, support people through treatment and recovery, and tackle the supply of illegal drugs.

The noble Lord gave the statistic from Matt Parr saying that 63% of searches were for drugs. He is absolutely right on that. We make no secret of our intention to disrupt drug markets, because that is often part of the police’s strategy for tackling serious violence, and possession searches may come in response from reports from CCTV or the public or from factors that officers more obviously encounter on patrol, such as drug transactions. The noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, seemed to reflect that in talking about the types of issues that he sees in the magistrates’ courts.

There is a substantial body of scientific and medical evidence to show that controlled drugs are harmful and can damage people’s mental and physical health, and our wider communities. The decriminalisation of drugs in the UK would not eliminate the crime committed by the illicit trade, nor would it address the harms associated with drug dependence and the misery that this can cause to families and communities. I bet that everyone in your Lordships’ House can think of someone who has been affected. The police therefore have a wide range of powers at their disposal to deal with drug-related offences, including the powers to search and obtain evidence under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. How the police choose to pursue investigations is an operational decision for chief constables, but we are clear that we expect them to enforce the law.

I return to the question from the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, about what we are doing to assist young people away from drugs. He will know that we invested tens of millions of pounds in the National County Lines Coordination Centre; he will also know that we do not wish to criminalise young people—our prime aim is to move them away from a life of drugs and some of the criminal activity that can sit alongside it.

On Amendment 276, the police should have the powers they need to keep the public safe and combat serious violence while ensuring that these powers are used fairly and within the law. The Government fully support the police in the fair use of stop and search to crack down on violent crime and protect communities. It is only right that these powers are used to stand firm against criminals who break the law.

Every knife taken off our streets is a potential life saved. While I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, for his statistics, I will give some of my own. In 2019-20, stop and search removed over 11,000 weapons and firearms from our streets and resulted in over 74,000 arrests. Crime statistics have previously shown that increasing proactive policing such as stop and search is helping the police find more knives and arrest more criminals.

That said, the noble Lord is right to highlight the vital importance of ensuring that officers are using their powers based on intelligence and legitimacy, to ensure that the rights of the individual are upheld. Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 gives police the powers to stop and search individuals or vehicles, in anticipation of or after an incident of serious violence, to find offensive weapons or dangerous instruments. They do not need grounds to suspect that the person or vehicle is carrying these items.

Because of its suspicionless nature, the use of Section 60 must be limited in geographical scope and duration, and must be authorised by an officer of at least the rank of inspector. That is to ensure that these powers are used proportionately and only where necessary. PACE Code A sets out that use of Section 60 should be authorised only where there is a reasonable belief that serious violence may occur, and that this should be based on objective factors and led by intelligence. The authorising officer should communicate this intelligence to officers on the ground. When carrying out searches under a Section 60 authorisation, officers should search only individuals likely to be involved, having regard to the intelligence that led to the Section 60 being authorised.

Section 60 searches make up a tiny proportion of the stops and searches carried out by police officers: in the last year they were just 3% of all searches carried out. Despite its low level of use, the police tell us it is a vital tool to tackle serious violence. These powers can also act as a deterrent to prevent offenders carrying weapons, by increasing the perceived risk of detection.

That is why the Government announced, as part of the beating crime plan in July this year, the relaxation of the five voluntary restrictions on the use of Section 60. This follows a two-year pilot during which we gathered and analysed data from forces and community scrutiny leads on their perception of the changes, which told us that officers felt more confident using Section 60 during the pilot, and that the relaxations better reflected the operational reality of policing and the pressures and conditions officers face on the ground. It also showed that many forces had implemented their own best practices to reassure themselves internally that this power was being used legitimately and with accountability.

The noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, pressed me on this and I will say that there are a number of legal safeguards, including statutory codes of practice and the use of body-worn video, to ensure that officers are accountable during a search, including any conducted under the powers in the Misuse of Drugs Act. We publish extensive data on these powers, which allow police and crime commissioners and others to hold forces to account. HMICFRS also inspects force level disparities and the use of stop and search as part of its regular inspection programme. I assure the Committee that no one should be subject to the use of stop and search powers based on their race or ethnicity, and that safeguards exist to prevent this.

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Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
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Before the Minister sits down, will she briefly address the question I put to my noble friend Lord Ponsonby, because I think it is crucial to what a legitimate use of Section 60 looks like. If I am a young man who feels I might be particularly affected by this, and after a crime there is an area that has been designated and cordoned off and everybody is being stopped and searched when they enter those two streets—like at the airport—I can understand that. Similarly, if I am stopped and searched under “reasonable suspicion” powers, I understand: I may be innocent, but there is a reasonable suspicion that I meet the profile of the suspect, or I have otherwise given rise to suspicion in my conduct. But how is Section 60 ever to be used in a way that is not arbitrary, and therefore most likely discriminatory? Why have I been targeted for a suspicionless search? How can I be legitimately targeted for a suspicionless search?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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Of course, Section 60 is based on local policing intelligence in specific local areas. The noble Baroness has already pointed that out. I have talked about the safeguards, including statutory codes of practice, the use of body-worn video and external scrutiny; I will also talk about the use of data. The Home Office collects more data on stop and search than ever before. The data is published online, allowing local scrutiny groups, PCCs and others to hold forces to account and we discuss it with the relative NPCC leads in forces to understand why disparities occur, if they occur. HMICFRS inspects forces’ stop and search data annually, and extensive data is also published to increase trust and transparency. So, there are a number of things on which we test ourselves and are scrutinised to ensure that stop and search is not being used in an illegal and discriminatory way.

Earl Attlee Portrait Earl Attlee (Con)
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My Lords, my noble friend the Minister did not disappoint me, because she mentioned the phrase “operational independence” for the police. Would she be entirely content if a local police commander decided that he or she was not going to have their officers do stop and search unless they thought it was absolutely essential?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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It is part of that operational independence of the police that they know what is best for their area; therefore, it might be relevant for police forces in a certain area not to have much occasion for the use of Section 60 stop and search.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Baronesses, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb and Lady Chakrabarti, for their support for these amendments. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede, that the issue of drugs is very complex: it needs a complex approach and stop and search of this nature is not the way to go. When I suggested to the commissioner that we did not arrest people for cannabis in Lambeth, former MP Ann Widdecombe accused me of usurping the power of Parliament: she cannot accuse me of that now.

Turning to the response of the Minister, almost her whole argument around Amendment 129 was an argument against decriminalisation, yet this amendment does not call for the decriminalisation of personal possession of drugs. It is all about focusing the police on serious crime, rationing scarce police resources by focusing them on what is really important to communities and to the courts. We heard from the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, that he rarely saw anybody in front of him for possession, particularly of class B drugs, unless by chance—usually it is when the police find cannabis when they have arrested the person for something else. They are there for the substantive offence and they get charged for the cannabis as well, for example.

The noble Baroness talked about the harm caused by drugs. Why, then, are new psychoactive substances not controlled by the Misuse of Drugs Act not an offence? Why is personal possession of psychoactive substances not illegal under the Psychoactive Substances Act, if drugs cause so much harm? Why is alcohol not illegal when we look at the harm that alcohol causes? But we are not talking here about decriminalisation; we are talking about getting the police to focus on what is important. As far as Section 60 is concerned, I support stop and search. I have said how important stop and search—properly focused, acting on community intelligence and focusing on those who are suspected of carrying and using knives—is, and how important Section 60 is.

The Minister talked about the figures between 2019 and 2020 and the number of weapons that stop and search removed. This is not an argument about removing the power of the police to stop and search; it is about focusing intelligence-led stop and search on taking knives off the street to be even more effective. The figures that the noble Baroness gave about the number of weapons taken off the street, I assume, are not weapons found by using Section 60. If Section 60 searches were only 3% of all searches, and only 1%—one in a hundred—of Section 60 searches find a weapon, then the figures that the noble Baroness quoted cannot possibly be about Section 60. Why is she using figures about stop and search generally when the amendment she was addressing is about Section 60? It is a blunt instrument.

The noble Baroness is right; it has to be an inspector who authorises a Section 60. Until a couple of years ago, it was a superintendent who had to authorise a Section 60. That is why there has been a 2,800% increase in the number of times Section 60 orders are issued, and that is why Section 60 is so ineffective, with only one in 100 searches resulting in a weapon, and why it is so damaging to police-community relations, which are essential to tackling serious violence.

The noble Baroness said no one should be stopped and searched based on their race. You are 18 times more likely to be stopped and searched under Section 60 if you are black than if you are white. The two things do not add up. Of course nobody should be searched on the basis of their race, but the facts are that you are 18 times more likely to be stopped and searched if you are black than if you are white. That is why Section 60 is so damaging and so ineffective. That is why I brought this amendment but, in the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw Amendment 129.

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Lord Hope of Craighead Portrait Lord Hope of Craighead (CB)
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My Lords, I support these amendments as well. I look at the situation from an unusual perspective and with the unusual experience of sitting as the senior judge in Scotland in a criminal appeal. It was a case of murder, and I was not able—because I was sitting in a court where all the evidence was already out—to develop what was at the back of my mind, which was that the police had identified the wrong individual, who was then accused and convicted. I will not go into the facts of the case for obvious reasons, but it struck me that the court at that late stage was powerless to deal with what I thought had not been a frank and fair police investigation. I make that point simply because stages are reached where the situation is beyond recall, but I was deeply disturbed by what had happened in that case and could not do anything about it. So I welcome the steps that are being taken to improve the standard of candour among the police at all stages in the investigation of crime and its aftermath.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, I commend the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, for once again sharing his experiences with the Committee in moving his amendment and the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, for tabling his. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, summed it up very well: we have not got to the end of the road. The noble Lord, Lord Pannick, also challenged me about what the Government are going to do. I hope I can explain to both noble Lords how we are going to get to the end of the road and what we are going to do.

Noble Lords have rightly highlighted the very important fact of transparency within police forces and prosecuting authorities when dealing with victims of crime and their families. I totally agree with noble Lords about the importance of placing this at the heart of engaging and supporting victims and their families and, as we have talked about so much over the last week or so, the importance of regaining trust in the system.

There are a number of areas where the Government have already made progress and where work is ongoing to improve integrity and transparency in policing. In relation to the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, it is worth highlighting the introduction of the College of Policing’s statutory code of ethics in 2014, which makes clear the requirement on all officers to act within their powers and with integrity.

In February last year, we amended the policing standards of professional behaviour to make it clear that failing to co-operate as witnesses in investigations and inquiries can be a disciplinary matter. This means that there is now a clear framework in place to hold officers to account where they fail to reach the high standards the public expect of them. Ultimately, a significant breach can mean that an officer is dismissed and placed on the barred list. The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, rightly asked me why no officer had been disciplined following the Daniel Morgan independent panel. The IOPC is still considering that, so we could still get a call-in referral. On the failure to co-operate, those regulations have been in force since February 2020, so anything before that would be difficult to enforce.

I turn to the concept of a duty of candour. Like the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, I pay tribute to the bereaved families and survivors of the Hillsborough disaster, who have campaigned for a statutory requirement for candour in public life. This idea, as noble Lords have said, was also endorsed by the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel as a means of ensuring that law enforcement agencies are fully transparent with the public.

It is absolutely right that the Government carefully consider the arguments made around the duty of candour. This is not the first discussion we have had about it in this Chamber. There is ongoing work across government, and we continue to work closely with our partners to carefully consider all the points of learning in Bishop James Jones’s report concerning the bereaved Hillsborough families’ experiences and from the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel report. Before we respond to Bishop James Jones’s report, we believe it is important that the families have an opportunity to share their views, as it is critical that the lessons that can be learned from their experiences are not lost. We hope to do that as soon as is practicable. The Home Secretary has committed to updating Parliament in due course on the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel report.

I fully understand and empathise with the interest in the introduction of the duty of candour. The Government have already made significant changes to ensure that officers can be disciplined if they mislead the public, and we are committed to properly consider and respond to the recommendations for a duty of candour, as highlighted in Bishop James Jones’s report.

I hope that, having had the opportunity to debate this and given the work that is ongoing, the noble Lord will be happy to withdraw his amendment.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill Debate

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Department: Home Office

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

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Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
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My Lords, I have very much been in listening mode on this. Amendment 132B would require the oversight of the Secretary of State for police bodies to commission or deploy weapons, surveillance equipment or investigatory technology. I welcome the questions raised. All the speakers have thought about this matter far more than I have, and I look forward to the Minister’s response with interest. I do not know whether she is an expert on heli-tele, but I take the noble Lord’s point that technology as a whole is running ahead of regulation. That goes to the heart of the points made today. I also take the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, on the purposes of her committee in looking at the possible regulatory approaches, such as a hard or soft approach.

Things are moving very fast; we all know that. We are all challenged in our day-to-day lives in the way we communicate with people. This institution has been challenged in the last 12 months, and things have changed dramatically. With an open mind, I look forward to the Minister’s response.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, and the noble Lord, Lord Hain, for setting out their case for this amendment. I can do no better than echo the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, on heli-tele, which were absolutely to the point. I think the Committee is generally referring to some of the new, emerging technologies and the framework around them.

I have done quite a lot of work in Parliament on LFR and biometrics, but very little in this Chamber, so I am very pleased to have a chance to debate this with noble Lords this evening. I refer the Committee to some of the work I have done in the Science and Technology Committee on LFR, biometrics, forensics and so on. It makes for riveting reading.

We are really aware of the issues that noble Lords have raised. There are some links to the matters we debated on Monday relating to confidence in policing and the importance of policing by consent. We are mindful of the need to ensure that the police’s use of technology is appropriate, and it might assist the House if I begin by setting out some of the existing legal framework in this space. What noble Lords have talked about tonight covers a vast area, but I will give some of the headlines for a flavour of what we are doing.

The framework includes police common law powers to prevent and detect crime, the Data Protection Act 2018, the Human Rights Act 1998, the Equality Act 2010, the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 and law enforcement bodies’ own published policies. This framework places important obligations on those responsible for the deployment of technology, including the need to undertake data protection and equality impact assessments, and has provisions to regulate automated decision-making where there are significant implications for the individuals affected.

I also want to assure the Committee that the Government recognise the importance of ensuring that there is strong evidence around the use of technology in policing. To this end, we supported the appointment, in June, of Professor Paul Taylor as the National Policing Chief Scientific Adviser. Ensuring that all technological developments in policing are based on good evidence and the best understanding of science is absolutely crucial. Professor Taylor chairs a police science and technology investment board, which demands rigorous quality assurance of all proposals. He is also represented on the relevant National Police Chiefs’ Council committees and is developing national research and development guidance with the College of Policing.

We also recognise the need for appropriate co-ordination of investment decisions across the policing landscape. Therefore, with oversight from the ministerially led strategic capabilities and investment board, we are supporting the development, mobilisation and implementation of the 10-year national policing digital strategy, to ensure that the right infrastructure is in place across policing to harness and exploit the benefits of data and analytical capabilities.

Work under way includes establishing an NPCC data board to promote a consistent approach to developing data literacy; assessing efficacy, ethics quality and standards; and establishing a central data office within the Police Digital Service, which aims to improve data management and sharing across policing. The data office will provide the essential infrastructure for the sector to ensure strategic direction, central co-ordination, and accountability on national expectations of locally held data. Work is also under way to develop a national data ethics governance model, building on the work West Midlands Police has done to establish an ethics committee to advise on data science projects. The national model will also be developed in collaboration with the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation and the Home Office.

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Lord Hain Portrait Lord Hain (Lab)
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Can the Minister say something more about facial recognition technology? She has covered this to some extent, but what is different from the heli-tele era that the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, described, or the incident in Belfast I described, when you did not have facial recognition technology? This is going that way if it is not there already, and does that not raise important regulatory questions, or is this being addressed by the committee she has just described? I would be grateful if she could elucidate.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I have not engaged with the committee. The committee could invite me, but I think it spoke to Home Secretary in the past few days. Live facial recognition is the comparison of images against a watchlist, whereas heli-tele seems to be—from what the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, was describing—aerial CCTV. The two are quite different and are governed under different laws. The LFR is a comparison against a watchlist, and that is why it is different.

Baroness Bryan of Partick Portrait Baroness Bryan of Partick (Lab)
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I wonder whether the Minister will mind me intervening. My concern was not that the police and crime commissioners were not elected, but that the one that serves West Yorkshire is elected only by West Yorkshire, yet it is commissioning work on behalf of other areas in England and Wales that properly should be done here in Parliament.

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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If the noble Baroness wants to elucidate further—perhaps not in the Committee—on those issues, I would be very happy to engage with her on them. The only point I was making is that they are elected.

Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
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My Lords, I am grateful to all Members of the Committee who spoke on this amendment. I want to be clear: it was a probe, and my ideal scenario would not even be for a regulation-making power in a great big criminal justice Act, it would be an Act of Parliament itself. I say to the Minister—and I mean this genuinely in a constructive spirit—that it was a Conservative Government in 1984 who introduced what is now the Police and Criminal Evidence Act.

What I am really saying is that there is so much of this kit and technology developing apace that we need something at least equivalent to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act to put questions of commissioning and regulation—of who decides what the tests are and what the accountability is in relation to all this development and commissioning of this new technology in the policing space—in one Act of Parliament. Again, it is not a partisan point; I would be saying this whoever the Government were. That was a really important piece of legislation in 1984, and the time has come for something like it. There happens to be another Conservative Government, and I think something like that will come.

What I said to the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson—sitting down—I said a couple of years ago to his predecessor: what is the legal basis of telephone extraction? I was told data protection and consent, or something of that kind. Here we are now, a couple of years later, in response to concerns, and there is going to be under this Bill a clear statutory framework.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I hope the noble Baroness does not mind me intervening, but I again refer her to the Science and Technology Committee, because the Policing Minister talked about gaps in the legislation. In fact, the honourable Member Graham Stringer was pleading for legislation, and I refer her to the comments the Policing Minister made in that regard.

Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
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I thank the Minister for that, and I will certainly go back to look at that. When she made her comments, I asked about the statutory framework, the legal basis. A list came back which began with the common law, the Data Protection Act, the Human Rights Act and the Equality Act—all good things—but my suggestion is that, as a matter of good governance, sound regulation and accessibility for the public—this is not about just civil liberties concerns and privacy but public money and accountability—all this regulation should be under one framework. That way there will be consistency across all 46 police forces in relation to where the commissioning should be, which providers are considered to be ethical and which are not, how they are to behave and what the conditions are, and then, once the technology has been developed, how it is to be deployed. I do not think it is asking a lot to suggest that this should all be under a single statutory framework. It would be something that the Minister and her Government could be proud of, and there could be a regulatory framework that could last for many decades, just as, broadly speaking, the Police and Criminal Evidence Act did.

I thank all noble Lords who spoke. To go back to my noble friend Lady Bryan of Partick’s point, where is the statutory underpinning of a National Police Air Service? Where is the Act says that says “there shall be a National Police Air Service”? I am not aware of it. Where is the Act of Parliament that set up a national College of Policing? I am not aware of it. It may exist somewhere, but I have not found it and I do not see it. I am not doing this to score points; I think it would be good governance and good legislation from which many generations and many Governments in future might benefit.

With that, and with my gratitude for taking this seriously, I hope that I have planted a seed for future thinking. The committee chaired by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, on which I have the privilege to sit, will no doubt develop this conversation with the Minister in due course. I thank everyone for their patience and engagement, and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Lord Young of Norwood Green Portrait Lord Young of Norwood Green (Lab)
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I thank the noble Baroness, but I think I made it clear in my contribution that I do not believe the Government’s proposals are right or necessary. Do not find a difference with me on those grounds, because it is not what I am suggesting.

If we really want to find a solution to these problems—I think one of the right reverend Prelates made a point about discrimination in education—lots of schools take real pride and make an effort in accommodating Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children. They are the examples of best practice which the Government should encourage. It is not true to say that all Gypsy, Roma and Travellers are illiterate and innumerate—far from it. In fact, one person I met who impressed me was a young woman from a Traveller family who had taken herself through university and become a teacher and an absolute credit to her community. We should beware of sweeping generalisations. They do not help us in these circumstances.

I am aware of the lateness of the hour, but I wanted to make this contribution. I like to think that my activities in support of the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller group will not cause me to be labelled as unfairly prejudiced or discriminatory. Ever since I was capable of doing it, I have fought all my life against any form of discrimination, whether it is anti-Semitism, racism or discrimination against Gypsy, Roma and Traveller groups.

My plea to the Minister when she gets to her feet is to take into account the fact that there are some genuine concerns from a number of us about the nature of the government proposals and whether they will help the situation and are necessary—or whether the existing laws are such. I also do not believe that the nature of the amendments, if I take that of my noble friend Lord Rosser as an example, is a solution to the problem. That is why I suggest that, before we reach Report, the Minister convene a meeting, which might enable us to find a bit more common ground than appears to exist in the Chamber at the moment.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate on Clauses 62 and 64. I am grateful to have had discussions with the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, and am happy to have further discussions with the noble Lord, Lord Young of Norwood Green, before Report.

These clauses deliver on a clear manifesto commitment to tackle unauthorised encampments. It is worth quoting directly from the Conservative manifesto, as the commitment was in explicit terms. The manifesto said:

“We will give the police new powers to arrest and seize the property and vehicles of trespassers who set up unauthorised encampments, in order to protect our communities. We will make intentional trespass a criminal offence”.


The noble Baroness, Lady Lister, and others have challenged me to say, if I was not talking just about the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community, who I was talking about. It is anyone who sets up camp on unauthorised land and causes significant damage, disruption or distress. My noble and learned friend Lord Garnier gave us an example, and he was not even sure who the individuals were. When I go on holiday to Cornwall, I see examples of unauthorised encampments, and I do not know who the individuals are. It is a wider problem than just Gypsy, Roma and Travelling communities.

We have brought forward the measures in Part 4 because we understand the challenges many locations across the country face when individuals cause significant damage, disruption or distress to communities, businesses, and landowners. The financial cost of cleaning up sites and repairing damage can also be significant. It is not a sound assumption to say that landowners will have sufficient resources to be able to clean up after some of the damage that is caused to their land. The measures are a proportionate means of protecting the rights of communities. While we must ensure fair and equal treatment for Travellers, and recognise that the majority are law-abiding, as the noble Lord, Lord Young of Norwood Green, said, we are equally clear that we will not tolerate law-breaking and we are determined to ensure that the police have the powers they need to support and serve their communities. That is why we are introducing this new criminal offence as a proportionate means of protecting the rights of communities.

It is very important to recognise that the threshold for the new offence is high. The act of taking a vehicle on to someone else’s land without their permission is not in and of itself criminalised by this clause, nor is an “unauthorised encampment” in itself an offence. There are several conditions to the offence, all of which must be satisfied for someone to be found guilty of the offence. Most importantly, the offence requires conduct or residence that causes, or is likely to cause, significant damage, disruption or distress. I would hope that no one in your Lordships’ House would condone such conduct.

I move now to the amendments. The three government amendments in this group, Amendments 134, 146 and 148, are simply clarificatory in nature so I do not propose to say more on them at this stage.

Amendment 133 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, would have the effect that no criminal offence is committed unless the police make the request to the trespasser to leave. This would remove the ability of a landowner to trigger the offence by requesting that trespassers leave their land, and would slow the enforcement process down, while using more police resource.

As I have said, the new offence targets only those who cause significant damage, disruption or distress and who do not leave when asked to do so. It is right that on those occasions where significant harms have taken place, enforcement action should be taken to protect citizens and businesses. This amendment would remove the ability for police to act more quickly where they need to in response to unauthorised encampments causing significant harm, disruption or distress.

Noble Lords have raised concerns that this means that those on unauthorised encampments could be criminalised simply because the landowner does not want them there or because they hold prejudiced views towards people. This is simply not the case. The police will need to continue to collect evidence to form reasonable grounds for suspecting that the offence has been committed, and the offence will apply only where specific conditions have been met. In addition, we expect that the police will continue to have regard to their duties under the Human Rights Act 1998 and to their duty to safeguard the vulnerable before and when taking enforcement decisions.

A few noble Lords referred to the word “significant”, specifically the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton. It is widely used in legislation, and examples are set out in the draft statutory guidance. This type of qualifying term is used for other offences without government guidance; for example, the Public Order Act 1986 refers to

“serious disruption to the life of the community”,

and Section 14A of that Act, on prohibiting trespassing assemblies, refers to “significant damage”.

On the Human Rights Act, the Government believe that the measures are compliant with the ECHR and the Equality Act 2010. We respect the rights of the Traveller community to follow a nomadic way of life, in line with their cultural heritage. Enforcement action will not be based on race or ethnicity. Anyone who causes significant harm, disruption or distress and does not leave when asked to do so will commit the offence.

Amendment 135 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, seeks to provide that the offence is committed only when a suitable site has been offered. There is no justification for causing significant harm, disruption or distress—the lack of availability of a pitch on an authorised site cannot be an excuse for such conduct. As I have said, the fact of the unauthorised encampment is not in itself an offence. If significant harms are being caused, it is only right that the police have powers to tackle those harms, and that those harms should incur enforcement action in the way that any other criminal behaviour would.

Amendment 136 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville—I know she has had to leave, or else she will not get her last train home—would require a senior police officer to conduct a welfare assessment before considering if enforcement action is proportionate. I can assure the Committee that, in making decisions around the seizure of property, the police will need to take into account welfare considerations and vulnerabilities, and, where possible, should liaise with local authorities regarding suitable accommodation, just as they currently do.

Therefore, we do not think that this amendment is necessary. The police already give full consideration to their responsibilities under their public sector equality duty, and to the potential impact that issuing a direction to leave, or utilising powers of arrest and seizure, may have on the families involved, before they reach a decision on taking enforcement action. Each case will be dealt with on its own merit and according to the evidence.

Baroness Lister of Burtersett Portrait Baroness Lister of Burtersett (Lab)
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I am sorry to interrupt. Perhaps at this point the Minister could say what is meant by not gold-plating these considerations, because it gives the impression that, ultimately, they can be put to one side.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I thank the noble Baroness for that. The “gold-plate” quotation has been mentioned twice tonight, and I must confess that it was novel to me. I suspect that the answer is that, within anything such as the Equality Act or the Human Rights Act, there is interpretation—you could abide by every single aspect of it, or not. But I will write to the noble Baroness, because I think the Committee requires clarification on just what it means. It is too late to guess at this time of the night, so I will write to her.

Amendments 137 to 142, again in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, would remove the “likely to cause” condition of the offence. We think this is an important element of the offence because provision that the offence can be caused if significant damage, disruption or distress is likely to be caused enables the police to intervene where people are suspected of repeatedly causing significant harms. This is particularly relevant in cases where those who cause damage move a short distance away, only to enter other land and cause more damage. It is only right that the police can intervene quickly in these cases of suspected serial criminal behaviour.

I point out that an offence based on likelihood of harm occurring or similar is not unique to these provisions, nor is it a novel requirement in criminal law. As for other offences, the factual circumstances and evidence of each case will determine whether a “significant” level of damage, disruption or distress has been caused or is likely to be caused, and this will be for the police—and ultimately, of course, the courts—to determine.

Amendments 143 and 144, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, would limit the maximum penalty for the offence to a fine of up to £2,500. We think that, given the nature of the conduct covered by this offence, it should be open to the courts to impose a custodial sentence of up to three months. Of course, it will be for the courts to decide the appropriate penalty in each individual case.

The noble Baroness, Lady Massey of Darwen, tabled Amendment 145, which would seek to remove “insulting words or behaviour” from the definition of offensive conduct. As we indicated in our response to the JCHR, we believe that landowners should be protected from being insulted on their land, and the provision in Clause 62 mirrors that in the 1994 Act. It is only right that there is consistency within the law.

I turn now to Amendment 147, which would remove the vehicle seizure power from the offence. Seizure powers are already conferred on the police in relation to a person’s failure to comply with a police direction to leave land under the trespass provisions in the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. It is right that police should have an equivalent power in the context of the new criminal offence where the level of harm is significant for the offence to be committed before police would consider using, and are able to use, seizure powers. If people do not commit significant harms, or leave when asked, they will not be caught by the offence and will not risk having their vehicle seized. Without the power to seize vehicles, enforcement action is likely to be hindered, and the harms can continue while people and vehicles remain on the land.

Police decisions to seize vehicles should continue to be taken in consultation with the local authority, where appropriate. As is the case for existing provisions, the local authority would need, where possible, to offer assurance that they have relevant measures in place to meet any welfare and safeguarding needs of those affected by the loss of their accommodation, particularly the vulnerable, before police take enforcement action.

We expect police will continue to undertake any enforcement action in compliance with their equality and human rights obligations and will continue to consider harm to local amenities, the local environment and the rights of nearby residents.

Where a decision is made not to charge the person, the police must return the property as soon as is practicable. If at any time a person other than the suspect satisfies the police that property that is retained belongs to the person at that time, and belonged to them at the time of the suspected offence, then the police must return the property to the person.

Amendment 149 seeks to reintroduce a statutory duty on local authorities to provide sites for Gypsies, Roma and Travellers. The Government’s aim is to increase the provision of Traveller sites in appropriate locations and to maintain an appropriate level of supply. The planning system, taken as a whole, is capable of meeting the needs of the Traveller community. It places sufficient requirements on local authorities for what they must do to provide sites.

As the noble Lord, Lord Rosser said, a duty to provide sites was introduced in 1968. As more sites were needed, the basis on which the duty was introduced changed. Like the rest of the population, most Travellers aspired to own their own home and to live on a private, rather than a public, site. In recognition of this, planning policy seeks to promote more private site provision, while recognising that not all Travellers can afford their own site. Local authorities and social housing providers are able to bid through the £11.5 billion affordable homes programme 2021-26 for the funding of new sites.

The noble Baroness, Lady Lister, asked when the GRT strategy was due. I understand that the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities—now affectionately known as DLUHC—is working closely with other government departments to progress the strategy, which will be published in due course. I know the noble Baroness is going to roll her eyes at that because she does not like that term “in due course”. We remain firmly committed to its delivery.

The noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, brought up the numbers. The Traveller caravan count is a count of caravans, rather than sites. None the less, it should be recognised that, in January 2020, there were 6,506 Traveller caravans on sites provided by local authorities and private registered providers in England. This was an increase of 10% on the 1994 Traveller caravan count. As of January 2020, the number of authorised transit pitches had increased by more than 40% since January 2010.

Finally, Amendment 151 seeks to provide that the guidance to be introduced under Clause 64 should be subject to the negative procedure, as recommended by the Delegated Powers Committee. We are carefully considering all the Delegated Powers Committee’s recommendations. We will respond to its report ahead of the next stage. In coming to a final view on its recommendation in relation to Clause 64, we want to take into account the Government’s broad approach to parliamentary scrutiny of statutory guidance such as this. In a letter to the DPRRC in October 2018, my noble friend the Lord Privy Seal said:

“There is a vast range of statutory guidance issued each year and it is important that guidance can be updated rapidly to keep pace with events. There is nothing to prevent Parliament from scrutinising guidance at any time. I certain exceptional circumstances it may be appropriate for guidance to be laid before Parliament or be subject to the negative procedure.”


It is our firm belief that the new offence provided for in Clause 62 is appropriately framed. It targets significant harms, not simply the act of residing in a vehicle on land without permission. As I have said, the new offence delivers on a clear manifesto commitment to strengthen the protection to communities from unauthorised encampments. I apologise to noble Lords for that quite lengthy explanation. I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, will withdraw her amendment.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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From the Minister’s reply on behalf of the Government, I rather inferred that the Government were confirming that the police can seize a vehicle, even if it is a family home and leaves people homeless. I should like the Minister to confirm that this can happen under the terms of this Bill.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I am just looking for my wording now. I think that what I said to the noble Lord in reply is that the police should take into account welfare considerations where possible and should liaise with local authorities regarding suitable accommodation, just as they currently do. They should give full consideration to their responsibilities under the public sector equality duty, as well as to the potential impact that issuing a direction to leave, or utilising powers of arrest and seizure, may have on the families involved before reaching a decision on taking enforcement action. If I could just complete my last sentence, obviously each case should be considered on its own merits.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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I hope the Minister will forgive me for saying this but that is a lot of words. I read into it that, under the terms of the Bill, despite all those words, the police can seize a vehicle even if it is a family home and results in homelessness, because nowhere did the Minister say that they cannot do so.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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The noble Lord is correct, but the police would have to take into account the various factors that I set out. Obviously, each case is different.

Baroness Whitaker Portrait Baroness Whitaker (Lab)
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I am grateful for the Minister’s attempts to sanitise Part 4, although I did not quite understand her explanation of the Home Secretary’s misleading remarks.

The hour is late. It would not be right for me now to take issue with every point the Minister made, although I would like to. She will have noticed the widespread concern evidenced in many thoughtful speeches about the import of Part 4. I would not say that those concerns have been assuaged by her response. She will also have noticed that stereotyping is still with us, here and there.

However, I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Garnier, for his appreciation of the general problem, although I do think that his one anecdotal example could be dealt with perfectly well by the present police powers. However, his suggestion that Clause 62 could attract a compromise in relation to site provision encouraged me to hope that the Minister will discuss a better solution before Report.

On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Moved by
134: Clause 62, page 57, line 8, after “to” insert “do either or both of the following”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment clarifies that the power under section 60C(1)(d) of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 is a power to require a person to leave the land in question, to remove property from the land or to do both.
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Moved by
146: Clause 62, page 59, line 12, at end insert “or”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment clarifies that the powers of seizure in section 60D(1) of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 apply to property that belongs to a person suspected of an offence under section 60C of that Act, is in their possession or is under their control.
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Moved by
148: Clause 62, page 60, line 16, leave out “section 37” and insert “Part 4”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment expands the definition of when proceedings are commenced for the purposes of section 60D(6) of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 to cover when a person is charged under any provision of Part 4 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill Debate

Full Debate: Read Full Debate
Department: Ministry of Justice

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Baroness Williams of Trafford Excerpts
Lords Hansard - part one & Committee stage
Monday 8th November 2021

(2 years, 6 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 40-VII Seventh marshalled list for Committee - (8 Nov 2021)
Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I will be relatively brief. We had a lengthy debate on the previous day in Committee about Part 4 on unauthorised encampments, and expressed our strong concerns about what is proposed in Part 4. I will just reiterate a couple of points. Certainly, our understanding is that the police seem to think the existing law adequate; indeed, so do local government officers who have direct involvement with the Gypsy, Traveller and Roma community.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Garnier, put forward Amendment 150 on the basis that it is putting right a wrong. The obvious concern is that, in so doing, it creates new wrongs or new unfairness, not least in relation to the Gypsy, Traveller and Roma community. The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, probably quite rightly said that much of the debate might suggest that this amendment was aimed at others, perhaps those involved in protests over GM crops or HS2. Certainly, it involves a change as far as the onus of proof of the accused is concerned. The noble and learned Lord said that he is not going to press the amendment to a vote in Committee. I hope I am not misrepresenting what he said, but I think he said he would wait for the Minister’s response before deciding how and if to progress the matter further. We have our concerns about Amendment 150 and what exactly it might mean, but at this stage we stand in the same position as him: we will wait to hear what the Minister says on behalf of the Government in response to Amendment 150. At the moment we have fairly strong reservations about its implications, but we will listen to what the Government have to say.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate. I particularly thank the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville, for her apologies, which in fact I got the other night. It was very courteous of her to give them.

Before I turn to whether Clause 63 should stand part of the Bill, let me deal with Amendment 150 in the name of my noble and learned friend Lord Garnier, which relates to the offence of aggravated trespass, as he outlined. The effect of this amendment would be to introduce a statutory defence to the offence at Section 68 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, as he explained. It would require the defendant to show that they were not trespassing, or that the activity which they intended by their trespass to obstruct or disrupt or cause intimidation in respect of was unlawful.

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Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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I am grateful to the Minister for that explanation. With regard to the other examples that she has found over the weekend, showing that the law is not targeted at Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people, is it not the case that under the Equalities Act the law should not disproportionately impact on any particular community, not that they should not be the sole focus? Therefore, if the changes as drafted would disproportionately impact on the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities, would that still not be contrary to the Equalities Act?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, I have said all along, and the proponents of the amendments that we have discussed have underlined, that the absolute majority of the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community are law-abiding people, so this is not something that disproportionately impacts on them. It is about people who cause destruction to other people’s land and property.

Lord Garnier Portrait Lord Garnier (Con)
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My Lords, I am grateful to all those who have spoken in this debate. I am particularly grateful to the noble Lords, Lord Paddick and Lord Rosser, for their qualified support for the principle behind my Amendment 150.

The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, gently chided me—or if not me then a class of people—for being unsophisticated. It may well be that it was my lack of sophistication that annoyed the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, who, not for the first time—we saw it again last Wednesday—tilted at a windmill. I thought I had made it clear in the course of my speech that proposed new Clause 68(3A)(a) in my amendment was there in error and we should concentrate on proposed new paragraph (b). She is of course perfectly entitled to make whatever remarks she wishes, but the gravamen of my amendment was to reverse the burden of proof in relation to the unlawful activity point in paragraph (b) and not, as I think I had accepted, in relation to who should prove the trespass. Having cleared up that point, I think we can make a lot more progress.

I am also grateful to my noble friend Lord Hailsham for his support. Beyond that, I have nothing to say because, as I said in my opening remarks, the policy behind Clause 63 is for the Government to defend and to persuade this House and the other place about. However, there is some room for discussion. I know the Minister has had an enormous amount of work to do in dealing with the Bill, and indeed has a lot yet to do, so she has my every sympathy. However, if she can find time perhaps to have a quiet discussion with me and others of like mind about proposed new Clause 68(3A)(b) in my Amendment 150 regarding the unlawful activity point, I would be most grateful. That having been said, this debate has now reached its natural conclusion for today’s purposes and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill Debate

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Department: Ministry of Justice

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Baroness Williams of Trafford Excerpts
Lords Hansard - part two & Committee stage
Monday 8th November 2021

(2 years, 6 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 40-VII Seventh marshalled list for Committee - (8 Nov 2021)
Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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This issue was also raised by my colleague, Ben Bradshaw MP, in the Commons. As has been said, exceptional hardship is the plea a person can use when charged with road traffic offences to avoid losing their licence if not being able to drive would cause them exceptional hardship. Obviously, as we have heard, the concerns about the system are that exceptional hardship is being agreed to too frequently for repeat offenders and in spurious cases.

What has quite clearly been asked of the Government —that is, what is being sought—is a tightening-up of the definition of exceptional hardship. I ask the Government to say in their response, first, whether, in their view, there is an issue with exceptional hardship being agreed to rather too frequently. Do the figures show that the number of times exceptional hardship is being agreed to is going up year by year? As I understand it, between 2011 and 2020, there were more than 83,500 cases where drivers did not receive a driving ban by pleading exceptional hardship. Do the Government have a feel for whether it is the case that instances of exceptional hardship being agreed to are increasing? Are they aware of any areas, perhaps in relation to courts, where there is what they regard as best practice, where the system is working well?

I remember once being told that “exceptional hardship” was something that people suffered, for example, at times of war. When it comes to the loss of a licence, perhaps we are talking more about a form of inconvenience than necessarily about hardship. Even in the more extreme case where somebody was able to persuade you that they would lose their job, presumably it is relevant to ask, “Well, that may be the case, but if it is for a short period of time, will the employer be prepared to live with it and give out other duties that do not involve driving?” Perhaps, if they are going to lose their job, it would suggest that the employer is not necessarily highly enamoured of their performance. But, even in a case where you might lose your job, it must surely be assessed against “exceptional hardship”: what would the individual’s prospects be at that time of getting another, completely different job that did not involve driving, if a ban would cause them to lose their job that involved driving?

I know that there are other instances where people come out with examples of it being almost impossible to get to work but where it turns out that, if they were prepared to get up an hour and a half earlier in the morning, they might be able to get there by public transport—but somehow it is regarded as an “exceptional hardship” to have to get up so much earlier to get there by public transport and it taking longer to get home. So I am aware of the way these arguments get used and put forward, and we need to be careful to draw a clear distinction between what is “exceptional hardship”, with a proper definition of “hardship”, and what may be closer to “exceptional inconvenience”.

I simply repeat what I asked earlier: do the Government have a feel for this one? Do they have any information on the extent to which “exceptional hardship” is being used and accepted more as an argument? Do they have any examples of where the wording is being applied in perhaps a more realistic manner, and are they looking to take action in this area? What is being asked for in this amendment is that we should tighten up the definition of what constitutes exceptional hardship. I await the Government’s response with interest.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords, and particularly the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, for her explanation of this amendment, which seeks to define the term “exceptional hardship” that applies in the context of a court’s decision on whether to impose a driving ban.

I reassure the Committee that the Government take road safety extremely seriously. Drivers who reach 12 points should automatically be disqualified from driving, to protect themselves and others. However, sentencing, including the imposition and length of a driving disqualification, is properly a matter for our independent courts, based on the facts of each case—we have heard of a number of interesting and diverse cases this evening. Courts have the discretion not to disqualify, or to impose a reduced disqualification, if they are satisfied that there are mitigating circumstances justifying a claim of “exceptional hardship”.

This amendment to introduce a definition of “exceptional hardship” is unnecessary, detrimental to judicial discretion and of questionable utility in assisting a court in applying the “exceptional hardship” test. It would introduce a narrow definition that would not be able to account for all circumstances that were presented to the courts and would remove the courts’ freedom to use their experience to reach decisions accordingly.

It might assist the Committee if I read out the sentencing guidance that is already in practice—from my mobile phone. It says:

“When considering whether there are grounds to reduce or avoid a totting up disqualification the court should have regard to the following … It is for the offender to prove to the civil standard of proof that such grounds exist. Other than very exceptionally, this will require evidence from the offender, and where such evidence is given, it must be sworn … Where it is asserted that hardship would be caused, the court must be satisfied that it is not merely inconvenience, or hardship, but exceptional hardship for which the court must have evidence … Almost every disqualification entails hardship for the person disqualified and their immediate family. This is part of the deterrent objective of the provisions combined with the preventative effect of the order not to drive … If a motorist continues to offend after becoming aware of the risk to their licence of further penalty points, the court can take this circumstance into account … Courts should be cautious before accepting assertions of exceptional hardship without evidence that alternatives (including alternative means of transport) for avoiding exceptional hardship are not viable.”


It concludes by saying:

“Loss of employment will be an inevitable consequence of a driving ban for many people. Evidence that loss of employment would follow from disqualification is not in itself sufficient to demonstrate exceptional hardship; whether or not it does will depend on the circumstances of the offender and the consequences of that loss of employment on the offender and/or others.”


I hope the Committee found that guidance helpful.

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Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
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My Lords, I was interested in the explanation of this amendment by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick. As he rightly said, there are all sorts of potential issues—one can think of electric cars—and reasons this may not be workable as it has been drafted. Nevertheless, the noble Lord made the point about the vulnerability of police officers when they are in this situation, and of course the vast majority of cars do use conventional engines at the moment.

The other point made by the noble Lord is that a driver is under no obligation to get out of the vehicle. I have to say that, in the current circumstances, if there was a lone woman in the vehicle and a lone police officer asked her to step outside, that may be problematic. Nevertheless, that is not the burden of the noble Lord’s amendment. He has raised an interesting point; we want to protect police officers in vulnerable situations, and I look forward to the Minister’s reply.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, if I understand the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, correctly, this amendment is aimed at improving the safety of police officers at the roadside. I share his concerns and want to reassure him that the safety of police officers is vitally important to this Government, as is demonstrated by our programme of work on the police covenant. I will not echo the arguments made to the noble Lord by the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, on the defects of his amendment, but I want to say that we are committed to ensuring that the police have the powers that they need to protect people.

The British model of policing is based on consent, and the exercise of police powers, including the Section 163 power, needs to be transparent, fair and legitimate to ensure that the public can remain confident in policing. I am supportive of the intention behind the extension of this power, but more evidence and consultation are needed to demonstrate that it would provide benefits to officers’ safety and build support for the effectiveness and legitimacy of the proposal to extend the power. I can say to the noble Lord that we will work closely with the National Police Chiefs’ Council, the College of Policing and the Police Federation to explore these issues further and consider what more can be done to improve officer safety at the roadside. On that basis, I hope that he will withdraw his amendment.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the noble Lord, Ponsonby of Shulbrede, for his support in principle. I think it would be problematic if the lone female driver was asked to get into the police vehicle, but I am not sure that the female driver would be in danger by getting out on to the roadside.

I am very grateful to the Minister for her support for the intention behind the amendment. As I acknowledged, more consultation is required, and I am very grateful that the Government are prepared to discuss these issues further with the National Police Chiefs’ Council and the Police Federation. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
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My Lords, my right honourable friend Ben Bradshaw spoke to his amendment, which was along similar lines, in the other place, to increase the sentences for this type of offence from six months to a possible 14 years. I agree with most of the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, and particularly her opening point: in general terms, I do not like sentence inflation. This is a very large potential inflation in sentences. Nevertheless, I take the point that she and other noble Lords have made, that a maximum of six months in custody for failing to report a serious or fatal injury during a road traffic accident seems like an unduly light sentence for the most extreme cases.

We have heard reference to the petition; I understand that it will be debated in the House of Commons later this month. I have a question for the noble Lord, Lord Paddick. I would be interested to know how this would interact with existing sentences. For example, if a person has committed an offence causing serious injury or death by dangerous driving, would the expectation be that they would also be sentenced to a number of years for not reporting the accident? How would the two charges work in combination with each other? I have an open mind on these amendments, and I look forward to the Minister’s response.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, as noble Lords have explained, Amendments 161 and 166 relate to the offence of drivers failing to stop. We know that in a small number of cases, the failure to stop might be related to an event that leads to the death of, or serious injury to, another person, but in the vast majority of cases, convictions involve low-level traffic incidents. In an extremely small number of cases, there may not be any other evidence to connect the death or serious harm with the driver who fails to stop, meaning the only offence they have committed is that failure to stop. I understand the concerns raised, but these amendments potentially risk providing for a maximum custodial sentence of 14 years for failure-to-stop offences resulting in serious or fatal injuries in circumstances where there would not have had to be evidence of a causal link between the failure to stop and the death or serious injury.

What is more, these amendments cut across the basis for the current offence. I must stress that the offence of failure to stop and report is designed to deal with the behaviour relating to the failure to stop. The offence is not to provide an alternative route to punish an offender for a more serious but unproven offence.

Where there is evidence that the driver caused harm, there are a range of other offences, including causing death or serious injury by dangerous or careless driving, with which the driver can be charged. In these cases, the courts can treat the failure to stop as an aggravating factor that adds to the overall seriousness of the offending. Where there is evidence that the driver knew about the incident and took steps to avoid detection, they may be charged with perverting the course of justice, a common law offence that already carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

Linking death or serious injury with a failure to stop as the cause would risk creating an unnecessary and unfairly severe offence. To take an example, where there was evidence of causing death by careless driving and failure to stop, the offender would face a maximum penalty almost three times higher for failure to stop than they would for causing death by careless driving—14 years compared to five years— even though the causing death offence requires proof of a fault in the standard of driving.

The law already imposes severe penalties for vehicle offences that lead to death or serious injury, but when doing so, a clear causal link must be proved between the driver’s behaviour and the outcome. The proposed amendment would essentially be equating, or in some cases exceeding, the seriousness of failure to stop with actual culpability for causing death or injury. That, as I have said but want to repeat, causes serious anomalies with other offences that could result in potential injustices, and it is why the Government cannot accept the amendment.

In relation to Amendment 166, which also seeks to amend the current offence, we are concerned by the potential impacts on what is a complex area of law. For example, it is unclear what impact replacing the word “accident” with “collision” would have; it might exclude incidents that are currently and rightly within scope of the existing version of this section. We also reiterate our objections set out above to the creation of the offence of failing to report where the collision caused foreseeable serious or fatal injury.

We are of course aware of the traumatic effects of such incidents, however rare. From what I have already said, it should be clear that this is a complex area, and any change to the law has to fit within the current driving offence framework. However, let me assure noble Lords that my ministerial colleagues at the Department for Transport understand the concerns that have been raised. I can assure the Committee that the Department for Transport is exploring options that could be pursued in this area, including but not limited to the available penalties and how the offence operates as part of long-term and wider work on road safety. I hope that, with those assurances, the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, will withdraw his amendment.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I thank noble Lords for contributing to this debate, including the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, who contributed twice. I thank her for her support. I agree in principle with what the noble Baroness and the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede, said about sentence inflation; we are not in favour of that. However, the Minister talked about anomalies and this clearly is one—where someone causes death or serious injury and fails to stop after an accident but where no other offences are disclosed.

This is from memory, but in the case of the MP whom the noble Lord referred to, I think the incident in his part of the world in the south-west was a case of somebody who hit something, someone wandering in the road for example, and therefore an offence of careless, reckless or dangerous driving was not appropriate. However, the driver knew that they had hit something or somebody and still failed to stop or call the emergency services.

This is not about punishing the manner of driving that has caused death or serious injury, but about the dishonesty of knowing that you have hit somebody and knowing, from the speed that you were doing, that the person is likely to have received serious injury and, because you have failed to stop, what could have been survivable injuries become fatal injuries, because medical aid is not provided immediately or within a short space of time. As the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, said, almost everybody who has a car has a mobile phone, and with the extensive coverage of mobile phone signals there is no reason why immediate assistance cannot be summoned in most cases. As the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, said, failing to stop after an accident of this kind can mean the difference between life and death.

In my opening remarks I said that I was not sure that 14 years was the right punishment, that it needs to fit within the framework of punishment. In answer to the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede, there could be circumstances, such as the one that I have referred to, where offences other than failing to stop were not present. In those circumstances—for example, if somebody in foggy conditions wearing dark clothing in the middle of the night stumbles on to a roadway and is hit by a car, and the person driving knows that they have hit that individual but fails to stop—the only offence could be the failure to stop, yet it could have fatal consequences for the pedestrian involved.

I am grateful to the Minister for saying that colleagues in the Department for Transport will be looking at this issue, but it goes to the heart of the previous group on how there needs to be an overall look at road traffic offences in the light of changes that have taken place. The Minister also talked about difficulties that might be created because the amendment refers to collision versus accident, whereas other parts of road traffic law refer to accidents, but I did say that throughout road traffic legislation “accident” needs to be changed to “collision”, because some of the incidents are not accidents. However, it is encouraging that the Minister’s colleagues in the Department for Transport have agreed to look at this. On that basis, for the time being I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill Debate

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Department: Ministry of Justice

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Baroness Williams of Trafford Excerpts
Lords Hansard - Part 2 & Committee stage
Monday 15th November 2021

(2 years, 6 months ago)

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Read Full debate Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 40-IX Ninth marshalled list for Committee - (15 Nov 2021)
Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the Labour Party has been at the forefront of calls to make misogyny a hate crime. Former Nottingham police and crime commissioner Paddy Tipping ensured that it was recorded as a hate crime there, and we have heard from my noble friend Lady Warwick about his work with Chief Constable Sue Fish in that regard. During the passage of the Domestic Abuse Act, we secured the piloting of the recording of misogyny as a hate crime among crimes of violence against the person, including stalking, harassment and sexual offences. Police forces recording misogyny as a hate crime is an important step forward, but we want to go further by including sex and gender in the list of protected characteristics in hate crime laws for the first time.

I shall speak only very briefly because of the hour, but I want to conclude by saying that I thought that my noble friend Lady Chakrabarti encapsulated the decision before us. We in the Labour Party support Amendment 219 and oppose Amendment 219A. As my noble friend said, first of all, this relates to where an offence has already taken place. Secondly, it is already the case that race and religion are aggravating factors, and they have been for many years. We believe that misogyny should be added as an aggravating factor when sentencing.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I thank my noble friends Lady Newlove and Lady Noakes for tabling their amendments. Both have highlighted the importance of tackling violence against women and girls, as have other noble Lords. We rightly share this priority.

These amendments provide us with an opportunity to discuss the important issue of hate crime, and also to pay tribute to the work of the Law Commission. It performs an important service, considering complex matters of law and making recommendations for change and simplification. This very valuable function helps to bring coherence to complicated and technical areas of law.

The Government share the opinion that all hate crimes are a great injustice and should be dealt with by the full force of the law. I know that noble Lords are aware of the breadth of activity to combat the scourge of hate crime, but in the interests of the hour—I do not think I have ever started my first group of amendments at 10 past 12 at night, so this is a first—I shall consider the amendments before the Committee.

As I have stated in the House before, in 2018, as part of the updating of the Government’s hate crime action plan, we asked the Law Commission to undertake a review of current hate crime legislation. This specifically included concluding a review as to whether other protected characteristics, such as sex, gender and age, should be included. The review’s terms of reference were to review

“the existing range of protected characteristics, identifying gaps in the scope of the protection currently offered and making recommendations to promote a consistent approach.”

As noble Lords have said, the Law Commission’s final report is now imminent. It may be published as early as this month, and that of course is a matter for the Law Commission, which is fully independent of the Government. Noble Lords accepted this during the passage of the then Domestic Abuse Bill, and I think we should see it through in the way we agreed.

However, I do not think that we should commit to giving effect to all the Law Commission’s recommendations before anyone—including noble Lords—has even seen and studied them. It would be inappropriate for any Government to sign what is effectively a blank cheque.

In particular, I know many people hope that the Law Commission will recommend—if I can use the popular parlance—that misogyny should be made a hate crime. To those people, and indeed to any noble Lord, I would say, “Wait and see.” We do not know what it will recommend, and nor should we at this stage. As an independent body which considers and weighs up the evidence, the Law Commission will come to its own conclusions. We will only know what the commission’s advice is when the final report is published.

As the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, pointed out, where the Law Commission suggested it was minded to consider adding sex and gender to hate crime legislation, it did so only in a consultation. But the purpose of a consultation is precisely to consult. The Law Commission will also want to consider what consultation responses have said and to shape its conclusions accordingly. Whatever the commission’s inclination might have been in 2020, we cannot assume the commission’s final position until it has been published.

It would be premature to accept Amendment 219 and negate the whole purpose of asking this distinguished, independent organisation to give full and proper consideration to the whole construct, purpose and design of hate crime legislation. What is the point of the Law Commission in the first place? I know that people have been critical of it, but I think it is a very useful tool to deal with certain complex issues.

It would also probably be premature at this stage to accept Amendment 219A. As I have said and my noble friend stated, we cannot pre-empt what the Law Commission will recommend. What I think we can say is that the law is complex and contentious, and that has been reflected in our debate tonight. It seems to me that there is every possibility that the Law Commission will make recommendations that will require primary legislation to implement and I do not think it would be appropriate to make what could be quite significant changes to our statute book through secondary legislation. I dare say that, were such a proposal ever to emanate from the Government, I would expect noble Lords to be critical.

None Portrait Noble Lords
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Oh!

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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Yes, noble Lords can take that down and quote it against me.

The noble Lord, Lord Russell of Liverpool, asked me about timelines and when the police were going to start recording the data. As one noble Lord said, we are currently in consultation with the NPCC and forces on how to take that forward. We will ask police forces on an experimental basis to record and identify any crimes of violence against the person, including stalking, harassment and sexual offences where the victim perceives it to be motivated by hostility based on their sex.

In conclusion, significant changes to the law require a full parliamentary process, with the proposals considered by both Houses in the normal way, with all the requisite parliamentary stages. I do appreciate the desire for urgency—I am sure that noble Lords looking at the clock do as well—but I do not think that should be the grounds for changing legislation without full and proper parliamentary scrutiny. Accordingly, I cannot advise your Lordships to pre-empt the Law Commission’s report or to act ahead of knowing what it will recommend. I therefore invite my noble friend Lady Newlove to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Newlove Portrait Baroness Newlove (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, considering the time, I will try to keep this short—I will not do a Second Reading speech to end.

This has been a really good debate, again; in fact, I think the whole session today has been interesting. I thank the Minister for her response. Obviously, the Law Commission does excellent work and, as she says, we will have to wait and see. What saddens me is that while we consult and have parliamentary Sessions and Governments and everything, the people on the ground need that support system and understanding, and they need the police service and the culture and everybody else to understand the hostility that they face. As a former Victims’ Commissioner, I have met many victims. Sadly, some went to report that they had been raped by their husband and were told, “You’re not the only one tonight, love”. That has really resonated about why it is so important.

Given that it is late, that this is a probing amendment and that, hopefully, we may have something from the Law Commission that we can come back to on Report, for now I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill Debate

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Department: Home Office

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Baroness Williams of Trafford Excerpts
Lords Hansard - part two & Committee stage
Wednesday 17th November 2021

(2 years, 6 months ago)

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Read Full debate Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 40-IX Ninth marshalled list for Committee - (15 Nov 2021)
Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I thank the noble Lords, Lord Paddick and Lord Coaker, for speaking to these amendments, as well as the noble Baroness, Lady Armstrong, who is back in her seat—the timing was pretty good, because we had an hour’s break; in fact, it was an hour and a half by the time we had finished Questions.

Before I turn to the specifics of the amendments, it might be helpful to the Committee if I first outline why we are introducing these new orders and why we think they will make a positive contribution to tackling knife crime, which has risen over the last seven years, as the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, pointed out. I agree with him on the multi-agency approach. He brought up our local government days. Absolutely the most effective initiatives, which have grown over the last few years, are those which take that public health approach, with all agencies working together. On testing, the pilots will be a very good way of assessing whether what we have proposed is effective when put into practice. There are four pilot areas, which I shall go through shortly. I say to the noble Lord that it will be independently evaluated.

The Committee would not disagree that every time someone carries a knife, they risk ruining their life and the lives of others. Knife crime is blighting our communities and the Government are determined to tackle the scourge. I again totally agree with the noble Lord, Lord Coaker—again, this probably goes back to our local government days—that engagement with communities is vital, because they not only support their young people not being knifed to death but they will support the police in what they are trying to do. We have just talked in the Urgent Question repeat about trust from communities in what the police are doing.

We have committed to putting an extra 20,000 police officers on our streets. We have also committed £176.5 million over the last two years through a serious violence fund to address the drivers of serious violence at the local level and significantly bolster the police response. This includes £70 million to support violence reduction units in 18 areas across the country most affected by serious violence. We have also committed a further £130.5 million to tackle serious violence and homicide in the current financial year.

Stop and search has taken 11,000 knives off the streets and resulted in 74,000 arrests in 2019-20. However, we all know that we have more to do. As the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, said—I apologise that I keep quoting him—we all want to know what works and what will drive out the scourge of knife crime. Too many criminals who carry knives or other offensive weapons go on to offend again—that is indisputable. We need to send a clear message that if people persist in carrying knives, they can expect to be caught and face a prison sentence.

As I have said, stop and search is a vital tool to crack down on violent crime. As I indicated in an earlier debate, we have already made it easier for forces to use existing powers. Our message is simple: if offenders are vulnerable and want to move away from crime, we will support them, but if they continue to carry knives and weapons over and over again, serious violence reduction orders, or SVROs, help to end that reoffending cycle. They will give the police powers to take a more proactive approach and make it easier to target those already convicted of offences involving knives or offensive weapons, giving them the automatic right to search those offenders and help tackle prolific, high-risk offenders.

SVROs are intended to be used as part of a wider approach to support offenders. We expect that they will provide a credible reason to resist pressure to carry weapons, thus acting as a deterrent and helping to protect vulnerable first-time offenders from being drawn into further crime and exploitation by criminal gangs.

We understand the concerns around disproportionality and the impact of stop and search on our BME communities but, as I said in an earlier response, let us not forget that young black people are 24 times more likely to be victims of homicide than young white people. Young black people are dying, their families are suffering and their communities are being disproportionately impacted. We must do better. We must give the police tools that will enable them to take a more targeted approach, focusing their efforts and resources on those they know carry knives.

As I have said, these orders will be piloted before being rolled out across England and Wales. Clause 141 sets out the detail of this. The pilot will help us build an understanding of the impact and effectiveness of the new orders and, as required by Clause 141, we will lay a report before Parliament on the operation and outcome of the pilot. I hope that this gives the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, some comfort.

I now turn to the specifics of the amendments. Amendments 224, 227 and 237 would raise the threshold for the standard of proof required to impose, vary or renew an SVRO from the civil standard, which is the balance of probabilities, to the criminal standard, which is beyond reasonable doubt. Before I go any further, I thank my noble friend Lord Moylan; I forgot to acknowledge that he made a very good speech earlier.

New Section 342A(3) of the Sentencing Code provides that an SVRO can be made if the court is satisfied, on the balance of probabilities, that a bladed article or offensive weapon was used by the offender in the commission of the offence, or that the offender had a bladed article or offensive weapon with them when the offence was committed. An order can also be given if the court is satisfied, on the balance of probabilities, that a bladed article or offensive weapon was used by another person in the commission of the offence—the commission of the offence is the crucial point here—or that another person had a bladed article or offensive weapon with them when the offence was committed and the offender knew, or ought to have known, that that would be the case.

This means that, when considering any applications for an SVRO, the court should apply the civil standard of proof when determining whether the individual in respect of whom the application is made has committed an offence involving a bladed article or offensive weapon. This civil standard is not new; it was accepted in your Lordships’ House in the context of domestic abuse protection orders earlier this year, or at the end of last year.

I am aware that there are concerns about this approach. However, the Bill provides that the court may hear evidence from both the offender and the prosecution when considering whether to make an SVRO. It is anticipated that, in most cases, it will be clear beyond reasonable doubt whether the offender used or had with them a knife or offensive weapon in the offence, and the offender may have been convicted of a knife or offensive weapons offence.

However, there may be cases where the fact that an offender used or had with them a knife or offensive weapon cannot be proved beyond reasonable doubt. In these cases, we believe that the civil standard, namely the balance of probabilities, is appropriate to enable the court to consider whether an SVRO is necessary in respect of an individual, given the aims of the order to protect communities and deter offenders from future offending. The criminal standard of proof will apply in any criminal prosecution for breaching an SVRO. As I said, this approach is in line with other civil orders, such as domestic abuse prevention orders, which we debated at the beginning of the year.

Amendment 225 would restrict the circumstances in which an SVRO may be made. Currently, proposed new Section 342A(3) provides that an SVRO can be made if a bladed article or offensive weapon was used by the offender in the commission of the offence or that the offender had a bladed article or offensive weapon with them when the offence was committed. This allows for circumstances where a bladed article or offensive weapon was not used in the offence, but the offender had a bladed article or knife with them when the offence was committed.

I remind the Committee that for an SVRO to be made a person must be convicted of an offence involving a knife or offensive weapon. So the Sikh or chef, in the proposition of the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, would not generally be convicted of an offensive weapon attack—and that applies to the electrician and his mate. I am sorry; I am trying to read my own writing here.

Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
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I have a quick question, because I want to be clear about this point in relation to something the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, said earlier. If a Sikh, who is carrying just their religious knife, is in a fight and is convicted of common assault, is the SVRO now available in that context?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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It is always dangerous to talk about specific cases but, if the knife has not been used in the commission of the offence—

Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
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But it was on their person.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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If the Sikh was going about his business with his knife in his pocket, he would have reasonable excuse. If he then got into a fight and the knife was not used in the commission of the common assault, the knife would be irrelevant to the case. But I must absolutely caveat my comments: the court would decide the facts of the case.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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Could I further clarify what the Minister has just said? If the Sikh becomes involved in a fight and does not go for the knife that they are carrying during that offence, the Sikh can still be made subject to an SVRO, because they committed an offence and had a knife with them at the time the offence was committed, even though the weapon was not used.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, I have just fallen into a trap that I do not like to fall into, which is to take on specific cases. The court would have to determine the facts of the case to decide whether the knife was relevant and, therefore, whether an SVRO could be made.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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This is Committee and it is important to get this clear. My clear understanding of the legislation is that it does not matter whether the knife was used in the commission of the offence; it is simply the fact that the person had a knife with them when they committed the offence which means that not only can that person be made subject to an SVRO but any person convicted with them who did not have a knife can also be made the subject of an SVRO by the court. So, without using specific examples, can the Minister please clarify that I am correct?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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What I can clarify is that I will not take theoretical cases again. But the court would need to consider whether in the circumstances it is proportionate to make an order. That does not go into the specifics of any given case.

Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
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The Minister might want to take some advice on this, but I think the relevant piece of legislation in Clause 140 is proposed new Section 342A(3)(b), which says that

“the offender had a bladed article or offensive weapon with them when the offence was committed.”

They do not have to use it; it is just the fact that they are carrying it and have it on them.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I think I backtracked quite a bit to say that the courts would then make the judgment call on whether the SVRO would be made, based on the facts of the case. I am not saying that, theoretically, it could not happen, but the courts may decide otherwise. It would depend on the facts of the case.

Lord Moylan Portrait Lord Moylan (Con)
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Perhaps I may just add that it seems so widely drawn that the first condition, in proposed new subsection (1), is that there has to be an offence. It does not say that there has to be an offence involving violence. So, first there has to be an offence. Then you engage proposed new subsection (3)(b): during the commission of the offence, whatever it might have been, did the person involved carry a knife? If the offence was, say, a driving offence, I am sure that an SVRO would not be applied for or granted, but there is a large area of discretion here. When you take it a little further into proposed new subsection (4), it is simply an offence—the carriage of a knife and the question of “ought to have known”. So the whole thing wanders off into this speculative landscape where evidence does not seem to matter and it is all mental constructions. I am sorry for going on.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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It is no problem at all; this is Committee, where we clarify these issues. But I think it is fair to say that the trigger for the SVRO, essentially, is the conviction.

Lord Carlile of Berriew Portrait Lord Carlile of Berriew (CB)
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An interesting criminal law debate is developing and I cannot resist joining in. I very respectfully suggest to the Minister that this is a situation in which the use of examples, if they are worked up, is very important and would be extremely useful. My view is that she is right about some of this but possibly not all of it, and that the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, is possibly right about quite a lot of it but wrong about some of it—for example, the relevance of previous convictions, which may be used far more these days than he imagines. Previous convictions are available as evidence of propensity and are frequently used in criminal trials. I respectfully suggest to the Minister that a series of indicative examples should be worked up and put in the Library in advance of Report, because it would make these questions much easier to answer.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I thank my noble friend—and he is my noble friend because he has come to my rescue time and again. I am not a lawyer and even less of an expert in criminal law.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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Perhaps I could just say that those examples should include, if they are right, non-violent offences where a weapon is not used in the commission of the offence in any way, where the person only has the weapon on them, and they have an accomplice who did not have a knife on them but should have known that the person had one concealed on their person when they committed a non-violent offence without using the weapon.

--- Later in debate ---
Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I will most certainly do that. So this is offences where the knife is not actually deployed and the person with the individual with a knife in their pocket would not have known that the knife was in their pocket. Without getting myself into further trouble, I would say that the courts would take those facts into consideration—but I will elect to write to noble Lords with as many permutations and combinations as I can possibly think of before Report.

Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames Portrait Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames (LD)
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I have no wish to get the noble Baroness into more difficulties, but the problem arises because she said that the court would have to consider the relevance of the carriage of the knife to the offence, and that is quite simply wrong. I would be very grateful if the noble Baroness, before any examples are produced, would concede that, and then discuss whether these amendments are not very important in light of the answer. There is the weakness—the lack of the nexus between the carriage of the knife and any offence that is proved.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I think I need to reflect further on what noble Lords have said. I will try to answer the noble Lord’s question in a letter before we start talking about examples. We are, after all, in Committee, and I am learning, like other noble Lords, as we go along.

Amendments 226, 226A and 226B would remove the provisions that enable a court to issue the SVRO if two or more people commit an offence but not all of them used or were in possession of the weapon—that is slightly going back on what we were discussing. When a knife offence or offensive weapon-related offence is committed, it is not always the case that all the offenders had the weapon in their hands—as the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, pointed out—during the commission of the offence. But if the court is satisfied that a person knew or ought to have known that another person committing the offence had a knife or an offensive weapon during the commission of the offence, and this person committed an offence arising out of the same facts, we think it would be appropriate for an SVRO to be available. Again, I will put the various permutations and combinations to noble Lords in a theoretical way. This would allow SVROs to be made in relation to all the individuals who were involved and were convicted of such an offence, should the court consider an SVRO to be necessary in respect of those individuals.

This provision intends to cover situations such as a robbery or a fight where a weapon was used by one individual, but where other individuals convicted of offences related to the same facts knew, or ought to have known, that a weapon was being used or carried by another person involved in the offence, even if they themselves were not carrying the weapon. This is very similar to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, except that that individual was brandishing the weapon.