Debates between Edward Timpson and Alex Chalk during the 2019 Parliament

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Edward Timpson and Alex Chalk
Tuesday 21st November 2023

(6 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Alex Chalk Portrait Alex Chalk
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I thank the hon. and learned Lady for her point. At the risk of harming her political career, the respect is entirely mutual. In a rule-of-law country, people can disagree with the decision of a court but they must respect it. We respect the ruling and of course we will abide by court orders, but it is also right that we carefully consider what the Supreme Court said and seek to adjust appropriately. We will do what we properly and lawfully can do to stop the boats. That is our mission and the mission of the British people, and we will deliver on it.

Edward Timpson Portrait Edward Timpson (Eddisbury) (Con)
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I welcome my right hon. and learned Friend’s commitment to increase the use of tagging, where appropriate, to reduce the amount of reoffending. In doing so, what plans does he have to include high-risk domestic abusers and, potentially in the future, those who are illegal drug users?

Alex Chalk Portrait Alex Chalk
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Not for the first or last time, my hon. and learned Friend has got absolutely to the point. We have deliberately constructed the policy so that if an individual presents a significant threat to a particular individual—often a spouse or a partner—the presumption would not apply. That is critically important and I was happy to discuss that point with Women’s Aid and other relevant bodies. We are on the side of victims of domestic abuse and violence, and nothing that we do will cut across that important principle.

Prison Capacity

Debate between Edward Timpson and Alex Chalk
Monday 16th October 2023

(7 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Alex Chalk Portrait Alex Chalk
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There are more people in prison than ever before, which rather suggests the opposite of what the hon. Gentleman says. He also says that the conviction rate for rape is lower, but that is completely wrong—it is higher. Does he know who was Director of Public Prosecutions before? The Leader of the Opposition.

Edward Timpson Portrait Edward Timpson (Eddisbury) (Con)
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Despite resulting in lower reconviction rates, the use of community orders has halved in the last decade, so will today’s announcement start to reverse that trend? In trying to do so, will my right hon. and learned Friend consider increasing the use of pre-sentence reports and speeding up the roll-out of community sentence orders where we are trying to get people treated?

Alex Chalk Portrait Alex Chalk
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That is an excellent question. In appropriate cases, pre-sentence reports are vital because the probation service can provide the sentencing judge or magistrate with all the surrounding information about the offender so that they can impose a sentence that meets the seriousness of the case while also being rehabilitative and appropriate. That requires trained probation officers who are experts in their area. That is why we have invested £155 million in addition, each and every year, to ensure that the probation service has the resource it needs. I know from my time as a practitioner that the reports the probation service provides are essential to ensure that justice can be done.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Edward Timpson and Alex Chalk
Tuesday 27th June 2023

(11 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Alex Chalk Portrait Alex Chalk
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My right hon. Friend is absolutely right to make those balanced and fair observations. To try to assist victims, there are a few really important things. Rolling out section 28s ensures that individuals can get their account recorded on tape; that is done whatever then happens in the court process. The independent sexual violence advisers and the independent domestic violence advisers, whom I have talked about, make an enormous difference. Through the victims code, we want to ensure that individuals get the support they need from victims’ services, have the opportunity to go on court familiarisation visits, make victim personal statements and are kept updated by the officer on the case as it proceeds. All those things are critical to ensuring that victims are not spectators of the criminal justice system, but participants in it.

Edward Timpson Portrait Edward Timpson (Eddisbury) (Con)
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The section 28 achieving best evidence video interviews to which my right hon. and learned Friend refers are there to support vulnerable witnesses and to help to secure not only a charge but a conviction. However, yesterday, during a Justice Committee evidence session, we heard from senior King’s Counsel that there were incidents where such cases were being de-prioritised because of the backlog in the criminal courts, on the basis that in essence the evidence-in-chief had already been taken. Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware of that issue? If not, will he look into it further and report back to the Committee?

Alex Chalk Portrait Alex Chalk
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I am grateful to my hon. and learned Friend for raising that important point. As he knows, listing—prioritisation; which case gets called first—is a matter for the independent judiciary, but he raises important issues. I would be happy to look at them and to discuss them with him, if appropriate, in due course.

Victims and Prisoners Bill

Debate between Edward Timpson and Alex Chalk
Alex Chalk Portrait Alex Chalk
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It is important to consider these things separately, but the right hon. Gentleman identifies something that is a stain on our justice system. The IPP system should never have happened. Trying to take the politics out of it, I sort of understand why it was proposed, but it was a bad idea. It was a big mistake, and it has left us with a difficult issue. I am considering carefully what the Justice Committee has to say about it, and I will be saying more about it in due course. It is important to treat that separately from the position I am talking about here, which is that in those most serious cases where the Parole Board has directed release, it is right that on behalf of the public the Secretary of State should have a second look, even if that is then susceptible to an independent review thereafter. It is a slightly separate issue, but I take the points that he makes.

Edward Timpson Portrait Edward Timpson (Eddisbury) (Con)
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I am pleased to see my right hon. and learned Friend in his place. On the issue of the powers taken in this Bill for a referral to the Secretary of State, in the Justice Committee we heard evidence of other routes for the Secretary of State to intervene: through reconsideration, which has been in place for four years, and through set aside, which is a power that the Secretary of State has taken more recently. That has the added benefit of including victims within the process. Can he just set out what it is that the Bill is trying to achieve that those routes cannot in ensuring that ministerial oversight?

Alex Chalk Portrait Alex Chalk
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There is a very important distinction. When the Secretary of State considers those most serious cases, he will look at this issue of safety for the public. That is not whether, for example, the Parole Board has acted in such a way as to not be susceptible to judicial review; it is a much wider consideration so that the public can be satisfied not just that the Parole Board considered safety, but that the Secretary of State did, too, and that is an important second check. That matters, because in these most serious cases, public confidence is hanging on the single thread of the Parole Board. We want to make sure that an additional thread goes into that structure, so that the public recognise that there has been that second pair of eyes. Plainly, Ministers cannot over-politicise this process, which is why there must be an opportunity to have an independent review of the Secretary of State’s decision. That will allow us overall to have a much more vigorous and robust process that stands up for victims, but is also mindful of the rule of law.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Edward Timpson and Alex Chalk
Thursday 18th November 2021

(2 years, 6 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Edward Timpson Portrait Edward Timpson (Eddisbury) (Con)
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7. What steps she is taking with (a) the CPS, (b) Government Legal Service and (c) Cabinet colleagues to support the recovery of the criminal justice system since the easing of covid-19 restrictions.

Alex Chalk Portrait The Solicitor General (Alex Chalk)
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The Law Officers frequently meet the CPS and colleagues in the Ministry of Justice and elsewhere to progress the recovery of the criminal justice system. It is welcome that the Government have significantly increased the budget for the CPS with an additional £85 million at the 2019 spending review and a 12% uplift over the period of this spending review, to help to recruit and retain prosecutors and modernise digital infrastructure. Court capacity plainly plays a part, too; I commend my hon. Friend for his work to increase the judicial retirement age, which will make an important difference.

Edward Timpson Portrait Edward Timpson
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You will know, Mr Speaker, that I was delighted that the Government took up the cudgels of my private Member’s Bill—the Magistrates (Retirement Age) Bill—and are now legislating to raise the retirement age of magistrates from 70 to 75. On its own, however, that will not solve the substantial backlog that we still have in our courts, particularly our magistrates courts. What other measures can be taken in the meantime, over and above what is already happening, to ensure that we can get through it? Justice needs to be done fairly, but also efficiently.

Alex Chalk Portrait The Solicitor General
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As always, my hon. Friend makes an important point. Magistrates courts hear more than 90% of all criminal cases—a point that is not always given the emphasis that it might be. In some parts of the country, magistrates courts have cleared their backlogs completely; indeed, some did so many months ago. To support that recovery, the Government took measures including sitting additional courts on Saturdays and installing plexiglass in more than 450 courtrooms. We want to keep up that momentum with the so-called trial blitz courts planned for later this year. We are fortunate in this country to have dedicated and public-spirited magistrates who continue to do an exemplary job in ensuring that justice is done.