All 8 Lord Bishop of Gloucester contributions to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022

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Tue 14th Sep 2021
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Mon 15th Nov 2021
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Wed 15th Dec 2021
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Mon 10th Jan 2022
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Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill Debate

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Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Lord Bishop of Gloucester Excerpts
Lord Bishop of Gloucester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Gloucester
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My Lords, I am grateful for the varied contributions heard today from noble and learned Lords, many of whom have vast experience in this area. I declare an interest as Anglican Bishop to Her Majesty’s Prisons in England and Wales and as president of the Nelson Trust.

As a Lord spiritual rooted in Christian hope, I look for a criminal justice system which is restorative, responsible and relational, and which is effective in focusing holistically on prevention and rehabilitation as well as appropriate conviction and punishment.

There are some welcome proposals within this very long Bill. These include community and diversionary cautions, problem-solving courts and additional support for employment for ex-offenders. There are other aspects that raise concern, and I will name just a few of them: increasing sentence lengths, police-led diversion, sentencing of mothers, racial disparities and young offenders.

First, the use of life sentences for younger offenders seems to undermine any chance of reform or redemption. It comes as part of a suite of measures on sentencing which will put ever more pressure on an overcrowded and struggling prison estate, with predictable negative consequences for education and rehabilitative work. Decades of tweaks to lengthen sentences have done nothing to improve the outcome for offenders, prevent cycles of reoffending or improve support for victims. Our sentences are already longer than those of most of our European neighbours, who do not suffer from higher rates of crime; nor are their citizens notably less safe.

My next comment is to encourage improvements in enabling considerable investment so police can consistently divert vulnerable people into support services using community resolution and out of court disposals. People often get caught in the revolving door of repeat low-level crime, simply because they are destitute, traumatised, often homeless, suffering mental ill-health and struggling with addiction.

The Nelson Trust runs Project SHE, a point-of-arrest referral scheme in Avon in Somerset. Over 500 women were diverted away from the criminal justice system in its first two years. Seventy-five percent of these women have four or more complex needs. Over the years, I have seen how repeated short sentences and the revolving door of custody particularly damages women and their families. More must be done, as has been said already, to protect the right to family life of children when their mother is sentenced.

Reportedly, the vast majority of children have to leave their home when their mother goes to prison. Parental imprisonment is recognised as an adverse childhood experience that can have a substantial negative impact on children’s long-term health and well-being, as well as educational attainment. It can also seriously affect their life expectancy and the likelihood of going to prison themselves.

I am not suggesting that no mother should ever go to prison. What I am saying is that, through the passage of the Bill, we can ensure that the right and appropriate response is delivered. For the vast majority of women, that is not prison. May I once again say that we most certainly do not need an additional 500 prison places for women?

I want to comment briefly on how troubling it is, after all that has transpired in recent years, that little attention is still being paid to racial disparities in the criminal justice system. It will be hard to build community resilience or confidence in a system while this is not acknowledged. According to research, young black adults are over eight times more likely to receive a conviction for a low-level, non-violent crime compared with their white counterparts. More must be done. One interesting option among a raft of options to reduce this disparity could be to remove the need for an admission of guilt to receive a community caution.

My next comment is around the issue of an expansion of whole-life orders to younger offenders. On these Benches, we welcome the efforts to reduce the number of children held in remand custody, but not measures that could see greater numbers of children serving longer custodial sentences. Treating children as children is paramount, particularly given what we know about maturity. My friend the right revered Prelate the Bishop of Derby, who is unable to speak today, will be following these issues closely.

Time is up, so, in summary, we must find effective ways of preventing people entering cycles of criminality and reoffending, as well as strengthening and protecting communities. This can be done only by a criminal justice system that inspires confidence and is rooted in a consistent ethos and strategy at every level that is based on evidence and research and joins up the work of the police, courts, probation, parole, prison and civil society organisations within a framework that is restorative, responsible and relational.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill Debate

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Lord Bishop of Gloucester Excerpts
I must remind myself to stick to the amendment, so I will wrap up simply by saying that I believe that the Government’s intentions are very good, but I do not think that their performance is always coherent when it comes to violence against women and girls. I will pay very close attention to the Minister’s response, and I assure my noble friend Lady Bertin of my support, whatever happens going forward.
Lord Bishop of Gloucester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Gloucester
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My Lords, I too add my support to the amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Bertin. Many points have been covered, and I simply want to say that if the definition of serious violence is not expanded in this way, the concern is that many local areas will not consider it within their strategies.

Join-up on this is absolutely vital. Local strategies to prevent domestic and sexual violence through education, research and specialist violence reduction units are key, including primary prevention, which I have raised before in your Lordships’ House. We must do all that we can to enable work across services and through effective partnership.

As has been said, the Domestic Abuse Act is a very good thing, yet a lot of time was spent during the passage of that Bill in this House trying to highlight overlooked groups and issues. This amendment once again highlights these issues by creating the necessity of more joined-up thinking between key agencies and ensuring that they remain cognisant of the issues. This amendment is vital.

Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe Portrait Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe (Lab)
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My Lords, I support everything that has been said so far. I will speak to Amendments 57 and 58, in which I am endeavouring to specify the broad categories of serious violence, ensuring that any violence that is serious enough to result either in injury requiring emergency hospital treatment or harm constituting grievous bodily harm would meet the threshold for serious violence.

I am grateful for the general support I have had, especially from those noble Lords with long policing experience who see merit in what I present today. It might be that, as yet, we have not quite got the wording right. It is a bit like the debate that we have been having so far. There is a case for us coming together if in fact we can convince the Minister that, in principle, there is merit in what we are arguing; we could come together later, perhaps, to get the wording right, if the Government are to be so convinced.

My amendments are not solely about knife crime, but the intention is to ensure that the broad categories of serious violence are specified so that local partnerships must address such violence in their prevention plans and take full account of the information available on serious violence, which comes up in the A&E data. That is particularly important.

When the Home Secretary introduced the assessment of the public health duty—the public health measures—on 15 July 2019, he said that collaboration to reduce serious violence was particularly important. The Government have of course moved to introduce this legislation following that.

The violence that constitutes serious violence is not specified in this Bill. Good legislation depends on such specifications and definitions. It will rightly be for the local partnerships to decide how they will reduce serious violence, but it would be neglectful if this legislation does not state what serious violence includes.

The impact assessment signed by the Home Secretary relies heavily on the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of the use by local partnerships of data collected in hospital accident and emergency departments for the prevention of serious violence. This approach, known as the Cardiff model for violence prevention, has been found in rigorous evaluations to reduce violence related to hospital admissions and serious violence recorded by the police by as much as 38%.

This approach has four principal advantages in the context of the Bill. First, it specifies a broad category of serious violence: violence serious enough to result in emergency hospital treatment. Secondly, it makes sense from a public health perspective, which is missing in what is, after all, a public health duty. Thirdly, following the implementation of the emergency care data set, the Cardiff model data on violence location, weapons and assailants, for example, can be recorded and shared for violence prevention by every NHS trust with an A&E. Fourthly, these NHS data are valid and reliable measures of serious violence, which would be available for joint inspections. Most importantly, even if just 5% of partnerships achieved the Cardiff-model benefits identified in the impact assessment, total benefits are estimated to be at least £858 million over 10 years and a reduction of around 20 homicides a year.

On Monday, the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, referred to the invaluable work of Professor John Shepherd at Cardiff University. Professor Shepherd has helped greatly in the scheme that has been running in Cardiff—he certainly helped me in preparing these amendments and for speaking today. He makes the point that, if the amendments are not adopted, the Bill when enacted is most unlikely to achieve the reductions in serious violence. There is nothing specific around which to achieve that objective. Violence that results in emergency hospital treatment, and which affects all age groups and both genders, in and outside the home, would not be considered serious. The Bill when enacted would not resonate or easily be owned by the NHS and by clinical commissioning groups; they would not be obliged to commission this approach.

We therefore have to make sure that the local authorities get the data, get an outline of what needs to be done, and then get a clear instruction, from within the Bill itself, that there must be action taken and that they must not ignore what has been produced in this very valuable information.

I therefore hope that we can move forward collectively in looking at the range of amendments and see if we can produce something that actually puts specifics in the Bill, that then can be acted on lower down the line.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill Debate

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Lord Bishop of Gloucester Excerpts
Lords Hansard - part one & Committee stage
Monday 1st November 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-V Fifth marshalled list for Committee - (1 Nov 2021)
Moved by
110: After Clause 43, insert the following new Clause—
“Bail and primary carers
(1) Section 4 of the Bail Act 1976 is amended as follows.(2) After subsection (9), insert—“(10) Where a court determines whether to grant bail in criminal proceedings to a person to whom this section applies who is a primary carer for a child or pregnant, the court must—(a) consider the impact of not granting bail on the child or unborn child; and(b) presume (subject to victim impact or other relevant considerations) that it is in the best interests of the child or unborn child for bail to be granted.(11) In this section—(a) “child” means a person under the age of 18, and(b) “primary carer” means a person who has primary or substantial care responsibilities for a child.””Member’s explanatory statement
This Clause reflects the requirement for judge to consider the impact of not granting bail on a child when determining, in criminal proceedings, whether to grant bail to a primary carer of a dependent child.
Lord Bishop of Gloucester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Gloucester
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My Lords, I am pleased to move this amendment, which has the support of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, and the noble Baroness, Lady Massey. I am grateful for the knowledge and wisdom they will bring to the debate. I declare an interest as Anglican Bishop for Her Majesty’s Prisons in England and Wales and president of the Nelson Trust.

The sentencing of a primary carer can have a serious detrimental impact on the rights of a child and their life chances, yet the fact that they are a primary carer is not consistently considered by the court making the sentencing decision. Amendment 110 would require judges to consider the impact on a child of the decision of not granting bail when determining in criminal proceedings whether to grant bail to a primary carer of that dependent child. Amendments 215 to 217 aim to address inconsistencies in sentencing by requiring judges and magistrates to give due regard to the impact of a sentence on any dependent children and their welfare when sentencing a primary carer. The intention of Amendment 218 is to gather the relevant data about the number of prisoners who are primary carers and the number of children who have a primary carer in custody. Given that there are five amendments here, I hope noble Lords will bear with me.

I know other noble Lords will cover in greater detail the recommendation of the Joint Committee on Human Rights that the rights of children whose primary carer is in prison be upheld. In the vast majority of cases, the primary carer is the mother, and this will be my point of reference today. However, I acknowledge that for some children the primary carer may be someone else. My starting point with these amendments is not that primary carers—mothers in the most part—should never be given a custodial sentence. It is instead that we must find a way for the least harm to be caused as a consequence of sentencing. Custodial sentences for mothers punish children, including the unborn, and that is not justice.

I believe not only that every person is created precious and with unique potential but that we are created as people of relationships and that perfect wholeness and harmony—shalom—is about everything in a perfect interdependent relationship: humanity and all creation; of course, I would add, rooted in God. If we want a criminal justice system which is about justice, safety, transformation and the flourishing of individuals, communities and society, we have to attend to the whole picture of relationships—the whole system, and indeed, the long term. If we are to strengthen family ties, reduce reoffending and disrupt intergenerational cycles of abuse, trauma and offending, there must be consideration of where and how a mother serves her sentence.

So often prison is not able to meet the rehabilitative needs of the people who are sent there and will also not be about enabling the better safety of the public or strengthening communities and society. Many women are often in prison for only a few weeks. The majority of women are there for less than six months and, according to the Prison Reform Trust:

“72% of women who entered prison under sentence in 2020 have committed a non-violent offence.”


Alternative community-based provision must be available, well funded and trusted by those making sentencing decisions.

--- Later in debate ---
For those reasons, I hope that the right reverend Prelate will be persuaded to withdraw the amendment.
Lord Bishop of Gloucester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Gloucester
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I am very grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate this afternoon; it is now getting on for this evening. I am very aware of time and where we are in this group of amendments. There have been some thoughtful contributions and plenty to think about.

We have talked a lot about what is, and about the numbers of women in prison, but we must look at the reality. There might be things which are theoretically there, but we still have so many primary carers in prison, and while the amendment is about primary carers, it is also about the rights of the child. We were in danger in our debate of not keeping the child at the centre. I have heard what people have said about other dependants. I take that on board, but it does not take away from us focusing on children and the long-term intergenerational impact. We could have a good theological discussion later, but I used “Shalom” because we cannot have any of this discussion without looking at the whole picture.

I have respect for all that has been said about judges and I give them credit for what I have heard in the very powerful speeches today. One problem is that there is not always enough information about what else is available. We will be talking about community sentencing another time, but I have had judges and magistrates say to me, “We don’t know exactly what is available in this area that could be offered to this person.” We must keep this all in the round.

Data has come up again and again, and that is crucial. I am grateful to all those who have talked about its importance. We have been talking about the number of women in prison and what happens at sentencing, but, with due respect, it is not happening. If it were, we would not have the number of women in prison that we have and the number of children who are being adversely impacted by this. We must be careful about the theory, what is happening and why it is happening. Therefore, data is really important.

We talked a lot about pre-sentencing reports. They are crucial, but it is not just about a pre-sentencing report—it is the information it contains. Again, we know that lots of primary carers, particularly mothers, do not always want to say that they are mothers. We must look at why that is. Again, it is that bigger picture—it is not just the PSR but the information it contains.

I do not want to replay all the arguments that we have heard, and I thank noble Lords. There is something I still want to hold on to about the rights of the child, and about inconsistency. I have heard what the Minister has said, yet that issue of inconsistency is really important because of the reality of what we have in our prisons at the moment and the number of children being impacted.

While I am willing to withdraw the amendment at this stage, I hope that there will be further discussion about the rights of children and all that we must do to continue achieving the aims of the Female Offender Strategy, which is not where we are in reality. I pay tribute to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, and the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, for their support. We want further discussion going forward but for now, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 110 withdrawn.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill Debate

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Department: Ministry of Justice

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Lord Bishop of Gloucester Excerpts
Lords Hansard - Part 1 & Committee stage
Monday 15th November 2021

(2 years, 7 months ago)

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Lord Garnier Portrait Lord Garnier (Con)
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My Lords, because of the quality and content of the speeches already made this afternoon, I hope I can be quite brief. I begin by declaring an interest as a trustee of the Prison Reform Trust and by commending the report that the noble Lord, Lord Bradley, just mentioned: No Life, No Freedom, No Future, the title of which brilliantly encapsulates the Kafkaesque state of affairs that we see when we consider IPPs. I also briefly thank Frances Crook, the retiring director of the Howard League, for all the work she did and for trying over the years to improve and inform the debate about what goes on in our prisons.

Our prisons are a secret world. When I was a Member of Parliament I once explained to a local journalist that I thought that all prisons should of course have walls to keep the prisoners in and to protect the public from the prisoners. However, all these prison walls should have windows in them so that the public could see in and learn what is being done on their behalf inside these prisons, but also so that the prisoners could see through those windows out into the world and into society, to see that if things went well for them and if their life, educational and employment prospects were improved by what they were doing and learning in prison, there was a world out there waiting to welcome them back. The journalist said, “Have you considered the public expenditure implications of building all these windows in those walls?” It is occasionally possible to lose the will to live when discussing something as complex as the state of our prisons.

Where it is not necessary to lose the will to live is when one listens to the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, explaining and accepting—very publicly and bravely—that he got it wrong in the early part of his time as Home Secretary. I congratulate him. Most former Home Secretaries—most politicians—spend their post-government life rewriting history. This former Home Secretary has accepted that he got it wrong—I thank him for it—and he is now trying to assist us in getting it right again. I also congratulate the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, on following on that particular train of thought. It behoves all of us in this Chamber, whether we are interested in this subject directly or indirectly, to mend this problem, and it is a problem that needs mending. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Brown, describes IPPs as the greatest stain on our justice system, and he is entirely right. However, it is a stain that we can remove.

I tabled Amendment 208E and have co-signed Amendments208F and 208G, but I could have co-signed any of these amendments. I simply want to see IPPs abolished. I want to see all those who are on IPPs at the moment either released under supervision or transferred to some other form of more humane sentence which gives those people hope, a life, an aspiration of freedom and a future which they can aspire to. At the minute, they are literally hopeless.

Some 14 or 15 years ago, when I was shadow Minister for Prisons in the other place when the Conservative Party was in opposition, I made a point in that job of visiting as many of the prisons in our system in England and Wales as I possibly could. There were then about 140 or 145 institutions—adult male prisons, adult female prisons, YOIs and secure training units—and I think I managed to get to about 70 or 75 of them. On a number of occasions I visited prisons where there were IPP prisoners, and the governors universally said, “This cohort of prisoners is the most difficult to manage because they have no hope.” They did not know when they were going to be released or whether they were going to be there for ever or whether they might be released in a year or two’s time. They had no idea which it was going to be.

One of the reasons I tabled Amendment 208E is that proposed new subsection (2) of that amendment describes the things within prison which are hopeless and entirely damaging to a fair justice system. Amendment 208E is one of several “six month report” amendments—I say in parenthesis that Amendment 208F is the one to go for if we are to do anything of a positive nature this evening. Amendment 208E, along with others of these “six month report” amendments, describes what is wrong with the system as it currently is. It asks

“whether there are sufficient places available for prisoners serving sentences of IPP on offending behaviour programmes”.

No, there are not. It asks

“whether prisoners serving sentences of IPP are able to complete offending behaviour programmes in appropriate time to aid progression milestones such as parole or recategorization”.

No, they cannot do that. You may be queuing up for a course while you are in, let us say, Maidstone Prison, and then you are churned—moved to another prison—so you will go to the back of the queue, or moved to a prison which does not have the relevant people to lead you on that particular course. Your mental and physical health records take months to follow you to your prison, and when they arrive and when the new governor or the new teaching staff of that prison to which you have been sent catch up with your request—guess what? You are moved to a prison in Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool or somewhere else. It is a hopeless state of affairs, and we should have done something about it years ago.

It follows that there are not sufficient places available for prisoners serving sentences of IPP in prisons providing progression regimes, for the practical reasons I have just pointed out. Is there availability of other opportunities for prisoners serving IPP sentences to enable them to progress and demonstrate reduced risk, particularly for those who have completed opportunities afforded to them by offending behaviour programmes and progression regimes? Of course not; it is a shambles—a cruel shambles.

Even on what I call ordinary life sentences, prisoners can do a particular course to demonstrate that, before long, they may become suitable for release on licence. However, if they do them within the first two or three years of their imprisonment, then remain in prison for another 14 or 15 years, all that they may have learned on that course all that time ago has long been forgotten, and all the people who have supervised them in prison have no corporate memory of what prisoner A, B or C learned all those years ago. So when they are reassessed after having completed the tariff, they fail the assessment. Can they get on a course again? Of course not. They are told, “You’ve been on one already. You’ll have to wait your turn, after all the other people”. The simple, practical organisation in our prisons is not fit to cope with this troubled and troubling group of prisoners on IPPs.

I will end on this point. The thing that a convicted defendant on sentence wants to hear is not a moralising judge telling them that they have behaved very badly and must never do it again, but the number—that is, how long they are going inside for. When they are sentenced to an IPP and hear the tariff of two or five or 10 years, that is the number that sticks in their mind among all the noise and clatter that is going on in their heads and in the courtroom. It is only when they get into the prison van—the sweat box—or get to the prison for their first reception that it dawns on them that the sentence does not mean two years; it means for ever unless they can do something to help themselves. Of course, because of the lack of availability of the factors that I have just addressed, it is almost impossible for that prisoner to help himself to improve, to see some chance of release and to come out as a better citizen again.

This obscenity must now end. I am sure that my noble friend the Minister and his government colleagues have it within them to do that, and I am sure that they will.

Lord Bishop of Gloucester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Gloucester
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My Lords, I add my voice to those who have already spoken in favour of these amendments. I declare my interest as Anglican Bishop to Her Majesty’s Prisons.

All the detail I was going to mention has already been carefully and expertly explained; again, I pay tribute to the organisations that have been named, including the Howard League, the Prison Reform Trust and UNGRIPP, for their excellent briefing reports and research. It resonates strongly with all the conversations I have with people in prison and family members who write to me or send me emails. The thing I am struck most by is the sense of hopelessness; many noble Lords have mentioned that. I am a proud patron of Prison Fellowship, whose motto is:

“We believe no one is beyond hope.”


We really need to listen to that in this debate.

The indefinite IPP licence goes against all the evidence about what enables people to move away from offending. As we have heard, people need to feel hopeful about their future. They need to have a plan to work at. As we have heard, the IPP licence stops people being able to look forward to a different future. It disrupts relationships and breeds anxiety, despair, hopelessness and alienation. Much more could be said, but I think it has all been said; I am heartened by the strength of feeling so apparent in your Lordships’ House.

I agree that this Bill provides a timely opportunity to address this enormous injustice of IPP sentences. I stand with those seeking to make these changes.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill Debate

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Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Lord Bishop of Gloucester Excerpts
Lords Hansard - Part 1 & Lords Hansard - part one & Report stage
Wednesday 15th December 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 72-III(a) Amendments for Report (Supplementary to the Third Marshalled List) - (14 Dec 2021)
Lord Hope of Craighead Portrait Lord Hope of Craighead (CB)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I will say a few words in support of Amendment 82A dealing with short custodial sentences. The value of this amendment is that it places greater emphasis on alternative disposals, which fits in with what I thought was the Government’s policy of trying to rehabilitate offenders. Sending people to prison for a short period is counter- productive. One knows what happens in prisons. To send people for a short sentence is wasteful of public money. If there is an alternative to a custodial sentence, then it should be adopted. The proposal made in this amendment has a great deal behind it.

As for the other issues, speaking as a former judge I tend to support what the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, has said. If I was faced with the choice of words, I would find it easier to work with the Government’s wording than the wording proposed in the amendments.

Lord Bishop of Gloucester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Gloucester
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My Lords, I agree with much of what has been said. On Amendment 82A I reiterate what has been said, and I hope will be said later, about primary carers. We know the damage short sentences do to families. We also know that close to half of those leaving custody go on to reoffend within a year of their release, but two-thirds of those sentenced to less than 12 months go on to reoffend.

This is not pie in the sky; if we look at Germany, which performs better on virtually every metric including reoffending, they imprison a far smaller proportion of the population and sentencers have to make two assessments before sentencing. First, they have to show that a community sentence is inappropriate and, secondly, they have to say that a short sentence will suit the need better. I commend Amendment 82A.

Lord German Portrait Lord German (LD)
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My Lords, I have added my name to Amendment 82A. I apologise to the House for being a few moments late into the Chamber; my little legs would not carry me fast enough from committee to Chamber.

Amendment 82A amplifies the debate we had on short sentences in Committee. It does not seek to ban short sentences but sets out to reduce the use of custody for less serious offences for which there are better options within the community. The argument made in Committee, that there are already guidelines and the Sentencing Code to guard against the overuse of short sentences, is disproven by the way in which the matter does not arise in sentencing at the moment.

The current arrangements—the ones the Minister spoke of in Committee—appear to be robust in theory because imprisonment is already reserved for serious offences and custody is already described as a last resort. As principles, these sound restrictive but have not proven to be so in practice. The current arrangements regarding the custody threshold are an unsatisfactory test because they can be interpreted as permissive when an offender has experienced all other possible forms of sentence even though their latest offence is not that serious. The problem with this is that it magnifies the roundabout, which is short sentences without any opportunity for rehabilitation, being outside for a very short period, reoffending and coming back through the system yet again.

This Bill creates a strange ladder of offences because, if you add in the additional features of the community sentences, which is detention in people’s homes, then that increases the features of the system in this first part of the ladder. The ladder then has a rung which has a much shorter stage to the position of imprisonment. We could say that the position after this Bill will be that the first part of the community sentences has much more amplification of the measures that can be used to deal with the sorts of crimes we have been talking about.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill Debate

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Lord Bishop of Gloucester Excerpts
Lords Hansard - Part 2 & Lords Hansard - part two & Report stage
Wednesday 15th December 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 72-III(a) Amendments for Report (Supplementary to the Third Marshalled List) - (14 Dec 2021)
Moved by
85: After Clause 132, insert the following new Clause—
“Pre-sentence report requirements
(1) Section 30 of the Sentencing Act 2020 is amended as follows.(2) After subsection (3) insert—“(3A) A court must make inquiries to establish whether the offender is a primary carer for a child.(3B) If the court establishes that the offender is a primary carer for a child, unless there are exceptional circumstances before sentencing the offender the court must obtain a pre-sentence report containing information to enable the court to make an assessment of the impact of a custodial sentence on the child.”(3) After subsection (4) insert—“(5) In this section—(a) “child” means a person under the age of 18; and(b) “primary carer” means a person who has primary or substantial care responsibilities for a child.””Member’s explanatory statement
This Clause amends section 30 of the Sentencing Act 2020 to make clear the requirement for a sentencing judge to have a copy of a pre-sentence report, considering the impact of a custodial sentence on the dependent child, when sentencing a primary carer of a child.
Lord Bishop of Gloucester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Gloucester
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My Lords, in moving Amendment 85 I will speak also to the other amendments in my name in the group. I am very grateful for the support of the noble Lords, Lord Ponsonby and Lord German. I am very grateful for the briefing and expertise provided to me by the organisation Women in Prison and I declare my interest as Anglican Bishop for Her Majesty’s Prisons.

In Committee I highlighted the injustice of punishing a child for their parent’s mistakes and I will not go over that ground again. But I want to frame this discussion by reminding us that when a parent goes to prison it can affect every area of a child’s life, from losing their familiar home and school through to reduced educational achievement and mental and physical well-being. The consequences can last a lifetime.

It is also important to highlight again that the imprisonment of a household member is one of 10 adverse childhood experiences known to have a significant negative impact on a child’s long-term well-being, including life expectancy. It raises the possibility of children being imprisoned themselves at some point in their lives. However, I want to be very clear on that point that there is nothing genetic about offending. If a child is failed by the system, left disenfranchised and excluded, we have failed them. We must do all we can to ensure that children can reach their potential.

In response to the Government’s counter-arguments in Committee I wish to make three points, knowing that other noble Lords will provide more detail. First, on pre-sentence reports, the Minister said in Committee that

“a request to the court for an adjournment in order to prepare a pre-sentence report is considered mandatory in cases involving primary carers”.—[Official Report, 1/11/21; col. 1041.]

However, as I understand it, the sentencer does not have to accede to that request and a PSR will be obtained only if the sentencer requests it. Making it mandatory for probation to request a PSR still does not create an obligation on a sentencer to request one.

Over the past decade there has been a decline in PSR volumes and a shift from written to oral PSRs. There are three delivery methods of pre-sentence reports: oral reports and fast delivery reports are both usually delivered on the same day as the court hearing by the court duty probation officer, while standard delivery reports require more detail and are delivered after an adjournment of up to 15 days to obtain additional information.

A research and analysis bulletin from HM Inspectorate of Probation in 2020 found that the recent shift towards oral PSRs, with a focus on speed and timeliness, has impacted on the quality of information provided to courts. In 2018-2019 58% of reports were orally delivered rather than written, twice as many as in 2012-2013, while 39% were fast delivery reports and only 3% were standard delivery reports. I am encouraged that between March and May 2021 a pilot commenced between the Ministry of Justice, HMCTS and the probation service of an alternative delivery model to increase the number of cases receiving pre-sentence reports from 53% to 75%. I note that women are identified as one of three primary cohorts for higher-quality reports on the day.

However, I believe the pilot focuses on delivering written fast delivery reports for women produced on the same day rather than full standard pre-sentence reports, which would enable more time for information to be sought in relation to children and the impact of a sentence on them. It is true that some sentencers request pre-sentence reports when sentencing a primary carer, but not all do. The point of this amendment is to ensure that judges and magistrates have the full picture when sentencing.

I come to sentencing guidelines. Provided by the Sentencing Council to judges and magistrates, they already acknowledge the devastating impact of parental imprisonment. In Committee, the Minister said:

“Courts are required by law to follow those guidelines, and the guidelines specify that being a ‘Sole or primary carer for dependent relatives’ is a mitigating factor when sentencing an offender.”—[Official Report, 1/11/21; col. 1039.]


It is my understanding that being a sole or primary carer can be a mitigating factor, but it is up to the judge to decide whether they consider it as such, so it is left to the sentencer’s discretion whether they consider it a factor which should change the sentence. It therefore cannot be said that the guidelines create an obligation on sentencers to consider dependent children.

On the ground, there is evidence that these guidelines are not always being consistently and robustly applied. Dr Shona Minson has carried out research into the application of the guidelines being applied in sentencing. She spoke with 20 Crown Court judges and asked:

“What kind of personal mitigation most often influences you in sentencing decisions?”


Half of the judges interviewed thought of family dependants. Half of them did not. So it seems that judges do not take a consistent view on the relevance of dependants as a factor in mitigation. According to Dr Minson’s research, judicial understanding of the guidelines in case law, which set out the duties of the court in relation to considering dependants in sentencing, is limited and, at times, incorrect.

In Committee, the Minister said that the judiciary “get it” when it comes to sentencing mothers. I think that this assertion needs testing. In fact, we simply do not know the number of women in prison who are primary carers, so it is no more than speculation to say that judges “get it” on this issue. If the Minister is basing his assertion on the decline in the number of women in prison, the latest annual prison population projections explain that this recent decline

“is likely driven by a drop in prosecutions and sentencing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic … lockdowns have affected the mix of cases brought to criminal courts and restricted the courts’ ability to process cases”.

Between 2013 and 2019, the women’s prison population remained relatively consistent. Indeed, the fact that 500 new women’s places are being built is not a sign that women’s prison places are projected to fall.

Finally, I come to the importance of data. I was really encouraged to read in the recently published White Paper on the prisons strategy that the Government intend to

“begin recording data on prisoners’ family circumstances and caring responsibilities, and conduct analysis to better understand the circumstances and needs of offenders.”

I applaud and welcome this as a step in the right direction. Without data, we are making policy in the dark. I should welcome confirmation from the Minister on the timeline for this. Amendment 88 in this group asks that this data be collected at sentencing, disaggregated by gender, ethnicity, sentence and offender type, and made publicly available. I should welcome further discussions with the Minister to ensure that we are collecting the right type of information.

In conclusion, as a Christian, I believe that each precious and unique child is made in the image of God and must be treated with dignity and respect. I know from the work of charities such as Children Heard and Seen the devastating impact that losing a parent to prison can have on a child of any age. Research from the Prison Reform Trust found that children with a parent in prison felt invisible. We must consider the rights of children to a family life. At the heart of these amendments is not a plea never to send a mother—or, indeed, a father—to prison. Instead, I hope that we might work towards preventing long-term harm for children whose parents have done wrong but for whom a community penalty is more appropriate for both the offender and the children. I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say. I will be listening carefully but, at this point, I flag that I am minded to test the opinion of the House on the amendment. I beg to move.

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Lord Bishop of Gloucester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Gloucester
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It is good to hear what the Minister has to say. Some of those points were things that I challenged when I talked about the mandatory comments on PSRs. It was good to hear the Minister say, “We want to improve things; we want to improve the quality”. This amendment would ensure that the “I want” becomes something in legislation. I would go back as far as the Farmer review, where, even then, the issue of the potential for inconsistency in PSRs was raised.

There is still a gap between what is being said and the evidence. For that reason, although I know it is late, I would like to test the opinion of the House. This amendment would not in any way compromise the decision-making discretion of judges but, I hope, would be useful in assisting judges by ensuring that they have all the right information. Although it is late—I cannot help that—I would like to test the opinion of the House on Amendment 85.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill Debate

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Department: Home Office

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Lord Bishop of Gloucester Excerpts
Lords Hansard - Part 1 & Lords Hansard - part one & Report stage
Monday 10th January 2022

(2 years, 5 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 72-V Fifth marshalled list for Report - (10 Jan 2022)
Baroness Hamwee Portrait Baroness Hamwee (LD)
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My Lords, I wonder whether I could ask the Minister a question about her amendments to Clause 141. This takes forward to one point of detail the comments made by other noble Lords about targeting particular groups of possible offenders. Amendments 92 and 93 would extend the guidance from the exercise of functions by the police to, as in proposed new subsection 1A(b),

“guidance about identifying offenders in respect of whom it may be appropriate for … serious violence reduction orders to be made”.

To me, this reads very much like profiling. Can the Minister tell the House whether “identifying offenders” is about identifying particular individuals or a cohort, class or demographic in respect of whom the Government may see SVROs as appropriate?

Lord Bishop of Gloucester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Gloucester
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My Lords, I rise to support in particular Amendments 90H, 90J, 90K and 90L. As has been said, they are critical to ensuring that more vulnerable women are not drawn into the criminal justice system through the de facto joint enterprise element of SVROs. Probably like other noble Lords, I was shocked to read the briefing from Agenda, which states that analysis of

“109 joint enterprise cases involving women and girls”

shows that

“there was not a single case in which women and girls had handled a weapon; in 90% of cases they engaged in no violence at all; and in half of the cases they were not even present at the scene of the crime.”

As we have heard, SVROs will mean that women can be given an order based on a single judgment that, on the balance of probability, they “ought to have known” that someone in their company was in possession of a knife. That key phrase, “ought to have known”, is really troubling. Will the Minister consider how this fits in with wider policy, including the female offenders strategy, to limit the number of women serving short sentences and prevent reoffending?

We have a duty to limit unintended consequences. These amendments would do just that.

Lord Sentamu Portrait Lord Sentamu (CB)
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My Lords, I rise to support Amendments 90G, 90H and 90J, but I will concentrate on Amendment 90G. I declare an interest: when I was a vicar in Tulse Hill, south London—I was there for 14 years—I was stopped and searched a number of times. I asked the police why, particularly when I did not have my dog collar on because I had gone to B&Q to get some paint to decorate our house. They said that they wanted to make sure that the tins of paint had not been stolen. I had to produce a receipt. I was then let go, but there were other occasions; it was not just a one-off.

I then became the Bishop of Stepney. I had been there for only about 18 months when, one evening, having taken my wife to a selection conference, on my way back, at about 10 pm, on that wonderful hill in London, I was stopped and searched. The man wanted me to open my boot, which I did. As I stood up, he suddenly saw my dog collar and purple shirt and said, “Whoops”.

I was an adviser to the Stephen Lawrence inquiry. By the way, it was not the Macpherson inquiry, as people tend to call it. If you look at the book, you will see that it was the Stephen Lawrence inquiry, chaired by Sir William Macpherson of Cluny, who died last year.

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Lord Ramsbotham Portrait Lord Ramsbotham (CB)
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My Lords, I strongly support this amendment. Noting the success of the Youth Justice Board, as the noble Lord, Lord Marks, did, I venture to suggest that many of the problems of women in the criminal justice system would disappear if there was such a board, and the establishment of women’s offending teams.

Lord Bishop of Gloucester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Gloucester
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My Lords, I add my wholehearted support to this amendment. I am very grateful to the noble Lords, Lord Marks and Lord Ramsbotham, and the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, for their continued commitment to women in the criminal justice system. As bishop to prisons and president of the Nelson Trust, I am acutely aware, as I have said so often, of the need for a gendered approach to justice. The noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, has just put that very powerfully.

While men and women need to be treated with equal justice, equality is not about sameness. Women are caught up in a criminal justice system that has been designed around men, and there needs to be a gendered lens. As we have heard already, many, many women are more likely than men to be primary carers or victims of abuse or exploitation. When they are given a prison sentence, they are more likely to be given a very short one, often far from home. I do not want to repeat things that have been said so many times in Committee and on Report but, having lost the amendment on primary carers earlier on during Report, I am very grateful to noble Lords for bringing forward these amendments, which will go a long way towards ensuring that we get the same outcomes. I am therefore wholeheartedly glad to support these amendments.

Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd Portrait Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd (CB)
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I rise briefly to add my voice in support of the amendments. I accept that the Youth Justice Board has been an enormous success, and that is primarily because it addresses two separate problems to deal with youths. One is the causes and reasons why they offend and the other is the need for their rehabilitation into society. Although, for reasons that are necessary for the trial of youths, they need a separate system, the underlying reason for the Youth Justice Board applies equally to women, in that there are specific causes of offending, the particular vulnerability, the particular issues they have with mental capacity in certain areas, the specific crimes to which they have been subjected and, above all, domestic abuse.

Moreover, it is plain that the kind of rehabilitation that women need is different. They need much more support in integrating them into the community, but they also need not to be treated or dealt with at centres. I warmly welcome what the Ministry of Justice has done and set forth in its strategy. The difficulty is that although there have been numerous reports about what is required—the report of the noble Lord, Lord Farmer, for example, and the many reports of the Prison Reform Trust—what is needed is delivery. Delivery is key to this, and that is why I warmly support this amendment.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill Debate

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Department: Ministry of Justice

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Lord Bishop of Gloucester Excerpts
Lord Beith Portrait Lord Beith (LD)
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My Lords, I agree with all the arguments my noble friend brought forward for having an overall look at sentencing and how it operates, and how that needs to be done at arm’s length from government. I will simply add two questions to the list he created, which the noble and learned Lord just very helpfully added to.

The first question is: can we find a way in which society can assert its abhorrence at various kinds and levels of criminality that does not automatically increase the amount of time people spend in prison, or the amount of money we as a society spend on prison? Sentences are often used as ways of indicating, quite necessarily, that society will not stand for crimes of various kinds, but simply spending a lot of money keeping someone in prison, feeding them for the next decade or two, is not necessarily a cost-effective way to achieve that.

That leads me to my second point. Prison commands resources. It does so automatically. The impact statement for this Bill indicates that the Government anticipate that 300 more prison places will be required by the measures in the Bill, quite apart from all the other factors, leading us to spend more money on prisons. We have to ask: is that a good use of money for the purpose of preventing further crime?

Very interesting discussions took place in the US, particularly in Texas, in which the lead in changing the approach was taken by some of those on the Republican side, who said, “This is the taxpayer’s dollar, and it’s our responsibility to spend it efficiently and effectively.” In our country, it is our responsibility to spend the taxpayer’s pound efficiently and effectively to achieve the reductions in crime that taxpayers would like to see. Pouring money into more and more prison places is not demonstrably a way of achieving that objective, and we ought at least to look at how it might be done differently.

Lord Bishop of Gloucester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Gloucester
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My Lords, I fully support the amendment. Sometimes I feel a bit as if I am in “Groundhog Day” as we listen to things that are said again and again. When we first discussed the Bill in this House, many people far more learned than me commented on all the issues with the Bill and the fact that so much of it is piecemeal—that we are trying to put sticking plasters over things without looking at the issues holistically and without looking at evidence. So much of it seems to be a reaction—often to populist headlines, let us be honest. There is so much evidence that we are not looking at, and so much of what we are discussing is not backed up by the evidence.

For that reason, I warmly recommend taking a holistic look at what we are doing, why people end up in prison in the first place, what we are doing when we sentence people, what is going on in our prisons and what it means for when people come out through the gate. As has been said, even if people are utterly callous and care only about finance, what we are doing at the moment makes no financial sense whatsoever. I wholeheartedly applaud this amendment.

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Portrait Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (GP)
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My Lords, I also support the amendment. The noble Lord, Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames, has given us an opportunity to make things a lot better. During that quite irritable debate two days ago—I was irritable, anyway, and I think people got irritable with me—on this policing Bill, it struck me that we just should not have as many women in prison. Some of the things that women go to prison for are ridiculous. It costs a lot of money; it disrupts lives, especially for the women, their children and their support networks; and there is an opportunity cost when compared to the opportunities that we should be providing via rehabilitation and reintegration. Women go to prison for things like not paying their TV licence or their council tax, and that really should not happen. It is hugely disruptive, the cost of doing so exceeds the unpaid debt many times over, and lives are ruined.

For the vast majority of women in the criminal justice system, solutions within the community are much more appropriate. Community sentences could be designed to take account of women’s particular vulnerabilities and their domestic and childcare commitments. Existing women’s prisons should be replaced by suitable, geographically-dispersed, small multifunctional custodial centres. More supported accommodation should be provided for women on release in order to break the cycle of offending and custody. Prisoners should have improved access to meaningful activities, particularly real work, education and artistic and creative facilities. And, of course, all prisoners should be able to attain levels of literacy sufficient to allow them to function effectively in modern society.

That all seems so obvious, but it does not happen at the moment because this Government are obsessed with being “tough on crime”. What does that mean? If it means sending more and more people to prison then it is a very disruptive and damaging way of handling the problem of crime. A royal commission seems an incredibly sensible way forward just to rethink the way in which we handle prisons, prisoners, crime and, in particular, women in prison who really ought not to be there.

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I can see therefore that, sadly, although the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, has brought forward a very good amendment, it is very unlikely to be passed. Obviously it is completely wrong that the police, instead of rescuing children from situations of criminal exploitation, can send them back into dangerous situations to work for them as undercover spies. It is not enough to say that they give loads of good intelligence and so on; I have seen from many years of watching undercover police that they suffer trauma and extremely miserable lives and come out with all sorts of PTSD from those undercover situations. It is very hard to be a different person day after day with some potentially very dangerous people. If it can happen to trained police officers, how much worse is it for young children who have to do that sort of thing? They have to lie to all their compatriots and cover up meetings with their handlers. It is exceptionally nasty and I wish the Met police would understand that it is a wrong, illegal thing to do. They call them juvenile CHISs—covert human intelligence sources—which sort of neutralises the moral outrage because no one really understands what they are. However, it is by definition child criminal exploitation. If we could put the definition on the statute book, we would be one step closer to ending this vile practice undertaken by our own police—and Government.
Lord Bishop of Gloucester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Gloucester
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My Lords, I speak in place of my right reverend friend the Bishop of Derby, who sadly cannot be here today. She and I support this amendment, to which she has added her name. I declare her interest as vice-chair of the Children’s Society. These are her words.

In Committee, my right reverend friend the Bishop of Durham spoke in the place of my right reverend friend the Bishop of Manchester. I will not repeat all that was said, but I will reiterate a few fundamental points as we consider this amendment. As a Church living and working in every corner of this nation, we support families and children, often in the most vulnerable of contexts. We have seen the devastating consequences when children are coerced and exploited, including through serious violence. Those consequences have ripple effects through not only the life of that child but the wider community. Visiting young offender institutions, I am struck by how many of these children and young people are victims first. Their stories could have been very different if intervention had occurred earlier. They have been groomed and coerced in the same way as children groomed for sexual exploitation; as such, they should be treated as victims. They need support rather than the further trauma of being charged and prosecuted.

I share with noble Lords the story of a young person supported by the Children’s Society which illustrates how many victims of child criminal exploitation are not recognised as such. Bobby—not his real name—aged 15, was picked up with class A drugs in a trap-house raid by the police. Bobby had been groomed, exploited and trafficked across the country to sell drugs. After his arrest, he was driven back to his home by police officers, who had questioned him alone in the car and used that information to submit a referral through the national referral mechanism, which did not highlight Bobby’s vulnerability—instead, it read like a crime report. Bobby had subsequently been to court in Wales and, because his referral to the NRM failed and his barrister did not understand the process, he was advised to plead guilty, which he did.

At this time, he was referred to the Children’s Society’s “Disrupting Exploitation” programme. With its help, Bobby challenged the NRM decision and worked to ensure that he was recognised as a victim instead of an offender, enabling him to retract his plea of guilty. The Children’s Society was able to work with Bobby, his family and the professionals around him to ensure that they recognised the signs of exploitation and how it can manifest.

But for many young people who are criminally exploited, that is not the case. Many will be prosecuted and convicted as offenders, while those who groomed and exploited them walk free. Agencies that come into contact with these children are not working to the same statutory definition of what constitutes child criminal exploitation.

What this amendment hopes to achieve is for statutory services to recognise that these children have not made a choice to get involved in criminal activity. I whole- heartedly agree that local multiagency safeguarding arrangements are key to responding to child exploitation. However, we need a clear, national definition and understanding of the types of child exploitation that they must safeguard against. Front-line agencies all agree: there is no evidence that the system as it stands is working consistently to protect these children from exploitation.

We are committed to the flourishing of all people. That includes children and young people from the most marginalised and disadvantaged circumstances—those for whom real choice is out of their grasp. We must do all within our power to give hope to victims and dare to dream of a different future for these children.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, in Committee I recalled my own experience of visiting the only young offender institution in Scotland, where the governor told us that every young person in her institution had suffered multiple adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs. These are potentially traumatic events that occur in childhood and include experiencing violence, abuse or neglect, particularly head trauma; witnessing violence in the home or community, something that is becoming all too common; and having a family member attempt or die by suicide. Also included are aspects of the child’s environment that can undermine their sense of safety, stability and bonding, such as growing up in a household with substance use problems, mental health problems or instability due to parental separation or household members being in prison.

ACEs also make children particularly vulnerable to criminal exploitation and it is important that this is recognised in statute to ensure that a trauma-informed approach is taken to child victims of criminal exploitation, rather than a criminalising, punitive approach. This amendment provides that statutory definition and we strongly support it.