I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.
The new clause places a requirement on the Secretary of State to collect and publish annual data on child sex offences, child exploitation offences and modern slavery offences. Data collection is vital to ensure appropriate policy responses, and that is even more important when it comes to crime. Publishing transparent crime statistics is key to understanding how the criminal justice system is working and whether victims are getting the justice they deserve.
New clause 38 asks the Government to collect and publish, by police force area, annual data on the number of child sexual offences, child sexual exploitation offences and modern slavery offences committed against children aged under 18 in England and Wales. There is a data blind spot when it comes to tracking a reported crime through to sentencing. Because of the way data is collected, this proves especially difficult for 16 and 17-year-olds against whom sexual offences are committed. I know that the Government are committed to tackling child abuse and exploitation in all its forms. The new clause would help in that fight, by filling in the blanks and allowing us to have an informed discussion on what needs to improve to ensure that victims get their day in court and criminals are brought to justice.
Despite older teenagers in particular being at high risk of sexual offences, due to the way that the data is collected they are often not included in the reported numbers on child sexual abuse. The tackling child sexual abuse strategy states:
“Over 83,000 child sexual abuse offences…were recorded by police in the year ending March 2020, an increase of approximately 267% since 2013… Due to the way this data is collected, and different sexual offences defined, these figures do not capture certain sexual offences committed against 16 and 17-year-olds, such as rape, as well as sexual assault committed against children over the age of 13.”
The Children’s Society’s analysis of the data shows that those two categories are the biggest groups of sexual offences reported to the police, which therefore indicates that the true scale of recorded sexual offences against children is very likely to be much higher. Collecting information is key to showing the true scale of sexual offences and to showing where the cliff edges are in the victim’s journey through the criminal justice system.
The Children’s Society previously found that
“54,000 sexual offences against children under the age of 18 were recorded by 43 police forces in England and Wales between 1 October 2015 and 31 September 2016.”
However, it stated that
“Only around 16% of offences reported where the investigation was completed resulted in charges, summons, community resolution or cautions against the perpetrator… For offences that did not result in action against the perpetrator the most common reason was evidential difficulties”.
Let us take the example of Margaret, aged 16. Throughout her life, Margaret had many interventions from children’s services. Margaret disclosed to family that she was raped and was a witness to another person being sexually assaulted. She disclosed that she was scared of reporting the offence, but did so with her family’s support. Long delays, a change of police staff and her mobile phone being taken for 10 months meant that Margaret eventually stopped supporting the police investigation. The case did not progress to prosecution and the young person remains at risk of sexual abuse.
We need to learn from these cases. New clause 38 would give us a clearer understanding of how many reported crimes against children drop out before a defendant is charged. That would enable us to make improvements in criminal justice. What we know is that a shockingly low number of crimes reported result in a successful conviction.
The Office for National Statistics reported in 2020 that there were more than 12,000 crimes flagged as sexual exploitation, but fewer than 2,000 child sexual exploitation charges were brought against perpetrators. There are several different crime datasets published each year, but none follows a reported crime right through to sentencing. The police and the Crown Prosecution Service must have the right tools to prosecute perpetrators, and that is where robust and transparent data collection comes in. Proper data collection will also enable local areas to plan appropriate safeguarding responses for all children under the age of 18 who are at risk of sexual offences or modern slavery offences in their area.
Figures from the ONS have shown that children are more likely than the general population to be victims of sexual offences, with young people aged between 15 and 19 accounting for nearly a quarter—23%—of all rape offences. I hope the Government will acknowledge the importance of better data collection in their response and will commit to providing the information on an annual basis, so that we can review the effectiveness of the current disruption tools, criminal offences and attrition rates for child sexual abuse and exploitation. I look forward to the Minister’s response.
The Minister will not be surprised that I investigate the data quite routinely, and there are two problems that she might be able to address. First, when the ONS data come out, they tend to be a big lump —the data are not broken down into specifics. Secondly, she is talking about the data collected on charging, prosecuting and outcomes, but what we are arguing for is the need to look at the number of reported crimes.
I am grateful to the Minister for that reassurance, and I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.
Clause, by leave, withdrawn.
New Clause 43
Offence of interference with access to or provision of abortion services
“(1) A person who is within a buffer zone and who interferes with any person’s decision to access, provide, or facilitate the provision of abortion services in that buffer zone is guilty of an offence.
(2) A ‘buffer zone’ means an area with a boundary which is 150 metres from any part of an abortion clinic or any access point to any building that contains an abortion clinic.
(3) For the purposes of subsection (1)—
‘interferes with’ means—
(a) seeks to influence; or
(b) persistently, continuously or repeatedly occupies; or
(c) impedes or threatens; or
(d) intimidates or harasses; or
(e) advises or persuades, attempts to advise or persuade, or otherwise expresses opinion; or
(f) informs or attempts to inform about abortion services by any means, including, without limitation, graphic, physical, verbal or written means; or
(g) sketches, photographs, records, stores, broadcasts, or transmits images, audio, likenesses or personal data of any person without express consent.
(4) A person guilty of an offence under subsection (1) is liable—
(a) in the first instance—
(i) on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months, or
(ii) to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale, or
(iii) to both; and
(b) on further instances—
(i) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years, or to a fine, or to both; or
(ii) on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months, or to a fine, or to both.”.—(Sarah Champion.)
This new clause would introduce areas around abortion clinics and hospitals (buffer zones) where interference with, and intimidation or harassment of, women accessing or people providing abortion services would be an offence.
Brought up, and read the First time.
I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.
I am proud to speak to this clause, tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing Central and Acton (Dr Huq) and supported by more than 35 MPs from across the House.
As we come to the end of Committee stage, a significant portion of our debate has focused on the safety of women in public spaces, and I am grateful for that. We can all recognise, to a greater or lesser degree, that existing public order legislation does not provide the necessary framework to address women’s fear and concerns in public spaces.
This new clause raises a discrete problem—harassment outside abortion clinics. The issue has been raised in the House by my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing Central and Acton for several years, with great support from other Members on both sides of the House. As hon. Members will see on the amendment paper, the new clause has cross -party support from Members from five different parties.
Although my hon. Friend was driven to raise this issue by harassment in her own constituency, this is not a local issue. Figures from the Department of Health and Social Care and abortion providers indicate that in 2019 more than 100,000 women—or more than half of everyone who has an abortion—had to attend a hospital or abortion clinic that had been targeted by anti-abortion groups.
I want to make it clear that this new clause is not about abortion. A woman’s legal right to end a pregnancy is supported by the House and by the public and has been in statute since 1967. It is, however, about the ability of a woman to exercise this legal right without the fear of harassment or intimidation. Therefore, this new clause has a narrow purpose to introduce buffer zones 150 metres around abortion clinics, where certain activities designated as pressuring women about their decision to access abortion are banned.
Currently, around the country, anti-abortion groups engage in activity at the clinic gate seeking to deter or prevent women from accessing abortion care. This takes many forms, including the display of graphic images of dismembered foetuses, large marches that gather outside the clinic, filming women and staff members, following women down the street, sprinkling sites with holy water and handing out leaflets that tell women, falsely, that abortion causes breast cancer, suicidal intentions and can lead to child abuse. Recently, groups have been handing out advertisements for dangerous and unproven medication to reverse an abortion. This activity has been an almost permanent fixture outside several clinics for years. Abortion providers such as the British Pregnancy Advisory Service have collected thousands of accounts from women they have treated about the activities outside clinics and the impact it has had on them. In the past year alone, even during lockdown, this harassment has continued.
One woman, in Liverpool, reported in February:
“She told me that I should let God decide—that it will torture me for the rest of my life and don’t let them do it. She told me her daughter couldn’t have kids and I’m wrong for killing a baby…that I’ll have no luck in the future if I kill a baby.”
Another woman, in Bournemouth, said in December 2020:
“My partner was waiting in the car and he had one woman staring at him and walking around his car whilst showing him a cross. Both my children (both under 4) were in the car waiting with my partner…I felt uncomfortable walking out of the clinic knowing they were there.”
The mother of a patient in Bournemouth just last week said:
“The protester was stood by the entrance with a banner. My daughter is autistic and this procedure is stressful and traumatic—and when she realised they were outside it caused her to have a panic attack”.
Doctors and nurses are not immune to harassment, either. In Brighton in October 2020, one reported:
“There was a man in the entrance lobby—my colleague didn’t know what to do. He wouldn’t leave. He asked us if this was a place where ‘you kill babies’, if I ‘agreed with murdering babies’, and whether I was ‘happy to murder foetuses’.”
This is not a protest—the groups involved in this activity are very clear that they are not seeking to change lawmakers’ minds or amend the abortion legislation. Instead, they seek direct access to individual women who have no choice but to approach them as they access legal and essential healthcare. It is, quite simply, targeted harassment.
The solution is simple and has been used successfully across Canada, Australia and parts of the USA. We need to protect women seeking confidential medical care by making it clear that it is unacceptable to accost a woman at a clinic gate, harass her and lie to her about medical procedures.
We must also recognise that much of the legislation has been thoroughly inadequate at addressing the problem. I am sure the Minister will wish to mention that. The only law that has ever been successful in solving the problem at clinic levels is public space protection orders, which enable a council to create its own local buffer zone, but only three counties across the country have them in place, leaving more than 90% of affected clinics with nothing to protect them. That creates a postcode lottery of protection from harassment, and that is just not good enough. We need a national solution to this national problem. I hope the Minister will consider the impact of this activity on women, and I hope she will recognise that, despite the existing law, it has continued unabated for years.
I hear what the Minister says. I am still very concerned that, by the Minister’s own figures, we are looking at a quarter of clinics being targeted. I am very concerned about the postcode lottery. Would the Minister be open to my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing Central and Acton working with her civil servants to try to come back with a more appropriate wording for Report?
I hope the Minister is aware of how grateful I am for all the work she has done on this cause. She has really been a champion for it. Is she able to share with the Committee her thoughts about whether the crime is increasing or our awareness is increasing? Does she have any thoughts she can share about the root causes of this, and therefore how early prevention will stop it happening?
I thank the Minister for giving way—we are so intuitive now that we do not need to ask to intervene on each other.
This sort of behaviour starts at a very young age, which is why the Government were right to accept my amendment to the Bill that became the Children and Social Work Act 2017, to make relationships education for all primary school children mandatory. That should have started last September; we are now told it will start this September. Will she comment about that early intervention and the importance of it?
I hope the Minister recognises my concerns around enrolment, and the fact that the data then gets published. The enrolled deed poll does not include the question whether someone has a criminal past. I am still concerned that that could be a loophole.
The Minister has been going through the same process that I have been going through. Rather than putting a blanket demand for birth certificates on everybody, is there the potential to flag all sex offenders? I am not sure about the Minister’s view, but mine is that when someone carries out a sexual offence, they lose some of their rights. If all sex offenders had a flag on them that automatically triggered the check, either with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency or the Passport Office, that would seem a more manageable way forward administratively.
I beg to move amendment 3, in clause 145, page 143, line 16, leave out “may” and insert “must”.
This amendment would place a requirement on the Secretary of State to prepare (or direct someone to prepare) a list of countries and territories considered to be at high risk of child sexual exploitation or abuse by UK nationals and residents, rather than leaving at the Secretary of State’s discretion to produce such a list.
I previously spoke about the horrific nature of online exploitation and the need for an urgent and robust response from the UK to disrupt the cycle of supply and demand fuelling that abuse. As I previously argued, the Bill is an important opportunity for the Government to take action in this area, and clause 145 is no different. I very much welcome the measures set out in the Bill and particularly in clause 145, which provide for the establishment and maintenance of a list of countries and territories in which children are considered to be at high risk of sexual exploitation or abuse by UK nationals or residents. Tied to this, clause 146 would require applicants—for example, the police—for a sexual harm prevention order or sexual risk order to have regard to that list. These important measures should be welcomed. They give effect to a recommendation made by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse.
It is vital that we do all we can to tackle contact offending overseas, but we must also take into consideration online offending against children overseas. My amendments 4 and 5, to clause 145, would require the Secretary of State to produce a list of high-risk countries for both in-person and online abuse. As currently drafted, the Bill grants the Secretary of State the ability to publish a list of countries and territories in which UK nationals pose a high risk of sexual exploitation and abuse. Through my amendments, I am seeking to clarify that that relates to both in-person and online abuse. Through amendment 6, I would make it a requirement that the Secretary of State do this; currently, it is a matter of discretion.
It is hoped that, through consultation with law enforcement and civil society, we will enable an accurate list of high-risk areas to be gathered together. That would be an immeasurably useful resource for targeting resources in the future. This process will also help us to better understand the nature of exploitation and abuse by UK nationals, enabling us to ensure that interventions are effective in achieving prevention.
As with my other amendments on online sexual exploitation of children, these amendments are supported by the International Justice Mission. I am very grateful for its support on this matter, but also for all the work that it does around the world to protect children. It knows only too well the horrific nature of online abuse carried out by UK offenders against children overseas. I really hope that the Minister is minded to add a provision about online abuse to the Bill or is able to give reassurance that the online proliferation of abuse will be included in the list.
I understand the logic of the argument that the Minister is putting forward, but what I hear anecdotally from the police is that there is that escalation. I would have thought that knowing, for example, that they are able to watch children being abused in the Philippines would be a draw for UK abusers who want that escalation to go to the Philippines. Having the word “online” there would make the police recognise the very severe damage that happens, whether it is done in person or is being directed by a UK national. It is about the recognition of how this escalates.
Amendments 162 to 164 were tabled in not only my name but that of my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Dame Diana Johnson). They amend clauses 148 and 149, which relate to sexual harm prevention orders and sexual risk orders. The Government are introducing the clauses to expand the role of those orders so that positive requirements can be placed on individuals, and we welcome that. Currently, the law allows only for individuals to be ordered to stop things.
Given that the Government are introducing changes to the orders, I believe that the law could be strengthened even further, which is why I am speaking to the amendments in the name of my right hon. Friend. The amendments would impose a positive duty to refer to a treatment programme all individuals who are subject to a sexual harm prevention order where they have been convicted, or a sexual risk order when a conviction has not yet been obtained. For example, that could be prior to a court hearing when there is sufficient concern for an order to be made before a conviction is obtained.
Under the amendments, a mandatory referral to treatment services would be required for all those engaged in criminal sexual behaviour and where a SHPO or SRO is to be put in place. That is an attempt to intervene at the earliest opportunity, and in particular to stop non-contact sexual offending behaviour escalating. Starting with non-contact sexual offending, such as indecent exposure or voyeurism, is necessary as it is often a gateway to more serious offending. There is a great deal of evidence that those who commit low-level or non-contact sexual offences will often escalate their behaviour and take more risks, with the potential for increasingly violent sexual crimes.
That pattern of behaviour is encapsulated by the case of a University of Hull student, Libby Squire, who was out in Hull one night when she was picked up by a man who went on to rape and murder her and then dumped her body in the River Hull. She was not found for many weeks. It was later revealed that the man who murdered Libby had been prowling the streets of Hull for many months committing low-level sexual offences such as voyeurism and burglary of women’s underwear and sex toys. Those crimes took place between 2017 and January 2019.
The last known non-contact sexual offence that the man committed happened just 11 days prior to the murder of Libby Squire. Unfortunately, very few of his crimes were reported to the police before Libby went missing. Even if the offender had been charged or convicted of those non-contact sexual crimes, the police believe that little would have been done to address his offending behaviour, as his actions did not meet the high threshold for referral to specialist treatment.
The amendments would address that issue and make referrals mandatory for all sexual offending, including lower-level or non-contact sexual offending. That would effectively interrupt a pattern of behaviour at the earliest possible point and help to prevent an escalation of sexual offending, thus helping to reduce the risk of sexual harm to women and girls and the wider public. I look forward to hearing what the Minister says about this group of amendments, as I know that she too is very concerned about these matters.
I am interested in the point the Minister is making about first-time offenders. A lot of children and young adults carry knives because they are scared and because they are aware of the crime going on in their area and they want to protect themselves—they feel vulnerable without a knife. What guidance will be in place for police officers to make the distinction?
It would be convenient—thank you. It is always a pleasure to serve under your chairship, Mr McCabe.
I found a very real problem that I did not know existed. I have spoken to a number of Ministers in the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice about it, and they all recognise that it is a real problem. I am seeking, through new clause 65, to get a review into how registered sex offenders are changing their names, and in doing so, are slipping under the radar with some absolutely devastating consequences.
Currently, all registered sex offenders are legally required to notify the police of any changes in their personal details, including names and addresses. Those notification requirements are incredibly weak, however, and place the onus entirely on the sex offender to report changes in their personal information. I would like to say that, by their very nature, sex offenders tend to be incredibly sneaky and used to subterfuge, so the likelihood of them actively notifying their police officer is quite slender.
At this point, I would like to mention the crucial work that has been carried out by those at the Safeguarding Alliance, who identified this issue four years ago and alerted me to it. They have an upcoming report, from which I will use just one case as an example. It is the case of a woman called Della Wright, the ambassador for the Safeguarding Alliance, who is a survivor of child sexual abuse. She has bravely chosen to speak out and to tell her story, which is symptomatic of that of so many other survivors who have been impacted by the serious safeguarding loophole.
When Della was between six and seven years old, a man came to live in her home and became one of her primary carers. He went on to commit the most heinous of crimes, and was free to sexually abuse Della at will. Years later, Della reported the abuse in 2007 and again in 2015. Then it quickly become apparent that the person in question was already known to the police. He had gone on to commit many further sexual offences against an undisclosed number of victims. During this time, Della was made aware that his name had changed. It has since been identified that he has changed his name at least five times, enabling him to relocate under the radar and evade justice. When Della’s case was finally brought to court, he was once again allowed to change his name, this time between being charged and appearing in court for the planned hearing. That slowed down the whole court process, adding additional stress to Della, and made a complete mockery, I may say, of the justice system.
While the loophole exists, Della’s abuser is free to change his name as often as he likes, including from prison.
I thank the Minister for her clarity on that. I completely support her point when violence is being done or emergency services are being blocked and the disruption is in no way proportionate to the nature of the protest, but I would like her to give some clarity on the issue of noise. Is it a decibel thing? Is it an irritation thing? Who decides what the irritation is? What is and is not acceptable? Would the threshold be lower in a small village because noise would not normally be heard, whereas in a big city with lots of industrial sites it would be a lot higher? It is that subjectivity that I put to the Minister.
Let me give an example that I am sure everyone in this room will have experience of, as I have. An MP might be speaking at a demo or rally and a group of people feel the need to say, “See you next Tuesday” during the speech. That distresses the church group being addressed. Would that reach the threshold? Is it more of a decibel thing rather than it being directed to the MP? For example, in Rotherham the community came together to hold peaceful vigils but the far right held counter-protests in which they felt the need to call us paedophiles.
I appreciate that I am being annoying on this, but I just do not get it. These particular cases feel subjective and that is why I would like to get the clarity bedded down.
I thank the Minister for being generous; it is appreciated. On the examples I supplied, her response was that the existing legislation ought to be covering the point. She mentioned a case study in which a protest could reach the threshold if there was no double-glazing. What concerns me is the organiser who could now face up to six months in jail. Are they meant to know whether properties do or do not have double-glazing, and therefore instruct the march to be silent for a specific 100 yards, as they could otherwise fall foul of the earlier clause? I say to the Minister that I just do not like subjectivity when it comes to the law.
On a point of order, Mr McCabe. I think the Minister has misinterpreted what I said. I had protests against me that were rallying the crowds, which led to the exact same phraseology that went into death threats. I am saying that that was incredibly chilling and uncomfortable. Of course I wanted it to stop, but I do not try to deny people’s right to protest.
First, people all around the world are being murdered for being gay, so there is the element of protest. Secondly, can the Minister confirm that the measures she is putting in the Bill would address the fire-starting protests that come up? If that is the nub of what she is trying to address, it seems to me that the clauses go a lot further than that.
I thank my hon. Friend for all the points she made, which, to be quite honest, are common sense, but would cause a huge shift in victims’ and survivors’ perceptions of their rights. I have questions for the Minister.
On data storage and security, I am sure we were all pretty shocked and disgusted to hear that images relating to Sarah Everard were not secure in the police system. While I have a very high regard for the police, they can be a leaky sieve—let us be honest. Why do we not simply clone phones at the point of taking them? Why is it months, or usually years, before the victim gets their phone back? Would it be possible to put in legislation or guidance a timeframe on how long that phone can be held for? Having spoken to officers, it seems that cloning a phone is complicated and geeky; it tends to be put in a back drawer until they absolutely have to do it. A timeframe would give a lot of comfort to victims and survivors; they would know it was only a week until they got their photos back, for example.
Finally, a myth has been perpetuated that victims and survivors have to hand over their phone or mobile data to the police or their case will not be taken forward. I have heard examples of victims and survivors being told expressly that if they do not hand it over, they are withholding evidence and could be prosecuted. At that point, unfortunately, a number of survivors drop out of the process and withdraw their charges altogether. If the Minister is able to give reassurance on that, that would be hugely appreciated.
I turn to amendment 115, on the list of people who may extract data. The list is pretty extensive, but one group stood out: immigration officers may request a mobile phone. A few months ago, I went to a large asylum hospital in my constituency, where there were 50 to 100 men—I do not know how many—and what concerned them most was that, literally as they entered the country, their mobile devices and indeed clothes were taken off them. There was no debate or explanation; it is just part of the process.
I completely understand the argument that very bad people, such as gangmasters, who come into the country may have a lot of contacts that are relevant to police inquiries. The police and transport police are already on the extensive list of people who may access electronic devices, so if an immigration officer was concerned, they could get a police officer to take the digital device away. That is not a problem. Extracting data is a complex process that requires specialist experience, and it ought to be managed under the law. I am concerned that we are asking immigration officers to be incredibly mindful, and to be trained and resourced, and to have all the skills, to request that device.
The people I met fell into three camps: economic migrants, who have paid to come over here; people who have been trafficked over here; and those brought in specifically for modern slavery. All the men I spoke to wanted to see pictures of their loved ones. They wanted those memories from home, and a mobile phone may be the best way to hold those memories and connections.
I do not know anyone’s telephone number aside from my parents’—it was the one I grew up with. I can call the police, the NHS helpline and my mum, but everything else is stored on my phone. If I lost it, I would not know how to respond—and I have back-ups that I can access, and English as my first language. When I changed phones, I did not download properly and lost five years of photos. That was so painful. Imagine someone being trafficked into this country, and probably horrifically abused on the way in. The one thing they can hold on to is their memories on that digital device, but that is taken away. They have no information about why it was taken, or when it will be returned, and all their contacts have been lost.
All the points that my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon Central made apply in this case. Immigration officers are one of the groups who may take these devices—this is not a dig against immigration officers, who do a difficult job—but in any other situation a police officer or a court order would be required to take such detailed data. I ask the Minister please to remove immigration officers from the list.
I am hearing everything that the Minister is saying. Knowing that the review is coming out—I assume it is something that she has been working on or very closely with, because of her intense involvement and support in this area—does she feel that the measures in the Bill are proportionate or are they something that, once the review comes out, she may look at changing, to ensure that the safeguards that she speaks of are embedded in the final Act that we see?
I think this involves the focus that I hope the Minister is going to come to. I hear everything she has just said about the justification and I am going along with that, but it is clear in subsection (10):
“In this Chapter—
‘adult’ means a person aged 16 or over”.
Why was that specific wording chosen rather than “the remit of the clause covers people from the age of 16 onwards”, for example?
I did not mean to be used in court. I meant for the individual who has lost their one contact with home—that they could get a copy or a print-out of photos, rather than the device just being taken away with no explanation of when they are going to get it back again.
I hear everything the Minister is saying and it is very plausible, but I want to challenge her assertions on necessary, proportionate and clear lines of inquiry, based on the answer I received to a written question to the Home Office on 11 November. I asked about the process of extracting mobile phones. The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, the hon. Member for Croydon South replied:
“Immigration Enforcement search all migrants”—
at this point, “all migrants”, so we do not know yet whether they are an asylum seeker, being trafficked or are here for nefarious purposes—
“upon arrival at the Tug Haven at Dover. In the event that a mobile phone is discovered it will be seized as part of an investigation into the organised crime group involved in the facilitation.”
Again, we do not know if they are a criminal or a victim at this point, but the phone will be seized regardless.
“The migrant will be informed verbally that the phone will be kept for evidential purpose for three to six months. They are provided with a receipt and contact details. Attempts will be made to communicate this in their first language, although this can be challenging due to external factors.”
So people arrive here, immediately their phone is taken away from them and they might not even know why. It is great that within “three to six months”, they are meant to have that response—
When the national referral mechanism was introduced, I was struck that the responses to my freedom of information requests showed that it was not UK children who were being referred. There was a perception that it was international children, whereas the act of trafficking can mean literally taking a child from one side of the street to the other. Has the situation changed, and will anything in this work make that apparent to local authorities and other safeguarding organisations?
I appreciate the Minister giving way. She says, “and their families.” She has just done some exemplary work on the Bill that has become the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 and knows that a disproportionately high number of cases of domestic violence and abuse happen within the police world. One would hope that, were we able to tackle the root cause of that by addressing the trauma at the very beginning and putting support in place, the knock-on repercussions would be prevented, which I am sure she and I both really want.
The Minister’s words are giving me a lot of comfort, but could she clarify a little more? What she is talking about is retrospective support once the incident has happened. Is it her intent that there will be preventive action at the very beginning of police training, so people are aware what the trauma is in advance, rather than just focusing on once it has happened?
For clarity—I am sorry to labour the point, but it is important—will the board be on a formal setting? Is it an actual thing? Is it the same group of organisations that make up the report at present? If the board is an actual thing, my concern is this. To take the Minister’s hypothetical example, a new Home Secretary might not have any interest in mental health and wellbeing, but if the board is on a statutory footing, it still has a duty to push whoever is chairing it in the right direction. Could the Minister clarify whether the board is a formal body?