Third Reading
Protection of Freedoms Bill
5:45 pm

Photo of Lord Bichard

Lord Bichard (Crossbench)

I thank the Minister not just for the discussion today but for discussions before today with other Members as well as myself. I thank, too, all those who have participated in this debate, which has on occasions lapsed into criticising the existing arrangements. I agree with those who say that we have too many checks too often and that they deter people from volunteering. There is no question about that, which is why the Government have put forward those proposals. My amendment accepts the Government's fundamental position and, let us be clear, does not produce more bureaucracy or ticking of boxes. It concerns only those adults working regularly and closely with children, not those who just happen to have some contact with children on an irregular basis.

At the end of the day, what matters is that employers who will now make the decision have the information that we have to enable them to make the best possible decision. As someone said, that will not guarantee that children will not continue to be abused, because you cannot guarantee that; but it is very difficult for us to justify a situation in which information is available but not made available to those who will make the decision.

The question therefore comes down to whether or not the undertakings given today are sufficient to enable me not to press the amendment to a Division. I am conscious that in this House a lot of people feel very passionately about this issue and are very concerned about this vote. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Harris, that the proposal made in the Bill is convoluted; it is not one that I would have thought was the obvious way forward. On the other hand, it ensures that the information that society has available about an individual is available to the person who makes the decision if the police make their own decision that it is relevant. It is difficult for me to pursue the amendment purely because we are not giving information that an individual has been barred or not barred from regulated activity. On the basis that the information that led to the barring or not barring is available to the police, who can then make a decision about whether it should be made available to the employer, I shall not press my amendment.

Amendment 5 not moved.

Amendment 6

Moved by Lord Henley

6: After Clause 110, insert the following new Clause-

"Stalking

Offences in relation to stalking

(1) After section 2 of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 (offence of harassment) insert-

"2A Offence of stalking

(1) A person is guilty of an offence if-

(a) the person pursues a course of conduct in breach of section 1(1), and

(b) the course of conduct amounts to stalking.

(2) For the purposes of subsection (1)(b) (and section 4A(1)(a)) a person's course of conduct amounts to stalking of another person if-

(a) it amounts to harassment of that person,

(b) the acts or omissions involved are ones associated with stalking, and

(c) the person whose course of conduct it is knows or ought to know that the course of conduct amounts to harassment of the other person.

(3) The following are examples of acts or omissions which, in particular circumstances, are ones associated with stalking-

(a) following a person,

(b) contacting, or attempting to contact, a person by any means,

(c) publishing any statement or other material-

(i) relating or purporting to relate to a person, or

(ii) purporting to originate from a person,

(d) monitoring the use by a person of the internet, email or any other form of electronic communication,

(e) loitering in any place (whether public or private),

(f) interfering with any property in the possession of a person,

(g) watching or spying on a person.

(4) A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 51 weeks, or a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale, or both.

(5) In relation to an offence committed before the commencement of section 281(5) of the Criminal Justice Act 2003, the reference in subsection (4) to 51 weeks is to be read as a reference to six months.

(6) This section is without prejudice to the generality of section 2."

(2) After section 4 of that Act (putting people in fear of violence) insert-

"4A Stalking involving fear of violence

(1) A person ("A") whose course of conduct-

(a) amounts to stalking, and

(b) causes another ("B") to fear, on at least two occasions, that violence will be used against B,

is guilty of an offence if A knows or ought to know that A's course of conduct will cause B so to fear on each of those occasions.

(2) For the purposes of this section A ought to know that A's course of conduct will cause B to fear that violence will be used against B on any occasion if a reasonable person in possession of the same information would think the course of conduct would cause B so to fear on that occasion.

(3) It is a defence for A to show that-

(a) A's course of conduct was pursued for the purpose of preventing or detecting crime,

(b) A's course of conduct was pursued under any enactment or rule of law or to comply with any condition or requirement imposed by any person under any enactment, or

(c) the pursuit of A's course of conduct was reasonable for the protection of A or another or for the protection of A's or another's property.

(4) A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable-

(a) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years, or a fine, or both, or

(b) on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding twelve months, or a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum, or both.

(5) In relation to an offence committed before the commencement of section 154(1) of the Criminal Justice Act 2003, the reference in subsection (4)(b) to twelve months is to be read as a reference to six months.

(6) If on the trial on indictment of a person charged with an offence under this section the jury find the person not guilty of the offence charged, they may find the person guilty of an offence under section 2 or 2A.

(7) The Crown Court has the same powers and duties in relation to a person who is by virtue of subsection (6) convicted before it of an offence under section 2 or 2A as a magistrates' court would have on convicting the person of the offence.

(8) This section is without prejudice to the generality of section 4.""

Amendment 7 (to Amendment 6)

Tabled by Baroness Royall of Blaisdon

7: After Clause 110, line 21, at end insert "inter alia"

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