New Clause 11 — Guidance on offences that involve hatred on grounds of sexual orientation

Part of Pension Credit and Personal Expense Allowance (Duty of Consultation and Review) – in the House of Commons at 5:15 pm on 24th March 2009.

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Photo of Bridget Prentice Bridget Prentice Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Ministry of Justice 5:15 pm, 24th March 2009

Of course the House can change its mind, and we will discover in the Lobby in 20 minutes or so whether the House has changed its mind, but I think that the fact that this was introduced last year for an offence that has not yet been put on the statute book is a pretty persuasive argument for believing that that was the House's view at that time.

We had long debates about the guidance and about what guidance should be issued. There is a clear need for guidance, as there always is when any new offence is introduced. The Ministry of Justice will provide short explanatory guidance about the offence. The Crown Prosecution Service will issue guidance for prosecutors, and the Association of Chief Police Officers will revise its hate crime manual to include guidance on all incitement to hatred offences. All the guidance will be available before the offence comes into force. However, I am quite persuaded by the argument put by the hon. Member for Cambridge, and I would like to reflect on it. Therefore, although I ask him to withdraw new clause 11, I invite him to take up the opportunity of meeting the Director of Public Prosecutions to consider whether it would be appropriate to make the guidance statutory.

I fully understand the motivation behind new clause 37, but I believe that it is unnecessary. Allegations about offences, and specifically about child sex offences, are a very easy and damaging way of stirring up hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation. Such allegations are damaging and distasteful and should be challenged, but we believe that it is not necessary to mention them specifically in the offence. In many instances, allegations linking sexual orientation with child sex offences will be threatening as well as distasteful, and will be caught by the offence. However, when the circumstances mean an allegation is not threatening, it will not be caught, and we think that is right.

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