New Clause 30 — Abolition of certain sentences for dangerous offenders

Part of Education and Training (Young People with Autism) – in the House of Commons at 5:45 pm on 1st November 2011.

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Photo of Guy Opperman Guy Opperman Conservative, Hexham 5:45 pm, 1st November 2011

I declare an interest as a former barrister and a former criminal prosecutor, who has worked on several murder trials.

I assure my hon. Friend Philip Davies that I am not soft on crime, but I support the Government in their reform of this untenable, shocking and wrong system. With great respect to Mr Straw, he should hang his head in shame for being party to the Criminal Justice Act 2003 and the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008, both of which were useless pieces of legislation that introduced something that the Prison Reform Trust, the Institute for Criminal Policy Research, the Nuffield Foundation and the criminal justice joint inspectorate described as

“one of the least carefully planned and implemented pieces of legislation in the history of British sentencing.”

The flip-flops of the shadow Justice Secretary would put a kangaroo to shame. It is entirely right to reform a system that was underfunded, worked poorly and is manifestly wrong in the circumstances of a 21st-century country. I will speak only briefly but I remind the right hon. Member for Blackburn of the comments in the House of Lords on the 2003 and 2008 Acts, when the Lords addressed IPPs in the cases of the Crown v. James and the Crown v. Lee. In a decision that effectively lambasted the then Secretary of State, Lord Hope of Craighead said:

“There is no doubt that the Secretary of State failed deplorably in the public law duty…He failed to provide the systems and resources that prisoners serving those sentences needed to demonstrate to the Parole Board by the time of the expiry of their tariff periods…that it was no longer necessary for the protection of the public that they should remain in detention.”

I could go on to quote from the judgments of Lord Carswell and Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood, but I shall pause there.

I have made it clear that I am not soft on crime, as others have suggested. The debate has sadly been too short, but the new clause should certainly be supported by the House.


Darren Rhodes
Posted on 2 Nov 2011 11:42 am (Report this annotation)

Secretary of State for Justice v James [2009] UKHL 22