Inquiry into complaints alleging corrupt relationships between police and newspaper organisations

Part of Policing and Crime Bill – in the House of Commons at 5:30 pm on 10th January 2017.

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Photo of Lyn Brown Lyn Brown Shadow Minister (Home Office) (Policing) 5:30 pm, 10th January 2017

The hon. Lady is absolutely right, but I think that talking about Europe might be too much of a red flag in this Chamber.

If the amendments are agreed to, they will create a statutory duty on elected police leadership to produce an area victims plan depending on local needs, and they will require the commissioner for victims and witnesses to assess the adequacy of such plans. Finally, the amendments will empower the Secretary of State to order a homicide review—basically, a cold case review—when nobody has been charged with a crime. Taken together, the measures would allow the victims code to be better enforced and ensure that our criminal justice system works better for the victims of crime. The Government will, I hope, offer their wholehearted support to these amendments.

Finally, I turn to Lords amendment 134, with consequential amendment 305, which was proposed by my noble Friend Baroness Royall. The amendment would increase the maximum penalty for those found guilty of stalking from five to 10 years. In cases where the offence is racially or religiously aggravated, the maximum penalty would be increased from seven to 14 years. We are delighted that the Government have chosen to accept our case, and I congratulate my noble Friend and all who have pursued the campaign.

Home Office data suggest that as many as one in five women and one in 10 men will be stalked at some point in their lives. Just because stalking is common, it does not mean that it is not a serious matter. Stalking destroys lives. It violates an individual’s right to privacy, and therefore destroys their personal freedoms. It causes fear, and rightly so, since too often it is a precursor to violent confrontation.

I know that sentencing guidelines and specific sentences are the responsibility of the Sentencing Council and judges respectively. However, extending the maximum penalty will allow for greater flexibility in the most serious cases and make it clear that stalking is a serious offence. The Labour party has provided the Government with the opportunity to give judges the necessary flexibility to hand out appropriate sentences to serious criminals. I am delighted that the Government have seen the need for that and responded appropriately.