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Prisoners (Disclosure of Information About Victims) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:26 pm on 11th February 2020.

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Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice 2:26 pm, 11th February 2020

My hon. Friend is quite right. Indeed, that was an aggravating factor that was specifically taken into account by the sentencing judge.

I was drawing a comparison with clause 1. As with clause 1, the provision is already standard Parole Board practice in that panels routinely take such circumstances into account as part of their decision making, but I believe that the issue of non-disclosure of vital information is of such importance—and causes such distress to families and victims—that it must be addressed in statute.

This is a narrow Bill, but it has wide implications. It ensures that a failure or refusal to disclose specific information on the whereabouts of a victim’s body or the identity of child victims of indecent images is always taken into account by the Parole Board. A murder such as that of Helen McCourt and the depraved crimes of Vanessa George are not things that people can easily move on from, but the ability to lay a loved one to rest or to find out for certain whether children were abused may offer the families and young victims themselves an opportunity to find at least some closure and to address the long-lasting effects of such horrific crimes. I very much hope that the Bill will attract support on both sides of the House and can enter the statute book as soon as possible. The acute distress that such cases cause cannot and should not be overlooked.