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Prisoners (Disclosure of Information About Victims) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:40 pm on 11th February 2020.

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Photo of Laura Trott Laura Trott Conservative, Sevenoaks 3:40 pm, 11th February 2020

First, I add my name to the chorus of tributes to Marie McCourt and her family and to Opposition Members who have campaigned for the measure heartily and brilliantly for a number of years.

I welcome the Government’s Bill as part of an overall move to restore faith in the system, and to keep people who are a risk to the public behind bars. We should be in absolutely no doubt that people who refuse to acknowledge where bodies are, or where their victims are, are trying to replay the crime to the families over and over again. It is clear from the speeches that we have heard that that is something that the Parole Board should take into account.

That is possible only because we are talking about extended determinate sentences. The Parole Board is involved with people on those sentences, not with those on standard determinate sentences. There is a universal belief about the importance of remorse in those cases. When standard determinate sentences are used—for example, in rape cases—remorse cannot be taken into account. That ties into conversations that we have had about delegated legislation and other Bills, so I add my name to that of my hon. Friend Mr Holden in urging that the measure should be extended to other cases.

Time is short, so I shall make three brief points. First, I should like reassurance that offences under clause 2 with regard to indecent images should not ever fall under standard determinate sentences. We have discussed serious offences that are subject to such sentences, and I should be grateful for reassurance from the Minister that that will not be the case. Secondly, on the duty for the Parole Board to take this into account, as numerous pieces of testimony have shown today, the Parole Board is not always as efficient in doing that as it should be. It would be useful if the Department monitored the impact of the Bill on sentencing and the extension of sentences as a result of its introduction. Things that people have been asked to look at do not always translate, so I add my name to those of many other Members in urging that we make sure that that happens.

Finally, as my hon. Friend Alex Chalk, who is no longer in his place, said, courts do not take this into account in sentencing as much as they could. It is not necessarily the case that the Bill should address that, but the more that we can do to encourage that and put pressure on courts to do so, the better. No one can argue that people who commit these terrible crimes should not be in prison for a very long time, and the sentences that we have discussed are, in my view, and that of many members of the public, nowhere near long enough. The idea that people who have committed these heinous crimes are walking the streets with no notice for the victims’ families grieves me furiously, as I am sure it does many hon. Members, so reassurance on that would be helpful.