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Prisoners (Disclosure of Information About Victims) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:45 pm on 11th February 2020.

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Photo of Bambos Charalambous Bambos Charalambous Labour, Enfield, Southgate 3:45 pm, 11th February 2020

With the leave of the House, it has been heartening to hear so many thoughtful and passionate contributions to this debate from across the House. One thing that is very clear is the universal support for the Bill to pass through its next stages and become law.

I wish to pick up on some of the points raised in the debate. Stephen Metcalfe gave a moving account of his constituent and her suffering. The facts of that case are very similar to those in the case of Helen McCourt. My hon. Friend Conor McGinn spoke with great passion in a brilliant speech that encapsulated the spirit and essence of why we are here today. Lucy Allan shared her insightful experience of her dealings with the Parole Board and explained why there is a need to reform it. That may be outside the terms of this Bill, but it is also an issue that we take into account.

My hon. Friend Luke Pollard spoke with genuine passion about the need to learn from experience and the need for change and why the Bill also encapsulates the abuse of children and the unspeakable and unimaginable pain and suffering when victims are not identified. Anthony Browne talked about the need for closure, his experience at the twin towers at ground zero and the people who are unable to find closure, and why this Bill is so important to find closure. James Daly spoke about his experience as a criminal lawyer and the need for public protection and rehabilitation. Again, these are areas that need to be impactive.

Mr Holden spoke about the need for the Bill to be extended to other areas, which was also touched on by Laura Trott. That may be an issue that we can come to in Committee, but these are important issues that we need to consider. Lee Anderson talked about the cruelty that continues if the location of the body is not disclosed. That is the enduring suffering that the families of the victims who are unable to get closure have to experience.

I hope the Minister considers the important points raised in this debate. There is an issue about the Parole Board, the need for communication, the need for regular updates and transparency about the workings of the board. The Bill is right and we need to make sure it passes through all its stages. Knowing where a victim’s remains have been disposed of, or the identity of children who are the subject of indecent images, and not disclosing the information must surely be an indication as to whether a prisoner has truly shown remorse or not. The victims must be properly supported and must be put at the heart of our justice system.

Serious concerns have been raised in the debate, particularly about the transparency of the Parole Board’s decisions, the lack of information communicated to the victims and the lack of support they are given throughout the parole process. However, as has been stated by Members, the Bill is an example of what can be achieved through cross-party co-operation. I very much hope that it is put on to the statute book as soon as possible. Labour will certainly be voting for the Bill today on Second Reading. I very much look forward to taking part in the Committee stage and Third Reading.