The first duty of any Government must be to protect the public and keep local communities safe. I know that that belief is shared by many in my constituency, so I welcome this important Bill, which introduces a comprehensive package of measures to achieve just that. Every day, police officers and those in the emergency services put themselves in dangerous situations to keep us safe. Although legislation is in place for the most serious of crimes in this policy area, the sentencing for assaults is too weak. We have a responsibility to ensure that the police and emergency services can carry out their day-to-day duties as safely as possible. The Bill will help to achieve that.
There are many facets to the Bill, but I wish to focus on two particular aspects: bringing people to justice and reducing reoffending. I have been pursuing these issues on behalf of Loughborough since I became an MP and I did so some years ago when I was fortunate enough to chair a panel on reducing reoffending on behalf of Charnwood Borough Council. I refer the House to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.
Let me turn first to the removal of the presumption of release pending investigation and the presumption in favour of pre-charge bail conditions, otherwise known as Kay’s law. The change will provide a duty to protect victims and will enable the setting of conditions while further investigations are undertaken. This is vital both to the safety of the victim and to encourage the reporting of crimes with the knowledge that bail conditions can be imposed to help to safeguard the victim.
I received a number of emails from my constituents who are very concerned about sentencing and I have to agree with them that more needs to be done to ensure that those convicted of the most serious crimes receive appropriate sentences and spend more of their sentences actually in prison. That will not only restore public confidence in the justice system, but crucially ensure that victims, who sadly often bear physical and mental scars of their experience, receive the justice they deserve.
Sentencing, however, is only one side of the coin. I welcome that the Bill also places a strong emphasis on action to reduce reoffending. If we are to break the cycle of reoffending, we must ensure that offenders have every opportunity to break the vicious circle of repeat crime, giving them the chance to get their lives back on track and so reducing the social and economic cost to our communities. The £3 million Newham pilot for youth offenders, set to start in July, is one good example of work to reduce reoffending. The curfew orders set out in the Bill, and the ability to vary those orders, are another excellent example, ensuring people have a role in, and can contribute positively to, society. Work is one of the best ways to draw them away from a life of crime.
I strongly believe that, taken together, the measures in the Bill will have a significant impact on reducing crime and protecting not only the public, but our fantastic emergency workers. I will therefore be supporting the Bill.