[1st Allocated Day]

Part of Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill – in the House of Commons at 9:14 pm on 15th March 2021.

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Photo of Saqib Bhatti Saqib Bhatti Conservative, Meriden 9:14 pm, 15th March 2021

I would like to start by paying tribute to Sarah Everard, and my thoughts are with her loved ones and her family. For too long we have seen women live in fear, and this Bill is one way in which we can start to make our streets and our society safer. It does feel, after last week, that there has been a renewed conversation about the safety of woman, and I hope that Sarah’s death has not been in vain.

This Bill, along with the Domestic Abuse Bill, ought to go a long way in making the world a safer place for women, but we must not be complacent and we must be resolute in this journey. On the latter Bill, I particularly welcome the amendment about threatening revenge porn, and I hope social media companies and other platforms will play their part in ensuring that revenge porn and non-consensual content are banned.

I must commend the Government for bringing forward this legislation and delivering on a manifesto commitment. As I talk to local residents across my constituency, there is one thing in common that they expect. It is that our justice system should be made fair—fair to the victims of crime, fair to the local community and offering fair justice to offenders. In particular, I applaud the removal of the automatic halfway release. This Bill ensures that those who commit the most heinous of crimes will spend more time in prison, so that their victims do not feel short-changed. That is the right thing to do.

I welcome the focus on rehabilitation in this Bill, as in my view society should always be conscious of why we choose to imprison people in the way we do. I am a big believer in global Britain and our place in the world. It was Winston Churchill, the then Home Secretary, who said that a society’s attitude towards its prisoners, its “criminals”, is the measure of

“the stored-up strength of a nation”.—[Official Report, 20 July 1910; Vol. 19, c. 1356.]

But this is also an act of common and economic sense. There is little point in ensuring that sentences are fully served at the taxpayer’s expense if, on release, a person is likely to reoffend. A jail sentence should not be a gateway to reoffending or graduating to a more serious crime. This conveyor belt to crime costs almost £18 billion to the taxpayer, which is why I am also pleased to see a greater emphasis on rehabilitation through greater support for the probation service and targeted measures such as curfews, community sentencing and better technology to ensure sustained rehabilitation.

Of course, prisons must serve their purpose for society in full—the delivery of justice must be fair, and it must be equitable—but we as legislators should not forget our duty in supporting offenders in turning their lives around. Once the victims of crime receive justice, to show compassion through rehabilitation speaks to our strength as a society—the very same strength that Winston Churchill once spoke of.