[1st Allocated Day]

Part of Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill – in the House of Commons at 9:28 pm on 15th March 2021.

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Photo of Miriam Cates Miriam Cates Conservative, Penistone and Stocksbridge 9:28 pm, 15th March 2021

The first duty of any Government is to keep people safe. Although recent events have been shocking, we are fortunate to live in a country where citizens are overwhelmingly law-abiding, but as times change, crimes change, and it is important that we continue to update and amend legislation to make sure that our constituents not only are safe, but feel safe.

Any new criminal legislation should do four important things: it should discourage crime, improve detection and prosecution, make punishments effective and reduce the chances of reoffending. I welcome this Bill, as I believe that it will strengthen the law in all those areas. The Bill will certainly act to discourage crime, with the introduction of whole-life orders for child killers and new powers to halt the automatic early release of offenders who pose a danger to the public. Potential offenders can be in no doubt that this Government are committed to making sure that serious crimes will be met with serious sentences. By increasing the efficiency of the courts, the Bill will also reduce delays and improve prosecution rates. I know from the experiences of my constituents this year—both those accused of crime and those who have been victims—how devastating delays to justice can be.

I welcome the Bill’s provisions to punish certain crimes, particularly serious driving offences and assaults on our brave police and emergency workers, more robustly. I also believe that the Bill will be effective in reducing the chances of reoffending, with more community orders ensuring that offenders do not lose jobs and family relationships as a result of their punishments, making it more likely that they can rebuild their lives without resorting to further criminal behaviour. However, for some offenders who have served their time, returning to their community and their previous relationships can be a factor that actually increases their chance of reoffending. For those people, escaping that context and getting a fresh start can offer them the best chance of building a crime-free life.

Northern College in my constituency, one of only four residential adult education colleges, specialises in giving vulnerable adults, including those who have served prison sentences, a second chance at education. Set in the stunning and inspiring grounds of Wentworth castle, it offers students high-quality teaching alongside counselling and support. In such a positive and focused environment, the outcomes are incredible, with students achieving GCSEs, A-levels and even higher education qualifications, and going on to gain good jobs and live fulfilling lives.

For many ex-offenders, full rehabilitation requires a second chance at education, which so many of us take for granted, so I wonder whether the Minister would be willing to meet me to discuss the role that Northern College could play. This is an excellent Bill that meets many of our manifesto commitments, and it has my full support.