I welcome this Bill, which fulfils manifesto promises on which I was elected and demonstrates this Government’s firm commitment to law and order. I declare relevant interests: prior to my election, I spent 12 years as a magistrate, and was a board member of the Youth Justice Board, a member of the Sentencing Council and a non-executive director of Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service.
There are undoubtedly offenders who pose a clear and present danger, and they must remain in prison for as long as it takes for them to cease being a threat to the public. I therefore welcome moves to lengthen custodial sentences for certain very serious offences and to extend the time that must be served before automatic release applies. This also represents an important step towards increased public confidence in sentencing, which is not always as transparent as it might be.
I want to see fewer victims of crime. Key to achieving that is cutting reoffending, which accounts for some 80% of offences at the moment. Prison is not always the best place to achieve the greatest prospect of rehabilitation, so I am glad to see pilots of problem solving courts, and I hope they will be especially targeted at young adults. I am pleased that community orders will be made more robust, not least by extending the maximum curfew hours to 20 a day. I believe that home detention is a tool we should increasingly look to, as technology continues to develop at a pace that can provide many of the reassurances on security and monitoring behaviour that would not have been possible even 10 years ago.
There are welcome changes to the youth justice system here; reducing the use of remand in custody for children is the right thing to do. I am pleased to see changes to the intensive supervision and surveillance programmes, and I support the proposals to make detention and training orders more flexible. The Bill eliminates many anomalies in previous legislation, and I would welcome the Government giving further consideration to one anomaly that I highlighted in my recent ten-minute rule Bill: that children who commit an offence as a child but turn 18 before getting to court are treated as adults at both trial and sentence. The risk of this happening has been exacerbated by delays caused by covid, and those delays vary greatly between different parts of the country, resulting in a postcode lottery that is fundamentally unjust and yet can have lifelong consequences. Although there has not been time to incorporate my proposal into the Bill at this stage, I am grateful to my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor for meeting me to discuss how, with appropriate safeguards, some of its aims might be achieved. I hope that the Government might still be persuaded that this Bill provides such an opportunity. I am confident that that could be achieved without conflicting with other very important proposals in this Bill.
Three minutes is a short time in which to discuss a Bill of 300 pages. Of course, I do not claim to have addressed element of it in my remarks, nor do I claim that the Bill is perfect in every way, but I firmly believe it represents a step change to tackle crime more effectively and so make the British public safer.