[1st Allocated Day]

Part of Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill – in the House of Commons at 5:49 pm on 15th March 2021.

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Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel The Secretary of State for the Home Department 5:49 pm, 15th March 2021

When it comes to freedom of expression, my right hon. Friend knows my views and those of this Government. Prior to taking interventions I spoke about the corrosive impact of violent crime across our towns and cities. Tragically, too many young children—teenagers—have been stabbed to death in towns and cities of the UK. Such senseless violence has no place in our society. I have met too many mothers whose children have been murdered on the streets of our city, and I have seen the raw pain and distress of parents grieving for their child, and the utter devastation they are forced to endure.

We are proud that this Government have put more police officers on the beat, but tough law enforcement can be only part of the solution. We must do much more to understand and address the factors that drive serious violence, so that we can prevent it from happening in the first place. Through the Bill, we will introduce a serious violence duty, which will work to bring public bodies, including the police and local authorities, to work together as one, to share data and information across our communities, and work together to save lives. I thank many of my predecessors for their work on that, particularly my right hon. Friend Sajid Javid.

I make no apology for finding new ways to protect our communities and save the lives of our young people. Whenever lives are tragically lost as the result of serious violence, we must do everything we can to learn from what has happened. Homicides involving offensive weapons such as knives make up a large and growing proportion of all homicides, yet no legal requirement is currently placed on local agencies to understand what has happened after each incident. We are therefore introducing the requirement for a formal review to be considered, where a victim was aged 18 or over and the events surrounding their death involved the use of an offensive weapon. The new reviews will ensure that we learn lessons from such cases, and produce recommendations to improve our response to serious violence.

Every time someone carries a blade or a weapon, they risk ruining their own lives and those of others. Every stabbing leaves a trail of misery and devastation in its wake. Our new serious violence reduction orders will help the police to protect our communities better, by giving officers the power to stop and search those already convicted of crimes involving knives and offensive weapons. The orders will help to tackle prolific and higher-risk offenders, and help to protect individuals from exploitation by criminal gangs. That is exactly what I mean when I say that we are making our communities safer.

There will be concerns about disproportionality, but our aim is for these orders to enable the police to take a more targeted approach, specifically in relation to known knife carriers. Unfortunately, data from 2018-19 indicate that the homicide risk for young black people is 24 times higher than that for young white people. That is appalling. As long as young black men are dying and their families are disproportionately suffering, we cannot stand back, and I cannot apologise for backing the police when it comes to stop and search. The Government will work with the police to gather data on the impact of the orders to deliver real and lasting results.

Victims and witnesses must have the full protection of the law while the police conduct their investigations. We will reform the pre-charge bail regime to encourage the police to impose pre-charge bail, with appropriate conditions where it is necessary and proportionate to do so, including where there is a real risk to victims, witnesses and the public. We hope that that will provide reassurance and additional protection for alleged victims, for example in high-harm cases such as domestic abuse.