There is much in the Bill that I agree with, and much of that was set out by the Home Secretary in her opening remarks. I particularly agree with increasing the sentences for assaults on emergency workers to two years, which is an amendment I tabled back when the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act 2018 was first debated in 2018. It is always good when the Government come round to my way of thinking, so I hope as a result they will look favourably on my amendments when I table them, and we can save some time.
In the time I have, I will go through some of the things I would like to see in the Bill. As was mentioned earlier, I would like to see a specific offence for assaulting shop workers and other frontline workers. I used to work in retail, but it has been absolutely terrible to see the fact that during the pandemic, when shop workers have been going the extra mile to help us all, the number of assaults on them has doubled. We really need to do something about that, and I hope the Government will look favourably upon that proposal.
I am pleased to see some of the provisions for ending automatic early release for prisoners. I certainly support that, but I would like the Bill to go further. I would like to see the end of all automatic early release for prisoners, particularly those still considered to be a danger to the public. I would particularly like to see an end to all automatic release for those people in prison who assault our prison officers. Again, prison officers face a terrible burden in prison, with far too many assaults. If we were to say to prisoners that anybody convicted of assaulting a prison officer would lose their right to automatic release, that may well help those hard-pressed prison officers.
I would like to see the retirement age for magistrates and judges increased to 75. The Justice Secretary has said that he intends to do that, so this Bill seems a very good vehicle for that. I would like to see a sentencing escalator, whereby if people are convicted of the same offence more than once, they have to get a harsher punishment the second time than they had the first time, and a harsher punishment yet again if they commit the same offence a third time. The Government clearly accept the principle of that, because they have done exactly that with the covid fines. I hope they will allow a sentencing escalator for other criminal offences as well.
I would like to see magistrates’ sentencing power increased to 12 months, rather than six months. That needs to be done. I would like to see the word “insulting” removed from section 4 and section 4A of the Public Order Act 1986 so that someone cannot be guilty of something if they simply insult people. There are many amendments I would like to see to this Bill that time does not allow me to mention this evening. I could do with a whole day on Report all to myself.