New Clause 3 - Restriction on evidence or questions about complainant's sexual history

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill – in the House of Commons at 6:30 pm on 5th July 2021.

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‘(1) Section 41 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 is amended as follows.

(2) In subsection (1)—

(a) starting in paragraph (b) omit “in cross examination, by or on behalf of any accused at the trial,”;

(b) at end insert “with anyone other than the defendant”.

(3) In subsection (2)—

(a) for “an accused” substitute “a party to the trial”;

(b) in paragraph (a) omit “or (5)”.

(4) For subsection (3) substitute—

“(3) This subsection applies if the evidence or question relates to a relevant issue in the case and that issue is not an issue of consent.”

(5) For subsection (5) substitute—

“(a) For the purposes of subsection (3) no evidence may be adduced or question asked unless the judge determines in accordance with the procedures in this subsection that the question or evidence has significant probative value that is not substantially outweighed by the danger of prejudice to the proper administration of justice.

(b) In determining that question the judge shall take into account—

(i) the interests of justice, including the right of the accused to make a full answer and defence;

(ii) the need to preserve the integrity of the trial process by removing from the fact-finding process any discriminatory belief or bias;

(iii) the risk that the evidence may unduly arouse sentiments of prejudice, sympathy or hostility in the jury;

(iv) the potential threat to the complainant’s personal dignity and right to privacy;

(v) the complainant’s right to personal security and to the full protection and benefit of the law;

(vi) the provisions of the Victims Code;

and any other factor that the judge considers relevant.”

(6) In subsection (6), for “subsections (3) and (5)” substitute “subsection (3)”.’

This new clause excludes the admission in evidence of any sexual behaviour of the complainant with a third party, whether by the prosecution or the defence, to show consent, whilst leaving it admissible if it is relevant to any other issue in the case. It sets out the additional requirement that to be admitted the material must be more probative than prejudicial and sets out the considerations the judge must have in regard to considering that extra requirement.

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Rosie Winterton Rosie Winterton Deputy Speaker (First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

With this it will be convenient to consider the following:

New clause 4—Definition of “issue of consent”—

‘(1) Section 42 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 is amended as follows.

(2) For paragraph (b) substitute—

“(b) “issue of consent” means any issue where the complainant in fact consented to the conduct constituting the offence with which the defendant is charged and any issue where the accused reasonably believed that the complainant so consented;”’

This new clause re-defines “issue of consent” for the purposes of section 41, including in the definition the defendant’s reasonable belief in consent, and thus removing it as a reason for the inclusion of a complainant’s sexual history or behaviour.

New clause 5—Admission of evidence or questions about complainant’s sexual history—

‘(1) The Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 is amended as follows.

(2) After section 43 insert—

“43A In any trial or contested hearing to which section 41 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 applies, if no pre-trial application in accordance with Part 36 of the Criminal Procedure Rules has been made, or if such application has been made and refused in whole or in part, no further application may be made during the course of the trial or before its commencement to call such evidence or ask such question, and no judge may allow such application or admit any such questions or evidence.”’

This new clause would have the effect that no section 41 evidence or questions could be admitted by a judge at trial unless there had been an application before trial in accordance with the practice directions; and the amendment would ban applications from being made immediately before or during the trial.

New clause 6—Complainant’s right of representation and appeal on an application to adduce evidence or questions on sexual conduct—

‘(1) The Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 is amended as follows.

(2) After section 43 insert—

“43A In any trial to which section 41 applies, where notice is given that there will be an application under Part 36 of the Criminal Procedure Rules for leave to ask questions or to adduce evidence as to any sexual behaviour of the complainant—

(1) The complainant may not be compelled to give evidence at any hearing on the application.

(2) The complainant will be entitled to be served with the application and to be legally represented (with the assistance of legal aid if financially eligible) as “a party” within the meaning of the Criminal Procedure Rules in responding in writing to the application and in presenting their case at any hearing on the application.

(3) If the application succeeds in whole or in part, the complainant will have a right to appeal for a rehearing of the application to the Court of Appeal on notice within 7 days of the judgement being delivered.

(4) On any such appeal, the Court of Appeal will rehear the application in full and may grant or refuse it in whole or in part.

(5) The Secretary of State may, by regulation, set out rules of procedure relating to any hearing or appeal under this section.”’

This new clause would give the complainant a right of representation, with legal aid if they are financially eligible, to oppose any application to admit section 41 material about them. This new clause would also give complainants a right of appeal to the Court of Appeal if the application is allowed in whole or in part. The new clause also provides that the complainant is not compellable as witness at the application.

New clause 7—Collection of and reporting to Parliament on data and information relating to proceedings involving rape and sexual assault—

‘(1) The Secretary of State shall collect and report to Parliament annually the following data and information—

(a) The time taken in every case of rape or sexual assault for the case to progress from complaint to charge, from charge to pre-trial plea and management hearing; and from then until trial.

(b) The number of applications to ask questions or adduce evidence of any sexual behaviour of the complainant under section 41 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 (“the 1999 Act”) made in the Magistrates and Crown Courts of England and Wales, irrespective of whether a trial was subsequently held.

(c) The number of cases which involved questions on or evidence of any sexual behaviour of the complainant in all rape, sexual abuse and other trials or contested hearings in the Magistrates and Crown courts in England and Wales, irrespective of whether an application was made to admit such questions or evidence in advance of the trial or hearing.

(d) In cases to which section 41 of the 1999 Act applies—

(i) whether Part 36 of the Criminal Procedure Rules was followed in each application and if it was not, how it was not;

(ii) the questions proposed to be asked;

(iii) the evidence proposed to be called;

(iv) whether the prosecution opposed the application and if so the content of their representations;

(v) whether evidence was called to support or oppose the application;

(vi) whether the application was allowed in whole or in part and a copy of the judgement made on the application; and

(vii) any other material which might assist in an assessment of the frequency, basis and nature of applications for the use of such questions or evidence and the likely impact on any parties to any trial and the trial outcome.

(2) The data and information to be collected under subsection (1) shall include—

(a) all the material from any pre-trial application;

(b) the questions in fact asked and the evidence in fact called about any sexual behaviour of the complainant in the trial;

(c) any application at the start or during the course of the trial to vary or alter any judgement given in any earlier application or any further application to admit such questions or evidence;

(d) whether any material not previously authorised was used in the trial;

(e) whether the prosecution objected; and

(f) any ruling made or action taken by the judge on the further conduct of the trial as a consequence of the admission of questions or evidence under section 41 of the 1999 Act.

(3) The data and information to be collected under this section shall be collected from the date of Royal Assent to this Bill.’

This new clause requires the Secretary of State to collect and report to Parliament data and information on trial delay and section 41 matters.

New clause 8—Training for relevant public officials in relation to the conduct of cases of serious sexual offences—

‘(1) The Secretary of State shall, on this Act coming into force, publish and implement a strategy to provide training on the investigation of rape and alleged rape complainants, and the admissibility and cross-examination of complainants on their sexual history to—

(a) the Crown Prosecution Service;

(b) Police Forces;

(c) the Judiciary; and

(d) such other public bodies as the Secretary of State considers appropriate.

(2) The Secretary of State shall ensure that any judge who is asked to hear a trial where the accused is charged with rape or any other serious sexual offence has attended and completed a training programme for such trials which has been accredited by the Judicial College.’

This new clause ensures that all criminal justice agencies shall be trained and that no judge can hear a sexual offence trial of any kind unless they have attended the Judicial College serious sexual offence course.

New clause 9—Requirement for a pre-sentence report when sentencing a primary carer—

‘(1) Section 30 of the Sentencing Act 2020 is amended as follows.

(2) After subsection (3) insert—

“(3A)A court must make inquiries to establish whether the offender is a primary carer for a child.

(3B) If the court establishes that the offender is a primary carer for a child, unless there are exceptional circumstances before sentencing the offender the court must obtain a pre-sentence report containing information to enable the court to make an assessment of the impact of a custodial sentence on the child.”

(3) After subsection (4) insert—

“(5) In this section—

(e) “child” means a person under the age of 18; and

(f) “primary carer” means a person who has primary or substantial care responsibilities for a child.”’

This new clause amends section 30 of the Sentencing Act 2020 to make clear the requirement for a sentencing judge to have a copy of a pre-sentence report, considering the impact of a custodial sentence on the dependent child, when sentencing a primary carer of a child.

New clause 10—Duty of the court to state how it has considered the consequences for the child when sentencing—

‘(1) Section 52 of the Sentencing Act 2020 is amended as follows.

(2) After subsection (9) insert—

“Offenders who are primary carers

(10) A court sentencing a primary carer for a child must state how the best interests of the child were considered in determining the sentence (including, if appropriate, consideration of the views of the child).

(11) A court sentencing a pregnant woman must state how the best interests of the baby were considered in determining the sentence.

(12) In this section—

(a) “child” means a person under the age of 18; and

(b) “primary carer” means a person who has primary or substantial care responsibilities for a child.”’

This new clause amends section 52 of the Sentencing Act 2020 to require a sentencing judge to state how the best interests of a child were considered when sentencing a primary carer of a dependent child.

New clause 11—Welfare of child to be a distinct consideration when sentencing a primary carer—

‘(1) After section 227 of the Sentencing Act 2020, insert—

“227A Restrictions on imposing imprisonment on a primary carer

(1) This section applies where a court is considering imposing a custodial sentence on—

(a) a primary carer for a child, or

(b) a pregnant woman.

(2) The sentencing court must—

(a) consider the impact of a custodial sentence on the child or unborn child, and

(b) presume (subject to victim impact and any other sentencing considerations) that a non-custodial sentence is in the best interests of the child or unborn child.

(3) In this section—

(a) “child” means a person under the age of 18, and

(b) “primary carer” means a person who has primary or substantial care responsibilities for a child.”’

This new clause would create a requirement for a sentencing judge to consider the impact of a custodial sentence on a child when sentencing a primary carer of a dependent child.

New clause 12—Welfare of child to be a distinct consideration when determining bail for a primary carer—

‘(1) Section 4 of the Bail Act 1976 is amended as follows.

(2) After subsection (9) insert—

“(10) Where a court determines whether to grant bail in criminal proceedings to a person to whom this section applies who is a primary carer for a child or pregnant, the court must—

(a) consider the impact of not granting bail on the child or unborn child; and

(b) presume (subject to victim impact or other relevant considerations) that it is in the best interests of the child or unborn child for bail to be granted.

(11) In this section—

(a) “child” means a person under the age of 18, and

(b) “primary carer” means a person who has primary or substantial care responsibilities for a child.”’

This new clause would impose a requirement for the judge to consider the impact of not granting bail on a child when determining, in criminal proceedings, whether to grant bail to a primary carer of a dependent child.

New clause 13—Data collection in relation to prisoners who are primary carers—

‘(1) The Secretary of State must collect and publish annual data identifying—

(a) how many prisoners are the primary carers of a child,

(b) how many children have a primary carer in custody, and

(c) the ages of those children.

(2) In this section—

(a) “child” means a person under the age of 18, and

(b) “primary carer” means a person who has primary or substantial care responsibilities for a child.’

This new clause would impose a requirement on the Secretary of State to collect and publish data on the number of prisoners who are the primary carers of a child and the number of children who have a primary carer in custody.

New clause 17—Maximum sentences for causing or allowing a child or vulnerable adult to suffer serious injury or death—

‘(1) Section 5 of the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004 is amended as follows—

(a) in subsection (7), for “a term not exceeding 14 years” substitute “life”, and

(b) in subsection (8), for “10” substitute “14”.

(2) Schedule 19 of the Sentencing Act 2020 is amended by the insertion of the following after paragraph 20—

Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004

20A An offence to which section 5(7) of the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004 applies.”’

This new clause seeks to increase sentencing levels under section 5 of the Domestic Violence Crime and Victims Act 2004 (causing or allowing a child or vulnerable adult to suffer serious injury or death) by raising the death offence to life imprisonment, and the “serious injury” offence to 14 years.

New clause 18—Custody for own protection or own welfare—

‘(1) The Bail Act 1976 is amended as follows.

(2) In Part 1 of Schedule 1 (Defendants accused or convicted of imprisonable offences) omit paragraph 3.

(3) In Part 1A of Schedule 1 (Defendants accused or convicted of imprisonable offences to which Part 1 does not apply) omit paragraph 5.

(4) In Part 2 of Schedule 1 (Defendants accused or convicted of non-imprisonable offences) omit paragraph 3.’

This new clause would repeal the power of the criminal courts to remand a defendant into custody for their own protection (or in the case of a child, for their own welfare) pending trial or sentence.

New clause 19—Justice impact assessment for Wales—

‘(1) Within six months of the passage of this Act, the Secretary of State must issue a justice impact assessment for any provision of this Act, or regulations made under this Act, which impacts on matters which are devolved to the Welsh Parliament / Senedd Cymru.

(2) The Secretary of State must, within one month of the date on which they are made, issue a justice impact assessment for any regulations made under this Act which are not included in the assessment required under subsection (1) which impact on matters which are devolved to the Welsh Parliament / Senedd Cymru.’

This new clause would require the Secretary of State to issue an assessment of the impact of the Bill on devolved policy and services in Wales within six months of it passing, and to issue such an assessment of any further changes to regulations under the Bill within one month of making them.

New clause 20—Failing to stop or report accidents involving actual or potential serious or fatal injury—

‘(1) After subsection 170(4) of the Road Traffic Act 1988, insert—

“(4A) A person who fails to comply with subsections 170(2) or 170(3) when he knew that the accident had caused serious or fatal personal injury, or where he ought reasonably to have realised that it might have done so, is guilty of an offence.”

(2) In Part 1 of Schedule 2 of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 (prosecution and punishment of offences: offences under the Traffic Acts), after the entry relating to an offence under RTA subsection 170(4), insert the following—

RTA Section 170(4A)Failing to stop and give particulars after accident involving actual or potential serious or fatal injury or to report accidentOn indictment14 yearsObligatoryObligatory6-11

(3) After subsection 34(3)(d) of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988, insert—

“(e) section 4A (failing to stop and give particulars after accident involving actual or potential serious or fatal injury or to report accident)”’.

This new clause creates a new offence of failing to stop or report accidents where the driver knew that the accident had caused serious or fatal injury, or where he ought reasonably to have realised that it might have done so, with a maximum sentence of 14 years custody.

New clause 21—Definition of “exceptional hardship”

‘In the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988, after subsection 35(4), insert—

“(4A) (a) In subsection (4)(b) above, the hardship that would be caused by an offender’s disqualification should be regarded as exceptional if and only if it is significantly greater than the hardship that would arise for a large majority of other drivers if the same disqualification were imposed on them.

(b) In assessing whether the hardship arising from the offender’s disqualification would be exceptional, a court may take account of—

(i) any circumstances relating to the offender’s economic circumstances or location of residence that would make it exceptionally hard for him to access key services such as grocery shops and postal, banking and healthcare facilities,

(ii) any hardship that would be incurred by the offender’s family or others who are disabled and who depend on the offender to provide care for them, and

(iii) any other circumstance which it believes would make the hardship genuinely exceptional.”’

This new clause provides a definition of “exceptional hardship” for the purpose of RTOA ss35(4)(b). It requires that a court should only regard hardship as “exceptional” if it is significantly greater than the hardship that would arise for a large majority of other drivers if the same disqualification were imposed on them.

New clause 22—Special measures access for eligible witnesses—

‘(1) The Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 is amended as follows.

(2) In section 19(2), omit paragraphs (a) and (b) and insert—

“(a) inform the witness of the special measures which are available to them by virtue of this Act; and

(b) give a direction under this section providing for whichever measure or measures as the witness may decide they wish to be applied to apply to evidence given by the witness.

Provided that a direction under paragraph (b) shall ensure that the measure or measures provided for do not inhibit the evidence of the witness being effectively tested by a party to the proceedings.”

(3) Omit section 19(3).’

This new clause would mean that once witnesses are determined as eligible for special measures they will be informed of all provisions and able to decide which option best suits them, rather than relying on the court to decide which measures would best improve the quality of evidence.

New clause 25—Restriction on evidence or questions about mental health counselling or treatment records relating to complainant or witness—

‘(1) The Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 is amended as follows.

(2) After section 43 insert—

“43A Restriction on evidence or questions about mental health counselling or treatment records relating to complainant or witness

(1) If at a trial a person is charged with a sexual offence, then, except with the leave of the court—

(a) no evidence may be adduced, and

(b) no question may be asked in cross examination, by or on behalf of any accused at the trial, about any records made in relation to any mental health counselling or treatment which may have been undertaken by a complainant or witness.

(2) The records made include those made by—

(a) a counsellor,

(b) a therapist,

(c) an Independent Sexual Violence Adviser (ISVA), and

(d) any victim support services.

(3) The court may give leave in relation to any evidence or question only on an application made by or on behalf of a party to the trial, and may not give such leave unless it is satisfied that—

(a) the evidence or question relates to a relevant issue in the case which will include a specific instance (or specific instances) of alleged sexual behaviour on the part of the complainant,

(b) the evidence or question has significant probative value that is not substantially outweighed by the danger of prejudice to the proper administration of justice, and

(c) a refusal of leave might have the result of rendering unsafe a conclusion of the jury or (as the case may be) the court on any relevant issue in the case.

(4) For the purposes of making a determination under paragraph (3)(b) the judge shall take into account—

(a) the interests of justice, including the right of the accused to make a full answer and defence;

(b) the need to preserve the integrity of the trial process by removing from the fact-finding process any discriminatory belief or bias;

(c) the risk that the evidence may unduly arouse sentiments of prejudice, sympathy or hostility in the jury;

(d) the potential threat to the personal dignity and right to privacy of the complainant or witness;

(e) the complainant’s or witness’s right to personal security and to the full protection and benefit of the law;

(f) the provisions of the Victims Code; and

(g) any other factor that the judge considers relevant.

(5) Where this section applies in relation to a trial by virtue of the fact that one or more of a number of persons charged in the proceedings is or are charged with a sexual offence—

(a) it shall cease to apply in relation to the trial if the prosecutor decides not to proceed with the case against that person or those persons in respect of that charge; but

(b) it shall not cease to do so in the event of that person or those persons pleading guilty to, or being convicted of, that charge.

(6) Nothing in this section authorises any evidence to be adduced or any question to be asked which cannot be adduced or asked apart from this section.

(7) In relation to evidence or questions under this section, if no pre-trial application in accordance with Part 36 of the Criminal Procedure Rules has been made, or if such application has been made and refused in whole or in part, no further application may be made during the course of the trial or before its commencement to call such evidence or ask such question, and no judge may allow such application or admit any such questions or evidence.”’

This new clause would restrict evidence or questions about mental health counselling or treatment records relating to complainant or witness unless a defined threshold is met.

New clause 54—Equality Impact Analyses of provisions of this Act—

‘(1) The Secretary of State must review the equality impact of the provisions of this Act in accordance with this section and lay a report of that review before the House of Commons within six months of the passage of this Act.

(2) A review under this section must consider the impact of those provisions on—

(a) households at different levels of income,

(b) people with protected characteristics (within the meaning of the Equality Act 2010),

(c) the Government’s compliance with the public sector equality duty under section 149 of the Equality Act 2010, and

(d) equality in different parts of the United Kingdom and different regions of England.

(3) A review under this section must include a separate analysis of each section of the Act, and must also consider the cumulative impact of the Act as a whole.’

New clause 73—Unduly lenient sentences: time limit—

‘(1) The Criminal Justice Act 1988 is amended as follows.

(2) In Schedule 3, paragraph 1, after “within” leave out “28” and insert “56”.’

New clause 74—Reviews of sentencing: assaulting an emergency worker—

‘(1) Schedule 1 to the Criminal Justice Act 1988 (Reviews of Sentencing) Order 2006 (descriptions of cases to which Part IV of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 is to apply) is amended as follows.

(2) In paragraph 2, after sub-paragraph (i) insert—

“(ia) an offence under section 1 of the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act 2018.’

New clause 75—No automatic early release for prisoners who assault prison staff whilst in jail—

‘(1) The Criminal Justice Act 2003 is amended as follows.

(2) In Section 244, after subsection (1A) insert—

“(1B) Subsection (1) does not apply if the prisoner has assaulted a member of prison staff whilst in prison and instead the prisoner must not be released until the end of his original sentence.’

New clause 76—Dangerous driving: increased penalties—

‘(1) Part 1 of Schedule 2 to the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 (prosecution and punishment of offences: offences under the Traffic Acts) is amended as follows.

(2) In the entry relating to section 2 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (dangerous driving), in column (4) (punishment), under (b) for “2 years” substitute “5 years”.’

New clause 77—Limitation of use of fixed-term recalls—

‘(1) Section 255A of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 (Further release after recall: introductory) is amended as follows.

(2) After subsection 4, insert—

“(4A) A person is not suitable for automatic release if—

(a) he is an extended sentence prisoner or a specified offence prisoner;

(b) in a case where paragraph (a) does not apply, he was recalled under section 254 before the normal entitlement date (having been released before that date under section 246 or 248); or

(c) in a case where neither of the preceding paragraphs applies, he has, during the same term of imprisonment, already been released under section 255B(1)(b) or (2) or section 255C(2).”’

New clause 78—Open prisons: murderers—

‘No prisoner serving a sentence for murder can be moved to a Category D prison.’

New clause 79—Resettlement licence: murderers—

‘No prisoner serving a sentence for murder will be eligible for resettlement licence.’

New clause 80—Open prisons: serious offenders—

‘No prisoner serving a sentence for an indictable only offence can be moved to a Category D prison.’

New clause 81—Open prisons: deportees—

‘No prisoner serving a sentence for which he is liable for deportation can be moved to a Category D prison.’

New clause 82—Resettlement licence: deportees—

‘No prisoner serving a sentence for which he is liable for deportation can be eligible for resettlement licence.’

New clause 83—No difference in sentencing between using a knife in a murder in a home compared to taking a knife to murder someone—

‘(1) The Sentencing Act 2020 is amended as follows.

(2) In Schedule 21 (Determination of minimum term in relation to mandatory life sentence for murder etc), after sub-paragraph 4(2), insert—

“(3) Sub-paragraph (2) above applies where the knife or weapon is taken to the scene from anywhere within the same premises.”’

New clause 86—Review of domestic homicide—

‘(1) Within 18 months of the commencement of this Act, the Secretary of State must commission a review and publish a report on the effectiveness of current legislation and sentencing policy surrounding domestic abuse, with a particular view to making policy recommendations to increase sentences for domestic homicide, and reduce the gap in sentence length between domestic homicide and other homicides.

(2) A review under subsection (1) must be conducted by a person who meets the criteria for qualification for appointment to the Supreme Court, as set out in section 25 of the Constitutional Reform Act 2005.

(3) A review under subsection (1) must consider—

(a) trends in the incidences and types of domestic abuse, with a focus on domestic homicide,

(b) sentencing policy as it applies to domestic abuse, with a focus on domestic homicide,

(c) current sentencing guidelines as they relate to domestic abuse, with a focus on domestic homicide, and

(d) the creation of new defences and/or mitigating circumstances to protect victims of domestic abuse who commit offences as a consequence of that abuse.

(4) For the purposes of subsection (1) domestic homicide is to be defined as circumstances in which the death of a person aged 16 or over has, or appears to have, resulted from violence, abuse or neglect by a person to whom they were related or with whom they were, or had been, in an intimate personal relationship, or a member of the same household as themselves.

(5) The Secretary of State must lay a copy of the report before Parliament.

(6) A Minister of the Crown must, not later than 3 months after the report has been laid before Parliament, make a motion in the House of Commons in relation to the report.’

This new clause compels the Government to commission a review and publish a report on the effectiveness of current legislation and sentencing policy surrounding domestic abuse, with a particular focus on increasing sentences for domestic homicide. The review would also consider the creation of new protections to assist victims of domestic abuse who commit domestic homicide.

New clause 87—Maximum sentence for publishing the identity of a sexual offences complainant—

‘(1) Section 5 of the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1992 is amended as follows.

(2) In subsection (1), leave out “and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale”.

(3) After subsection (1), insert the following subsection—

“(1A) A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable—

(a) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale, or both, or

(b) on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding twelve months, or a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale, or both.”’

This new clause would give courts the power to hand down custodial sentences of up to 2 years to those convicted of naming a sexual offences complainant.

New clause 88—Law Commission consideration of the use of complainants’ sexual history in rape trials—

‘The Secretary of State must seek advice and information from the Law Commission under section (3)(1)(e) of the Law Commissions Act 1965 with proposals for the reform or amendment of the law relating to the use of complainants’ sexual history in rape trials.’

This new clause would compel the Government to seek a Law Commission review on the use of complainants’ sexual history in rape trials.

New clause 89—Minimum sentence for an offence under section 1 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003

‘(1) This section applies where—

(a) an individual is convicted of an offence under section 1 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003, and

(b) the offence was committed after the commencement of this section and at a time when the individual was aged 18 or over.

(2) The court shall impose an appropriate custodial sentence (or order for detention) for a term of at least the required minimum term (with or without a fine) unless the court is of the opinion that there are exceptional circumstances relating to the offence or to the offender which justify its not doing so.

(3) In this section “appropriate custodial sentence (or order for detention)” means—

(a) in the case of an offender who is aged 18 or over when convicted, a sentence of imprisonment, and

(b) in the case of an offender who is aged under 18 at that time, a sentence of detention under section 91 of the Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000.

(4) In this section “the required minimum term” means seven years.’

This new clause creates a statutory minimum sentence for rape of 7 years. A court must impose at least the statutory minimum unless it is of the opinion there are exceptional circumstances relating to the offence or to the offender which justify not doing so.

New clause 92—Sentencing escalator—

‘(1) Any person convicted of the same criminal offence on a second or subsequent occasion must receive—

(a) a longer custodial sentence than his longest previous custodial sentence for the same offence if a custodial sentence has previously been given; or

(b) a more severe sentence than his highest previous non-custodial sentence for the same offence if a custodial sentence has not already been given for a previous offence unless the court is of the opinion that there are exceptional circumstances which—

(i) relate to the offence or to the offender, and

(ii) justify not doing so.

(2) Where the sentencing options available for the current offence do not permit the court to increase the sentence under the provisions of subsection (1), the court must impose the maximum sentence available to it, unless the court is of the opinion that there are exceptional circumstances which—

(a) relate to the offence or to the offender, and

(b) justify not doing so.

(3) In determining a sentence under subsection (1), a court is not bound by Section 59 (Sentencing guidelines: general duty of court) or Section 60 (Sentencing guidelines: determination of sentence) of the Sentencing Act 2020.’

New clause 93—Effect of remand on bail on time served in prison (amendment of Criminal Justice Act 2003)

‘(1) The Criminal Justice Act 2003 is amended as follows.

(2) In subsection (1B)(c) of section 237 (Meaning of “fixed-term prisoner” etc), leave out “or section 240A”.

(3) In the italic heading before section 240 (Crediting of periods of remand in custody: terms of imprisonment and detention), after “custody”, leave out “or on bail subject to certain types of condition”.

(4) Omit section 240A (Time remanded on bail to count towards time served: terms of imprisonment and detention).’

This new clause, together with NC94 would remove tagged curfew from time on remand on bail which is deducted from time served in prison.

New clause 94—Effect of remand on bail time served in prison (amendment of Sentencing Act 2020—

‘Sections 325 (Time on bail under certain conditions: declaration by court) and 326 Section 325: interpretation) of the Sentencing Act 2020 are omitted.’

This new clause, together with NC93 would remove tagged curfew from time on remand on bail which is deducted from time served in prison.

New clause 95—Magistrates’ sentencing powers—

‘The following statutory provisions shall, notwithstanding any commencement provision in any Act, come into force—

(1) Section 154 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 (General limit on magistrates’ court’s power to impose imprisonment).

(2) Section 282 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 (Increase in maximum term that may be imposed on summary conviction of offence triable either way).

(3) Paragraphs 24 and 25 of Part 5 of Schedule 22 of the Sentencing Act 2020 (Increase in magistrates’ court‘s power to impose imprisonment).’

This new clause would bring into force provisions which would increase magistrates’ sentencing powers from a maximum of 6 to a maximum of 12 months for one offence.

New clause 96—Power of police to stop vehicles—

‘(1) Section 163 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 is amended as follows.

(2) In subsection (1), after “vehicle” in the second place in which it occurs, insert “, and switch off the engine,”.’

This new clause to the Road Traffic Act 1988 would require a person to switch off their engine after being stopped by a constable in uniform or a traffic officer, and make it an offence not to do so.

New clause 97—Video recorded cross-examination or re-examination of complainants in respect of sexual offences and modern slavery offences—

‘(1) Section 28 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 comes into force in relation to proceedings to which subsection (2) applies on the day on which this Act is passed.

(2) This subsection applies where a witness is eligible for assistance by virtue of section 17(4) of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 (complainants in respect of a sexual offence or modern slavery offence who are witnesses in proceedings relating to that offence, or that offence and any other offences).

(3) This section has effect notwithstanding section 68(3) of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999.’

This new clause would bring section 28 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999, which provides for the cross-examination of vulnerable witnesses to be recorded rather than undertaken in court, fully into force for victims of sexual offences and modern slavery offences.

Amendment 50, in clause 102, page 87, line 41, at end insert—

“(bb) the abduction, sexual assault, and murder of a person”.

This amendment would ensure those found guilty of abduction, sexual assault, and murder receive a Whole Life Order as a starting sentence.

Amendment 48, in clause 110, page 99, line 41, at beginning insert—

‘(1) In subsection (3) of section 239 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 (the Parole Board), after 3(b) insert—

“(c) the views of the victim or victims of the crime to which the case relates”’.

This amendment would amend the Criminal Justice Act 2003 to ensure victims/survivors are consulted in parole decisions which will affect them.

Amendment 49, page 99, line 41, at beginning insert—

‘(1) In subsection (4) of section 239 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 (the Parole Board), at end insert “, including the views of the victim or victims of the crime to which the case relates.”’

This amendment would amend the Criminal Justice Act 2003 to ensure victims/survivors are consulted in parole decisions which will affect them.

Amendment 63, page 127, line 33, leave out clause 139.

Amendment 122, in clause 139, page 127, line 43, at end insert—

“(8) A secure 16 to 19 Academy will be subject to annual inspection by—

(a) Ofsted;

(b) Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons; and

(c) Care Quality Commission.”

This amendment would make secure 16 to 19 academies subject to annual inspection by Ofsted, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons, and the Care Quality Commission.

Amendment 123, page 128, line 25, at the end insert—

“(5) The Secretary of State must, within six months of this Act coming into force, prepare and publish a report on the progress made towards opening the first 16 to 19 academies and must lay a copy before Parliament.

(6) A Minister of the Crown must, not later than four weeks after the report required by subsection (5) has been laid before Parliament, make a motion in the House of Commons in relation to the report.

(7) The Secretary of State must, within one year of the opening of the first 16 to 19 academy, prepare and publish an impact assessment on the effectiveness of 16 to 19 academies and must lay a copy before Parliament.

(8) A Minister of the Crown must, not later than four weeks after the impact assessment required by subsection (7) has been laid before Parliament, make a motion in the House of Commons in relation to the impact assessment.”

This amendment would ensure the Secretary of State lay a report and update Parliament on progress made towards opening secure academy facilities and lay an impact assessment before Parliament and provide a debate on the impact assessment.

Amendment 124, in clause 169, page 191, line 37, at end insert—

“(4) The Secretary of State may exercise the power in section 176(1) so as to bring this section (and part 3 of Schedule 19) into force only if the condition in subsection (5) is met.

(5) The condition in this subsection is that a review of the impact of the expansion of audio and video links in criminal proceedings has been conducted in accordance with subsection (6).

(6) The review mentioned in subsection (5) must—

(a) collect evidence of the impact of live audio and video links on—

(i) sentencing and remand decisions,

(ii) the effective participation of defendants,

(iii) the experience of victims and witnesses,

(iv) the cost to the wider justice system, including costs borne by the police and prison systems; and

(b) be undertaken by a person who is independent of the Secretary of State.

(7) The review mentioned in subsection (5) may also consider any other matter which the person conducting the review considers relevant.”

This amendment would ensure that the expansion in the use of audio and video links will not be undertaken until an independent review of its impact has been undertaken.

New clause 14—Offence of buying a pet for cash etc—

‘(1) A person “P” must not pay for a pet except—

(a) by a cheque which under section 81A of the Bills of Exchange Act 1882 is not transferable, or

(b) by an electronic transfer of funds (authorised by credit or debit card or otherwise).

(2) The Secretary of State may by order amend subsection (1) to permit other methods of payment.

(3) In this section paying includes paying in kind (with goods or services).

(4) If P pays for a pet in breach of subsection (1), P is guilty of an offence.

(5) If P is guilty of an offence under this section, P is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale.

(6) For the purposes of this section, “pet” means and animal which—

(a) provides companionship to any human being,

(b) provides assistance to any human being, or

(c) provides assistance to any human being in the course of their work.’

New clause 15—Offence of failing to scan a microchip—

‘(1) When a relevant animal is presented for a consultation with a veterinary surgeon (or registered veterinary nurse), the veterinary surgeon (or veterinary nurse) must—

(a) scan the microchip of the relevant animal,

(b) check that the microchip number is registered on a database by a database operator which meets current conditions set out in law,

(c) check that the person accompanying the relevant animal is either the registered keeper of the relevant animal or has, to the satisfaction of the veterinary surgeon (or veterinary nurse), the permission of the registered keeper of the relevant animal to accompany that animal, and

(d) if the condition in paragraph (c) is not met, report to the police the fact that the relevant animal is not accompanied by the registered keeper or a person authorised by the registered keeper.

(2) For the purposes of subsection (1), a “relevant animal” means an animal which is required by law to be microchipped.

(3) If a veterinary surgeon (or veterinary nurse) is in breach of subsection (1), they are guilty of an offence.

(4) If a veterinary surgeon (or veterinary nurse) is guilty of an offence under this section, they are liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 4 on the standard scale.’

New clause 16—Offence of pet theft—

‘(1) The Animal Welfare Act 2006 is amended as follows.

(2) After section 2 (“protected animal”) insert—

“2A Definition of pet

A protected animal is a “pet” for the purposes of this Act if it—

(a) provides companionship to any human being,

(b) provides assistance to any human being, or

(c) provides assistance to any human being in the course of their work.”

(3) After section 8 (fighting etc.) insert—

“8A Pet theft

A person commits an offence if they dishonestly appropriate a pet belonging to another person.”

(4) In section 32 (imprisonment or fine) before subsection (1) insert—

“(A1) A person guilty of an offence under section 8A (pet theft) shall be liable—

(a) on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 51 weeks, or a fine, or both;

(b) on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years, or to a fine, or both.

(A2) When the court is considering for the purposes of sentencing the seriousness of an offence under section 8A it must consider the following as aggravating factors (that is to say, a factor that increases the seriousness of the offence)—

(a) the theft caused fear, alarm or distress to the pet, the owner of the pet or another person associated with the pet;

(b) the theft was for the purposes of commercial gain.”

(5) In section 34(10) (disqualification) after “8,” insert “8A,”.’

New clause 98—Offence of pet theft—

‘(1) The Animal Welfare Act 2006 is amended as follows.

(2) After section 2 (“protected animal”) insert—

“(2A) Definition of pet A protected animal is a “pet” for the purposes of this Act if it provides companionship or assistance to any human being.”

(3) After section 8 (fighting etc.) insert—

“8A Pet theft

A person commits an offence if they dishonestly appropriate a pet belonging to another person with the intention of permanently depriving that other person of it.”

(4) In section 32 (imprisonment or fine) before subsection (1) insert—

“(A1) A person guilty of an offence under section 8A (pet theft) shall be liable—

(a) on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 51 weeks, or a fine, or to both;

(b) on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 4 years, or to a fine, or to both.

(A2) When the court is considering for the purposes of sentencing the seriousness of an offence under section 8A it must consider the following as aggravating factors (that is to say, a factor that increases the seriousness of the offence)—

(a) the theft caused fear, alarm or distress to the pet, the owner or the pet or another person associated with the pet;

(b) the theft was for the purposes of commercial gain.”

(5) In section 34(10) (disqualification) after “8,” insert “8A,”.’

New clause 99—Offence of pet theft (Scotland)—

‘(1) The Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006 is amended as follows.

(2) After section 17 (protected animals) insert—

“17A Definition of pet

A protected animal is a “pet” for the purposes of this Act if it provides companionship or assistance to any human being.”

(3) After section 23 (animal fights) insert—

“23A Pet theft

A person commits an offence if they dishonestly appropriate a pet belonging to another person with the intention of permanently depriving that other person of it.”

(4) In section 40 (disqualification orders) after subsection (13)(b) insert—

“(ba) an offence under section 23A,”.

(5) In section 46 (penalties for offences) after subsection (1) insert—

“(1A) A person guilty of an offence under section 23A (pet theft) shall be liable—

(a) on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 51 weeks, or a fine, or to both;

(b) on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 4 years, or to a fine, or to both.

(1B) When the court is considering for the purposes of sentencing the seriousness of an offence under section 23A it must consider the following as aggravating factors (that is to say, a factor that increases the seriousness of the offence)—

(a) that theft caused fear, alarm or distress to the pet, the owner or the pet or another person associated with the pet;

(b) the theft was for the purposes of commercial gain.”

(6) In Schedule 1 (powers of inspectors and constables for Part 2) after paragraph 4(5)(a) insert—

“(aa) an offence under section 23A,”.’

New clause 100—Offence of pet theft: consequential amendments—

‘(1) The Police and Criminal Evidence Act is amended as follows.

(2) In section 17(1)(c)(v) (entry for purposes of arrest, etc in connection with offences relating to the prevention of harm to animals), for “and 8(1) and (2)” substitute “8(1) and (2) and 8A”.’

New clause 30—Voyeurism: breastfeeding—

‘(1) Section 67A of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 (Voyeurism: additional offences) is amended as set out in subsection (2).

(2) After subsection (2), insert—

“(2A) A person (A) commits an offence if—

(a) A records an image of another person (B) while B is breastfeeding;

(b) A does so with the intention that A or another person (C) will look at the image for a purpose mentioned in subsection (3), and

(c) A does so—

(i) without B’s consent, and

(ii) without reasonably believing that B consents.”’

Photo of Harriet Harman Harriet Harman Chair, Human Rights (Joint Committee), Chair, Human Rights (Joint Committee)

New clause 3 would deal with a problem that the Government have acknowledged: that on the question of rape, the justice system lets women down and lets men off the hook. There are many problems that contribute to that, but one that the Government have rightly identified is that the process focuses on the complainant rather than on the defendant. The investigation becomes an investigation of the complainant—her mobile phone, what she was doing, her attitudes—and not of the suspect. The trial becomes the trial of the complainant, not of the defendant, in one very material way: the use by the defendant of the complainant’s previous sexual history by bringing it into evidence.

It has been acknowledged since as long ago as 1999 that the complainant’s previous sexual history is not the issue, and it is wrong for the defendant to try to use it to deter her from supporting a prosecution for fear that all her dirty washing will be washed in public, in open court, or that it will undermine her standing and credibility in the eyes of the jury. That was supposed to be outlawed in 1999, but it has become clear that a loophole was left when we changed the law.

In a third of all rape cases now, one way or another, the defendant brings into court the complainant’s previous sexual history. When the Victims’ Commissioner was a police and crime commissioner, she conducted research that showed that in one third of rape trials observed, the previous sexual history of the complainant was brought into evidence. That research is backed up by work done by the Criminal Bar Association.

The Victims’ Commissioner gives the example of a complainant who had her parents in court to support her. They did not know that she had had an abortion, but the defendant brought that into evidence in order to undermine her and throw off her ability to give her evidence—there were her parents, sitting in court, and they did not even know that she had had an abortion. Another report was of a case in which the jury were told, “This is a woman who has had adulterous affairs,” thereby trying to undermine her. Of course, that is not relevant to the issue of whether or not a rape has been committed, so we need to tighten up the law.

I have drafted a perfectly good, watertight clause to tighten up the law so that where the question of previous sexual history is relevant, especially if it is with the same partner in respect of whom the rape is alleged, it is allowed in evidence with the permission of the judge, but where it is not relevant, it is not. However, our Front Bench and the Government in their rape review have said that they are minded to send it to the Law Commission to look at. I would have preferred the Government to legislate in the Bill, which is after all the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, but they have decided not to do that; they say that they will refer to the Law Commission the whole question of the focus on the complainant, so I make two requests in that respect.

First, I think that the Law Commission should sit with an independent reference group. I have a great deal of respect for the Law Commission, but quite frankly we cannot leave it to get on with it on its own. We need an expert, independent reference group that is steeped in understanding of the issue and that can help the Law Commission. I suggest that Rape Crisis England & Wales should be on that group, and so should the Victims’ Commissioner.

My second request is that there should be a time limit on the Law Commission’s work. The Law Commission goes into things very deeply, but we do not want this to go on and on for years—it has been a problem for years, so we do not want it to go into the long grass with a never-ending Law Commission investigation. We want the findings to be ready for when the Government are thinking of bringing forward their victims Bill, which they will consult on shortly and which arises out of the violence against women and girls consultation. If we are not going to accept this today, and the Government are not, let us have the Law Commission looking at it, with an independent reference group and with a time limit. Then, the Government will have done more than just apologise to rape victims for justice not being done; they will make sure that in future justice is done.

Photo of Rosie Winterton Rosie Winterton Deputy Speaker (First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

We now go to the Chair of the Justice Committee, Sir Robert Neill, and the four-minute time limit comes into force for Back Benchers at this point.

Photo of Bob Neill Bob Neill Chair, Justice Committee, Chair, Justice Committee

It is a pleasure to follow Ms Harman and to talk on these important matters. Although I understand the motives behind the series of amendments standing in her name, I must start by disagreeing with the fundamental approach in some respects. I think it is right that this does go to the Law Commission, because these are potentially very important changes and they affect, inevitably, the balance that must be achieved in a criminal trial between the proper protection of the interests of any witness and the right of any defendant to have a fair trial in which all relevant issues—I stress that—are ventilated. Frequently, the issue of consent would not be relevant to the defence, but there are circumstances in which it is and we should not be making substantive changes here without very careful consideration. The same applies in respect of a number of the other amendments that the right hon. and learned Lady and others have tabled. Again, I understand the reasoning, but, for example, changing the definition of “consent” in relation to recklessness would make a significant change to the substantive criminal law in this area, and that should not be undertaken via an addition to an already large Bill, with limited scrutiny.

There are significant arguments to be considered on both sides, and the Law Commission is the right route for all of these matters. In my experience, and that of the Select Committee, the Law Commission is well able to move swiftly given the resources and the support to do so. I hope that we can leave this on the basis of having a proper look at what are very significant matters, affecting not just the question of the protection of victims, but the right of any defendant to a proper airing of the evidence. Although I am clear that there are still areas where complainants in such cases do not receive the treatment that they should, the position both in the courts and in the investigation of such offences is very much improved from where it was. We can always continue to do more, but inevitably now cases of this kind are tried by highly experienced and senior judges. My experience of having both prosecuted and defended in many such cases is that the courts are robust and swift in dealing with such matters and in rejecting inappropriate applications to stray beyond the relevant issues.

In the time available, may I also touch on some of the other amendments? I would be troubled at anything that fetters the discretion of the courts in relation to minimum sentences. At the end of the day, all aggravating features can properly be set before the courts. The Government and this House have increased maximum sentences in a number of areas, and I have a concern in principle at the imposition of minimum sentences, which have the potential in certain circumstances to tie the hands of the courts. There is an amendment on the representation of families of the deceased at inquests in certain circumstances. I do not think this Bill is the right place for that, but I strongly commend to the Lord Chancellor, whom I am glad to see on the Treasury Bench, the Justice Committee’s report on this, and I hope that in his response we will be given a constructive way forward to deal with those matters.

Photo of David Lammy David Lammy Shadow Lord Chancellor and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice

It is a pleasure to follow the Chair of the Select Committee.

This Bill presented the Government with an opportunity to enact measures that would end violence against women and girls, but I am afraid that they blew it, instead filling the Bill with divisive nonsense such as locking up protestors who cause “annoyance.” Today the Government have a final opportunity to support Labour’s proposals—to show the public it cares about violence against women and girls, and wants to create a criminal justice system that works for them.

I turn first to new clause 89. In Committee, my hon. Friend Alex Cunningham told the harrowing story of a woman who was viciously raped in February last year. It is impossible to comprehend the physical and mental pain caused by such a despicable act; the trauma of that day will remain with that woman for the rest of her life. I am sure that all Members of the House will agree it is a scandal that her attacker and violator was sentenced to just five years and three months for his crime that night.

Although the maximum sentence for rape is life imprisonment, there is no statutory minimum. Instead, the sentencing guidelines set a starting point of just five years, which in some cases can be reduced to four.

Photo of David Lammy David Lammy Shadow Lord Chancellor and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice

I will just make some progress, if I may.

I think most people would be appalled to learn that rapists can be sentenced to as little as four years in prison—for one of the most heinous crimes imaginable. We presented the Government with research that showed that our sentences for rape were lower than other common law jurisdictions. The Australian Law Reform Commission said that its national penalty range was 12 years to life; in the state of Victoria, rape carries a standard sentence of 10 years; and in India the minimum sentence has just gone up to 10 years.

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Conservative, Scarborough and Whitby

I wonder if the shadow Secretary of State has forgotten that when he was a Minister in the Department for Constitutional Affairs, Labour voted for rapists to serve less of their sentence in prison. In fact, section 244 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 now requires all prisoners to be released after just 50% of their sentence is served. Prior to that point, those sentenced to four years or more had to serve more than two thirds of their sentence.

Photo of David Lammy David Lammy Shadow Lord Chancellor and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice

I think the right hon. Gentleman is misreading what we did in office. The point is that today, he has an opportunity to vote for a minimum sentence. The question is: is he going to take it?

The Under-Secretary of State for Justice, Chris Philp helpfully indicated that 68% of those found guilty of rape are sentenced to more than seven years in prison, which means that about a third of rapists receive only four to seven years. How can that be right? My question to the Lord Chancellor is a simple one: does he believe that a rapist should ever conceivably receive a sentence of only four years in prison? The Government explained that one of their reasons for rejecting our amendment was because they did not agree with statutory minimum sentences, yet clause 100 of this Bill creates a statutory minimum sentence for repeat offenders of certain crimes, including drug offences and burglaries. Why does the Lord Chancellor feel that those crimes are serious enough to warrant a minimum sentence, but rape is not? A recent poll showed that almost 80% of the public would support our proposal, with only 7% opposed. I call on the Lord Chancellor to show that he believes the same.

The Government’s rape review specifically recognises that one of the reasons that almost half of victims of rape withdraw is the fear of giving evidence in court. We know that the pre-recording of evidence is hugely important in limiting the distress of already traumatised victims, and that rolling out section 28 would allow more rape victims to see justice done quicker. Why, then, are the Government re-piloting something that has already been piloted twice? The lack of ambition is staggering. This is typical, frankly, of a Department that is obsessed with endless reviews and utterly averse to radical action. The Government have already failed far too many victims of these horrific crimes; hopefully that will change tonight.

Following the tragic death of Sarah Everard, the Opposition tabled an amendment that would extend whole-life orders to someone guilty of a murder, abduction and sexual assault of a stranger. A whole-life order is a commitment that the offender will never be released from prison again. The Opposition believe that, for this crime, a whole-life order is the only appropriate sentence. Amendment 50 would mean that anyone found guilty of the murder, abduction and sexual assault of another person—crimes that are so reprehensible—would spend the rest of their lives in prison. I do not feel that that is a difficult point and I hope the Secretary of State will agree.

The Victims’ Commissioner and Domestic Abuse Commissioner have called out the culture of misogyny throughout the criminal justice system that is clearly demonstrated in the response to domestic homicides. A quick scan through recent data powerfully illustrates that point: according to a report by the Femicide Census, 62% of women killed by men were killed by a current or former partner, and 70% of all murders of a woman by a man took place either in a shared home or in the victim’s home.

Yet we know that there is a serious anomaly in the sentencing of homicide cases that results in murderers who kill in the home being treated far more leniently than those who kill outside the home. As Carol Gould put it so poignantly,

“Why should a life taken in the home by someone you know be valued less than a life taken by a stranger in the streets?”

It is clear to the Opposition that it should not, and that is why we have tabled new clause 86, which would require the Lord Chancellor to commission an independent review into that aspect of sentencing. In this country, a woman is killed by a man on average every three days. From 2017 to 2019, there were 357 domestic homicides. The perpetrators of those despicable crimes cannot expect to benefit from this sentencing anomaly any longer.

As the law currently stands, complainants of serious sexual offences are granted lifelong anonymity. Although in some cases, identifying a complainant could result in an offender being prosecuted for contempt of court, they will, more often than not, receive only a fine. During questions on this last month, I raised the case of Phillip Leece to show just how devastating revealing the identity of the complainant can be. For naming and humiliating his victim online, he received a pathetic fine of only £120. At the time, the Lord Chancellor seemed to agree with me that the law in this area must be strengthened. New clause 87 would do just that by giving judges the power to sentence offenders for up to two years. In Committee, the Minister indicated that the Government took that point seriously, but went on to vote against the Opposition’s new clause. The Government accept that work has to be done in this area, so let us see tonight what the action is.

May I pay tribute to my right hon. and learned Friend Ms Harman for raising the important issue of the use of sexual history in rape trials? The Opposition wholeheartedly agree that no victim of a sexual offence should have to feel victimised twice by experiencing a hugely traumatic experience in the courtroom. The last thing we want is for an alleged victim of rape to face the ordeal of their sexual history being discussed in court unless the strictest of criteria are met. If section 41 is not being used as intended, it is only right that it is reviewed and, if necessary, strengthened. That is the purpose of new clause 88, which would compel the Government to seek the advice of the Law Commission as to whether section 41 is fit for purpose. Yet again, this is too important an issue to be kicked into the long grass, and I would appreciate assurances that any review will be completed before a victims Bill comes before the House.

Amendment 124 would ensure that any expansion in the use of audio and video links in courts will not undermine access to justice or the efficiency of our justice system. As the Lord Chancellor will appreciate, the move towards jury members being able to sit remotely is a seismic shift that could have profound consequences. It is concerning therefore that the Government seem content to introduce clause 168 without any evidence base or consultation. In Committee, the Opposition tabled several amendments that would provide safeguards to clause 168, but the Government rejected them on the basis that they were unnecessary. The hypothetical benefits of remote juries are limited, but it is crucial that those limited benefits are not introduced at the expense of access to justice and the right to a fair trial. Amendment 124 would ensure that the expansion of audio and video links is not implemented until an independent review has been undertaken.

Pets are a much loved and integral part of all families, and certainly of our family—I am thinking of my dog, Silver, as I say that. They bring us support, comfort and happiness, and I am smiling already thinking of my beautiful dog at home. During the pandemic, the number of dog thefts has skyrocketed, and we are now at a point where at least five dogs are stolen in England every day. That is why the Opposition have tabled new clause 98. Pet owners up and down the country would be horrified to learn that while the law of theft caters for certain offences—for example, the theft of a bicycle, of scrap metal and of wild mushrooms—that is not the case for the theft of pets, and this must change.

I am pleased to see that Sir Iain Duncan Smith has tabled new clause 16, which is in effect a carbon copy of the new clause that we tabled in Committee. I am pleased to have the support of a Spurs supporter and a long-standing Member of the House, but I think we could do better. Since Committee, concerns have been raised about the two-year maximum tariff and we have listened to those concerns. As the Lord Chancellor will know, many of these thefts are being conducted not by petty criminals but by highly organised criminal gangs working across borders, and we are concerned that a two-year maximum penalty would not act as a sufficient deterrent to those people, so we have raised it to four years in our new clause 48. I hope that the Lord Chancellor can hear that the official Opposition are attempting to be reasonable, and that he will support some of the new clauses that we have put forward tonight.

Photo of Iain Duncan Smith Iain Duncan Smith Conservative, Chingford and Woodford Green

It is a pleasure to follow Mr Lammy, particularly as he referred to my new clauses—although not all of them, it has to be said. He referred to one of them, but there are two more. The new clauses are very clear, and I shall speak to them this evening. New clause 14 would require the cash sale of pets to be banned so that the only way for people to do those sales would be by cheque or bank transfer. That would mean that pet sellers could be tracked and the owners identified. This has become too easy a business.

New clause 15 would make it compulsory for pets that have to be microchipped to be scanned as well by vets, to check that the microchip number is registered on an approved database and that it confirms the correct registered keeper. New clause 16 would make the offence of pet theft a specific category of crime, as the right hon. Member for Tottenham said, carrying a much more significant set of fines and even incarceration.

Photo of Steven Baker Steven Baker Conservative, Wycombe

Of course I share my right hon. Friend’s sentiment, but I was a bit concerned when I read his new clause about microchips. Is it really going to end up creating offences for vets? I would have thought they already had enough on their plates in often difficult and emotional circumstances.

Photo of Iain Duncan Smith Iain Duncan Smith Conservative, Chingford and Woodford Green

That may be the case, but the reality is that, by law, dogs must be microchipped. It makes no sense to microchip a dog, only for some vets not to scan them. That would mean that people who had stolen dogs could simply take them to the vet of their choice, knowing that they would not be scanned. The point is that if we have an offence, we must follow it through. Those pets must be scanned; otherwise, they will get stolen and sold without redress.

Those were the three areas that were raised with me, and many of my colleagues and friends who have signed these new clauses have also faced the same concerns. There has been a staggering welling up of anger, concern and worry about what might happen to people’s pets. There are some who will not go on walks with their dogs at the moment for fear of what might happen. It is important for the Government to recognise that this is a major concern.

Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Conservative, South Holland and The Deepings

My right hon. Friend is championing a noble cause that many of us feel very strongly about. Has he received the assurances that I have no doubt he has requested from the Government that they share our serious concern and that they intend to act, if not tonight then certainly in due course, on precisely the issues he has raised?

Photo of Iain Duncan Smith Iain Duncan Smith Conservative, Chingford and Woodford Green

I thank my right hon. Friend for his intervention. The truth is that I have had a lot of discussions with my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor about this, and I feel that he is very sympathetic. I am sure that he can speak for himself, but I hope that he will give an undertaking that the Government will return to this matter in this Bill, at least by the time it is in the other place, and make whatever changes are necessary to the laws and regulations in terms of criminal justice. I have a high hope that that will be the case, but I will leave it to my right hon. and learned Friend to make his position clear when he gets to his feet.

Photo of Steve Brine Steve Brine Conservative, Winchester

I want to back up my right hon. Friend, having put my name to these amendments. The reason that this measure needs to be in this Bill is that we have seen such a huge rise in the number of pet owners during the pandemic. I have not seen the amount of casework on this issue in 11 years that I have seen in recent months.

Photo of Iain Duncan Smith Iain Duncan Smith Conservative, Chingford and Woodford Green

I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. He is right, and that is the point I was trying to make earlier. There has been a huge upwelling of anger and concern about the theft of dogs in particular, but pets in general. These three new clauses highlight that particular issue. It is not a simple thing or something that can be ignored, and it is quite interesting to look at what has happened to prosecutions.

During the course of this period of lockdown, when offences have risen dramatically, only 1% of dog crime cases investigated resulted in a charge in England and Wales—1%. In 2019, only 19 dog theft crimes resulted in charges out of a total of 1,575 crimes. The police clearly do not take this seriously. Of the 36 police forces that have a five-year dataset for dog theft crimes and charges, the annual total shows a year-on-year decrease during the pandemic when the level of crime was rising. I simply say to my right hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench, particularly the Lord Chancellor, that we must take this seriously and we must act.

I accept that these amendments may not be technically absolutely right at this particular stage, but the people out there in the country who elect us want us to act. They are afraid. Some of these dogs are worth £5,000 a time, and the gangs have now got involved. Mr Lammy will know there are street gangs, as I know there are in my area. This is easy money for them because it carries very little penalty, so violence has entered the arena. People are having their hands stamped on, leads are being cut, and are being threatened, pushed or knocked over —some of them quite elderly—and particular dogs are being targeted for sale. This is very easy money for the gangs, and we are encouraging greater levels of criminality.

Our constituents demand that we take action now. We must protect them and their pets. Dogs are not bicycles, they are not items, they are beloved animals that offer succour and support all the way through people’s lives, and we must therefore treat them as such. I argue clearly to my right hon. Friend the Lord Chancellor that it is high time the Government stepped up to the plate on this. I accept tonight that these may not be the right technical amendments, so I ask my right hon. Friend, when he gets the Dispatch Box, to give us the undertaking that, by the time the Bill returns, this provision will be in law, improved, and that the thieves will be targeted and those who own pets will be protected.

Photo of Rosie Winterton Rosie Winterton Deputy Speaker (First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means) 7:30 pm, 5th July 2021

Order. I have absolutely no problem with interventions, but it may be that we can get everybody in if people still stick to four minutes, even if they take interventions.

Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Conservative, South Holland and The Deepings

Politics is about values. It always has been, actually, but in the modern age too many politicians —perhaps timid of inspiring or of their capacity to do so, or frightened of causing contumely—have retreated into a drear, dull, mechanistic discourse. Tonight, this Bill and these amendments are a chance to break free of that—a chance to change—because the Government are at last responding to the will of the people who, for a very long time, have believed that the criminal justice system was not weighted in favour of victims or law and order, but too heavily weighted in favour of making excuses for those who commit crime.

The world is a dangerous place. In fact, unimpeded, evil men and women will impose their cruel will upon the innocent. C. S. Lewis said that in living the reality of human imperfections,

“the art of life consists in tackling each immediate evil as well as we can.”

Law-abiding Britons do their everyday part in keeping the fire of social solidarity burning bright, yet too many with power appear to have forgotten how to tackle the evil that seeks to snuff out civilised order. Instead, those who see crime as an ill to be treated have held too much sway for too long. Evil too often receives a slap on the wrist, a stern telling off, and the public’s desire for retributive justice goes unheeded.

We must never forget, as was said earlier, that we serve here at the pleasure of our constituents. Public order and faith in the rule of law depend on popular confidence in the justice system—a confidence that must be earned. People’s sense of right and wrong has changed little over the decades. In 1990, four out of five Britons thought sentencing was too lenient. Today, four out of five Britons think the same. With the number of custodial sentences for sexual offences, theft and criminal damage all falling, it is time for this place to listen. Our constituents despair of having violent deviants freed to hurt again, of seeing non-custodial sentences for yobs and thugs, and of halfway automatic release for some of the most violent people in our society. Many gentle, peaceful people are appalled at all of this. Soft sentencing allows rapists, paedophiles and violent offenders to walk free having served only half their sentence. Given the pain of victims, that is an insult to decency.

This Bill, in seeking to ensure that the most despicable criminals face their just deserts behind bars, is welcome. That may shock the liberal establishment, filled by doubts and fuelled by guilt, but it is much yearned for by the silent majority of Britons and it is long overdue. Shame on those who wish to use the Bill for narrow ends. However, I will not go into the amendments on abortion because you would not let me, Madam Deputy Speaker, but you know what I mean.

Disraeli said:

“Justice is truth in action.”

That is not a relative individual truth but an extension of absolute virtue that people intuitively understand and to which this Bill gives life. Amendments to tackle the wicked scourge of pet theft affirm that truth, as my right hon. Friend Sir Iain Duncan Smith made clear.

The Bill before us today begins to signal that the Government are no longer distracted by the plight of the guilty. It proudly declares that we are devoted to the cause of the innocent and to the pursuit of justice. We must never be timid about being fierce in defence of the gentle, for in being so we stand for the majority of law-abiding Britons. I commend the amendments in the name of my hon. Friend Philip Davies, which, in laying down the truth that I have described, further reinforce a good Bill. It is a start: the beginning of a fightback on behalf of the silent majority.

Photo of Philip Davies Philip Davies Conservative, Shipley

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend Sir John Hayes for his support.

I have 16 new clauses in this group that deal with issues such as extending the time limits for appealing unduly lenient sentences, including for assaulting an emergency worker, under the unduly lenient sentence scheme; limiting the use of fixed-term recalls, ensuring that there is no difference in sentencing between using a knife in a murder in a home compared with taking a knife to murder someone elsewhere; and a sentencing escalator ensuring that people who repeatedly commit the same offence must get a more severe penalty each time they do so, which has a huge amount of support from the public. I hope that the Secretary of State will write to me with his response to each of my new clauses.

In the limited time available, I want to focus on new clause 75, which would ensure that there was no automatic early release of prisoners who assault prison staff while in jail. I would like to see an end to all automatic early release, as alluded to by my right hon. Friend the Member for South Holland and The Deepings. However, as it seems that the Government are not quite with us on that just yet, my new clause would send a clear message to those who assault hard-working and dedicated prison officers and other staff in our prisons that they would have to serve the whole of their sentence in prison if they indulged in that kind of activity rather than, as at the moment, so many people being automatically released halfway through. If jailed criminals attack a prison officer, surely they should lose their right to automatic early release and serve their sentence in full.

Far too many prison officers are being assaulted. They do a very difficult job and we are not giving them sufficient support. We should be doing our bit to prevent these assaults from happening. Clearly, if people knew that they would have to serve the entirety of their sentence in prison, that would be a good deterrent. At the moment, they can assault prison officers and prison staff with near impunity because they know they are still going to be released halfway through their sentence. The number of extra days—I repeat, days—that are given to people when they commit the offence of assaulting a prison officer is derisory. We owe a duty of care to prison officers and should make sure that they are as well protected as possible when they are doing their public service.

That also ties in with the spirit of what the Government have been trying to achieve on attacks on emergency workers. I certainly agree with what the Government are doing in this Bill and I look forward to the Secretary of State bringing forward his proposals to deal with attacks on shopworkers when the Bill goes to another place. I think that showing we are on the side of prison officers, hard-working public servants, in this way would be a very welcome step forward. I imagine that most common-sense members of the public would be surprised to know that this is not the case already, to be perfectly honest.

I have not had any indication from the Government that they are planning to accept my new clause 75. I would love to hear from the Secretary of State why he thinks it is perfectly reasonable for criminals who assault a prison officer not to have their automatic early release stopped and why he thinks it is absolutely fine for them still be released early from their prison sentences. I am pretty sure that lots of prison officers would like to know the same, too. I would like to hear from him on that when he winds up, but I would prefer to hear that he was accepting my new clause 75, which I think the vast majority of people in this House would like to see, prison officers would like to see and the public would like to see.

Photo of Stella Creasy Stella Creasy Labour/Co-operative, Walthamstow

This is a Bill that shows us that the Government have yet to understand the value of debate and discussion. As a result, they are missing out on some key amendments, many tabled for discussion in this debate and many for the earlier debate, that could have made the Bill a moment of progress on issues that many of us agree on. Instead, by the way in which the Attorney General, the Lord Chancellor and the Government are approaching the Bill, we see exactly where their priorities lie. Every single time proposals have been put forward to keep women safe, they get kicked into the long grass, with the suggestion that they go to the Law Commission. Yet the Government think it is simple and easy to define what is “annoying” when we all know that is a very difficult one. In the last few weeks alone, we have seen the value of deciding what the difference between protest and harassment is. Surely that should be something that went to the Law Commission.

Instead, in my short time this evening, I want to challenge the way in which the Government are approaching amendments that have come from across the House and which bring us many ideas on how we can improve confidence in our criminal justice system. I want to put on record my support for the amendments tabled by my right hon. and learned Friend Ms Harman, who has been a diligent activist for human rights all her life and whose ideas about rape should not be let go again. My right hon. Friend Dame Diana Johnson spoke courageously to identify an anomaly in our law, where the women in Northern Ireland now enjoy better reproductive rights than women in England, Wales and Scotland. The amendments tabled by my hon. Friend Sarah Champion to help to support our children and keep our children safe are vital. There is cross-party support for action against assault on retail workers and for action to address pet offences, which have been coming up in the pandemic.

I urge the Government to listen to the message coming so clearly from women across the country about new clause 30, which has been tabled in my name but has been part of the work I have been doing with my hon. Friend Jeff Smith. I pay tribute to his constituent, Julia Cooper, a valiant woman who was simply feeding her baby in a park when a man decided it was acceptable to take photos of her breastfeeding without her consent. When she sought the support of the law, the law said it was perfectly legal for the man to do what he was doing. Take a moment to think about that. We can simply and easily decide that we want to protect statues, but on that most natural and beautiful thing for a mother to do to feed her child the Government are saying no to protecting those women. Again, they are kicking the issue into the long grass.

I served on the upskirting Bill. At the time, we raised concerns that, frankly, it only went below the knee, but we now need to make sure that the law ensures full coverage. I urge Ministers tonight: whether it is in the other place or now, please do not leave the women of this country feeling that you do not understand the lives they lead. We have the lowest rates of breastfeeding in Europe and it is not hard to understand why, if women feel they are going to be shamed or attacked in public.

As someone that this has happened to myself, I ask the Minister to think about what he would feel if it was happening to a member of his family: if somebody was taking photos or a video for their own gratification and he could not stop them. By resisting new clause 30 and saying that this has to go back to the Law Commission, when it is clear what could be done to make it a criminal offence, he is sending a very clear message to women, as he has done on rape, as he has done on domestic homicide reviews, as he has done on child protection, that their concerns are complicated and difficult, but statues and protests are not. I ask him to think again about the message that he is sending and to say, “We will make laws in this place that will support everyone to lead their lives without fear”, because it is fear that someone will feel if they think that somebody is following them with a camera when they just want to feed their baby. Minister, let us not just stick up for the unborn children; let us stick up for those who are newly born, too.

Photo of Sarah Champion Sarah Champion Chair, International Development Committee, Chair, International Development Committee

In my time as an MP, I have worked with too many victims and survivors who have been utterly let down by the criminal justice system. Their cases compel me to use this Bill as a vehicle to deliver long overdue changes for them. In the past year alone, I have had two survivors from Rotherham contact me to say that their abuser has been moved to an open prison and is therefore eligible for day release without their notification. That is despite the fact that both victims were signed up to the victim contact scheme and should have been able to provide evidence to the Parole Board in advance of the decisions being made.

The thought of an offender being back in the community is deeply traumatising for victims. Notifying them of that is vital, as is consultation. However, the system is clearly dysfunctional. Amendments 48 and 49 would legally require the Parole Board to consult the victim or victims of the case not only on moves to open prisons, but release decisions more generally. No one should have to face reliving their trauma, as my constituents have. I am grateful to the Minister for recognising the issue in the Public Bill Committee, and I hope that the Government will continue to work with me to address this failing.

The Bill makes several changes regarding procedures in courts, but sadly I do not believe they will improve the experience of victims and survivors. A key barrier to justice that they face is their lack of access to special measures when giving evidence. Those measures should be included, whether that is, for example, a live link, or giving evidence in private or via a pre-recorded method. However, their delivery is inconsistent, with the onus being on the court to offer provision if the judge believes it will improve the quality of evidence from a witness. New clause 22 would require the court to inform an eligible witness of all the options available to them and put in place the measures that best suit them.

I am also concerned about the ease of access by others to counselling or mental health records when victims and survivors give evidence. This issue was highlighted to me by a former constituent. She was told by the police not to seek counselling until the trial was over in case the defence used the records against her. The trial took 18 months, and those were the most difficult 18 months of her life. She said:

“I had nowhere to turn. I needed to see a psychologist for support. I was utterly traumatised.”

New clause 25 would restrict evidence or questioning about mental health or counselling records relating to a complainant or witness unless a defined threshold was met. It would require the judge to consider the victims code, the potential threat to personal dignity and the right to privacy of the complainant or witness before allowing the records to be used in court. Most importantly, it would remove any perceived need for the police to deter victims from receiving mental health support and reassure them that their records are unlikely to be shared.

More than a quarter of child sexual abuse cases did not proceed last year because the victims did not support further action, in many cases because of how upsetting the process is. We must prioritise the wellbeing of victims and survivors and in doing so, help to secure more convictions. I urge the Minister to support new clauses 22 and 25 to create a criminal justice system that puts victims and survivors first, rather than leaving them to feel that they are the ones on trial.

Finally, I will speak briefly to new clause 98, which would create an offence of pet theft. In March, DogLost recorded a 170% increase in dog theft from 2019-20. Pets are more than property; they are part of the family and we place huge emotional value on them. The punishment of this crime must outweigh any potential reward thieves can reap from selling dogs and it must reflect the distress caused to owners.

Photo of Ruth Edwards Ruth Edwards Conservative, Rushcliffe 7:45 pm, 5th July 2021

In our home, pets are not property; they are members of the family. There is Geoffrey the tortoise, whose sole aim in life seems to be to find the most obscure and inaccessible corner of the room to sit in for the day. The back of the fireplace is his perennial favourite, and crawling in there to retrieve him has become an evening ritual in our house. We then have Florence, Vera and Coco. They are alpacas, although someone who happened to wander into their paddock with a handful of carrots could be forgiven for thinking they were dealing with a shoal of piranhas. Then there is the newest member, Sergeant Wilson the donkey, whose mission is to eat the world—even if it does involve getting his head stuck in the fence while trying to reach for the raspberry canes.

Many of my constituents have been in touch with me to express their concerns about pet theft over the pandemic, so I started a Rushcliffe pet theft survey to listen to people’s views: 96% of people told me that they were worried about pet theft; 30% said that they had been, or knew someone who had been personally affected by it; and 90% have taken extra precautions to ensure that their pet is not stolen. There was varying support for different measures to help to tackle pet theft: 44% wanted tougher sentences; 22% wanted to create a separate offence; 17% wanted more regulation on pet selling; and 15% wanted more support from the police. So I am pleased that the pet theft taskforce will be addressing all those points and considering the issue in its entirety, including causes, prevention, reporting, enforcement and prosecution.

There are a number of fundamental issues to think through. Should we be thinking of pet theft as theft at all, or is it close to abduction? So many contributions here tonight have talked about pets as members of the family. What about the animal cruelty element? At present, if someone causes an animal to suffer in the course of stealing it from the owner, they can be prosecuted under the Animal Welfare Act 2006. But are not all acts of wrenching a pet away from the family who love and care for it an act of animal cruelty? What about sentencing? We already have a maximum term of seven years, yet it rarely seems to be used in the case of pet theft.

So I welcome the opportunity to debate these issues tonight, and I thank my right hon. Friend Sir Iain Duncan Smith and other right hon. and hon. Members for the amendments they have tabled that have enabled us to discuss the matter. I will not be supporting any at this stage because I think we need to see the result of the pet theft taskforce first, so that we have the data that we need to make the best decisions and ensure that we have strongest tools we need to deal with the people who want to steal our pets. I look forward to seeing the results in a couple of weeks’ time and to Ministers taking strong action to implement the taskforce’s recommendations in this Bill in the autumn. We owe it to our pets to make sure that we get this right.

Photo of Ben Bradshaw Ben Bradshaw Labour, Exeter

I wish to speak to new clauses 20 and 21 in my name, which refer to specific penalties for two road crimes.

Every year in this country, 1,700 people are killed and 26,000 seriously injured on our roads. It is the biggest killer of young people between the ages of five and 29 and there has been a feeling not just in this House, but particularly among the families of road crime victims that the penalties for road traffic offences often do not fit the crimes and that road crime is not treated like real crime.

The Government promised a full review of road traffic offences and penalties in 2014, but that has yet to happen. The Bill introduces small but welcome changes to the maximum sentence for causing death by dangerous driving and a new offence of causing injury by careless driving, but it leaves a number of serious flaws in our traffic laws in place and my amendments would address two of the most glaring ones.

First, on the failure to stop and report an accident—more commonly known as hit and run—for which the maximum sentence is currently only six months, just one of the many cases raised by road safety and motoring organisations to Members of this House was that of the Cornish postman Ryan Saltern. He was killed by a hit-and-run driver, who received just a four-month sentence and a 12-month driving ban. My new clause 20 proposes a maximum sentence of 14 years where a driver fails to stop and exchange details or report the collision to the police in cases where they knew, or ought reasonably to have known, that a serious or fatal injury had occurred, or might have occurred.

New clause 21 addresses the issue of exceptional hardship. This is a plea that road criminals can often make to avoid losing their licence. From 2011 to 2020, there were 83,581 cases where drivers were let off a driving ban by pleading exceptional hardship. When Christopher Gard hit and killed cyclist Lee Martin in 2015, it was the ninth time in six years that he had been caught using a mobile phone while driving. He had been convicted and fined six times and sent on two driver retraining courses. He should have been disqualified, but magistrates had repeatedly accepted his plea that a ban would cause him exceptional hardship. He kept his licence, and Lee Martin was killed.

Courts have accepted a range of problems, such as not being able to do the school run or damage to a relationship, as exceptional, and as a plea against disqualification that has brought this cause into disrepute. My new clause requires that a court should regard hardship as exceptional if, and only if, it is significantly greater than the hardship that would arise if the same qualification were imposed on a large majority of other drivers. It is vital that the Government fulfil their seven-year promise of a full review of traffic offences. In the meantime, these are two modest improvements to two of the most egregious areas, where most reasonable people agree that all too often, the punishment does not fit the crime. I do not intend to push the amendments to a vote, but I hope the Government will accept them, if not here, then in the other place.

Photo of Selaine Saxby Selaine Saxby Conservative, North Devon

Keeping people safe and secure is a priority for any Government, particularly this one. That is why I am delighted to speak in this important debate. I am fortunate to live in Devon, which enjoys the second lowest crime rate in the country. Crime continues to fall, in no small part thanks to the excellent work of the Devon and Cornwall police, and our excellent police and crime commissioner, Alison Hernandez. However, even in my remote rural constituency, concerns about an increase in pet theft are growing. As a dog owner, indeed a pet lover, I can only imagine the distress of losing my four-legged best friend. This is not the first time I have raised this issue in the House, and I am delighted that the cross-Government pet theft taskforce has been launched, better to understand and tackle the issue.

While crime may be low in Devon and Cornwall, in the past three years there have been 256 reports of dog theft, yet just two people have been charged. I am pleased that the maximum sentence for dog theft is already seven years, but that is no deterrent if no one is prosecuted. Understanding that disjoint is vital, and I hope that the taskforce will come up with a solution to increase prosecution rates and deter further canine crimes. Locally, our police and crime commissioner has highlighted issues regarding how dog thefts are reported. Classing such thefts as merely theft of property is a contributory factor to low prosecution rates, but there are many others. Unfortunately, the taskforce will not report until later this summer, but I am delighted that its policy recommendations may be made in the Lords, before the Bill returns to the Commons, to ensure that it adequately reflects what is truly needed. We are a nation of animal lovers, and it is vital that our animal companions are as safe and secure as their owners.

We are also a nation of shopkeepers. Some of the reports I have heard about the abuse received by retail workers, particularly during the pandemic, are horrifying. It is unacceptable that key workers, who have gone to work throughout the pandemic to ensure that we could access the items we needed, have been treated in this way. I warmly welcome our review into this area, which found that not reporting offences, and wider concerns about how the police handled those reports, were and are important issues that need addressing. I understand that Lords amendments may be considered, if required, to ensure that such offences are treated with the seriousness they rightly deserve.

I support the detailed analysis of such issues by the Ministry of Justice, to ensure that amendments, if needed, are tabled when the data are fully available, rather than being like many of the knee-jerk Opposition amendments, which frequently are poorly thought through, and in many cases seek to reduce sentences for those who commit crimes, rather than ensure that criminals see the justice they deserve.

Photo of Wera Hobhouse Wera Hobhouse Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Justice), Liberal Democrat Shadow Leader of the House of Commons, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Women and Equalities)

The Government say that this Bill will empower the police and courts to take more action against crime. However, much of it continues the failed approach of successive Governments. Legislating for longer and longer custodial sentences without any evidence that they deter people from committing crimes shows ignorance of the real drivers of crime. At its best, the Bill will be ineffective; at its worst, it is an assault on human rights and democracy.

There are some good elements of the Bill. Trauma-informed services, the strengthening of rehabilitation and the police covenant are all things that we Liberal Democrats support, but we argue that there is a need to go even further. It is a great shame that constructive debate about those important measures, which should really be at the centre of the Bill, is undermined by the elements of the Bill that are extremely concerning: serious violence reduction orders, which hand over stop-and-search powers; the increases in mandatory sentences that tie judges’ hands and do not even work to prevent crime; the proposals to criminalise trespass on unauthorised encampments, which discriminate against Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities; and the new restrictions on the right to protest, which are nothing short of an assault on our civil liberties.

However, today I will talk specifically about violence against women and girls, which this Bill does not go far enough to prevent. What it should do—this should be enshrined in the Bill—is make misogyny a hate crime. The awful murder of Sarah Everard resonated so deeply with women across the UK because public sexual harassment remains a daily reality for far too many women. At the moment when women came together to grieve the loss of life and publicly express their solidarity, their protest was silenced.

More than 600,000 women are sexually assaulted each year; only one in six report it to the police. Last year, more than 50,000 women reported being raped; only 1,400 rapists were convicted. That is a far cry from a fair justice system. The Government need to do a lot more.

We need stronger measures to prevent violence against women, and we need a justice system that supports survivors. There needs to be better training and resources for police, prosecutors and judges, so that criminals are punished and survivors get the justice they need. We need to ratify the Istanbul convention so that survivors of rape and sexual abuse are never left to struggle alone, and we must recognise the root causes of violence against women.

In the same way that we recognise homophobic, racial and religious discrimination, making misogyny a hate crime would help us understand how the hatred of women causes harm, it would give our police the tools they need to make our streets safer for women, and it would send a strong message that everyday sexism must and can be stamped out. It is time that this Government showed their support and took violence against women and girls seriously. We should not let this Bill be a missed opportunity to do just that. We should all support new clause 43.

Photo of Tom Randall Tom Randall Conservative, Gedling 8:00 pm, 5th July 2021

I will speak briefly to new clause 98 on pet theft, but let me first say in general terms that I approve of the increased sentences that this Bill will introduce, including extending whole-life orders to premeditated murder of a child, ending the automatic early release of dangerous criminals, and increasing the maximum penalty for criminal damage of a memorial. I think that those measures will be widely welcomed by the public.

On new clause 98 specifically and the other new clauses regarding pet theft, I am very much sympathetic to what they seek to achieve. We have heard warm stories about the companionship that pets bring and the important role that they play in people’s lives. As my right hon. Friend Sir Iain Duncan Smith pointed out, there has been a lot of organised criminality around the reported rise in pet theft, and I have seen videos posted in local community Facebook groups that show groups of suspicious-looking men looking for dogs. Constituents have written to me to say how scared or worried they are when they go out to walk their dog during the day.

As I understand it, we saw the price of some breeds rise by up to 89% in the first lockdown, and Google searches for “buy a puppy” increased by 166% between March and August, after the start of the first lockdown, which may be one of the contributory factors to that increased criminality. I commend Nottinghamshire police for the appointment of Chief Inspector Amy Styles-Jones as a dog theft lead. I think it may be the first police force that has taken that step and it could be a model for others to follow. It will provide some reassurance to the public.

We should remember that pet theft is already an offence under the Theft Act 1968, for which there is a maximum sentence of seven years. As others have pointed out, there are further offences under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 if an animal suffers. If I have understood it correctly, new clause 98, as currently drafted, would introduce a lower sentence not exceeding four years. I am therefore not sure whether that would be progress.

I also believe that legislating now would ignore the work of the pet theft taskforce, which was launched in May. It will try to understand the factors behind the perceived rise in pet theft, recommend measures to tackle that and seek to learn the lessons from related specific thefts, including of mobile phones and metal.

We have heard some powerful arguments for tackling the issue. There is more to be done and primary legislation might well be necessary, but I would first like to see the outcome of the taskforce’s review and, if measures are necessary, for that to be backed up with appropriate sentencing.

Photo of Hywel Williams Hywel Williams Chair, Speaker's Advisory Committee on Works of Art, Shadow PC Spokesperson (International Development), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Defence), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Cabinet Office), Shadow PC Spokesperson (International Trade), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Foreign Affairs), Shadow PC Chief Whip

New clause 19 would require the Government to issue impact assessments on the Bill’s effect on devolved policy and services in Wales. I am grateful for the support of Labour and SNP colleagues. My other amendments would require Welsh ministerial consent for the Secretary of State to exert direct control over devolved areas such as health and education in Wales.

The justice system in Wales is just that—a system. Changes to currently reserved England and Wales matters could have profound policy and cost implications for devolved services in Wales, for example, the Senedd’s powers on substance misuse, mental health, education, social services and more. Section 110A of the Government of Wales Act 2006, as inserted by section 11 of the Wales Act 2017, requires that all Welsh legislation include an assessment of any impact on the reserved justice system. There is no reciprocal requirement.

However, there is a growing divergence between the policies of the Ministry of Justice and those of the Welsh Government. In my view, the current arrangements are neither adequate nor sustainable. Indeed, the Minister told me in Committee:

“I accept that the Welsh Government take a wider view of those provisions that relate to devolved matters. I hope that we will be able to reach a common understanding on these issues, but it may well be that we have to accept that the UK and Welsh Governments have a different understanding of those measures in the Bill that engage the legislative consent process.”

There are sufficient differences to require specific assessments. Indeed, the Bill may well undermine Welsh legislation and policy, for example, the Housing (Wales) Act 2014 and the race equality action plan. A requirement for a Welsh-specific impact assessment could reveal such problems or dispel our concerns, but how will the people of Wales know unless we assess?

In Committee, the Minister also claimed that

“there should be no change to the current arrangements, which serve the people of Wales and England well.”—[Official Report, Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Public Bill Committee, 24 June 2021; c. 807.]

Wales has the highest rate of imprisonment in western Europe. Black people are six times more likely to be imprisoned than their white counterparts. Nearly half of Welsh children who are imprisoned are detained in England, far from their homes. There is a chronic lack of community provision for women. Apparently, that is serving the “people of Wales well”.

Recently, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, formerly the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, led the Commission on Justice in Wales. He concluded:

“Justice should be determined and delivered in Wales so that it aligns with its distinct and developing social, health and education policy and services and the growing body of Welsh law.”

For me, the sensible solution would be, as with Scotland and Northern Ireland, to devolve justice.

However, in the meantime, we need to know the effects in Wales of changes to the law of England and Wales, through proper justice impact assessments.

Photo of Naseem Shah Naseem Shah Shadow Minister (Housing, Communities and Local Government)

I would like to speak to new clause 54 relating to equality impact assessments. Today, I will raise a part of the Bill that, although it has been mentioned, has never been considered in the light of what I am about to say. The proposed legislation will put a maximum 10-year sentence in place for those people who damage or attack statues, inserting into British law a significantly higher penalty for attacking a statue, which begs the question why. Why would a person be given a much more significant penalty for attacking a stone or iron statue compared with damaging a stone wall or an iron gate, especially because in their physical form, they are identical? Neither is alive. They cannot be injured or have their feelings hurt and they are made of the same elements, yet for one, there is much more of a significance. I simply ask why. It is because we recognise that statues symbolise the historical, cultural and social feelings of our nation and thus protecting feelings linked to such sensitivity is essential to preserve civil order. It is because, as the Justice Secretary told the Commons, this Bill ensures that

“our courts have sufficient sentencing powers to punish the emotional harm caused by this type of offending”.—[Official Report, 9 March 2021; Vol. 690, c. 38WS.]

Yes, people can go out and debate, discuss, disagree and even respectfully and vehemently oppose any historical figure, but when they defame or vandalise in a mob-like fashion statues of people like Winston Churchill who mean so much to millions of Britons who hold his efforts during the second world war so close to their hearts, that does threaten the cohesive nature of our nation. We cannot pretend that a western liberal democracy like Britain does not consider feelings when it comes to such situations while at the same time today passing a law through Parliament giving such importance to protecting statues based upon commemorative feelings.

As a Muslim, for me and millions of Muslims across this country and a quarter of the world’s population who are Muslim too, with each day and each breath there is not a single thing in the world that we commemorate and honour more than our beloved Prophet, Mohammed, peace be upon him. But when bigots and racists defame, slander or abuse our Prophet, peace be upon him, just like some people do the likes of Churchill, the emotional harm caused upon our hearts is unbearable, because for 2 billion Muslims, he is the leader we commemorate in our hearts and honour in our lives, and he forms the basis of our identity and our very existence. In fact, the noted playwright George Bernard Shaw said about the Prophet, peace be upon him:

“He was by far the most remarkable man that ever set foot on this earth. He preached a religion, founded a state…laid down a moral code, initiated numerous social and political reforms, established a powerful and dynamic society to practice and represent his teachings and completely revolutionised the worlds of human thought and behaviour for all times to come.”

To those who say it is just a cartoon, I will not say, “It’s only a statue”, because I understand the strength of British feeling when it comes to our history, our culture and our identity. It is not just a cartoon and they are not just statues. They represent, symbolise and mean so much more to us as human beings.

In conclusion, while this law would now protect civil order and emotional harm when it comes to secular and political figures such as Oliver Cromwell and Churchill and does not necessarily put other figures that many people in modern Britain hold close to their hearts, such as Jesus, the Prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him, Moses, Ram, Buddha, Guru Nanak and many others, it does show that we recognise that there is such a thing as emotional harm. Finally, we must ask ourselves: when striking the careful balance to protect such emotional harms, can there and should there be a hierarchy of sentiments?

Photo of Bob Blackman Bob Blackman Conservative, Harrow East

I am pleased to make a contribution on this very long, complex and deeply important Bill. Obviously, the ambition of the Bill is to put communities before crime and the omnibus of reforms in this legislation will undoubtedly make our country a much safer place to live, work and play. I commend my colleagues from the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice for their deep commitment to the safety and security of our citizens.

It is quite right that we are considering extending whole life orders for the premeditated murder of a child as well as ending the automatic early release of dangerous criminals. In fact, by extending that position and increasing the tariff people will serve as their prison sentence, we are more than exceeding many of the principles laid out in the amendments before the House. One of the concerns I have about putting in minimum sentences for particular offences is the risk that the judiciary may interpret those as being not only the minimum, but possibly the guidance for the maximum sentence that should be applied. It is right that violent criminals should be punished and retained in prison for the duration of their sentences. Equally, it is right that if they attack prison warders or any other servant in their prisons, their right to automatic release should end. I think that is vital.

I support my right hon. Friend Sir Iain Duncan Smith on pet theft and the proposals he has made. As he quite rightly said earlier in the debate, the proposals may not be perfect, but quite clearly the position now is that gangs and unscrupulous individuals are robbing people of their pets and subjecting them to misery. That cannot be acceptable in any shape or form, and we must have legislation on the statute book. I realise we are going to have the output from the pet theft taskforce, but I trust that my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State, in his reply, will assure us that the Government will produce a suitable amendment in the House of Lords before the Bill returns to the Commons for consideration of the various amendments.

It is quite clear that we have to protect the people who serve us in the public sector. When we are talking about violence against women, it is absolutely right that we protect women who have been raped, and not only give them the opportunity to have their day in court, but ensure that perpetrators of rape are brought to justice and imprisoned for a considerable length of time. I am concerned that the proposals from the Opposition appear potentially to water down the requirements for rape sentences to fit the crime, and I trust that we will resist those, particularly when we deal with the amendments at the end.

I have already mentioned my concern about attacks on retail workers. I trust that, in the Lords, we will look at suitable amendments to assist retail workers and make sure they are being protected. I realise that is not in this group of amendments, but I do think the commitments made by the Government need to be honoured when we get to the House of Lords and in considering the Bill further.

I support strongly the aim of this Bill, and I trust that it will make our country safer and more secure for every individual who obeys the law in this country.

Photo of Eleanor Laing Eleanor Laing Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means, Chair, Standing Orders (Private Bills) Committee (Commons), Chair, Standing Orders (Private Bills) Committee (Commons) 8:15 pm, 5th July 2021

With apologies to Claudia Webbe, who is about to speak, I am afraid that I have to reduce the time limit to three minutes. I will be a little lenient with the hon. Member, but it will certainly be three minutes after her. I call Claudia Webbe.

Photo of Claudia Webbe Claudia Webbe Independent, Leicester East

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. I am gravely concerned by this legislation, which, frankly, would not look out of place in the world’s most authoritarian regimes. The fact that this legislation could introduce, for damaging a statue, a sentence that is twice the length of that for sexual assault reveals how utterly unserious this Government are about tackling gendered violence.

The legislation will have a disproportionate effect on African, African-Caribbean, Asian and minority ethnic communities. We know that black people already disproportionately suffer from police use of force in the UK, are more likely to be charged and are over-represented in the prison population. Human rights group Liberty has expressed concern about the provision to widen stop-and-search powers because they are used against communities of colour, especially black men, at staggeringly disproportionate rates. According to Roma rights group Friends of Romano Lav, the legislation will also have a devastating effect on Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities. This Bill therefore threatens to severely exacerbate an already unequal two-tier justice system in which UK residents are treated differently because of their background or the colour of their skin.

It is for that and many other equality reasons that I tabled new clause 54, which would introduce a statutory requirement for the equality impact analysis that is currently missing from the Bill. That would compel the Secretary of State to review the equality impact of the Bill and publish a full report to the House of Commons within six months. The review would include racial and ethnic disparities, income inequality, gender inequities, people with protected characteristics, public sector equality and regional inequality.

Given existing legislation, it is shocking that the Government do not already feel compelled to produce such a report. An equality impact analysis would ensure that it was not possible to ignore the severe inequalities in how the criminal justice system treats different groups of UK residents, and that would lay the groundwork for a fairer and more equitable criminal justice system. It is especially alarming that the Bill gives even more powers to the police to crack down on peaceful protests. Organised peaceful resistance is a force for change and deserving of our full support.

I sincerely hope that new clause 54, as well as all the amendments and new clauses I have highlighted and the many others that there has not been time to mention, will be adopted to curtail this deeply concerning, authoritarian Bill. I will end with this, Madam Deputy Speaker: if the Bill cannot be made considerably more equal, more transparent and more respectful of our democratic rights, it must not be brought into law. If it passes into law unchanged, I fear for the future of our civic life.

Photo of Jackie Doyle-Price Jackie Doyle-Price Conservative, Thurrock

I am very pleased to speak to new clause 18 in the name of Debbie Abrahams, with whom I co-chair the all-party group on women in the penal system. The new clause seeks to amend the Bail Act 1976 so that prisons are not used as the care of last resort for vulnerable people. At present, courts can remand an adult into prison for their own protection without them having been convicted or sentenced, or when a criminal charge they face is unlikely to—or, in some cases, cannot—result in a prison sentence. I am afraid it is quite wrong for prisons to be used for secure protection in that way. If we believe in civil liberties and we believe that vulnerable people require support and not incarceration, the power must be repealed.

I will look for comfort from my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor, who I am sure shares my sentiments and does not wish prison to be used in that way. Some of us might argue that, too often, vulnerable people who have been failed by the state end up in prison in any case. The new clause would repeal the power of criminal courts to remand a defendant in custody for their own protection. That, I would add, is entirely consistent with the direction of travel of Government policy in this area. I can attest to the fact that when I was Minister for mental health, we invested heavily in places of safety so that people undergoing a mental health crisis were not remanded in custody for their own protection. We also had the Mental Health Act review by Sir Simon Wessely, who has explicitly recommended the removal of the power.

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

May I reassure my hon. Friend that we are conducting a review into this issue and will report by the end of the year? I pay tribute to the work she did as a Minister jointly with me on mental health issues. She did a lot, particularly about those in custody, and she has been heard.

Photo of Jackie Doyle-Price Jackie Doyle-Price Conservative, Thurrock

I am grateful for that contribution, but I am like a dog with a bone on this issue, because I do care that we are putting vulnerable people in the wrong place and, by doing so, doing them harm.

There is a real point that I would like to make about this provision. The advice I received from the Howard League is that it is most often used in respect of women with a mental health crisis. I am also advised of a case of a victim of trafficking who was remanded in custody for their own protection. This is another example of women not getting a fair crack of the whip when it comes to criminal justice. It is not really for the criminal justice system to absorb the consequences of failure by other areas of the state. It is up to local authorities to ensure adequate refuge provision for women in a vulnerable position and, of course, the NHS to ensure that there are enough facilities for crises. We have invested in places of safety, and we must make sure we do better on this. As we look at the wide variety of criminal justice issues—we have heard a lot today about violence against women and girls—I make a plea again to my right hon. and learned Friend that we make laws that centre women. When we talk about gender-neutral legislation, that is another way of centring men. Women have a unique set of vulnerabilities because of their biology, and we must make sure we do everything in our law to protect them. We have heard a lot about that in today’s debate. We have had a lot of commitments from the Government to take this more seriously, but I look forward to some positive work, and I know the Government are listening.

Photo of Antony Higginbotham Antony Higginbotham Conservative, Burnley

It is a pleasure to speak in this debate, particularly having served on the Bill Committee. Law and order matters enormously to my constituents, as it probably does to all our constituents. One thing I hear all the time, from not just residents, but the police, is frustration with the sentencing system, because people want a system that puts victims and communities first. They want to see a criminal justice system that works for the law-abiding majority. It continues to concern me and local residents that some of the most violent offenders have been serving only half their sentence, so I strongly welcome clauses 105, 106 and 107, which will result in some of the worst offenders staying in prison for longer—violent offenders and child sex offenders. I also welcome clause 102, which introduces whole-life orders for the premeditated murder of a child. I also agree with my hon. Friend Philip Davies in wanting to see us get to a place eventually where no one is released midway through their sentence, be it halfway, or after two thirds or three quarters; a sentence should mean a sentence.

Given that I am short on time, I wish to cover one other thing that matters enormously to me and to many people across Burnley and Padiham—rape prosecutions. I am talking about new clause 89. We would all agree that rape prosecutions are at an unacceptable level. I have seen cases of constituents being failed by not just the police, but the CPS. However, this is not an issue that legislation alone will fix; it needs a fundamental change in how the police, the CPS and victims’ support all work together to support people who make a complaint —to support victims—and to ensure that we get a successful prosecution. The law needs to be firmly on the side of victims, and for too long it has not been.

Photo of James Daly James Daly Conservative, Bury North

I rise to speak to new clauses 89 and 97. Having spent 16 years in the criminal courts, I speak with some experience of how cases are proceeded with. My right hon. and learned Friend is here as Lord Chancellor and his responsibility is the courts system. So his responsibility is the imposition of appropriate sentencing powers for judges, to reflect public confidence in the justice system and the serious nature of offending. In line with his and his Department’s responsibilities, he has clearly done that. There is an increase in sentences for the most serious sexual offences, as has been outlined by my hon. Friends already, and he must be commended for that. I share the concerns of my hon. Friend Antony Higginbotham on prosecutions, and we have spent a lot of time discussing this, in the Justice Committee and elsewhere. In the past year, 52,000 reported a rape to the police but only 1.6% of those led on to a charge or a summons. That is clearly not acceptable. When we are debating this section of the legislation, we must always remember that the justice system can work only if it is linked up with the police, the Courts Service and the probation service working together. Perhaps sometimes the disjointed nature of ministerial responsibilities for various parts of the system does not help in terms of conviction rates.

Photo of Jess Phillips Jess Phillips Shadow Minister (Home Office)

As somebody who has worked in this joined-up or not so joined-up system, may I ask the hon. Gentleman why he thinks that in the past five years there has been quite such a drop? Does he think it may be not just joined-upness or the lack of it, but a resources issue?

Photo of James Daly James Daly Conservative, Bury North 8:30 pm, 5th July 2021

I am very glad that the hon. Lady raises that issue. When the Director of Public Prosecutions gave evidence to the Justice Committee on 15 June, he was very clear that his predecessors had failed: they had not put in place the policies and actions necessary to increase rape prosecutions. Clearly, that includes the Leader of the Opposition, who I have to say has an inglorious reputation for leadership of the Crown Prosecution Service during that period. I certainly will not accept any lectures from the Labour party concerning—

Photo of James Daly James Daly Conservative, Bury North

No, I will not.

I am rather curious. We have heard comments from Opposition Members that they support heavier sentences and further action being taken, quite rightly, to protect the victims of serious sexual violence, so why in Committee did they vote against what was then clause 106—the clause that will abolish the automatic halfway release for certain serious violent or sexual offenders? We have a Leader of the Opposition with a terrible record of leading the CPS, and we have an Opposition who have recently voted against more serious sentences and more deterrent sentences.

Photo of James Daly James Daly Conservative, Bury North

I have been absolutely amazed by the comments of some Opposition Members that deterrent sentences do not work. The point of the Bill—and the point of the responsibilities that my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor has—is to increase sentences and increase public confidence in the justice system. That is exactly what he is doing.

Photo of James Daly James Daly Conservative, Bury North

No.

I support the Bill. I congratulate my right hon. and learned Friend and thank him for bringing forward legislation to ensure that rapists are not released early in their sentences. That is what the public want, that is what we were elected on a manifesto to deliver, and that is what we are doing.

Photo of Thomas Tugendhat Thomas Tugendhat Chair, Foreign Affairs Committee, Chair, Foreign Affairs Committee

I am delighted to speak in this debate and to speak in favour of new clause 17, which is tabled in my name. I am delighted that many hon. Members on both sides have expressed their support for it.

I will not move the new clause this evening, because I am lucky to have had conversations with the Lord Chancellor, who I am delighted to see is in his place, about the nature of this particular crime. This crime is, I would argue, almost unique in that it is a complete betrayal. It is a complete betrayal because it is not just by a person, but by the parent of a child at its most vulnerable stage. It is a complete betrayal because it is a failure—yes, of those parents, but actually of our entire society—to protect the most vulnerable. It is a complete betrayal because it allows a crime to continue when it should have stopped days before, and in this case days are lifetimes.

I am talking, of course, about the terrible abuse of children like Tony Hudgell—children who, like Tony, are in the early stages of life. They are not able to give evidence to a court, because they are in their 40th or 50th day of life. They could not possibly stand up in a court and give testimony, and they could not possibly point the finger at their abuser, so they find themselves in the invidious position of not being able to get the full weight of the law brought against their aggressor, because they are too young, too innocent, too silent to be able to bring that action.

The Lord Chancellor has spoken to me privately—I hope that he will not mind my raising it publicly—about how we share the same horror of these crimes and these offences, but at the moment the law does not allow the same sentencing. I only ask that in the next few months, before the Bill gets to the Lords and the change comes that we all hope for, he looks at this legislation and realises that there is a small lacuna—a gap—in which the sentencing could be corrected. It does not require a complete redrafting of the law, but a small swish of his pen, as his quill hits the vellum to change the sentences and match them appropriately to the crimes—crimes that would have reached the same sentence had the child been able to point the finger and identify the criminal.

Photo of Jeff Smith Jeff Smith Shadow Minister (Housing, Communities and Local Government)

Other hon. Members have spoken eloquently about some of the amendments and new clauses that I strongly support: to protect shop workers from abuse; to protect people from harassment outside abortion clinics, as has happened in my constituency; and to protect the ability to meaningfully protest. I therefore want to confine my brief remarks to new clause 30, which is in the name of my hon. Friend Stella Creasy. It is the same as a new clause that was tabled in Committee in her name and my own. I do not need to speak for long because she covered the issues very well in her excellent speech.

I want to pay tribute to my constituent Julia Cooper, who first approached me a few months ago to tell me about her experience at Sale Water Park, which is adjacent to my constituency. She had been out with a friend and was breastfeeding her baby when a stranger put on a telephoto lens and started taking photographs of her in the park without permission. She confronted the individual, but he refused to delete the pictures. She complained to the park authorities and then to the police, and was told that there was nothing that they could do. I was shocked for two reasons. First, I was shocked that a stranger would actually take long lens photos of someone breastfeeding without their consent. Secondly, I was equally shocked that the police said that there was nothing in the law that they could do to tackle the issue.

When I raised this issue previously in Women and Equalities questions in the Chamber, the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, Victoria Atkins, said:

“This is unacceptable and we will deal with it.”—[Official Report, 26 May 2021; Vol. 696, c. 364.]

It is therefore disappointing, having raised the issue in Committee and tabling the new clause today, that the Government seem to be kicking this into the long grass with a review by the Law Commission. This is a pretty simple issue that could be dealt with quickly and effectively today through new clause 30. We should accept the new clause, because the number of people who have contacted Julia, other campaigners and my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow are testament to the number of times that this has happened around the country. It is now happening every week.

We ought to be taking action now. We should not be kicking this issue into the long grass. If this new clause is pushed to a vote this evening, and I hope that it may be, I urge hon. Members on both sides of the Chamber to support it. If not, I do hope that the Lords will look at this issue and perhaps bring forward something similar when it is dealt with there. It is shocking and disgraceful behaviour, and we could take action today—now—to stop it.

Photo of Steven Baker Steven Baker Conservative, Wycombe

I want to address new clause 76, which offers the Government an opportunity to save lives. I am sorry that my hon. Friend Philip Davies is not in his place, but I have let him know that I will mention him. On this occasion, he has been a bit soft. I think that is probably the first time that I have said that and it will probably be the last time that I do. The reason that I say it is that in his new clause 76, he proposes increasing the penalty for dangerous driving from two years’ to five years’ imprisonment. I have only had a cursory search and the Justice Secretary will probably correct me if I am wrong, but the problem with my hon. Friend’s suggestion is that the maximum penalty for possession of class A drugs is seven years and for possession of firearms 10 years.

I will touch on this matter briefly, because I am not sure whether it has been through the courts. I had occasion, through very nearly becoming a victim of a dangerous driver evading the police, to have various conversations with police drivers, and they seem to be of the opinion that miscreants know the various penalties for dangerous driving, possession of drugs and the possession of firearms, and they will evade the police and drive at enormous speed simply to make sure that they are not caught with firearms or drugs in the car, so there is a problem with the structure of incentives around dangerous driving. Elsewhere, my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley tabled an amendment relating to a requirement to turn off the engine, but the point is that if police officers seek to stop someone who knows they are in possession of firearms or drugs, which would earn them a sentence greater than that for dangerous driving, then off they might well go. That can be a very dangerous thing indeed. I should not mention the speeds involved, but I know that people will find ways, with very high-performance cars, of outrunning the police.

My suggestion to the Government is to take advantage of this Bill and the section relating to driving offences, inspired by new clause 76, and do something to make sure that an offence is introduced for which the penalty, if someone refuses to stop for the police and then drives in an evasive manner, committing dangerous driving offences, is sufficient to deter even people who might have firearms or class A drugs in the vehicle. I encourage Ministers to consult police officers who drive with that in mind. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to raise this issue with my right hon. Friend the Justice Secretary.

Photo of Kim Johnson Kim Johnson Labour, Liverpool, Riverside

I welcome the Government’s recognition that we are facing a crisis in policing, the criminal justice system and the courts, because even before the pandemic, their austerity cuts over the past decade have brought the justice system to its knees, with the Ministry of Justice losing a quarter of its budget. I support new clauses 89, 97, 28, 31 and 32.

The Government voted against Labour’s proposals to increase minimum sentences for rapists and against toughening sentences for domestic abusers and murderers, but this Bill is full of divisive nonsense such as locking up protesters who cause annoyance or damage statues of slave owners for longer than those who rape women. This should have been a watershed moment to change the criminal justice system so that it works for women, not to try to divide the country.

The Conservatives’ Bill is not tough on crime. It is tough on the freedoms, rights and civil liberties that we all enjoy. The tragic death of Sarah Everard instigated a national demand for action to tackle violence against women. The last thing that the Government should be doing is rushing through poorly thought-out measures to impose disproportionate controls on freedoms of expression and the right to protest. Now is the time to unite the country and put in place long overdue protections for women against unacceptable violence, including action against domestic homicide, rape and street harassment, as well as tackling the misogynistic attitudes that underpin the abuse of women.

Just a few weeks ago, the Prime Minister was forced to apologise to rape victims for the record low conviction and prosecution rates under his watch. That is a stain on our country, and I hope that all Members across the House agree that action must be taken to make it easier for rape victims from the moment they report the crime through to the conclusion of their case and beyond. I urge all Ministers to support Labour’s amendment that would help to make it easier for victims of rape and sexual assault to give evidence.

The Crown court backlog is now at a record high of 60,000 cases. Victims face wait times of up to four years, and many give up before the process has begun because they cannot face the extensive distress and trauma. Nearly 300 courts across England and Wales have been closed during the past decade of Tory rule, and there are 27,000 fewer sitting days than in 2016. According to Citizens Advice, the backlog of individual tribunal cases is likely to reach more than half a million by spring unless swift action is taken and serious funding committed.

The Bill is an opportunity to rebalance the scales of justice to ensure access for ordinary people and to tackle the systemic barriers and record backlog in our creaking and hollowed-out justice system. I call on Members across the House to support the amendments that the Labour party has tabled to help tackle some of the most difficult challenges faced by our criminal justice system.

Photo of Eleanor Laing Eleanor Laing Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means, Chair, Standing Orders (Private Bills) Committee (Commons), Chair, Standing Orders (Private Bills) Committee (Commons)

It is something of a surprise to me that, as a great many people have suddenly removed their names from the list, the Members whom I had hoped to call—the hon. Members for North Norfolk (Duncan Baker) and for Gloucester (Richard Graham)—are not here. [Interruption.] I appreciate the offer of help from Jess Phillips, but we will go straight to the Lord Chancellor.

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

The debate today has been stimulating and thought-provoking as Report stage merits. I would, however, challenge some of the narrative that we have heard from the Labour party, although in many respects we have shared the common goal of trying to reduce the threat and infliction of violence and abuse against women and girls. I think back to what we did with the Domestic Abuse Bill, and I see Jess Phillips in her place. She was a champion of that Bill, and I am grateful to her; I always will be.

Let us just remind ourselves of how far we have come in the past 10 or 11 years. I was delighted to take part in a cross-party campaign to reform the law on stalking, which this Government have further strengthened through increases in maximum sentences. When I look back at the upskirting legislation, I am proud of the work that was led by this Government. We also brought in the offence of coercive control for the first time, to cover a wide range of criminal behaviour committed, in the main, against women and girls. Revenge porn has been outlawed. The rough sex defence has been ended, and we have already acted to end automatic early release for serious violent and sexual offenders. This Bill brings forward further welcome measures to protect the public, to build on our work to better protect women and girls, to increase sentences for the most serious sexual and violent offenders, and to support the police in their vital work in keeping our streets safe.

Photo of Matt Vickers Matt Vickers Conservative, Stockton South 8:45 pm, 5th July 2021

Will my right hon. and learned Friend confirm his commitment to bring forward measures in the Bill to do justice for our retail workers and those who serve the public?

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

I am grateful to my hon. Friend and I look forward to working with him and other colleagues on bringing forward measures that will deal with the need to protect our valiant retail workers, who have given us so much in this pandemic and who serve our country with distinction.

I note that my hon. Friend has been joined by my hon. Friend James Daly, who, in a brief but excellent speech, made the most of his considerable experience as a criminal solicitor. He was right to say that when it comes to the dramatic drop in rape convictions—I readily acknowledge that; I have acknowledged it frankly and fully and set out plans to do something about it—the complexities surrounding the reasons for it are deep. Only those who have spent many years looking at these issues, and those who have experienced the ordeal of the investigative and trial process, can really give the strongest testimony about what needs to be done. Of course we recognise the devastating effect of sexual violence and the lifelong impact that it has on victims and survivors.

I listened with interest to the submissions made by the shadow Secretary of State, Mr Lammy, about new clause 89. I have to say—I will pick him up on this—that he was wrong to say that in clause 100, the Government were introducing minimum sentences for the first time. What we are doing there is tightening up the criterion by which the courts apply minimum sentences for certain repeat offences. The existence of a minimum term for only one offence is, I think, only evidenced in one aspect of the law, relating to the possession of a firearm.

Our concern about the Labour party’s proposals is that they do not reflect the reality of what has been happening with regard to rape sentencing. There has, over the past 10 years, been a welcome increase of 15% in the average length of sentences for rape, with two thirds of offenders now receiving a custodial sentence of over seven years. In fact, the average is nine years and nine and a half months, which reflects the evolution of sentencing guidelines and the welcome changes that have been made. We are working, in the rape review, to ensure that we can drive forward more early guilty pleas so that victims and survivors do not have to go through the ordeal of the trial process.

My genuine concern about Labour’s proposal is that it cuts across a lot of what Labour says needs to be done with the process and a lot of the work that we have set out in our rape review. What we should now be looking at is the number and proportion of prosecutions, and the overall outcome of ensuring that we increase convictions. That has to be the real focus of Government. That is what I have set out in the rape review, and that is what we will drive forward.

I noted with interest amendment 50 about the potential further expansion of the imposition of a whole-life order. We sympathise with the concerns that underpin the amendment, but the risk it poses is that it starts to create further anomalies and issues with regard to the ladder of sentencing that exists under schedule 21. There would be a dramatic difference between the murder of one person with evidence of a sexual assault, which would have a whole-life order starting point, and a murder in the absence of that assault, for which the starting point would be dramatically different at only 15 years. That is the sort of discrepancy that I am sure the Labour party would not want to seek, which is why I have been working to review the whole framework of homicide, and particularly domestic homicide.

It is important that when we seek to change schedule 21 in any way, we do not create further anomalies. Let us not forget that we are talking about starting points, which means that the judge has the discretion to move either up or down according to the evidence in each case.

I have undertaken to look in a broader way at domestic homicide sentencing in particular. In addressing the new clauses set out by the Labour party on a review of sentencing on domestic homicide, I just want to give assurance that, indeed, that work is under way—well under way. We are analysing recent cases to see what effect the current law and guidance are having, including explicitly looking at how cases involving a weapon are sentenced. I will update the House with more details as that progresses. I can also inform the House that I intend to appoint an independent expert to oversee the next stage of the review, which will consider initial findings and then make recommendations, and I will come back to the House and confirm the arrangements.

Photo of Jess Phillips Jess Phillips Shadow Minister (Home Office)

Just by happenstance, I wrote to the Justice Secretary this morning on this exact matter. Could he place in the Library of the House of Commons the terms of reference for the review that he is doing into domestic homicide? I spoke this morning with four of the families whose daughters have been murdered, and they are still without detail on that issue.

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

The hon. Lady would be interested to see the note that I have here—it says, “Remember the families.” I am grateful to her for reminding me of that, and, of course, I will undertake to put a suitably phrased letter in the Library of the House. I hope that assures hon. Members that I am taking the necessary steps. I absolutely recognise the importance of those concerns.

I listened with care to Stella Creasy, who charted her own deeply distressing recent experience of when a photograph was entirely inappropriately taken of her without her consent and in circumstances that all of us would deeply deprecate and deplore. We all want to do something about this, which is why, some time ago, we asked the Law Commission to review the law around the taking, making and sharing of intimate images without consent to identify whether there are gaps in the scope of protection that is already offered to victims.

Importantly, we and the Law Commission are looking at whether recording and sharing images of events such as breastfeeding should be captured as intimate imagery for the purposes of any reformed criminal law. It has completed a public consultation and is developing final recommendations for the Government. It is certainly my intention to act. I want to make sure that the law is resilient and comprehensive and that, when it is drafted, we do not inadvertently create loopholes that people could take advantage of. I gently remind the hon. Lady that the public nuisance reforms are precisely those of the Law Commission, and it is in that tradition of careful consideration that we have already undertaken and started this work.

I am grateful to all hon. Members for their continued dedication to improving the way in which the system handles sexual offences cases, and that dedication is clearly behind the amendments concerning the use of evidence, including section 41 of the Criminal Justice Act 1991. However, we have to remind ourselves that section 41 already provides a very comprehensive prohibition on the defence adducing any evidence or any questions relating to previous sexual behaviour. The hon. Lady is right to refer to our undertaking in the rape review action plan to ask the Law Commission to examine the law, guidance and practice relating to the use of evidence in prosecutions. The Law Commission will be very happy to meet Ms Harman about her concerns to take on board the proper observations she makes. Let us not forget that the wider issue about rape myths will also be part of its work.

On the issue of penalties for those who disclose the identity of anonymous complainants, I think we can go one better. There are a number of other offences—modern-day slavery and female genital mutilation come to mind—where anonymity is a legal requirement. When we redraft the legislation, it is essential that we cover all offences where anonymity is a requirement and also assess the interplay between the criminal offence and contempt of court. As a Law Officer, I police that particular divide regularly. Clearly, the Law Officers already have the power to pursue wrongdoers for contempt of court where serious wrongdoing has been evidenced. I am grateful that my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General has invited the Law Commission to undertake a thorough review of the law in this area with a view to strengthening it so as to meet the ambitions of all of us in this House.

I am grateful, as ever, to Sarah Champion for her steadfast and consistent work in the support of victims. We already, through the victims code, have a number of entitlements relating to parole. A root-and-branch review of the Parole Board is ongoing. The observations and concerns that she has outlined are being fully embraced by that, and further work will be done on victims law.

On pet theft, it is vital that the underlying seriousness of this type of criminality is fully reflected by the law. That is why, since its launch on 8 May, the pet theft taskforce has been working to look at the wider issues. I am grateful to my right hon. Friend Sir Iain Duncan Smith for his work on this. As a pet owner myself, I understand the depth of feeling that exists. I am able to say in the strongest terms that we will act to drive out this pernicious crime. His new clauses address some of the issues at the heart of where we will take action. I give him, and others, the assurance that it is our intention to make any necessary changes to this Bill in the Lords before it returns to the Commons once we have finalised the detail of exactly what is needed, using a range of powers, including primary legislation. The effect of these changes will, I believe, help to achieve what he and other hon. and right hon. Members are seeking to achieve today.

On road traffic, I pay tribute to my hon. Friends the Members for North Cornwall (Scott Mann) and for Truro and Falmouth (Cherilyn Mackrory), who are working hard to raise awareness about these important issues. I can assure them, and Mr Bradshaw, that my ministerial colleagues at the Department for Transport are working to explore options with my officials about how these offences will work in the wider context. I take on board the point made by my hon. Friend Mr Baker about the particular context in which people seek to evade the law and evade responsibility. While we have the common law offence of perverting the course of justice available, more work needs to be done to identify that class of driver who manipulates the system and evades responsibility in a way that clearly outrages the community and offends the wider public.

On the matters raised by my hon. Friend Tom Tugendhat, we both share a passion for the issue, and I have been proud to spearhead reforms on child cruelty in the past. I will work with him and, as he knows, we are looking at the issue more widely. Indeed, we hope to bring concrete reform forward as soon as possible.

As time reaches the witching hour, I simply say that tonight is an opportunity for hon. Members to unite in common cause to strengthen the fight against crime and to make our communities safer. The opportunity is there. The gauntlet is laid down to Labour Members. I ask them to take it up.

Photo of Harriet Harman Harriet Harman Chair, Human Rights (Joint Committee), Chair, Human Rights (Joint Committee)

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the clause.

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

Proceedings interrupted (Programme Order, this day).

The Deputy Speaker put forthwith the Questions necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded at that time (Standing Order No. 83E).