New Clause 98 - Offence of pet theft

Part of Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill – in the House of Commons at 9:33 pm on 5th July 2021.

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Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel The Secretary of State for the Home Department 9:33 pm, 5th July 2021

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

The Bill delivers on our promise to the British people to keep them safe. It backs our police with improved powers and more support for officers and their families in recognition of the unique and enormous sacrifices that they make. It introduces tougher sentences for the worst offenders and modernises the criminal justice system with an overhaul of the courts and tribunal processes.

The long-overdue police covenant represents our promise to the police and their families that we will do everything we can to honour and support them. That includes much more support for their health and wellbeing. As the House knows, the Bill requires the Home Secretary to report annually to Parliament on the covenant, and this will now cover the whole policing family.

We rely on the police for our public safety and protection. We have relied on them more than usual during the covid pandemic to enforce new laws and, of course, to keep us safe. The overwhelming majority of the country has responded with profound gratitude, but a thuggish minority has responded with abuse and violence. In the year from December 2019 to 2020, there was a big increase in assaults on police officers. Assaults on constables without injury increased by 21%—just over 25,000. Assaults on constables with injury went up by 2%, but that is still over 11,000 cases. It is despicable and it cannot and should not be tolerated, so the Bill doubles the maximum penalty for assaulting emergency workers, including those heroic NHS workers, to two years. Serious violence reduction orders will also give the police targeted stop-and-search powers for convicted knife and weapon carriers.

The police will be able to take a more proactive approach to managing protests. That is not about stifling freedom of expression. The right to protest peacefully is a cornerstone of our democracy, but there is a balance to be struck between the rights of the protester and the rights of others to go about their daily lives. The current legislation that the police use to manage protests, the Public Order Act 1986, was enacted over 30 years ago. Tactics such as blocking emergency vehicles, gluing oneself to a train, blocking airport runways and preventing the distribution of newspapers are unacceptable and illegitimate. They will be treated as such. By attempting to strike out those clauses, Labour has proved that it is on the side of the disruptive minority and not the hard-working majority.

Victims and witnesses need to know that they are safe, and of course the Bill reforms the pre-charge bail regime, which will bring much-needed reassurance, including in high-harm cases such as domestic abuse. People convicted of serious crimes will receive tougher sentences and spend longer in prison. Automatic halfway release from prison will end for another cohort of serious sexual and violent offenders. A whole life tariff order will be the starting point for the premediated murder of a child. The Government’s comprehensive rape review is soon to be followed by a comprehensive strategy to tackle violence against women and girls, and domestic abuse. These problems are complex and widespread, so we need to do much more to combat them. The Bill strengthens the management of sex offenders by, for example, enabling the courts to impose electronic monitoring requirements and behavioural change courses. There are new powers to manage terrorism risk offenders.

The Bill provides more agile and appropriate management of children in the justice system—something that we should never overlook—so that judges and magistrates can make decisions in the best interest of the child and the public. Secure schools will be trialled with a focus on excellent education, wellbeing and purposeful activity.

Because of covid, temporary provisions were made to allow people to participate in and follow court proceedings by video and audio technology. Those have worked well and will be made permanent. We will also make the courts more accessible for people with disabilities.

Our first responsibility as a Government is to keep the public safe. The vital provisions in the Bill will strengthen public safety and update the law. They will mean that the police can manage new and emerging threats and that the criminal justice system works for the British people, keeping our citizens and our communities safe.

As we prepare to vote, I urge Labour Members to ask themselves whose side they are on. The public whom they serve will notice. The measures are emphatically on the side of the police and the law-abiding majority of the British people, and I commend the Bill to the House.