New Clause 98 - Offence of pet theft

Part of Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill – in the House of Commons at 9:46 pm on 5th July 2021.

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Photo of Bob Neill Bob Neill Chair, Justice Committee, Chair, Justice Committee 9:46 pm, 5th July 2021

This is an important Bill, and this debate is a reminder that an effective criminal justice system is all about balance—balance between the individual and the state, between the victim and the accused, and between the need to protect society with condign punishment where necessary and the duty to rehabilitate those who can genuinely turn their lives around. Despite some mischaracterisation, the Bill does achieve that.

Perhaps the Bill is also a reminder that an effective criminal justice system requires a holistic and calm approach that lasts beyond the lifetime of any one Parliament. We need to fund the system right the way through, ensuring that the police have enough funding and powers to do their job, that the courts have enough resource, powers and flexibility to achieve justice in a way that is credible and consistent, as our judges invariably endeavour to do, and that the Prison and Probation Service has the resources not only to keep dangerous people safe, but to support those who wish to make a better life for themselves having paid their debt to society. All three are important.

Not all reform necessarily requires primary legislation. Much of the objectives that have been talked about in this debate can be achieved through other means, such as policy initiatives and better use of laws we already have—I can think of several that have been touched on in this debate—and better use of the sentencing powers that already exist, which with support our judiciary is prepared to do. That is why the work of the Sentencing Council is so important. It is worth reminding right hon. and hon. Members that, on the House’s behalf, the Justice Committee is a statutory consultee in the work of the Sentencing Council, something which we take incredibly seriously. There is a power for elected representatives here to have an input into the process, and we ought to make full and proper use of it. The Committee is determined to do so.

I have a final word about the importance of the Law Commission, which has been mentioned much today. The Lord Chancellor has been firm in his support for it, and it is critical that the Law Commission continues to be properly and fully resourced. Its budgets are not large, and there has been no attempt to reduce them under the current Administration. There was once an ill-advised attempt to do so, but I am sure that there will not be another. We must ensure that the Law Commission continues to have the resources so that we have an objective, independent, authoritative voice to guide us in reforming desperately important elements of our law, criminal and civil, which will have a bearing on society beyond the lifetime of this Parliament and many more besides. The Law Commission’s long-term approach is vital, too, and I commend it to the House.