New Clause 86 - Creating purported sexual image of adult

Criminal Justice Bill – in the House of Commons at 1:25 pm on 15 May 2024.

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‘(1) In the Sexual Offences Act 2003, after section 66AC (inserted by Schedule 2 to

this Act) insert—

“66AD Creating purported sexual image of adult

(1) A person (A) commits an offence if—

(a) A intentionally creates a purported sexual image of another person (B),

(b) A does so with the intention of causing B alarm, distress or humiliation, and

(c) B does not consent to the creation of the purported sexual image.

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

(a) A intentionally creates a purported sexual image of another person (B),

(b) A does so for the purpose of A or another person obtaining sexual gratification,

(c) B does not consent to the creation of the purported sexual image, and

(d) A does not reasonably believe that B consents.

(3) “Purported sexual image” of a person means an image which—

(a) appears to be or include a photograph or film of the person (but is not, or is not only, a photograph or film of the person),

(b) appears to be of an adult, and

(c) appears to show—

(i) the person participating or engaging in a sexual act which is not of a kind ordinarily done in public,

(ii) the person doing a sexual thing which is not of a kind ordinarily done in public,

(iii) all or part of the person’s exposed genitals or anus, or

(iv) all or part of the person’s exposed breasts, except where what appears to be shown is something of a kind ordinarily seen in public.

(4) In this section, a reference to creating a purported sexual image of a person does not include doing so by modifying a photograph or film of the person where what is created by the modification is an image which—

(a) appears to show the person, and

(b) does not appear to show something within subsection (3)(c)(i) to (iv) which, or a person who, is not shown in the photograph or film.

(5) A person who commits an offence under this section is liable on summary conviction to a fine.

66AE Creating purported sexual image of adult: definitions etc

(1) This section applies for the purposes of section 66AD.

(2) “Consent” to the creation of a purported sexual image includes general consent covering the particular act of creation as well as specific consent to that particular act.

(3) Whether a belief is “reasonable” is to be determined having regard to all the circumstances, including any steps A has taken to ascertain whether B consents.

(4) A reference to an “image”, “photograph” or “film” includes data stored by any means which is capable of conversion into an image, photograph or film.

(5) An image of a person appears to be an image of an adult if—

(a) the impression conveyed by the image is that the person shown is aged 18 or over, or

(b) the predominant impression conveyed by the image is that the person shown is aged 18 or over (even if some of the physical characteristics shown are those of a person under 18).

(6) An act or thing is “sexual” if a reasonable person would, in all the circumstances but regardless of any person’s purpose, consider it to be sexual.”

(2) In section 79(5) of that Act (meaning of references to image of a person) after

“a person” insert “(except in sections 66AD and 66AE)”.’—(Laura Farris.)

This new clause creates an offence of creating a purported sexual image of an adult, without consent.

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means, Deputy Speaker

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Government new clause 62—Sexual activity with a corpse.

Government new clause 87—Manslaughter: sexual conduct aggravating factor.

Government new clause 88—Length of terrorism sentence with fixed licence period: Northern Ireland.

Government new clause 89—Reviews of sentencing: time limits.

Government new clause 94—Cuckooing.

Government new clause 95—Cuckooing: interpretation.

Government new clause 103—Restricting parental responsibility when sentencing for rape of a child.

Government new clause 104—Report on duty to make prohibited steps orders and power to repeal.

New clause 2—Removal of parental responsibility for men convicted of sexual offences against children—

‘(1) After section 2 (parental responsibility for children) of the Children Act 1989, insert—

“2A Prisoners: suspension of parental responsibility

(1) This section applies where—

(a) a person (“A”) has been found guilty of a serious sexual offence involving or relating to a child or children; and

(b) A had parental responsibility for a child or children at the time at which the offence was committed.

(2) A ceases to have parental responsibility for all children, for a time specified by the sentencing court or until an application by A to the family court to reinstate parental responsibility has been approved.”’

New clause 7—Occupation or control of another person’s residence for criminal purposes “Cuckooing”—

“(1) A person commits an offence if the person occupies or exercises control over the home of another person (V) in connection with the commission of a criminal offence or offences using any of the following methods—

(a) the threat or use of force or other coercive behaviour;

(b) abduction, kidnap or false imprisonment;

(c) fraud or other deception;

(d) the abuse of power or a position of vulnerability;

(e) the giving of payments or other benefits to achieve the consent of a person who has control over V.

(2) A person also commits an offence under this section if the person arranges or facilitates the activity set out in subsection (1).

(3) A person who commits an offence under this section is liable—

(a) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding seven years,

(b) on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding the general limit in a magistrates’ court or a fine (or both).”

This new clause makes it an offence to exercise control over another person’s residence for the purpose of criminal activity by means of coercion, threats or abuse of a position of vulnerability.

New clause 8—Offence of enabling or profiting from prostitution—

“(1) A person or body corporate (C) commits an offence if they—

(a) facilitate, whether online or offline, or

(b) gain financially from a person (A) engaging in sexual activity with another person (B) in exchange for payment or other benefit, or the promise of payment or other benefit, and the conditions in subsection (2) are met.

(2) The conditions are—

(a) that C knows or ought to know that A is engaging in, or intends to engage in, sexual activity for payment or other benefit; and

(b) that C is not a dependent child of A.

(3) For the purposes of this section—

(a) “Sexual activity”—

(i) means any acts which a reasonable person would, in all the circumstances but regardless of any person’s purpose, consider to be sexual,

(ii) requires A and B to be in each other’s presence,

(b) “Facilitates” includes, but is not limited to, causing or allowing to be displayed or published, including digitally, any advertisement in respect of sexual activity involving A.

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

(a) on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum or both;

(b) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years.”

This new clause would make it an offence to facilitate or profit from the prostitution of another person.

New clause 9—One-punch manslaughter—

“(1) A person (P) is guilty of an offence where they cause the death of another person (B) as a result of a single punch in the circumstances described in subsection (2).

(2) The circumstances referred to in subsection (1) are—

(a) P administered a single punch to the head or neck of B;

(b) there was significant risk that the punch would cause serious physical harm to B;

(c) P was or ought to have been aware of the risk mentioned in paragraph (b);

(d) P did not administer the punch referred to in paragraph (a) in self-defence; and

(e) B’s death was caused by—

(i) the impact of the punch, or

(ii) further impact or injury resulting from the single punch.

(3) In this section “serious physical harm” means harm that amounts to death or serious personal injury for the purposes of the Offences against the Person Act 1861.

(4) A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for a minimum of seven years.”

This new clause is intended to create a specific offence of “One Punch Manslaughter”, with a minimum sentence of seven years.

New clause 12—Controlling or coercive behaviour by persons providing psychotherapy or counselling services—

“(1) A person (“A”) commits an offence if—

(a) A is a person providing or purporting to provide psychotherapy or counselling services to another person (“B”),

(b) A repeatedly or continuously engages in behaviour towards B that is controlling or coercive,

(c) the behaviour has a serious effect on B, and

(d) A knows or ought to know that the behaviour will or may have a serious effect on B.

(2) A’s behaviour has a “serious effect” on B if—

(a) it causes B to fear, on at least two occasions, that violence will be used against B, or

(b) it causes B psychological harm which has a substantial adverse effect on B's usual day-to-day activities.

(3) For the purposes of subsection (1)(d) A “ought to know” that which a reasonable person in possession of the same information would know.

(4) In proceedings for an offence under this section it is a defence for A to show that—

(a) in engaging in the behaviour in question, A believed that he or she was acting in B’s best interests, and

(b) the behaviour was in all the circumstances reasonable.

(5) A defence under subsection (4) requires A to have shown—

(a) sufficient evidence of the facts, and

(b) that the contrary is not proved beyond reasonable doubt.

(6) The defence in subsection (4) is not available to A in relation to behaviour that causes B to fear that violence will be used against B.

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

(a) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years, or a fine, or both;

(b) on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months, or a fine, or both.”

New clause 16—Amendments to the Road Traffic Act 1988

“(1) The Road Traffic Act 1988 is amended as follows.

(2) In each of the sections listed below, after “a road or other public place” insert “, or a private place adjacent to a road,”— section 1 (causing death by dangerous driving); section 1A (causing serious injury by dangerous driving); section 2 (dangerous driving); section 2B (causing death by careless, or inconsiderate, driving); section 2C (causing serious injury by careless, or inconsiderate, driving); section 3 (careless, and inconsiderate, driving).”

This new clause would extend the Road Traffic Act 1988 so that a range of driving offences can be committed in private places adjacent to roads as well as on public roads or in public places.

New clause 18—Definition of unauthorised access to computer programs or data—

“In section 17 of the Computer Misuse Act 1990, at the end of subsection (5) insert—

“(c) he does not reasonably believe that the person entitled to control access of the kind in question to the program or data would have consented to that access if he had known about the access and the circumstances of it, including the reasons for seeking it;

(d) he is not empowered by an enactment, by a rule of law, or by the order of a court or tribunal to access of the kind in question to the program or data.””

New clause 19—Defences to charges under the Computer Misuse Act 1990—

“(1) The Computer Misuse Act 1990 is amended as follows.

(2) In section 1, after subsection (2) insert—

“(2A) It is a defence to a charge under subsection (1) to prove that—

(a) the person’s actions were necessary for the detection or prevention of crime; or

(b) the person’s actions were justified as being in the public interest.”

(3) In section 3, after subsection (5) insert—

“(5A) It is a defence to a charge under subsection (1) to prove that—

(a) the person’s actions were necessary for the detection or prevention of crime; or

(b) the person’s actions were justified as being in the public interest.””

New clause 24—Definition of exceptional hardship—

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

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

(4B) In assessing whether the hardship arising from the offender’s disqualification would be exceptional a court may take account of—

(a) any circumstances relating to the offender’s economic circumstances or location of residence which would make it exceptionally hard for them to access essential services and facilities;

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

(c) any other circumstances which it believes would make the hardship exceptional.””

New clause 25—Offence of possession of guidance on creating child sexual abuse content—

“(1) Section 69 (Possession of paedophile manual) of the Serious Crime Act 2015 is amended as follows.

(2) In subsection (1), omit from “to” to the end of the subsection and insert—

“possess, create, share or distribute any item that—

(a) contains advice or guidance about abusing children sexually; or

(b) contains advice or guidance about the creation of content which depicts the sexual abuse of children.”

(3) In subsection (2)(b)(ii), after “sexually” insert—

“or about the creation of content which depicts the sexual abuse of children”

(4) In subsection (8)—

(a) after “sexually”” insert “(or “the sexual abuse of children”),

(b) omit “(but not pseudo-photographs)” and insert “, including pseudo-photographs”,

(c) after second “or Northern Ireland” insert—

““creation of content” includes using any tool to create visual or audio content;”,

(d) at end insert—

““tool” includes, but is not limited to, any computer or other digital technology, program, platform or application, including those which utilise artificial intelligence or machine learning.””

This new clause would expand the existing offence of possessing guides about abusing children sexually to include guides on creating child sexual abuse content, including through the use of artificial intelligence or machine learning.

New clause 26—Offence of simulating sexual communication with a child—

“(1) A person commits an offence if they—

(a) use;

(b) design;

(c) distribute; or

(d) provide access to a tool to simulate sexual communication with a person under 16.

(2) For the purposes of this section—

(a) a communication is sexual if—

(i) any part of it relates to sexual activity, or

(ii) a reasonable person would, in all the circumstances but regardless of any person's purpose, consider any part of the communication to be sexual,

(b) “tool” includes, but is not limited to, any computer or other digital technology, program, platform or application, including those which utilise artificial intelligence or machine learning.

(3) A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable to the same penalties as apply to an offence committed under section 15A of the Sexual Offences Act 2003.”

This new clause would create an offence of using, creating or sharing online or digital tools which simulate sexual communication with a child.

New clause 28—Complicity in joint enterprise cases—

“In section 8 (abettors in misdemeanours) of the Accessories and Abettors Act 1861, after “shall” insert “, by making a significant contribution to its commission,”.”

This new clause would clarify the definition of “joint enterprise” (or secondary liability), so that an individual must make a “significant contribution” to an offence committed by another to be criminally liable.

New clause 29—Human trafficking—

“(1) Section 2 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 is amended as follows.

(2) In subsection (1), for “arranges or facilitates the travel of” substitute “recruits, transports, transfers, harbours or receives through force, coercion, fraud, deception, the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability, or the giving or receiving of payments or benefits”.

(3) In subsection (2), for “travel” substitute “matters mentioned in subsection (1) or to V being exploited”.

(4) Omit subsections (3) to (5).

(5) In paragraph (6)(a), for “arranging or facilitating takes” substitute “matters mentioned in subsection (1) take”.

(6) Omit paragraph (6)(b).

(7) In paragraph (7)(a), for “arranging or facilitating takes” substitute “matters mentioned in subsection (1) take”.

(8) In paragraph (7)(b), for the first “the” substitute “any”.”

This new clause brings the definition of human trafficking in the Modern Slavery Act 2015 in line with the UN definition, particularly removing the requirement for exploitation to have involved travel.

New clause 32—Aggravated offences: hostility towards transgender identity, sexual orientation and disability—

“(1) The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 is amended as follows.

(2) For the first cross-heading under Part II, substitute “Offences aggravated on the grounds of race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or transgender identity: England and Wales”.

(3) In section 28—

(a) for the heading, substitute “Meaning of “aggravated on the grounds of race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or transgender identity””;

(b) in subsection (1), omit “racially or religiously aggravated” and insert “aggravated on the grounds of race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or transgender identity”;

(c) in subsection (1)(a), omit from “based on” to the end of sub-subsection (a) and insert—

(i) the victim’s membership (or presumed membership) of a racial group;

(ii) the victim’s membership (or presumed membership) of a religious group;

(iii) a disability (or presumed disability) of the victim;

(iv) the sexual orientation (or presumed sexual orientation) of the victim; or

(v) the victim being (or being presumed to be) transgender, or”;

(d) in subsection (1)(b), omit from “hostility towards” to the end of sub-subsection (b) and insert—

(i) members of a racial group based on their membership of that group;

(ii) members of a religious group based on their membership of that group;

(iii) persons who have a disability or a particular disability;

(iv) persons who are of a particular sexual orientation; or

(v) persons who are transgender.”;

(e) in subsection (2), in the definition of “membership” leave out “racial or religious” and insert “relevant”.

(4) In section 29—

(a) for the heading, substitute “Assaults aggravated on grounds of race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or transgender identity”;

(b) in subsection (1), omit “racially or religiously aggravated” and insert “aggravated on the grounds of race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or transgender identity”.

(5) In section 30—

(a) for the heading, substitute “Criminal damage aggravated on the grounds of race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or transgender identity”;

(b) in subsection (1), omit “racially or religiously aggravated” and insert “aggravated on the grounds of race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or transgender identity”.

(6) In section 31—

(a) for the heading, substitute “Public order offences aggravated on the grounds of race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or transgender identity”;

(b) in subsection (1), omit “racially or religiously aggravated” and insert “aggravated on the grounds of race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or transgender identity”.

(7) In section 32—

(a) for the heading, substitute “Harassment etc aggravated on the grounds of race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or transgender identity”;

(b) in subsection (1), omit “racially or religiously aggravated” and insert “aggravated on the grounds of race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or transgender identity”.”

This new clause would include offences motivated by hostility towards an individual’s disability status, sexual orientation or transgender identity (or perception thereof) in those which are aggravated under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998.

New clause 33—Taking of dog without lawful authority—

“(1) A person commits an offence if, without lawful authority or reasonable excuse, the person takes or detains a dog in England—

(a) so as to remove it from the lawful control of any person, or

(b) so as to keep it from the lawful control of a person who is entitled to have lawful control of it.

(2) No offence is committed if the person taking or detaining the dog is connected with any of the following—

(a) any person entitled to have lawful control of it;

(b) where it is removed from the lawful control of a person, that person.

(3) A person who commits an offence under this section is liable—

(a) on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding the maximum summary term for either-way offences or a fine (or both);

(b) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years or a fine (or both).

(4) In this section—

“connected person” : a person is connected with another person if—

(a) they are married to each other,

(b) they are civil partners of each other,

(c) one is the parent of the other, or

(d) they are siblings (whether of the full blood or the half blood);

“detaining” : references to a person detaining a dog include the person—

(a) inducing it to remain with the person or anyone else, or

(b) causing it to be detained;

“maximum summary term for either-way offences” , with reference to imprisonment for an offence, means—

(a) if the offence is committed before the time when paragraph 24(2) of Schedule 22 to the Sentencing Act 2020 comes into force, 6 months;

(b) if the offence is committed after that time, 12 months;

“taking” : references to a person taking a dog include the person—

(a) causing or inducing it to accompany the person or anyone else, or

(b) causing it to be taken.”

This new clause makes provision for the creation of an offence of taking a dog from the lawful control of another person.

New clause 35—Offence of failing to remain at the scene of a traffic collision—

“In section 170 of the Road Traffic Act 1988, after subsection (4) insert—

“(4A) A person guilty of an offence under subsection (4) is liable—

(a) if a person other than the driver of the vehicle suffered a fatal injury—

(i) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 14 years;

(b if a person other than the driver of the vehicle suffered a serious non-fatal injury—

(i) on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years or a fine not exceeding £20,000 or both;

(ii) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years;

(c) in any other case—

(i) on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years or a fine not exceeding £20,000 or both;

(ii) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years.””

This new clause would expand the existing offence of failing to stop after a road collision to create more serious penalties for failing to stop after collisions which result in death or serious injury.

New clause 36—Time to report road collision—

“In section 170 of the Road Traffic Act 1988, omit subsection (6) and insert—

“(6) In complying with a duty under this section to report an accident or to produce such a certificate of insurance or other evidence, as is mentioned in section 165(2)(a) of this Act, it is an offence for a driver—

(a) not to do so at a police station or to a constable as soon as is reasonably practicable, and

(b) not to do so within two hours of the occurrence of the accident in relation to reporting an accident, or within twenty-four hours of the occurrence of the accident in relation to the production of a certificate of insurance or other evidence.””

This new clause would amend the Road Traffic Act 1988 to reduce the time within which a driver must report a road collision in which they were involved from twenty-four hours to two hours, and make it an offence not to report an accident.

New clause 38—Senior manager liability for neglect in relation to offences committed by bodies corporate and partnerships—

“(1) Where an organisation commits an offence under section 16, a person (“S”) also commits an offence if—

(a) S was a senior manager of the same body corporate or partnership at the time the offence was committed under section 16; and

(b) S failed to prevent the offence from being committed, or was negligent such that an offence was committed.

(2) It is a defence for S to prove that they took all reasonable steps to prevent the offence being committed.

(3) In this section, “body corporate”, “partnership” and “senior manager” have the meanings given in section 16.

(4) A person who commits an offence under subsection (1) is liable—

(a) on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term of 12 months;

(b) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term of 5 years and an unlimited fine.”

New clause 43—Offence of creating or sharing misleading content—

“(1) A person (“P”) commits an offence if they—

(a) create, using any computer or other digital technology, program, platform or application, including those which utilise artificial intelligence or machine learning; or

(b) share, distribute, or otherwise provide access to, visual or audio content which shows or represents, or appears to show or represent, another person (“R”), where conditions A, B and C are met.

(2) Condition A is that the words, actions, beliefs or behaviours shown or represented in the content have been artificially created or manipulated.

(3) Condition B is that the content has been created or shared for the purposes of—

(a) misleading a person viewing or hearing the content as to R’s real words, actions, beliefs or behaviours;

(b) causing offence, alarm, distress or humiliation to—

(i) R; or

(ii) any other person; or

(c) influencing the voting intention or activity of another person.

(4) Condition C is that R has not consented to the creation or sharing of the content.

(5) A person who commits an offence under subsection (1) is liable—

(a) on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding the general limit in a magistrates’ court or a fine (or both);

(b) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years.”

New clause 44—Sexual exploitation of an adult—

“(1) The Sexual Offences Act 2003 is amended as follows.

(2) Section 52 is amended as follows—

(a) in the title for “Causing or inciting prostitution” substitute “Sexual exploitation”, and

(b) in paragraph (1)(a) for “causes or incites another person to become a prostitute” substitute “sexually exploits another person”.

(3) Section 53 is amended as follows—

(a) in the title for “prostitution” substitute “sexual exploitation”, and

(b) in paragraph (1)(a) for “prostitution” substitute “sexual exploitation”.

(4) Section 54 is amended as follows—

(a) in subsection (2) for “sections 51A, 52, 53 and 53A” substitute “section 53A”, and

(b) at end insert—

“(4) In sections 52 and 53 “sexual exploitation” means conduct by which a person manipulates, deceives, coerces or controls another person to undertake sexual activity.”.”

An amendment to the Sexual Offences Act 2003, specifically in sections 52 and 53, replace “prostitution for gain’” with “sexual exploitation of an adult”.

New clause 45—Loitering and soliciting: repeal—

Section 1 of the Street Offences Act 1959 (loitering or soliciting for purposes of prostitution) is repealed.”

An amendment that repeals soliciting and loitering as an offence.

New clause 46—Power of Secretary of State to disregard convictions or cautions: Loitering or soliciting for purposes of prostitution—

‘(1) Section 92 of the Street Offences Act 1959 is amended as follows.

(2) For subsection (1) substitute—

“(1) A person who has been convicted of, or cautioned for, an offence in circumstances where—

(a) the conduct constituting the offence was sexual activity between persons of the same sex, or

(b) the offence was committed under Section 1 of the Street Offences Act 1959, may apply to the Secretary of State for the conviction or caution to become a disregarded conviction or caution.”

(3) In subsection (2) after first “caution” insert “received in the circumstances set out in subsection (1)(a)”.’

A new clause that allows a process allowing the Secretary of State to disregard convictions and cautions received under section 1 of the Street Offences Act 1959.

New clause 47—Grooming as an aggravating factor—

“(1) After section 72 of the Sentencing Code (supply of psychoactive substance in certain circumstances) insert—

“72A Grooming

(1) This section applies where a court is considering the seriousness of an offence which is aggravated by grooming.

(2) The court—

(a) must treat the fact that the offence is aggravated by grooming as an aggravating factor, and

(b) must state in open court that the offence is so aggravated.””

Grooming to be seen as an aggravating factor in certain cases where the victim is an adult.

New clause 48—Aggravating factor relevant to offence of murder: strangulation—

“(1) Schedule 21 to the Sentencing Code (determination of minimum term in relation to mandatory life sentence for murder etc) is amended as follows.

(2) After paragraph 9(g) insert—

“(h) the fact that the offender strangled the victim as part of the homicide.””

An amendment to instate strangulation as an aggravating factor in murder cases.

New clause 49—Reasonable force in domestic abuse cases—

“(1) Section 76 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 (reasonable force for purposes of self-defence etc.) is amended as follows.

(2) In subsection (5A) after “In a householder case” insert “or a domestic abuse case”.

(3) In subsection (6) after “In a case other than a householder case” insert “or a domestic abuse case”.

(4) After subsection (8F) insert—

“(8G) For the purposes of this section “a domestic abuse case” is a case where—

(a) the defence concerned is the common law defence of self-defence,

(b) D is, or has been, a victim of domestic abuse, and

(c) the force concerned is force used by D against the person who has perpetrated the abusive behaviour referred to in paragraph (b).

(8H) Subsection (8G)(b) will only be established if the behaviour concerned is, or is part of, a history of conduct which constitutes domestic abuse as defined in sections 1 and 2 of the Domestic Abuse Act 2021, including but not limited to conduct which constitutes the offence of controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship as defined in section 76 of the Serious Crime Act 2015 (controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship).”

(5) In subsection (9) after “householder cases” insert “and domestic abuse cases”.”

Statutory defence for victims of domestic abuse who may have been coerced into committing certain crimes or driven to use force against their abuser, as a result of being a victim of domestic abuse.

New clause 50—Defence for victims of domestic abuse who commit an offence—

“(1) A person is not guilty of an offence if—

(a) the person is aged 18 or over when the person does the act which constitutes the offence,

(b) the person does that act because the person is compelled to do it,

(c) the compulsion is attributable to their being a victim of domestic abuse, and

(d) a reasonable person in the same situation as the person and having the person’s relevant characteristics would have no realistic alternative to doing that act.

(2) A person may be compelled to do something by another person or by the person’s circumstances.

(3) Compulsion is attributable to domestic abuse only if—

(a) it is, or is part of, conduct which constitutes domestic abuse as defined in sections 1 and 2 of the Domestic Abuse Act 2021, including but not limited to conduct which constitutes the offence of controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship as defined in section 76 of the Serious Crime Act 2015, or

(b) it is a direct consequence of a person being, or having been, a victim of such abuse.

(4) A person is not guilty of an offence if—

(a) the person is under the age of 18 when the person does the act which constitutes the offence,

(b) the person does that act as a direct consequence of the person being, or having been, a victim of domestic abuse as defined at subsection (3)(a) above, and

(c) a reasonable person in the same situation as the person and having the person’s relevant characteristics would do that act.

(5) For the purposes of this section “relevant characteristics” means age, sex, any physical or mental illness or disability and any experience of domestic abuse.

(6) In this section references to an act include an omission.

(7) Subsections (1) and (4) do not apply to an offence listed in Schedule [Offences to which the defence for victims of domestic abuse who commit an offence does not apply].

(8) The Secretary of State may by regulations amend Schedule [Offences to which the defence for victims of domestic abuse who commit an offence does not apply].

(9) The Secretary of State must make arrangements for monitoring of the types of offence for which victims of domestic abuse are prosecuted and use this evidence to inform an annual review of the offences listed in Schedule [Offences to which the defence for victims of domestic abuse who commit an offence does not apply] and any amendment to Schedule [Offences to which the defence for victims of domestic abuse who commit an offence does not apply].”

Statutory defence for victims of domestic abuse who may have been coerced into committing certain crimes as a result of being a victim of domestic abuse.

New clause 55—Offence of child criminal exploitation—

“(1) A person (“P”) commits an offence if they—

(a) recruit or attempt to recruit, or

(b) ask or compel another person to recruit or attempt to recruit, a child (“C”) for the purpose of C’s involvement in criminal activity.

(2) An offence is committed under subsection (1) regardless of whether C—

(a) engages in criminal activity, or

(b) is prosecuted for or found guilty of a criminal offence.

(3) It is not a defence to a charge under subsection (1) to prove that P did not know that C was a child.

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

(a) if the offence for which C was, or was attempted to be, recruited was murder, to imprisonment for life,

(b) if C was, or was attempted to be, recruited for any other offence, to the penalty to which a person guilty of that offence would be liable.

(5) For the purposes of this section—

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

“criminal activity” means any activity or conduct which constitutes a criminal offence; to

“recruit” includes by direction, inducement, incitement, coercion or compulsion.”

New clause 57—Offence of causing death or serious injury by dangerous, careless or inconsiderate cycling—

“(1) The Road Traffic Act 1988 is amended as follows.

(2) Before section 28 (dangerous cycling) insert—

“27A Causing death by dangerous cycling

A person who causes the death of another person by riding a cycle dangerously (as defined in section 28) on a road or other public place is guilty of an offence.

27B Causing serious injury by dangerous cycling

(1) A person who causes serious injury to another person by riding a cycle dangerously (as defined in section 28) on a road or other public place is guilty of an offence.

(2) In this section “serious injury means—

(a) in England and Wales, physical harm which amounts to grievous bodily harm for the purposes of the Offences against the Person Act 1861, and

(b) in Scotland, severe physical injury.

27C Causing death by careless or inconsiderate cycling

A person who causes the death of another person by riding a cycle on a road or other public place without due care and attention, or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the road or place, is guilty of an offence.”

(3) In section 28 (dangerous cycling), after subsection (3) insert—

“(4) For the purposes of subsection (2), what would be expected of a competent and careful cyclist includes that their cycle is equipped and maintained in accordance with regulations made under section 81 of this Act.”

(4) After section 32 (electrically assisted pedal cycles), insert—

“32A Interpretation of sections 27A to 32

(1) For the purposes of sections 27A to 32 of this Act, “a cycle” includes but is not limited to—

(a) a pedal cycle,

(b) an electrically assisted pedal cycle, and

(c) a mechanically propelled personal transporter, including—

(i) an electric scooter,

(ii) a self-balancing personal transporter (including a self-balancing scooter, self-balancing board or electric unicycle), and

(iii) any other mechanically propelled personal transporter provided for by the Secretary of State in regulations made under this section.

(2) For the purposes of subsection (1)(c), mechanically propelled personal transporters are to be defined in regulations made by the Secretary of State under this section.”

(5) The Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 is amended as follows.

(6) In the table in Part 1 of Schedule 2, after the row beginning “RTA section 27” insert in columns 1 to 4—

“RTA Section 27ACausing death by dangerous cycling.On indictment.14 years.
RTA Section 27BCausing serious injury by dangerous cycling.(a) Summarily.(b) On indictment.(a) 12 months or the statutory maximum or both.(b) 5 years of a fine or both.
RTA Section 27CCausing death by careless of inconsiderate cycling.(a) Summarily.(b) On indictment.(a) 12 months (in England and Wales) or 6 months (in Scotland) or the statutory maximum or both.(b) 5 years or a fine or both.””

New clause 59—Ban on “ninja swords”—

“(1) The Secretary of State must exercise their powers under section 141(2) of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 to amend the Schedule to the Criminal Justice Act 1988 (Offensive Weapons) Order 1988 as follows.

(2) In paragraph 1, after sub-paragraph (t) insert—

“(u) the weapon sometimes known as a “ninja sword”, “katana” or “ninjato”, being a single-edged straight blade of up to 60cm in length with a long hilt or guard”.

(3) Regulations laid under subsection (1) must—

(a) be laid within six months of the date of Royal Assent to this Act,

(b) be laid following consultation on the definitions of possession for sporting use and possession of antiques, and

(c) include, subject to the results of the consultation under subsection (3)(b), exemptions for sporting use and for possession of antiques.”

New clause 60—Senior manager liability for illegal sale of bladed articles—

“(1) A person “P” commits an offence where—

(a) P is a senior manager of an internet service “C”,

(b) C commits an offence under—

(i) sections 141A or 141B of the Criminal Justice Act 1988; or

(ii) sections 38 to 42 of the Offensive Weapons Act 2019, and

(c) P has failed to take all reasonable steps to prevent that offence being committed by C.

(2) For the purposes of this section—

(a) “internet service” has the meaning given in section 228 of the Online Safety Act 2023;

(b) “senior manager” means an individual who plays a significant role in—

(i) the making of decisions about how C’s relevant activities are to be managed or organised, or

(ii) the actual managing or organising of C’s relevant activities.

(3) Where P is charged with an offence under this section, it is a defence for P to show that P was a senior manager of C for such a short time during the relevant period that P could not reasonably have been expected to take steps to prevent that offence being committed by C.

(4) Where P is guilty of an offence under this section, P is liable—

(a) on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding the general limit in a magistrates’ court or a fine (or both);

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

New clause 61—Classification of Fenethylline as a Class A drug—

“In Schedule 2 (Controlled Drugs) to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, after “Etryptamine” insert “Fenethylline”.”

This new clause would add Fenethylline – also known by the brand names Captagon, Biocapton, and Fitton – to the list of Class A drugs under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

New clause 91—Offence of failing to meet pollution performance commitment levels—

“(1) A water or water and sewerage company (“C”) commits an offence where C has—

(a) failed to meet its pollution performance commitment level for three consecutive years; or

(b) experienced an increase in—

(i) total pollution incidents per 10,000km2, or

(ii) serious pollution incidents for three consecutive years.

(2) For the purposes of this section—

“water or water and sewerage company” means companies which are responsible for the provision of water, or water and sewerage, services and which are regulated by Ofwat and the Environment Agency;

“pollution performance commitment level” means the level of performance on pollution that the company has committed to deliver, and which is reported against by Ofwat in its annual water company performance report;

“total pollution incidents per 10,000km2” and “serious pollution incidents” mean the relevant figures under those headings reported by the Environment Agency in its annual environmental performance report.

(3) If guilty of an offence under this section, C is liable—

(a) on summary conviction, to a fine;

(b) on conviction on indictment, to a fine.”

New clause 92—Senior manager liability for failure to meet pollution performance commitment levels—

“(1) A person (“P”) commits an offence where—

(a) P is a senior manager of a water or water and sewerage company (“C”),

(b) C commits an offence under section [Offence of failing to meet pollution performance commitment levels], and

(c) P has failed to take all reasonable steps to prevent that offence being committed by C.

(2) For the purposes of this section—

“senior manager” means an individual who plays a significant role in—

(a) the making of decisions about how C’s relevant activities are to be managed or organised, or

(b) the actual managing or organising of C’s relevant activities;

“water or water and sewerage company” has the meaning given in section [Offence of failing to meet pollution performance commitment levels].

(3) Where P is charged with an offence under this section, it is a defence for P to show that P was a senior manager of C for such a short time during the relevant period that P could not reasonably have been expected to take steps to prevent that offence being committed by C.

(4) Where P is guilty of an offence under this section, P is liable—

(a) on summary conviction, to a fine;

(b) on conviction on indictment, to a fine.”

New clause 93—Compensation orders: loss suffered by victim—

“In the Sentencing Act 2020 after section 138 insert —

“138A Loss suffered by victim of offence of coercive and controlling behaviour

(1) Subsection (2) applies where the court is determining whether to make a compensation order against an offender in respect of an offence under section 76 of the Serious Crime Act 2015 (controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship).

(2) The court must have particular regard to the desirability of compensating the victim of the offence for injury, loss or damage, including economic loss, resulting from the offence.””

Government new schedule 4—Cuckooing: specified offences.

New schedule 1—Offences to which the defence for victims of domestic abuse who commit an offence does not apply—

“Schedule

Common Law Offences

1 False imprisonment.

2 Kidnapping.

3 Manslaughter.

4 Murder.

5 Perverting the course of justice.

6 Piracy.

Offences against the Person Act 1861 (c. 100)

7 An offence under any of the following provisions of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861—

• section 4 (soliciting murder)

• section 16 (threats to kill)

• section 18 (wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm)

• section 20 (malicious wounding)

• section 21 (attempting to choke, suffocate or strangle in order to commit or assist in committing an indictable offence)

• section 22 (using drugs etc to commit or assist in the committing of an indictable offence)

• section 23 (maliciously administering poison etc so as to endanger life or inflict grievous bodily harm)

• section 27 (abandoning children)

• section 28 (causing bodily injury by explosives)

• section 29 (using explosives with intent to do grievous bodily harm)

• section 30 (placing explosives with intent to do bodily injury)

• section 31 (setting spring guns etc with intent to do grievous bodily harm)

• section 32 (endangering safety of railway passengers)

• section 35 (injuring persons by furious driving)

• section 37 (assaulting officer preserving wreck)

• section 38 (assault with intent to resist arrest).

Explosive Substances Act 1883 (c. 3)

8 An offence under any of the following provisions of the Explosive Substances Act 1883—

• section 2 (causing explosion likely to endanger life or property)

• section 3 (attempt to cause explosion, or making or keeping explosive with intent to endanger life or property)

• section 4 (making or possession of explosives under suspicious circumstances).

Infant Life (Preservation) Act 1929 (c. 34)

9 An offence under section 1 of the Infant Life (Preservation) Act 1929 (child destruction).

Children and Young Persons Act 1933 (c. 12)

10 An offence under section 1 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 (cruelty to children).

Public Order Act 1936 (1 Edw. 8 & 1 Geo. 6 c. 6)

11 An offence under section 2 of the Public Order Act 1936 (control etc of quasi-military organisation).

Infanticide Act 1938 (c. 36)

12 An offence under section 1 of the Infanticide Act 1938 (infanticide).

Firearms Act 1968 (c. 27)

13 An offence under any of the following provisions of the Firearms Act 1968—

• section 5 (possession of prohibited firearms)

• section 16 (possession of firearm with intent to endanger life)

• section 16A (possession of firearm with intent to cause fear of violence)

• section 17(1) (use of firearm to resist arrest)

• section 17(2) (possession of firearm at time of committing or being arrested for specified offence)

• section 18 (carrying firearm with criminal intent).

Theft Act 1968 (c. 60)

14 An offence under any of the following provisions of the Theft Act 1968—

• section 8 (robbery or assault with intent to rob)

• section 9 (burglary), where the offence is committed with intent to inflict grievous bodily harm on a person, or to do unlawful damage to a building or anything in it

• section 10 (aggravated burglary)

• section 12A (aggravated vehicle-taking), where the offence involves an accident which causes the death of any person

• section 21 (blackmail).

Criminal Damage Act 1971 (c. 48)

15 The following offences under the Criminal Damage Act 1971—

• an offence of arson under section 1

• an offence under section 1(2) (destroying or damaging property) other than an offence of arson.

Immigration Act 1971 (c. 77)

16 An offence under section 25 of the Immigration Act 1971 (assisting unlawful immigration to member state).

Customs and Excise Management Act 1979 (c. 2)

17 An offence under section 170 of the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979 (penalty for fraudulent evasion of duty etc) in relation to goods prohibited to be imported under section 42 of the Customs Consolidation Act 1876 (indecent or obscene articles).

Taking of Hostages Act 1982 (c. 28)

18 An offence under section 1 of the Taking of Hostages Act 1982 (hostage-taking).

Aviation Security Act 1982 (c. 36)

19 An offence under any of the following provisions of the Aviation Security Act 1982—

• section 1 (hijacking)

• section 2 (destroying, damaging or endangering safety of aircraft)

• section 3 (other acts endangering or likely to endanger safety of aircraft)

• section 4 (offences in relation to certain dangerous articles).

Mental Health Act 1983 (c. 20)

20 An offence under section 127 of the Mental Health Act 1983 (ill-treatment of patients).

Child Abduction Act 1984 (c. 37)

21 An offence under any of the following provisions of the Child Abduction Act 1984—

• section 1 (abduction of child by parent etc)

• section 2 (abduction of child by other persons).

Public Order Act 1986 (c. 64)

22 An offence under any of the following provisions of the Public Order Act 1986—

• section 1 (riot)

• section 2 (violent disorder).

Criminal Justice Act 1988 (c. 33)

23 An offence under section 134 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 (torture).

Road Traffic Act 1988 (c. 52)

24 An offence under any of the following provisions of the Road Traffic Act 1988—

• section 1 (causing death by dangerous driving)

• section 3A (causing death by careless driving when under the influence of drink or drugs).

Aviation and Maritime Security Act 1990 (c. 31)

25 An offence under any of the following provisions of the Aviation and Maritime Security Act 1990—

• section 1 (endangering safety at aerodromes)

• section 9 (hijacking of ships)

• section 10 (seizing or exercising control of fixed platforms)

• section 11 (destroying fixed platforms or endangering their safety)

• section 12 (other acts endangering or likely to endanger safe navigation)

• section 13 (offences involving threats).

Channel Tunnel (Security) Order 1994 (S.I. 1994/570)

26 An offence under Part 2 of the Channel Tunnel (Security) Order 1994 (SI 1994/570) (offences relating to Channel Tunnel trains and the tunnel system).

Protection from Harassment Act 1997 (c. 40)

27 An offence under any of the following provisions of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997—

• section 4 (putting people in fear of violence)

• section 4A (stalking involving fear of violence or serious alarm or distress).

Crime and Disorder Act 1998 (c. 37)

28 An offence under any of the following provisions of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 —

• section 29 (racially or religiously aggravated assaults)

• section 31(1)(a) or (b) (racially or religiously aggravated offences under section 4 or 4A of the Public Order Act 1986).

Terrorism Act 2000 (c. 11)

29 An offence under any of the following provisions of the Terrorism Act 2000—

• section 54 (weapons training)

• section 56 (directing terrorist organisation)

• section 57 (possession of article for terrorist purposes)

• section 59 (inciting terrorism overseas).

International Criminal Court Act 2001 (c. 17)

30 An offence under any of the following provisions of the International Criminal Court Act 2001—

• section 51 (genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes)

• section 52 (ancillary conduct).

Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 (c. 24)

31 An offence under any of the following provisions of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001—

• section 47 (use of nuclear weapons)

• section 50 (assisting or inducing certain weapons-related acts overseas)

• section 113 (use of noxious substance or thing to cause harm or intimidate).

Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 (c. 31)

32 An offence under any of the following provisions of the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003—

• section 1 (female genital mutilation)

• section 2 (assisting a girl to mutilate her own genitalia)

• section 3 (assisting a non-UK person to mutilate overseas a girl’s genitalia).

Sexual Offences Act 2003 (c. 42)

33 An offence under any of the following provisions of the Sexual Offences Act 2003—

• section 1 (rape)

• section 2 (assault by penetration)

• section 3 (sexual assault)

• section 4 (causing person to engage in sexual activity without consent)

• section 5 (rape of child under 13)

• section 6 (assault of child under 13 by penetration)

• section 7 (sexual assault of child under 13)

• section 8 (causing or inciting child under 13 to engage in sexual activity)

• section 9 (sexual activity with a child)

• section 10 (causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity)

• section 13 (child sex offences committed by children or young persons)

• section 14 (arranging or facilitating commission of child sex offence)

• section 15 (meeting a child following sexual grooming)

• section 16 (abuse of position of trust: sexual activity with a child)

• section 17 (abuse of position of trust: causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity)

• section 18 (abuse of position of trust: sexual activity in presence of child)

• section 19 (abuse of position of trust: causing a child to watch a sexual act)

• section 25 (sexual activity with a child family member)

• section 26 (inciting a child family member to engage in sexual activity)

• section 30 (sexual activity with a person with a mental disorder impeding choice)

• section 31 (causing or inciting a person with a mental disorder impeding choice to engage in sexual activity)

• section 32 (engaging in sexual activity in the presence of a person with a mental disorder impeding choice)

• section 33 (causing a person with a mental disorder impeding choice to watch a sexual act)

• section 34 (inducement, threat or deception to procure sexual activity with a person with a mental disorder)

• section 35 (causing a person with a mental disorder to engage in or agree to engage in sexual activity by inducement, threat or deception)

• section 36 (engaging in sexual activity in the presence, procured by inducement, threat or deception, of a person with a mental disorder)

• section 37 (causing a person with a mental disorder to watch a sexual act by inducement, threat or deception)

• section 38 (care workers: sexual activity with a person with a mental disorder)

• section 39 (care workers: causing or inciting sexual activity)

• section 40 (care workers: sexual activity in the presence of a person with a mental disorder)

• section 41 (care workers: causing a person with a mental disorder to watch a sexual act)

• section 47 (paying for sexual services of a child)

• section 48 (causing or inciting child prostitution or pornography)

• section 49 (controlling a child prostitute or a child involved in pornography

• section 50 (arranging or facilitating child prostitution or pornography)

• section 61 (administering a substance with intent)

• section 62 (committing offence with intent to commit sexual offence)

• section 63 (trespass with intent to commit sexual offence)

• section 64 (sex with an adult relative: penetration)

• section 65 (sex with an adult relative: consenting to penetration)

• section 66 (exposure)

• section 67 (voyeurism)

• section 70 (sexual penetration of a corpse).

Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004 (c. 28)

34 An offence under section 5 of the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004 (causing or allowing a child or vulnerable adult to die or suffer serious physical harm).

Terrorism Act 2006 (c. 11)

35 An offence under any of the following provisions of the Terrorism Act 2006—

• section 5 (preparation of terrorist acts)

• section 6 (training for terrorism)

• section 9 (making or possession of radioactive device or material)

• section 10 (use of radioactive device or material for terrorist purposes)

• section 11 (terrorist threats relating to radioactive devices etc).

Modern Slavery Act 2015 (c. 30)

36 An offence under any of the following provisions of the Modern Slavery Act 2015—

• section 1 (slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour)

• section 2 (human trafficking).

Ancillary offences

37 (1) An offence of attempting or conspiring to commit an offence listed in this Schedule.

(2) An offence committed by aiding, abetting, counselling or procuring an offence listed in this Schedule.

(3) An offence under Part 2 of the Serious Crime Act 2007 (encouraging or assisting) where the offence (or one of the offences) which the person in question intends or believes would be committed is an offence listed in this Schedule.”

Amendment 69, in clause 9, page 7, line 36, at end insert—

“(3) The Secretary of State must, within two years of the date of Royal Assent to this Act, publish a report on convictions for the offence introduced by this section.

(4) In preparing the report under subsection (3) the Secretary of State must consult with whichever individuals or bodies the Secretary of State sees fit.

(5) The report under subsection (3) must include—

(a) the number of convictions for offences under section 139AB of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 in each year for which this section has been in force;

(b) the types of relevant weapon involved in such offences;

(c) details of how the individual came into the possession of the relevant weapon, including details of whether any laws relating to the sale or delivery of bladed or other offensive articles were breached; and

(d) recommendations on whether, in light of the findings of the report, further review is needed on existing laws and processes relating to the sale or delivery of bladed or other offensive articles.”

Amendment 32, in clause 13, page 10, line 15, after “Administering” insert “or attempting to administer”.

Amendment 33, page 10, line 19, after “administers” insert “or attempts to administer”.

Amendment 34, page 10, line 20, after “administration” insert “or attempted administration”.

Amendment 35, page 10, line 23, after “causes” insert “or attempts to cause”.

Amendment 36, page 10, line 25, after “administration” insert “attempted administration”.

Amendment 37, page 10, line 26, leave out from “life” to end of line 27 and insert

“, inflicts grievous bodily harm on them, or causes them annoyance or humiliation, and”.

Government amendments 142 and 143.

Amendment 38, page 11, line 3, leave out from “Administering” to end of line 4 and insert

“or attempting to administer etc harmful substance with intent to injure, aggrieve, annoy or humiliate”.

Amendment 39, page 11, line 6, after “administers” insert “or attempts to administer”.

Amendment 40, page 11, line 7, after “causes” insert “or attempts to cause”.

Amendment 41, page 11, line 9, leave out from “aggrieve” to end of line 10 and insert

“, annoy or humiliate the other person, or for the purposes of the entertainment of the person or any other person.”

Government amendments 144 to 150

Amendment 57, in clause 28, page 34, leave out lines 34 and 35 and insert—

“(4) The court may, as part of an order under subsection (2), add conditions about the use of reasonable force, if necessary and proportionate, to give effect to an order under subsection (2).

(4A) Conditions referred to in subsection (4) may only be added if the court is satisfied that there are sufficient, properly trained and equipped staff available to give effect to the order, and the conditions added to it, safely.”

This amendment would ensure the courts satisfies itself that staff would not be put at risk when ordering a defendant to attend sentencing.

Government amendments 151 to 153

Amendment 58, in clause 33, page 39, line 14, at end insert —

“(2A) The Secretary of State may not issue a warrant under subsection (2) where—

(a) the prisoner has less than 180 days to serve of the requisite custodial period;

(b) the prisoner is serving an indeterminate sentence of imprisonment or detention for public protection; or

(c) the Secretary of State is satisfied that the prisoner should continue to be detained in a domestic prison for the purposes of—

(i) receiving instruction or training which cannot reasonably be provided in a prison in the foreign country, or

(ii) participating in any proceeding before any court, tribunal or inquiry where it is not reasonably practicable for the participation or to take place in a prison in the foreign country.”

The amendment would introduce exclusions on the type of prisoner that could be issued with a warrant to serve their sentence in a foreign country. It excludes people with less than 6 months to serve, those serving indeterminate sentences for public protection and those who need to be detained in the UK for education/training purposes or for legal proceedings (e.g. parole).

Amendment 59, in clause 35, page 40, line 41, at end insert—

“(c) report to the Secretary of State on any breaches of the arrangement made between the United Kingdom and a foreign country.”

This amendment would require the Controller to make a report to the Secretary of State on any breaches of the arrangement between the foreign country and the UK.

Amendment 60, page 41, line 3, leave out “may” and insert “must”.

This amendment would ensure that the prisons inspectorate must conduct the duties specified in new section 5A(5D) of the Prisons Act 1952 and ensures its consistency with the legislative basis for its role in England and Wales.

Amendment 61, page 41, line 4, after “prisons” insert “and escort arrangements”.

This amendment would ensure that HM Inspectorate of Prisons can inspect escort arrangements under which prisoners are transferred to foreign prisons. This would bring the legislation into line with inspectorate’s powers in relation to UK prisons and escort arrangements under amendments to the Prisons Act made by the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006 (s.46) and ensures scrutiny of an area of evidenced risk.

Amendment 62, page 41, line 8, at end insert—

“(4) In section 1 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009, after subsection 2(c) insert—

“(d) the deceased died while in custody or otherwise in state detention in a foreign country pursuant to a warrant issued by the Secretary of State under section 26 of the Criminal Justice Act 2024 (warrant for transfer of prisoner to or from foreign prison).””

This amendment would clarify how the government intends to apply its obligations under Article 2 (right to life) of the Human Rights Act, through ensuring the duties of the coroner also apply to any death involving a prisoner subject to a transfer agreement with a foreign country.

Amendment 56, in schedule 2, page 105, line 4, at end insert—

“66AD Faking intimate photographs or films using digital technology

(1) A person (A) commits an offence if A intentionally creates or designs using computer graphics or any other digital technology an image or film which appears to be a photograph or film of another person (B) in an intimate state for the purposes of—

(a) sexual gratification, whether of themselves or of another person;

(b) causing alarm, distress or humiliation to B or any other person; or

(c) committing an offence under sections 66A or 66B of the Sexual Offence Act 2003.

(2) It is a defence to a charge under subsection (1) to prove that—

(a) A had a reasonable excuse for creating or designing the image or film, or

(b) that B consented to its creation.

(3) A person who commits an offence under subsection (1) is liable—

(a) on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding the general limit in a magistrates’ court or a fine (or both);

(b) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years.”

This amendment would make the creation of ”deepfake” intimate images an offence.

Amendment 160, page 110, line 14, at end insert—

“Online Safety Act 2023

21 In Schedule 7 to the Online Safety Act 2023 (priority offences), after paragraph 31 insert—

“Non-consensual intimate photograph or film

31A An offence under any of the following provisions of the Sexual Offences Act 2003—

(a) section 66A (sending etc photograph or film of genitals);

(b) section 66AA (taking or recording intimate photograph or film);

(c) section 66AC (installing etc equipment to enable taking or recording of intimate photograph or film);

(d) section 66B (sharing or threatening to share intimate photograph or film).””

This amendment makes non-consensual intimate photographs and films “priority illegal content” and so subject to duties to prevent individuals from encountering such content and to minimise the length of time such content is present (as is currently the case for child sexual exploitation and abuse content).

Government amendment 161.

Government amendment 163.

Government amendments 154 to 157.

Government amendment 70.

Government amendments 158 and 159.

Photo of Laura Farris Laura Farris Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

I have heard what was said by Apsana Begum and my right hon. Friend Dame Maria Miller and made a careful note. The fact that this debate is split over two days may have contributed to that, but I have listened carefully and will take that point away.

It is an honour, again, to open this debate and bring this important Bill back to the House on Report. Its focus is on countering developing criminal threats, intercepting serious organised crime, and protecting vulnerable victims. I thank Members across the House for their constructive engagement on the Bill, as well as the police, leading academics, practising lawyers and campaign groups, some of whom appeared before us in Committee. They have all contributed to the Bill’s development. There are many topics to discuss today, and I look forward to hearing the views of Members.

The Government are bringing forward a number of amendments that we believe are appropriate and necessary to punish offenders and enhance the protection that victims deserve. Briefly, I will explain the key Government amendments, starting with those about which I anticipate there will be no dispute: namely, the extension to Northern Ireland of our new spiking measures in clause 13, and the statutory aggravating factor for grooming activity in relation to child sexual offences in clause 30. New clause 88 provides for equivalence in sentencing for terrorist offenders between England and Wales and Northern Ireland, as a consequence of the irregularity that was identified in the case of R v. Perry.

Government new clause 89 extends the time limit for the unduly lenient sentence scheme, and will extend the overall time limit to six weeks. A request must still be submitted by any prospective appellant to the Attorney General’s Office within the usual 28 days, but the Attorney General’s Office will have an additional 14 days to consider whether the case is appropriate for submission to the Court of Appeal. In recent years the number of cases referred to the Law Officers has increased, in part due to a better awareness of the scheme. We consider it to be in the interests of justice that each application is given due care and attention, even when it is submitted close to the 28-day deadline, and we believe that the new clause is a proportionate way of achieving that.

On attendance at sentencing hearings, a change has been initiated already in the legislation in response to public concerns about high-profile cases, such as those of Lucy Letby, Jordan McSweeney and Thomas Cashman, all of whom refused to attend their sentencing hearing.

Photo of Rob Butler Rob Butler Conservative, Aylesbury

Does my hon. Friend agree that such cases, which have rightly gained a huge amount of public traction, are ones where it is appropriate for the Government to be making further announcements and putting in measures at this stage?

Photo of Laura Farris Laura Farris Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

I agree with that sentiment entirely. We are already creating an express statutory power at clause 28 to compel an offender to attend the sentencing hearing if they have been convicted of a crime for which the maximum sentence is life, but we have also listened to those concerned about offences that might not be caught by that power. I confirm that the Government has tabled amendments 148 to 150 to extend the measure to all offences that might attract a maximum sentence of 14 years or more.

Photo of James Wild James Wild Conservative, North West Norfolk

I am grateful to the Lord Chancellor, the Minister and other Ministers for listening to the case I made on Second Reading for extending the power. I had a case in my constituency where an offender was convicted of sexually assaulting a child under 13, which carries a 14-year sentence. They hid away in their cell and did not come to court. Under the original provisions, they would not have been captured, but under these amendments they will be, and I welcome that.

Photo of Laura Farris Laura Farris Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

I thank my hon. Friend, because the speech he gave on Second Reading played a major role in the changes we are introducing today. I reassure him that the change brings into scope most sexual assault cases, terrorist cases and racially aggravated offences, and I confirm to him that the specific case he raised on Second Reading would have been brought into scope by the change for which he has campaigned. I remind the House that the sanction for non-attendance at a sentencing hearing is up to a maximum of another two years in custody.

Government new clause 86 creates an offence of creating a sexually explicit deepfake of an adult without their consent. Members will be aware that the sharing of intimate images, whether real or fake, is already proscribed under the Online Safety Act 2023. We consider that we cannot complete the task of protecting people, principally women, unless we add the creation of pseudo-images or deepfakes to that package of protection. We are the first national legislature to take this step—if I am wrong about that, we are among the first—and we do so because we recognise the inherent risk posed by the creation of these images, both to the individual depicted and to society more widely.

Photo of Caroline Nokes Caroline Nokes Chair, Women and Equalities Committee, Chair, Women and Equalities Committee

I know that the Minister will have given thought to this, but does she agree that there is a problem not just with deepfake sexual images, but more widely with deepfake images that purport to show individuals and potentially even Members of this House doing and saying things that they have not and that have no sexual connotations whatever?

Photo of Laura Farris Laura Farris Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for raising that point. We are encountering a rapidly changing world of deepfake images that can be used for the purposes of manipulating voices to try to influence political attitudes and choices. I have to make it clear that the new clause is confined only to the creation of sexually explicit images. However, it is my hope, humbly expressed at this Dispatch Box, that it may provide a gateway and lever for the development of more law in this area, and I thank her for her intervention.

Photo of Vicky Ford Vicky Ford Conservative, Chelmsford

I particularly thank the Minister for this new clause. It obviously only covers adults, because producing sexual content of children is already illegal, but I am told that since the Government announced their intention to move the new clause, Apple and Google have already removed from their app stores a number of apps that were enabling users to produce deepfake nudes. Those applications have been used to create indecent images of children, as well as of adults. Disabling those apps has already helped to keep the public safe and to significantly improve the safeguarding of children. Just by tabling the new clause, the Government have already forced the industry to act in the UK.

Photo of Laura Farris Laura Farris Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

That is music to our ears. It was not lost on us that, within days of making the announcement, two of the major deepfake or nudify sites had blocked access to UK users in anticipation of the fact that even the act of using that site would become a criminal offence under our impending legislation.

Photo of Greg Clark Greg Clark Chair, Science, Innovation and Technology Committee, Chair, Science, Innovation and Technology Committee, Chair, Science, Innovation and Technology Committee, Chair, Science, Innovation and Technology Committee

I thank the Minister for her personal championing of this new clause. As she knows, the Science, Innovation and Technology Committee recommended it, and we benefited from a seminar conducted with the campaigners that Glamour magazine brought together to bring the experience of people right across the country to a focal point. They deserve credit for having brought this issue to the House, as does the Minister for championing it so brilliantly and bringing the new clause today.

Photo of Laura Farris Laura Farris Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

I have to thank the team at Glamour magazine, because they led an excellent campaign. I was halfway through trying to make the change myself when I became aware of it, but I read the material that they put out. It totally chimed with our objectives, and I know that my right hon. Friend welcomed the team to Parliament just a few weeks ago.

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller Conservative, Basingstoke

Intimate image abuse is an important issue to be dealt with. Can the Minister explain why she has not approached it in the same way as her colleagues approached it in the Online Safety Bill? It was a long-fought battle to have the Online Safety Bill recognise consent as pivotal, yet she has chosen not to take that approach at this stage, which I think many will find disappointing.

Photo of Laura Farris Laura Farris Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

I want to be crystal clear that, under the new clause, the offence is committed if the pseudo-image is created without the consent of the person who is the subject. That is at subsections 1(c) and 2(c) of proposed new section 66AD.

Let me talk for a moment about intent. The new clause differs from some of the content in the Online Safety Act 2023. It does not relate to intimate images, such as a person wearing a swimsuit, but applies to sexually explicit images, which are defined in legislation. It requires not only that the image is sexually explicit and is created without the consent of the subject matter, but that it is done for the purposes of sexual gratification or with the intent of causing humiliation, alarm or distress. I gently say that a similar measure was debated in the Bill Committee. I think it was tabled by Alex Norris, and he will recognise that the intent of the provisions that the Government have adopted is the same as the Opposition’s.

I am aware of what my right hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke is saying about the base events. Perhaps I can allay her concerns by simply saying this: it is a novel new measure for any Government to take. She makes sensible and compelling arguments on this point, and I hope she will feel reassured if we take an iterative approach for the time being. She will recall that the Law Commission recommended that we did not introduce legislation at all, and I will come on to say a little about that. It is right to say that other countries are looking at us carefully. The Justice Secretary was at the G7 in Venice just last weekend, and other G7 Justice Ministers had noticed that we are making this change and were observing carefully. We are making this change because we recognise the inherent risk posed by these images and that the offence is overwhelmingly targeted at women, predicated on an absence of consent. As such, we consider it a gateway to more serious offending.

We make some points by way of clarification. We carefully considered the Law Commission’s recommendations in its excellent report on intimate image abuse, which has informed much of our recent work, although respectfully on this, we have diverged from its point of view. In response to some of its concerns, I would like to reassure the House. We recognise that the amendment could criminalise young people, particularly teenage boys. To reduce the risk of over-criminalisation, we believe that we have set pragmatic parameters. Creation alone will be a non-imprisonable offence, although it will incur a potentially unlimited fine. The offence of creation alone would not attract notification requirements, meaning that the offender will not be placed on the sex offenders register. As hon. Members will know, all of that changes if the image is shared. Victims of that offence will be entitled to automatic anonymity in line with all the other sexual offences and they will also be eligible for special measures at trial. We are delighted to see major deepfake websites withdraw from the United Kingdom and we encourage the others to follow their lead.

I turn to Government new clause 87, which introduces a statutory aggravating factor for manslaughter involving sexual conduct. The clause corresponds to, and potentially should be read in conjunction with, section 71 of the Domestic Abuse Act 2021, which says that it is not a defence to argue that a victim consented to the infliction of serious harm for the purpose of sexual gratification.

We have long held concerns about killing of this nature where, by definition, the victim cannot give an account of consent, yet on occasions the court has implicitly sought to categorise the killing as a consequence of sexual choice, as opposed to the consequence of the development of social norms based on structural inequality. We invited the eminent criminal barrister Clare Wade KC to consider the issue specifically in her domestic homicide review last year. She said that cases of this nature must be viewed through the prism of coercive control and that

“the policy underpinning law ought to consider the wider harms which emanate from the behaviour which can and does lead to this category of homicide.”

We agree, and we are increasing the punishment for degrading and abusive conduct of this nature. Following careful consultation with the Sentencing Council, we are tabling a statutory aggravating factor so that sentences for manslaughter involving sexual conduct must be more severe. It will cover all cases where the act is directly attributable to sexual conduct.

I want to provide Jess Phillips with one point of reassurance. She will know from all her work, and particularly the research conducted by We Can’t Consent To This and the team, that of all these homicides almost 60% are strangulation cases. I know that that is not the point that she wishes to make with her amendment, but there is some overlap.

On parental responsibility, as hon. Members will be aware, the Government have already amended the Children Act 1989 via the Victims and Prisoners Bill to provide for the automatic suspension of parental responsibility in cases where one parent kills the other. We are making an amendment to develop the law further, providing that, where a father is convicted of child rape, parental responsibility that he may have for any child will be automatically suspended.

I pay tribute to Ms Harman—I think that she is in the wars at the moment—for the way in which she has presented this issue. She has advanced the compelling argument that we have long-established principles to protect children from sex offenders by placing people on the sex offenders register and protecting them from working with children, but while we have measures to protect other people’s children, the same protection does not exist for the children of the offender unless the mother goes to the family court to remove his rights.

I also pay tribute to Sanchia Berg, the journalist who revealed this issue through her work and highlighted the practical obstacles that some mothers had faced in making this application, as well as other families who have talked about their experience, including via their Member of Parliament, one example being my hon. Friend Saqib Bhatti; I am not sure if he is in his place.

The father will still be able to apply to the family court to have the suspension of his parental responsibility lifted, but it is obviously fair to assume that, if he has been convicted of child rape, such an application is unlikely to succeed. We have also included a clear requirement for this measure to be reviewed after it has been in place for three years.

Photo of Jess Phillips Jess Phillips Labour, Birmingham, Yardley

It is a pleasure to see in the Public Gallery some of the families who have championed this issue in the west midlands. Am I right in thinking—I really hope that I am not—that this measure covers only those convicted of the rape of a child, not other sexual offences against a child and a child aged 13 or over?

Photo of Laura Farris Laura Farris Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

The hon. Member is correct. I simply want to say again that this is a novel power that we are extending to Crown court judges, who typically do not have any knowledge of family law matters or a family law background. Once again, we think it is right that we take an iterative approach. There was a dialogue between the Mother of the House and the Lord Chancellor on this point, and she agreed with the approach. I do not want to put words in her mouth, and I am keenly aware of her absence when she should be speaking to her new clause, but I believe that she is satisfied with where we have got to. I commend the new clause and urge all colleagues to give it their support.

I turn next to new clauses 94 and 95 and new schedule 4. I commend my right hon. Friend Sir Iain Duncan Smith for his excellent campaign and dedication to crafting a new offence. I must also mention my hon. Friends the Members for Eastbourne (Caroline Ansell) and for Hertford and Stortford (Julie Marson), who also came to see me and made a really compelling argument.

When it comes to cuckooing, although there are a range of current offences that can be applied, the Government have listened carefully to concerns about weaknesses in the existing legal framework. New clause 94 therefore provides for a bespoke criminal offence to tackle cuckooing. The offence criminalises the control, whether exercised by means of coercion or otherwise, over another person’s home for the purpose of using it as a base to commit specified criminal activity. The specified offences, which are listed in the new schedule, include drugs offences, sexual offences and offensive weapons crimes. I stress that that is a non-exhaustive list, which the Secretary of State can amend as modes of criminality might develop.

I want to give some reassurance to my right hon. Friend about the issue of consent, which is of course a defence if a person has allowed somebody into their home. Consent will apply only if it is determined to have been given freely and to have been given on a continuous basis. Of course, coercion is the principal test that would be applied in assessing that freedom of choice.

Photo of Iain Duncan Smith Iain Duncan Smith Conservative, Chingford and Woodford Green 1:45, 15 May 2024

I am grateful for that. The key bit about cuckooing is that the police have never been able to arrest somebody because they have taken over a house; they have to prove that there are criminal activities inside. This new offence will therefore break new ground and protect people.

There is an important point about coercion. Will the Minister guarantee that in the guidance notes attached to the Bill it will be clear to the police that they should be checking that victims are not being coerced into saying that they have given their consent? It is important for the police to know that.

Photo of Laura Farris Laura Farris Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

That is an excellent suggestion. I confirm that and thank my right hon. Friend once again.

Before I conclude, I would like to address a number of other matters that have been raised by hon. Members and tabled as amendments. I start with the new clause tabled by my hon. Friend Dame Tracey Crouch

Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Northern Ireland), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Justice)

Before the Minister moves on—I apologise if she has addressed this and I missed it—could I get from her an explanation about Government new clause 102, which seeks to remove the protections of the Human Rights Act by effectively excluding the defence of lawful or reasonable excuses? This is now the fourth piece of legislation that the Government have introduced that will remove the protections of the Human Rights Act. We understand the reasons why they could not proceed with a Bill of rights, but surely if they are to remove human rights protections, that should be done in a proper, considered manner and not through salami slicing such as this.

Photo of Laura Farris Laura Farris Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

I will have to double-check that new clause, but I simply say that, with two exceptions, all the convention rights are qualified rights, which can be restricted in reasonable circumstances. I promise that I will check that and come back to the right hon. Gentleman in winding up the debate, if I may.

I was in the process of paying tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Chatham and Aylesford and my right hon. Friend Greg Clark for the outstanding representation that they have given to their constituents who were affected by David Fuller’s acts of depravity. That is reflected in new clause 62, which the Government support, on the offence of necrophilia.

It is perhaps a rare thing in 2024 that an offence can be identified that Parliament has not previously considered, but such was the extent of Fuller’s offending that we have had to do so. The Government are pleased to confirm that the Sexual Offences Act 2003 will be amended by the Bill to capture the sexual touching of a corpse with a new maximum sentence of seven years for penetrative offences and five years for non-penetrative acts.

Photo of Tracey Crouch Tracey Crouch Conservative, Chatham and Aylesford

I thank the Minister for her kind comments. My right hon. Friend Greg Clark will try to catch the Deputy Speaker’s eye later to speak in more detail on this, but let me take this opportunity to pay tribute to the Minister for taking a lot of time to work through this amendment thoughtfully and correctly, to provide greater protection and give some comfort to the families of the victims of David Fuller that justice has been thought about. She has listened sensitively and carefully to the comments of our constituents.

Photo of Laura Farris Laura Farris Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

I thank my hon. Friend for her comments. They were truly appalling crimes, and I had the constituents of both my hon. Friends in mind when I thought about how to develop the law. We cannot change what happened in the past, but I hope we can send the clearest possible message in future.

I want to come to a couple of other matters, though I will not pre-empt what hon. Members might be inclined to say. First, I want to talk about new clause 9, on one-punch manslaughter. I pay special tribute to my hon. Friend, and my friend, Dehenna Davison. This was not an ordinary campaign for her, but one born out of the deep tragedy of her childhood. I know that she will speak to the new clause, and I will respond in detail, but I hope she will not mind my saying that I think her dad would feel very proud of how she has conducted herself on this issue, and would be pleased with the changes that we are making.

I come to the amendments tabled by Alex Cunningham on prisoner transfer to overseas prisons. I want to set out the Government’s position in general, and in particular in relation to the transfer criteria. The Government agree that not all prisoners will be appropriate for transfer to rented prisons overseas—indeed, the hon. Member has set out some very sensible principles in his own amendment. I would like to give him three points of reassurance. The proposal for foreign prisoner transfer will extend to approximately 600 prisoners—equivalent to just under half of 1% of the entire prison estate. I can confirm that we will not negotiate a prison transfer agreement with a women’s prison.

We will conclude a deal only with a country that can demonstrate that its prison conditions and capabilities meet the applicable human rights standards. The Secretary of State retains responsibility for each prisoner, which ensures that any transferred prisoner retains all their rights under the European convention on human rights, irrespective of where they may be transferred. However, we believe that legislation is the best place for negotiating further terms, with the appropriate involvement of experts. The Lord Chancellor has already confirmed that the use of these powers requires a valid international agreement, and any such agreement would be put before Parliament as a treaty, subject to ratification procedures contained in the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010.

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

I am grateful to the Minister for those reassurances, but some of us have marked misgivings about the whole concept, which speaks a little more of gimmickry than anything likely to ease the real pressures on our prisons. That said, I can see that it might be a tool in the box. Could she help me on two matters that the Law Society has raised? If the agreements are used, what arrangements will ensure that prisoners are able to access legal advice in a proper way, perhaps in relation to appeal or other proceedings? That is essential to ensure a fair approach. How will they be able to participate remotely if necessary in any ongoing legal proceedings? Secondly, what is to be done about family visits? As the Minister will know, the retention of family ties is particularly important, and recognised universally as a key factor in rehabilitation and preventing reoffending. We would not want to disrupt those opportunities for anyone being transferred.

Photo of Laura Farris Laura Farris Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

I thank my hon. and learned Friend for his sensible intervention, which engaged two issues: article 6 considerations on the right to a fair trial, and article 8 considerations on the right to respect for private and family life. We are keenly aware of those obligations. I am sorry that I cannot give more detail on that, only the extra reassurance that the Lord Chancellor has insisted that prisoners will retain all their rights under the convention. These will be principal considerations. I will ask the Lord Chancellor to write to my hon. and learned Friend to flesh out some of those responses.

Photo of Ruth Edwards Ruth Edwards Conservative, Rushcliffe

My hon. Friend has given a wide-ranging opening speech, but I want to press her on one more issue: spiking. First, I thank her for recognising the importance of creating an offence to cover it. We had a spate of spiking attacks in Nottingham, and the stories of the young people affected were chilling. I seek her reassurance that we will create the most robust possible legislation in this area, and that she will look kindly on the amendment tabled by my hon. Friend Richard Graham, who has led a fantastic campaign to get spiking recognised in law. It is so important that we cover all the intentions that someone might have when they set about spiking someone, even if it is that they thought it might be a bit of fun. It is certainly not fun for their victims, and it is important that we do not create a loophole where offenders might be able to wriggle off the hook.

Photo of Laura Farris Laura Farris Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

I hope that I can provide my hon. Friend, my right hon. Friend Vicky Ford and my hon. Friend Richard Graham with some reassurance. The offence is drafted to cover all possible outcomes. We looked very carefully at the wording. I want to provide some specific reassurance about “attempt”, which I know my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester is concerned about; it is in his amendment. It is not necessary to put a separate offence of attempting to spike in the Bill, because it is captured as an inchoate offence under section 1(4) of the Criminal Attempts Act 1981, which covers all forms of attempt of a crime that is on the statute book. I hope that provides some reassurance.

I thank Members on all sides of the House for their engagement in the Bill, their joint commitment to its successful development as legislation that enhances our criminal justice system, and that delivers robust protection, appropriate penalties and a better framework of justice for the public. Our Government amendments achieve that, and I will respond in due course to Members’ views. I commend the amendments and new clauses to the House.

Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Shadow Minister (Justice)

We are finally here, 18 weeks since Committee stage was completed. The Government are running scared, not just from us on the Opposition Benches but from their own Members. We very much welcome the huge piles of concessions made and the clauses withdrawn. I give credit to Members across the Benches for holding the Government to account. Surely, the Bill must be one of the best examples ever of how not to create new legislation, with dozens of Government amendments in Committee and now dozens more on Report, as well as many new clauses from Ministers. By Friday evening there were as many as 70 pages of them from the Government alone.

Photo of Katherine Fletcher Katherine Fletcher Conservative, South Ribble

The hon. Gentleman seems to suggest that Ministers should not listen to cases made by Members on both sides of the House.

Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Shadow Minister (Justice)

It is to the Government’s credit that they have listened to people across the piece. However, huge numbers of clauses and new ideas have been brought forward by the Government, which were not tabled in Committee or even mentioned on Second Reading. As my hon. Friend Apsana Begum said, this is not the way to do business.

Let me address the many Government new clauses and amendments, and those in my name and that of my partner in crime, Alex Norris, and those in the name of my hon. Friend Shabana Mahmood and others. Starting with amendment 56 in the name of my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Nottingham North, and Government new clause 86, the creation of deepfake pornography is a modern phenomenon, but one with very traditional intention: to cause humiliation, distress and public embarrassment, and to weaken the victims’ relationships.

It is right that, as the technology becomes more sophisticated, so do the legal protections. On Second Reading and in Committee we welcomed the Bill’s provisions on intimate photographs or films and voyeurism. Sexual offending in the online and digital word continues to grow at a terrifying pace. The rise in deepfakes is concerning for a variety of reasons, not least for the impact on political debate and the spread of false information. I have also been horrified by reports of the use of deepfakes to sexually harass and humiliate individuals. The exponential rise in the use of explicit deepfake images demands urgent legislative action. Creating an explicit deepfake without someone’s consent is a deeply violating act, one that causes victims to feel embarrassed, alarmed and unsafe.

I commend my hon. Friend Sarah Owen for her work on new clause 43. It would create an offence of creating or sharing misleading content. Such content can reach a wide audience in a short space of time, with questions over legitimacy coming far too late, when the harm has already been done. My hon. Friend recognises the impact that such abuse of technology has on our democracy.

As we said in Committee, there is a gap; we felt that victims ought to have similar, or the same, protections when imagery is faked as they do when the image is real. We were disappointed that the Government knocked that suggestion back in Committee, but we welcome the fact that they have now tabled their own version of an amendment that addresses the point in Government new clause 86, which we will, of course, support.

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller Conservative, Basingstoke 2:00, 15 May 2024

On new clause 86, does the hon. Gentleman share the concern of many women outside this place about the almost backward step the Government have taken by not focusing on a base offence relating to people giving consent to their images being used? I thought we had won that argument, but that seems to have evaporated. That was central to the Online Safety Act 2023. Why is he not pressing for that change, as others are outside this place?

Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Shadow Minister (Justice)

The right hon. Member makes a strong point, and it is up to the Government to respond to it. We believe that we should extend all protections to women in all circumstances.

We welcome amendment 160 in the name of the Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, Caroline Nokes. The Online Safety Act made significant progress on intimate image abuse, or revenge porn, which is an abhorrent crime, and it is right that, through this Bill, we continue the good work done through that Act. We therefore support amendment 160, which would make offence relating to non-consensual intimate photographs or films priority offences under the Online Safety Act. That will ensure that this heinous practice is treated seriously and dealt with proactively, so that the harm it causes is reduced.

New clause 87 makes it an aggravating factor if an offence of manslaughter involves sexual conduct, and does the same for the corresponding service offence. The Government had support from across the House when they restated in statute, in the Domestic Abuse Act 2021, that

“a person is unable to consent to the infliction of harm that results in actual bodily harm or…their own death, for the purposes of obtaining sexual gratification”.

It will therefore not surprise the Government to hear that the new clause has the support of Labour Members. We are all aware of the high-profile cases in which women have been killed as a result of allegedly consensual sado-masochistic acts of violence during sex. We share the Government’s ambition to do more on the issue, in recognition of the serious public concerns about these horrific cases.

Amendment 57, in my name, would ensure that when courts ordered a defendant to attend sentencing, they first satisfied themselves that that would not put their staff at risk. Government amendments 149 and 150 lower the threshold for the availability of the new power to order an offender to attend a sentencing hearing, so that it applies where an offence is punishable with imprisonment for 14 years or more.

Clause 28 comes in the wake of a dismaying trend of high-profile criminals opting not to attend their sentencing hearing. Former neonatal nurse Lucy Letby did that in August last year. She refused to attend her sentencing hearing for the murder of seven babies, and the attempted murder of another six entrusted to her care. Having also refused to attend via video link, she remained in the cells below Manchester Crown court as bereaved family members delivered victim personal statements, and the judge passed a whole life order in her absence. In April last year, Thomas Cashman exploited the same procedural rule by refusing to attend his sentencing hearing. He travelled to Manchester Crown court, but declined to leave his cell, claiming that he had been provoked by court officials. He received a sentence of life imprisonment, with a minimum term of 42 years, for the fatal shooting of nine-year-old Olivia Pratt-Korbel in her home. We share the view that, wherever possible, defendants ought to hear the victim impact statements setting out how victims and families have been affected by the crime.

In Committee, the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, Laura Farris, accepted that

“the judge now has discretion to make such an order, but we have found that it is not evenly or always applied”––[Official Report, Criminal Justice Public Bill Committee, 16 January 2024;
c. 244.]

as in the case of Lucy Letby, where the judge did not compel her attendance. The Minister said that putting the measure in the Bill would ensure a power in statute for a judge to compel a person to attend their sentencing for any serious offence for which the maximum sentence is a life sentence. The Government’s pages of amendments include those to clause 28, and we are supportive of all efforts to improve the Bill’s workability. I said in Committee that there is nothing in the Government’s explanatory notes about the resources needed to deliver the policy. Likewise, there was little if anything about how the staff who would be at the sharp end of delivering a defendant to court will be protected. The charity Justice raised the concern with me that the policy puts staff at risk; it is questionable whether the discretion to use force in proposed new section 41B(4) of the Sentencing Code is real, or merely apparent, in view of proposed new section 41B(6).

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

I have a lot of sympathy with the points the shadow Minister is making. It is right that there should be a power—I think we all agree—to prevent vile offenders from showing the cowardly behaviour of not facing the relatives and hearing their sentence in person. However, the Professional Trades Union for Prison, Correctional and Secure Psychiatric Workers has a concern, which he rightly raises. Prison officers already put their life on the line every day—they can be subject to violence when going about their work in prisons—but there is a particular concern. We are extending the measure to a wider range of offences, and very often, those involved in bringing people to court are contractors—from, say, Serco—who may not have the experience or training to deal with these rather difficult situations. It is perhaps therefore all the more important that there be proper consultation with the workforce who will be at the sharp end, as he says.

Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Shadow Minister (Justice)

Indeed; that is very much the case. A few paragraphs further on in my speech, I will address that point specifically, as I did in Committee.

Proposed new section 41B(6) states:

“A person is to be treated as having complied with an order under subsection (2) if they have done all that they reasonably can to secure that the offender is produced before the court for the sentencing hearing.”

Given that subsection (4) provides the authority to use “reasonable force”, those responsible for producing the offender who fail to use such force are arguably at risk of being held in contempt for failing to comply with a court order. Prison governors and custody officers are accordingly placed in an invidious position. In her letter to me dated 1 March, the Minister said:

“Prison officers and Prison Escort and Custody Service staff are trained in control and restraint techniques, and we would expect them to use these skills to enforce a lawfully given order that an offender should attend court. Further guidance, training and, if required, personal protective equipment will be provided to ensure that prison and escort staff are fully supported to affect such court orders. The security and safety of prisoners, and well-being of prison officers will remain a priority.”

When I first considered clause 28, I made enquiries about how reasonable force is currently used by prison officers to deliver a defendant to court. It came as a surprise to me to learn that it involves three prison officers in full riot gear, including overalls, gloves, steel-toed boots, helmets and shields, approaching the prisoner, securing them and getting them into the transport vehicle. Their job is then complete, and responsibility passes to the private security firm staff to deliver the defendant to the court. Unlike the prison officers, neither private security staff nor receiving court staff are equipped with the personal protective equipment or the training to transfer the defendant first into the court cell and then to the dock. That was exactly the point raised by the Chair of the Justice Committee, Sir Robert Neill. I want to raise again with the Minister the question of whether the clause will ensure that all staff involved in producing a prisoner at their sentencing hearing are protected, all the way from the cells to the dock, and probably while the prisoner is in the dock as well. I have brought back amendment 57 in the absence of clarity from the Minister about how that would work in practice. I would welcome her further comments.

Amendment 58 would exclude some types of prisoner from being issued with a warrant to serve a sentence in a foreign country. It would exclude people with less than six months to serve, those serving indeterminate sentences for public protection, and those who need to be detained in the UK for education or training purposes, or for legal proceedings, such as parole. I accept what the Minister said about that in her speech.

In Committee, I raised the subject of the failure of the Bill and the accompanying notes to provide detail on exactly how the scheme to transfer prisoners abroad would work, who the partner countries would be, and where their responsibilities would lie. The Minister said that the amendment that I had tabled made “sensible” points, but that the Government

“believe that they are best addressed through policy, based on…expertise from within the prison system, not set out in primary legislation.”

She also told me that it was her “understanding” that no prisoners would be moved to countries not covered by the European convention on human rights, and I welcome what she has said about that today. Again referring to me, the Minister said:

“He…asked about the availability of legal advice…First of all, the whole landscape of court procedure has changed in the last few years. Receiving legal advice can be done remotely, and court proceedings often take place remotely via a live link.”––[Official Report, Criminal Justice Public Bill Committee, 18 January 2024;
c. 280-281.]

That is supposed to mitigate the fact that someone is in a cell abroad.

The Minister was also at pains to point out that 10% of prisoners were foreign nationals, so

“family and primary care considerations are already rather different”.––[Official Report, Criminal Justice Public Bill Committee, 18 January 2024;
c. 282.]

Perhaps there is a clue there, suggesting that it is foreign offenders and not British nationals whom the Government really want to send overseas. The Minister has talked of only 600 prisoners being affected by this policy, and I welcome her assurance that no women will be affected. I know that the Government are negotiating with some countries about where the prisoners will go, but we do not have the fine detail that we need in order to understand whether the policy will be effective. The Minister herself acknowledged that

“there is not much detail in the Bill”, but said that the Government were developing

“primary legislation to create the framework for the agreements.”––[Official Report, Criminal Justice Public Bill Committee, 18 January 2024;
c. 287.]

She was referring, of course, to agreements that had not yet been made. However, policy changes all the time, so we need to nail down the provisions in the Bill and who will be included and excluded.

Amendments 59 to 62 amend clause 35, which relates to transferring prisoners to foreign prisons. Amendment 59

“would require the Controller to make a report to the Secretary of State on any breaches of the arrangement between the foreign country and the UK.”

Clause 28 of the original Bill provides for the Secretary of State to appoint a controller to keep under review and report on the running of any rented prison spaces abroad. It also extends the power of His Majesty’s chief inspector of prisons to inspect and report on the conditions in such places. The Bill, however, places a great deal of unaccountable authority in the hands of the Executive, who can make provision for any arrangement by means of secondary legislation. It is silent on how those subject to this arrangement will be treated. Similarly, it provides no guarantee that the prison rules in secondary legislation, which govern crucial issues including segregation, complaints and the use of force, would apply. I hope the Government share my view that any agreement made between the UK and a foreign state should be subject to full parliamentary scrutiny and oversight. Amendment 59 would help to enable that to happen by requiring the controller to report any breaches of the arrangement to the Secretary of State.

Amendment 60 would ensure that the prisons inspectorate “must” conduct the duties specified in proposed new subsection 5D in section 5A of the Prisons Act 1952, and would ensure its consistency with the legislative basis for its role in England and Wales. We fear that the oversight of both the controller and His Majesty’s inspectorate of prisons will ultimately be subject to negotiation with a relevant partner country. The wording in the Bill relating to the powers of the inspectorate differs from the wording in the Prisons Act, in that it states that the chief inspector “may”, rather than “shall”, inspect. The implication is that inspections could take place only by invitation of the foreign state, rather than as a statutory requirement. That leaves open to future negotiation crucial aspects of HMIP’s role and methodology, such as its ability to conduct unannounced inspections, to speak to prisoners in private, and to access records such as those relating to the use of force, which would mean that a lower standard of independent scrutiny would be applied to the treatment and conditions of UK prisoners held under such arrangements. Amending the Bill to ensure that HMIP can perform its duties under the optional protocol to the convention against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment is an important safeguard to ensure rigorous, independent scrutiny.

Amendment 61 would ensure that HMIP could inspect escort arrangements under which prisoners are transferred to foreign prisons. Clause 28 of the original Bill specifies that the chief inspector may inspect or arrange for the inspection of any prisons where prisoners are detained under an arrangement between the UK and a foreign state. The inspectorate’s powers to inspect escort arrangements were made by amendments to the Prisons Act in section 46 of the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006. It is particularly important that the inspectorate should also be able to inspect the escort arrangements for the transfer of UK prisoners to foreign prisons. Our amendment would bring the legislation into line with the inspectorate’s powers in relation to prisons in England and Wales by also enabling it to inspect or arrange for the inspection of escort arrangements. A foreign state with which the UK makes an agreement could potentially be many thousands of miles from the UK. The transfer of prisoners could involve a lengthy journey including a variety of modes of transport such as, potentially, prison vans, planes, trains and ferries. The potential for trouble appears limitless.

Amendment 62 is a probing amendment that seeks to clarify how the Government intend to apply their obligations under article 2 of the European convention on human rights on the right to life, under the Human Rights Act, by ensuring that the duties of the coroner also apply to any death involving a prisoner subject to a transfer agreement with a foreign country. It is our view that the nature of the arrangement to send individuals to overseas prisons will establish the UK’s jurisdiction over any deaths that occur. Given the unprecedented nature of these arrangements, it is crucial for the responsibility of coroners to investigate overseas deaths to be established clearly in advance. To do otherwise would invite significant uncertainty and likely legal challenges if any individual were to die while imprisoned overseas.

New clause 2 stands in the name of my right hon. and learned Friend Ms Harman. She cannot be with us today after a fall, and I am sure that everyone here will want to send her their best wishes for a speedy recovery. Her new clause addresses the parental responsibility of men convicted of sexual offences against children. Government new clause 103 falls short of that, in that the offenders captured by the clause will be restricted to those sentenced for the rape of a child. However, the new clauses address the same key issue: how can an individual be considered too dangerous to work with or be around other people’s children, yet be allowed to have responsibility for a child’s life so long as that child is their own?

I am glad to note that the Minister has taken away some of the concerns raised in Committee and that the Government have responded with new clause 103, which goes some way in the right direction on the issue raised by my right hon. and learned Friend. However, I am not sure that the Minister has entirely accepted the explanations offered to her in this regard. As I have said, my right hon. and learned Friend cannot be here today, but I pay tribute on her behalf not just to the Ministers and the BBC’s Sanchia Berg, but to the bravery and persistence of Bethan’s family, who have fought to protect not only their own child but everyone else’s.

I should be interested to hear the Minister’s explanation for the restriction of the provisions to those who have been convicted of the rape of a child only. There was discussion in Committee about the breadth of the scope when the proposal was to include all sex offences in such a provision, but it seems to me that the Government have gone too far in the other direction, albeit while making a concession. Only including those convicted of the rape of a child constitutes a narrow scope, and as such will leave scope for men who have been convicted of other serious sex offences against children to be in control of important aspects of their children’s lives. It prompts the question: why should any child be subject to any form of control by a convicted child sex offender who is unlikely to be part of that child’s life for years ahead, and possibly forever?

New clause 7, which was tabled by Sir Iain Duncan Smith, and Government new clauses 94 and 95 and new schedule 4, would make it an offence to exercise control over another person’s residence for the purpose of criminal activity by means of coercion, threats or abuse of a position of vulnerability. In Committee, I proposed a new clause that would make cuckooing a specific offence. I am pleased not only that the new clause has since been tabled by the right hon. Member Chingford and Woodford Green, but that the Government have subsequently seen sense and followed suit. As was made clear in Committee, substantial harm is caused by cuckooing, so I am keen to hear the Minister’s thoughts on the issue. I do, however, remain supportive of new clauses 94 and 95 and new schedule 4, which together create the offence of exercising control over another person’s dwelling for the purpose of enabling it to be used in connection with the commission of certain offences.

When I spoke to the new clause in Committee, I received support from the Police Superintendents Association, which said:

“There is clear need for legislation of this kind, with evidence showing that cuckooing is a widely used tactic in many serious offences, including those linked to serious and organised crime, such as county lines drug supply and human trafficking.”

Cuckooing is a terrifying experience for the vulnerable adults who are targeted by these criminals, and I do not think that any of us can comprehend what it would mean to have our home taken over in such a way. I suspect that there is not a Member here who does not know a vulnerable adult in their constituency, or someone who lives alone, who could be targeted by such unscrupulous criminals. The police work with local authorities to deliver a safeguarding response for victims of cuckooing. For example, the Metropolitan Police Service has dedicated cuckooing officers who work with partners to safeguard victims and divert them from the criminal justice system. However, cuckooing is not defined in legislation and is not a specific offence, so today’s Government amendments are very welcome.

My hon. Friend Carolyn Harris raises the issue of profiteering from prostitution in new clause 8, as she did in Committee. She has explained that it would enact the recommendation of the cross-party Home Affairs Committee to make it a criminal offence to facilitate or profit from the prostitution of another person, online or offline. There are clearly gaps in provision if our laws mean it is illegal to pimp offline but not online.

I note that in the Minister’s response to the Committee, she suggested that the new clause as drafted would also prevent individuals who lawfully sell sex from doing so online, where they feel safe, and as a result these individuals could be forced into additional danger by having to advertise on the street or underground in some way. I certainly recognise the Minister’s concerns. Any provision must ensure that those whom it is intended to protect do not inadvertently come to additional harm. I am, however, sceptical that the measures in the Online Safety Act 2023, whereby online platforms for individual advertising are responsible and accountable for the content on their sites, will do as much as she claims to address these issues.

New clause 9, which stands in the name of Dehenna Davison, is intended to create a specific offence of one-punch manslaughter, with a minimum sentence of seven years. My hon. Friend Jess Phillips moved the same new clause in Committee, but it was not pushed to a vote. We commend the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland for her efforts on this issue and we understand that she is continuing her discussions with Ministers. We hope that progress is being made behind the scenes.

New clause 12, which deals with controlling or coercive behaviour by persons providing psychotherapy or counselling services, is an interesting clause in its own right, and there was a good discussion on its content in the other place, when the provisions were tabled as an amendment to what is now the Domestic Abuse Act 2021. The new clause aims to address the controlling and coercive behaviour effected by charlatan therapists that can have ruinous consequences for the lives of their clients. Clearly, any instance of such manipulation and abuse is deeply concerning, especially given the trusted role that psychotherapists and counsellors are put in by their clients, who often engage their services when they are in a particularly vulnerable place.

I will be interested to hear the Government’s thoughts on the scale of the issue, and on what other measures could be implemented to address this problem. There was a suggestion in the debate on the Domestic Abuse Act that regulation and accreditation would be the appropriate response, although several Members pointed out that charlatans do not tend to go through the effort of accreditation. None the less, I am concerned by the reports of individuals, often young women, being harmed by such practices, and I am keen to hear from the Government how this could be addressed.

New clause 16 was tabled by my hon. Friend Gerald Jones, who is in his place today and can speak to the tragic case in his constituency that it seeks to address. I want to reiterate what we said in Committee. The Road Traffic Act 1988 provides vital protections to all of us. It bars certain behaviours that we know are dangerous, but there is a loophole whereby those sorts of behaviours can be exhibited on private property without sanction. It is reasonable to bring the laws on private property into alignment with the RTA 1988 in the interests of public safety.

In Committee, the Government seemed to be of a similar mind. However, this is one of the few areas where they have not proposed their own version today. We hope that the Minister will signal their intent to do so at a later stage or, if not, that they will accept my hon. Friend’s version, which we support. In addition, my hon. Friend Peter Dowd has tabled new clauses 35 and 36, for which he made a strong case in Committee. I hope the Government have had the chance to reflect on his proposals and will respond to them positively.

New clauses 18 and 19, which stand in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham North, would update section 1 of the Computer Misuse Act 1990, which prohibits unauthorised access to computers. Simply put, the current legislation inadvertently criminalises a large proportion of legitimate vulnerability, security and threat intelligence research by UK cyber-security professionals, who are committing a crime if they use legitimate techniques to check for vulnerabilities, to carry out research or to build defences. We are asking them to put themselves at risk in order to do something that is clearly a social good, so the new clauses seek to update the Act.

In the UK alone, there was a 77% increase in cyber-threats last year. We know that their impact on individuals’ lives can be hugely consequential, but the legislation that provides the foundation to take on that sort of cyber-threat is more than 33 years old. Legislation has not kept pace with modern cyber-security defence techniques, so it is vital that we take the opportunity to act now and update the law accordingly. New clauses 18 and 19 would do that.

In a similar vein, new clause 38 seeks to update the statute book to ensure that the law keeps pace with change, this time in relation to liability for corporate offences. The new clause also stands in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham North, and he pays tribute to my right hon. Friend Dame Margaret Hodge for her continued campaigning on this matter. It would introduce individual liability so that senior executives can be held liable for criminal activities committed by a company or partnership on the basis of negligence. The offence would apply both to crimes committed by the company or partnership and to a failure to prevent those crimes from happening.

The UK has a serious accountability gap when it comes to senior executives. Despite a number of corporate scandals and failures, such as the miscarriage of justice at the Post Office and water companies illegally discharging sewage into our rivers, those at the helm of large companies that engage in such wrongdoing rarely face any consequences. That leads to poorer corporate governance standards and to a greater risk that the huge costs of corporate failure and misconduct will be borne by ordinary people. It is also unfair that directors in the small business sector face the vast brunt of prosecutorial and regulatory action.

Regulatory fines alone are not sufficient to drive behavioural change. If the senior executives at these companies are not held criminally liable, fines become a cost of doing business rather than a deterrent to bad behaviour. We need to reform the law so that we can hold senior executives criminally liable for deliberately turning a blind eye or creating a culture of misconduct. That would lower the risk of further corporate failures. New clause 38 would make that change.

New clause 25 on the offence of possession of guidance on creating child sexual abuse content and new clause 26 on the offence of simulating sexual communication with a child were tabled by Vicky Ford. New clause 25 would expand the existing offence of possessing guides about abusing children sexually to include guides on creating child sexual abuse content, including through the use of artificial intelligence or machine learning. New clause 26 would create an offence of using, creating or sharing online or digital tools that simulate sexual communication with a child.

We know that the increased online presence of children and the latest technological developments create new opportunities for abuse. Ofcom agrees that the sexual exploitation and abuse of children online is a persistent and growing threat, with devastating consequences for those affected. New risks are emerging as the way we interact online continues to evolve, including through extended reality, end-to-end encryption and generative AI. In a BBC report, makers of child sexual abuse images were found to be using AI software called Stable Diffusion. This software is intended to generate images for use in art or graphic design, but the BBC has found that it is being used to create lifelike images of child sexual abuse, including the rape of babies and toddlers. Under article 34 of the United Nations convention on the rights of the child, states parties have an obligation

“to protect the child from all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse.”

The criminalisation of online sexual exploitation and abuse forms part of a states party’s obligation to protect children under article 34 of the CRC. The UN committee on the rights of the child affirmed this in general comment No. 25 (2021) by calling on states parties to put

“appropriate legislation…in place to protect children from the crimes that occur in the digital environment…and to allocate sufficient resources to ensure that crimes in the digital environment are investigated and prosecuted.”

That includes online child sexual exploitation and abuse offences.

Under international standards, legislation concerning child sexual abuse material should be introduced or amended to incorporate technology-specific terminology and to specifically capture child sexual abuse material available online. This child sexual abuse material includes live performances and, arguably, computer-generated images that have

“been created with the purpose of conveying the impression that they depict children.”

In its recent report, “How AI is being abused to create child sexual abuse imagery,” the Internet Watch Foundation recommends

“the Ministry of Justice to commission a review of the laws that apply to the removal of this content online to ensure they are fit for purpose to tackle the threat of AI CSAM. This includes ensuring the exchange of ‘hints and tips’ and ‘paedophile manuals’ on how to generate this content are made illegal.”

In oral evidence to the House of Lords Communications and Digital Committee, Ian Hogarth, chair of the UK’s AI foundation model taskforce, spoke of

“how some of the open-source image generation models have now been fine-tuned by malicious actors to generate child sexual abuse material. These systems are being used for really some of the most heinous things out there.”

Criminals are finding new ways to harm children. As technology moves forward, it is right that the legislation aimed at protecting children from online harm must move with it.

New clause 28 would clarify the definition of joint enterprise, or secondary liability, so that an individual must make a significant contribution to an offence committed by another to be criminally liable. There has been considerable discussion in the House recently on reforming joint enterprise, including as a result of the tireless campaigning of my hon. Friend Kim Johnson, who has been advancing a private Member’s Bill on this issue. It seems that the consensus from the House’s many discussions is that reform is clearly needed. There is no doubt of the injustices that have arisen from the application of joint enterprise law.

As my hon. Friend Janet Daby said in her speech on the Joint Enterprise (Significant Contribution) Bill, which I have just mentioned, joint enterprise is an important tool in our criminal justice system that has helped to secure convictions that otherwise would not have been successful, including of some of the men who killed Stephen Lawrence. It has also been successfully used to prosecute paedophile rings and those who commit economic crime, but the doctrine is certainly in need of reform. Labour has previously stated that it would look to reform joint enterprise, and that remains our ambition.

However, the Crown Prosecution Service has ongoing work to collect data on joint enterprise prosecutions. The initial tranche of data revealed matters of huge concern. Black people make up only 4% of the UK population but, according to the CPS, black defendants make up 30% of the joint enterprise case load. It was also revealed that joint enterprise prosecutions disproportionately affect young people and children.

The data collection has now been expanded into all CPS areas and, to ensure that any reform has the best chance of addressing the ongoing issues with the application of the doctrine, it is essential that it is based on a strong evidence base. Once a stronger evidence base has been built up through the CPS’s data collection, we will be better placed to know how to reform the law to tackle the issues about which there is such serious cross-party concern.

This amendment is reasonable and commendable but, when we take action to reform, it is important that we do it right first time. Only a fuller picture provided by robust evidence can ensure we do that.

New clause 29, in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea East, seeks to align the definition of “human trafficking” in UK law with the UN definition. My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Yardley made the case well for this new clause in Committee, where she highlighted the lack of convictions under the current framework. I hope the Minister can set out what the Government intend to do to rectify this.

New clause 32, in the name of Elliot Colburn, would include offences motivated by hostility towards an individual’s disability status, sexual orientation or transgender identity, or perception thereof, in the aggravated offences under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. We support the amendment all the more because it is identical to the new clause that I tabled in Committee, and it is Labour party policy.

The amendment would address the disparity between existing characteristics and current hate crime legislation. It would create parity of maximum possible penalties for all five characteristics defined under the sentencing code. Under current hate crime legislation, hate crimes based on race and/or religion can have higher maximum penalties than their base equivalents, whereas hate crimes based on sexual orientation, transgender identity and/or disability cannot. This creates a two-tier system of justice. The Law Commission’s recommendation that offences motivated by hostility towards an individual’s disability status, sexual orientation or transgender identity should be encompassed within the aggravated offences under the Crime and Disorder Act.

New clause 32 comes in the context of soaring levels of hate crime reporting. Over 145,000 cases were reported in 2022-23. Across all monitored strands of hate crime, the number of offences has soared since 2011-12. Racially motivated hate crime rose by over 200% in the period, topping 100,000 instances for the first time in 2021-22. Meanwhile, hate crime motivated by religion increased by a massive 433%. Hate crime motivated by sexual orientation has increased by 493%, and hate crime motivated by transgender identity has increased by 1,263%. Violent crime or crimes against the person rose as a proportion of hate crime offences from 29% in 2012-13 to 41% in 2022-23. The number of violent hate crimes has risen sixfold, from 12,739 to 63,895 in 2022.

LGBT+ people and people with a disability should be able to live their life free from fear, abuse or violence. Labour has committed to taking back our streets and to being tough on hate crime. We will do so by strengthening and equalising the law so that every category of hate crime is treated as an aggravated offence, to ensure that everyone who falls victim to a hate crime is treated equally under the law. I hope that the Government will support new clause 32.

The Minister said in Committee that, later this year, the Government intend to publish a full response that will address each recommendation of the Law Commission’s report, and that it would be premature to make decisions before the formal Government response is published. However, I urge the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington to stick with his new clause and to press it to a vote if it is not accepted by the Government.

It is always a pleasure to speak to the amendments of my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Yardley. Her tireless mission to stand up for victims in all forms is respected across this House, and I think she is still due a huge number of answers from the Minister relating to her amendments, which have been retabled.

New clause 44 would amend sections 52 and 53 of the Sexual Offences Act to replace “prostitution” with “sexual exploitation”. The reason for doing so ultimately lies with shifting perceptions. Adult sexual exploitation is a form of sexual abuse that is poorly understood and rarely recognised across many sectors. Victims of adult sexual exploitation are falsely identified as consensually engaging in sex work, and the labelling of that abuse as “prostitution” in law serves only to perpetuate it. This mislabelling has led to countless people across the UK falling through the gaps and not receiving necessary support, as their experiences are not recognised.

New clauses 45 and 46 would address the gap in law that can lead to the unjust stigmatisation and criminalisation of victims of sexual exploitation. They would do so by decriminalising conduct falling within section 1(1) of the Street Offences Act 1959—street prostitution offences—and by establishing a mechanism to expunge criminal records for street prostitution offences. I look forward to the Minister’s response.

New clause 47 would make an aggravating factor of grooming in certain adult cases, including around domestic and sexual abuse. My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Yardley moved her new clause in Committee and spoke of how little understood the grooming of adults is, despite there being considerable overlap of perpetrators—and of perpetrator behaviours and tactics—with those seen in cases of child sexual grooming. Grooming is a deliberate process of limiting the freedoms of a person by gaining control over them and creating a dependency. It is widespread and prevalent in every part of the UK, but it is under-represented in UK legislation. It seems sensible to seek to put adult grooming victims on the same footing as children. I do not feel that the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, the hon. Member for Newbury addressed this point adequately in Committee, which is why it is important to invite further comment today.

New clause 48 would classify strangulation as an aggravating factor in sentencing murders. It follows new laws on non-fatal strangulation that were introduced under the Domestic Abuse Act 2021. In Committee, my hon. Friend highlighted that the common understanding of the role of strangulation in domestic abuse is changing; it is now understood as a form of coercive control and an accurate red-flag predicter of homicide. It is clear that there is a need for review in this area and for us to look holistically at sentencing, rather than attempting to amend the criminal justice system based on piecemeal changes.

On new clauses 49 and 50, the charity Centre for Women’s Justice says that the Bill does not address the gaps in law and practice that can lead to the unjust criminalisation of victims of domestic abuse and other forms of violence against women and girls and exploitation. New clause 49 would amend the law on self-defence and is modelled on the provisions for householders in section 76 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008. It would allow survivors acting in self-defence against their abuser the same protection as householders defending themselves against an intruder—in other words, this is the self-defence proposal.

New clause 50 and schedule 1 would introduce a statutory defence for survivors modelled on section 45 of the Modem Slavery Act 2015. It would give survivors of domestic abuse similar protection to that given to victims of trafficking who are compelled to offend—this is under the section 45 proposal. Research by CWJ and others has made it clear that law reform is needed to address the difficulties faced by victims of domestic abuse in establishing reasonableness and proportionality when accused of using force in these circumstances. Again, I would welcome the Minister’s comments on my hon. Friend’s proposals, which seek to improve the law for victims.

New clause 55 deals with the offence of child criminal exploitation. There have been numerous calls to do more legislatively to address that, including by creating a statutory definition, over the course of this Parliament. I recall my hon. Friend Sarah Champion speaking powerfully on these issues in the Committee on the Bill that became the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022. Opposition Members have been pursuing the issue again through the Victims and Prisoners Bill.

Clearly, reform is needed to tackle the appalling scale of child criminal exploitation. Research carried out by the Children’s Commissioner found that 27,000 children who were at high risk of gang exploitation had not been identified by services and consequently were missing out on vital support to keep them safe. The research found an even higher number of children who were experiencing broader risk factors linked to exploitation, with one in 15 teenagers falling through the gaps in education and social care. Thousands of children are being criminally exploited, and that demands more of a response from the Government.

Well-reasoned amendments have been made to a number of Government Bills in recent years, as I have just outlined. As new clause 55, which stands in the name of Sir Paul Beresford demonstrates, they are coming from across the House. So what will it take for the Government to engage constructively with Members who are deeply concerned about this issue and the dangers facing our young constituents? The Government should engage more constructively.

New clause 57 is an interesting provision. Given the increase in e-bikes and cycling in general, we recognise the need for some change in this area of law. That said, we are keen to understand exactly how the provisions in the new clause would work, the impact they would have and the number of potential cases likely to be created. We are not sure that the new clause is fit for purpose, so we will also be interested to hear from the Minister. However, we are satisfied that this is an area in which we would wish to legislate after the general election, if we are successful.

I come to the serious issues raised in new clause 59 by my hon. Friend Alex Norris in relation to knife crime, which destroys lives, devastates families and creates fear and trauma in communities. Many of us will have constituents who have been deeply impacted by knife crime. Sadly, the situation is getting worse, not better. The latest statistics show knife crime up again in the past year; it is now 80% higher than it was in 2015. The Opposition have always been clear that we will work with the Government on this matter so that we can take dangerous weapons off the streets and save lives.

In that spirit, my hon Friend tabled his new clause 59, proposing a ban on ninja swords. Many will be shocked that such weapons are not banned already. In the wrong hands, they can cause significant harm and they should be taken off the streets without delay. New clause 59 would introduce such a ban.

Of course, there is a wider point about the ease with which such weapons are bought and sold, mostly online, and then end up in the hands of young people. New clause 60 and amendment 69, also standing in my hon. Friend’s name, seek to address that point. The prevalence of banned weapons found on online marketplaces is shocking and must be tackled, yet there seems to be no accountability. We need tougher criminal sanctions on the senior tech executives who allow such knife sales on their online marketplaces. New clause 60 would introduce such sanctions.

More widely, we need a complete end-to-end review of online knife sales, from the point of purchase through to delivery, particularly to strengthen ID checks, and checks conducted by Royal Mail and Border Force on UK-bound parcels. Unfortunately, we are seeing too many gaps and loopholes in efforts to tackle knife crime. We need to identify and deal with them before they are exploited further. Amendment 69 will place a duty on the Secretary of State to conduct such a review and begin that process.

Taken together, new clauses 59 and 60 and amendment 69 form part of Labour’s plan to tackle the scourge of knife crime on the streets. As I have said, the Opposition will work with the Government on the issue. Young lives depend on it. I hope we can make progress on this soon.

New clauses 91 and 92, in the name of Tim Farron, create an offence of failing to meet pollution performance commitment levels for water quality and address individual senior manager responsibility—I spoke of that earlier. It is Labour policy to bring forward legislation to strengthen the law in this area. We would put the water companies under special measures; strengthen regulation so that lawbreaking water bosses face criminal charges; and give the regulator new powers to block the payment of bonuses until water bosses have cleaned up their filth. We would also end self-monitoring; force all companies to monitor every single water outlet, so that companies can no longer cover up illegal sewage dumping; and introduce severe and automatic fines, which no water bosses can ignore, for illegal sewage discharges. We feel that these new clauses are too narrow, but we will legislate in government.

In conclusion, I wish to pose a few questions to the Minister. What impact will the provisions in the Bill have on the criminal justice system and, in particular, our crisis-hit Prison Service? As I said at the outset, many of the Government’s own new clauses and amendments did not arrive until a few days before today’s Report stage. What impact assessment has been carried out and when can we expect to see it? May I remind the Government that we are still waiting on the economic impact assessment for the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act, which received Royal Assent two years ago?

Finally, let me again address the prisons crisis. Some of the proposed sentences in the Bill are numbered in months. How does that sit with the Government’s position on the presumption against short sentences and their current policy of giving a host of prisoners up to 70 days off their sentences so they can make way for new ones? Clearly, Ministers have a balancing act to perform, but despite the merits of some of the clauses in the Bill, they are creating more problems without solutions further down the system. However, we look forward to the Bill progressing and to day two of our proceedings, assuming, of course, that that will actually come before the general election.

Several hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means, Deputy Speaker

Before we proceed, I would like to make a couple of observations. These are very serious and sensitive issues that deserve, and are clearly going to get, proper debate. In his closing remarks, Alex Cunningham indicated that there are two days for this debate. Earlier, an hon. Member intervened on the Minister to raise a subject that she had not commented upon. There was a good reason for that: it is listed not on the order paper for today but on the order paper for the second day. I ask hon. Members to make quite sure that, when they are discussing these issues, they are discussing those listed on the order paper for today, in the understanding that there will be a second day.

There are 18 hon. Members wishing to speak. I may have missed one, so there may be more. At the moment, we have plenty of time but may I gently urge conciseness rather than self-indulgence? That relates particularly to interventions, which should be interventions and not speeches.

I call the Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee.

Photo of Caroline Nokes Caroline Nokes Chair, Women and Equalities Committee, Chair, Women and Equalities Committee

I rise to speak to amendment 160, tabled in my name and supported by members of the Women and Equalities Committee, and other colleagues across the House. I will endeavour to be as brief as I can and I reassure everybody that the amendment is on the order paper for today.

I thank my hon. Friend the Minister for her comments on deepfakes. There has been a problem: someone like Taylor Swift can get a deepfake made using their image taken down very quickly, but for ordinary women, or indeed men, from across the UK, who are not famous and do not have a platform, it is very difficult to get deepfake imagery removed. I welcome the steps the Government are taking on that.

I thank the shadow Minister, Alex Cunningham, for his comments about the amendment. I was not aware that the Opposition were planning to support it, so I thank him for that. I urge my hon. Friend the Minister to pay close attention to what I and other members of my Select Committee will say about the amendment. I recognise that the amendment comes at the eleventh hour, on Report, for which I apologise to my hon. Friend. The reason for that is specifically because of the evidence the Committee heard last week, both in private and in public, from victims of revenge porn.

I welcome the changes that have been brought in under the Online Safety Act to support victims of non-consensual intimate image abuse. However, from the evidence we heard, it is clear that the legislation, in its current form, does not go far enough. It does not give Ofcom the teeth it needs to effectively tackle the fast-spreading, uncontrollable virus that is non-consensual intimate image abuse. It does not force platforms to remove harmful content in its entirety, or require internet service providers to block access to it. In short, it does not make the content itself illegal. The sharing of it is illegal but, even if there is a criminal conviction, the content itself is not regarded as illegal content.

Last week, the Women and Equalities Committee heard from a number of survivors of non-consensual intimate image abuse. In sharing their experiences with us, they have spoken of the catastrophic damage the abuse has had on their lives, confidence and relationships. They told us of their fear of applying for jobs, meeting new people or daring to have any social media presence at all. With all their cases, there was a common theme: even though they had secured a conviction against their perpetrator, their non-consensual content continues to circulate on the internet. Despite relentless work by organisations, such as the Revenge Porn Helpline, to report the content and get it taken down, there is no legal obligation for platforms to remove it.

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller Conservative, Basingstoke

I thank my right hon. Friend the Chair of the Select Committee for making an excellent point, which supports the point I made earlier. If the Bill had a consent-based creation offence in it, that would outlaw the images that the people she is talking about find so difficult to get off the internet. Surely the Bill provides the opportunity to introduce a consent-based creation offence, rather than the current proposal that potentially provides lots of loopholes, particularly to online apps, to use intention to try to evade the long arm of the law.

Photo of Caroline Nokes Caroline Nokes Chair, Women and Equalities Committee, Chair, Women and Equalities Committee

My right hon. Friend’s point is exactly right that the issue is consent. In my view, when images are non-consensual, they should be regarded in the same way as if the individual had been digitally raped.

There are also many thousands of cases where a conviction has not been achieved or even sought, where the victim just wants the content taken down or blocked. They too are being denied that peace of mind due to gaps in the current legislative framework. The amendment calls for non-consensual intimate photographs or film to be added to the list of “priority offences” in the Online Safety Act, thus making it “priority illegal content”. The amendment would ensure that non-consensual content, regardless of whether or not a conviction had been achieved, would be, by its non-consensual intimate nature, illegal. It would place duties on platforms to remove it, and require internet service providers to block access to non-compliant sites and platforms, including those hosted outside the UK.

That is precisely the way in which child sexual abuse material is handled. Children cannot provide consent and the adults in these images have not provided their consent for them to be taken, shared or both, so why should the content be treated so differently? Indeed, when Kirsten Oswald put it to my hon. Friend the Minister during her recent appearance before my Committee, that adult content should be handled in the same way as child sexual abuse material, via a registry to identify, classify and therefore allow for the removal of non-consensual intimate images, the Minister said it would be “a very good idea”. In order to do that, we need to make the content illegal.

It is important to note that intimate imagery does not just refer to photos and videos that are sexually explicit. Indeed, as we heard from David Wright, chief executive of South West Grid for Learning, which runs the Revenge Porn Helpline, within certain countries and cultures, being photographed with an arm around somebody or being filmed without a hijab can have catastrophic implications for a woman. That is why it is so important that any legislative change uses the term “intimate”, not “sexual”, when referring to non-consensual content.

Last week, we heard evidence from Georgia Harrison, who famously was the victim of revenge porn perpetrated by her then partner, Stephen Bear, who later received a criminal conviction for his actions and was sent to prison. Georgia made the point repeatedly that what happened was like “a house fire”, because when the images went up they spread very quickly. The solution was to get them taken down as quickly as possible so that they would not proliferate. The Committee described it as being like a virus that spreads out of control. The issue is not just about Georgia Harrison or famous women who have a platform they can use to ensure their voice is heard.

We also heard from an anonymous victim of Operation Makedom. In that case, the perpetrator had many thousands of victims. He received a 32-year prison sentence, but that young woman is too afraid to have any sort of social media presence because she is terrified that her image will be seen and put through reverse image searches so she will be identified as a victim. Thousands and thousands of the Operation Makedom images still proliferate online and nothing can be done about that because the content itself is not illegal. It remains online and accessible for people in the UK, despite that 32-year prison sentence. That cannot be right. We will be letting down the victims of that abuse, and all other cases of non-consensual intimate image abuse, if we fail to act.

My final point to the Minister is that we also heard about the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority and the fact that intimate image abuse is not on its list as a violent crime. When someone applies to the authority, expecting or hoping for some small nugget of compensation—a message in effect that they are a victim, they can put the blame and shame to one side, and they have been a victim of a criminal act—that is not even there for them. I have no doubt that is because the list of violent criminal offences was dreamt up many moons ago and intimate image abuse simply has not been added to it. It should be added to the list. As I said earlier, for a woman, or indeed a man, who has had their intimate images put online, circulated freely and proliferated all over the place, that is like digital rape. It is a rape that continues day after day, to be brutally honest, with no end in sight.

Those are the reasons why my Committee has tabled this amendment and why we urge Members to support it and give it serious consideration. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will be able to make some comments from the Dispatch Box that might indicate how the MOJ can incorporate such provisions into existing law. If the message coming back to me is that the content is already illegal, I must say that it is not. We must find better ways of getting it down from online platforms.

Photo of Tim Farron Tim Farron Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government) 3:00, 15 May 2024

It is a pleasure to serve under your guidance this afternoon, Mr Deputy Speaker. I also will seek to be brief and will principally speak to the two amendments in my name.

Let me first say that I fully support new clause 86, endorsed by Caroline Nokes. Likewise, I pay tribute to Dehenna Davison, and support her new clause 9 on one-punch manslaughter. Again, sticking with those on the Conservative Benches, I support amendments 32 to 41 from Richard Graham, covering the issue of spiking, which is an incredibly serious offence. There are many on the Opposition Benches to whom I could also refer, but I will not do so because of time. I support new clause 35 in the name of Peter Dowd, which covers the offence of failing to stop at a traffic accident and seeks to close a loophole to ensure that justice is done.

Let me now focus on new clauses 91 and 92 in my name. New clause 91 creates the criminal offence of failing to meet pollution performance commitments, and new clause 92 would make senior managers criminally liable for such an offence. If there were any doubts at all that these new clauses were needed, they should have been dispelled by a quick look at the news earlier today. We have revealed—this was discovered by some of us only yesterday—that, earlier this year, 10 million litres of raw sewage was dumped into England’s largest and most popular lake, Windermere, at the heart of my constituency and our communities in Westmoreland. This incident happened for 10 hours. United Utilities did not alert the Environment Agency for 13 hours.

The outrageous scale of this incident brings into question the extent to which the current framework is adequate. This is a personal issue to us. This is a lake at the centre of the Lake district’s hospitality and tourism economy, which brings in 20 million visitors every year—the biggest number of visitors to any part of the United Kingdom outside London. We are proud of that. It is an industry that employs 60,000 people, worth £3.5 billion to the local economy and contributing hugely to the national economy. The fact that this is permitted at the heart of the jewel in the crown of our tourism economy in this country is an utter outrage. The ecological side of it is even more utterly, utterly appalling.

The revelations of the past day or so have proven that the regulatory framework is utterly and totally broken, so the call for these new clauses for and the creation of criminal liability in this case is absolutely 100% justified. The offence that I have just spoken about is the tip of the iceberg. I shall talk principally about my own water company in the north-west of England, United Utilities. That company spilled sewage 97,000 times for almost 700,000 hours. There are two sites on the river Kent at Kendal; one spilled sewage on 42 occasions, and the other on 69 occasions. The River Eea at Cark on the Cartmel peninsula, near Grange-over-Sands, saw the most egregious example in the whole of the north-west of England: sewage was spilled 281 times for 6,471 hours last year. The River Eden at Kirkby Stephen saw 172 spills for 3,225 hours. At beautiful Coniston water, which has just celebrated being given bathing water status at four sites only the other day—I pay tribute to local councillor Suzanne Pender and the local parish councils for achieving that really important classification—there were 178 sewage spills in 2023 on 141 days.

Across all the water companies in England, there were 464,000 separate spills in 2023. That was a 54% increase on 2022. The water companies and, indeed, Ministers themselves said that that was because it rained more last year—not 54% more it didn’t. These spills are unjustifiable. We are left in a situation where only 14% of England’s rivers are at an ecologically good standard. Of all of the rivers in England, not one—a fat zero per cent—are of a good chemical standard.

My new clauses, which create a criminal offence, are necessary, because the regulatory framework is failing. Regulators have repeatedly let the water companies off the hook, and the data that they have to work on is incomplete. Ministers will say, and rightly, that until relatively recently there was not a lot of data available, and that monitoring did not happen. But who does the monitoring? The water companies do the monitoring; they mark their own homework. The Environment Agency, which is underfunded and the victim of many cuts over many years by this Government, is obliged to come out and inspect at a spill site only if the water company invites it to do so. How ridiculous and how weak is that?

Ofwat’s attempts to tackle egregious acts by the water companies are inadequate. They are too little and too late. For instance, Ofwat has dragged its feet to get around to merely consulting on plans to ban bonuses—perhaps sometime next year—with only the outside possibility that this could come into force. A process that River Action, an excellent campaign organisation, rightly described as far too slow.

Again, Ofwat has taken until now to consider fines of up to 10% of water companies’ turnover for the worst forms of poor customer service. Why so long? Why only now? The Office for Environmental Protection found that the Government were set to miss their 2027 targets to improve the state of England’s rivers, lakes and coastal areas by a “significant margin”.

In the Liberal Democrat policy paper, “Are you drinking what we are drinking?”, we propose a new regulator, with new powers to issue fines to top executives and to initiate proceedings. Given that we are where we are, I simply ask the House to consider new clauses 91 and 92 as a crucial way of being able to tackle the most egregious acts of sewage dumping in our lakes, rivers and coastal waterways.

For those of us in and around the English Lake district, this matter is personal. It is offensive to us. We consider ourselves—if it is not too grand to say this—as custodians of England’s Lake district. We are protecting the area not for us, but for the whole country, the world, the generations who come after us, and the people who will make use of Lake Windemere and the ecology that it supports at the heart of the stunning beauty of the Lake district, which is after all a world heritage site.

We are determined to tackle this problem. I pay tribute to all of those who campaign on this issue, including Matt Staniek and all those involved in the Save Windermere campaign, and others who are determined to make a difference. Citizen science projects going on in the Rivers Kent and Eden are equally important. They are more low-key, but are absolutely vital to trying to get to the heart of the problem. However, all the data in the world will not solve this problem if we do not have the laws to prevent what is happening and to hold people to account.

The regulatory framework has failed Windermere, the Lake district, Westmorland, Cumbria and the whole of our country. Now is the time to criminalise those who callously disregard the regulations and pollute our waterways.

Photo of Greg Clark Greg Clark Chair, Science, Innovation and Technology Committee, Chair, Science, Innovation and Technology Committee, Chair, Science, Innovation and Technology Committee, Chair, Science, Innovation and Technology Committee

I am grateful to the Government for signing new clause 62 which I and my hon. Friend Dame Tracey Crouch first tabled. We are both grateful to our hon. Friend Stephen Metcalfe who moved a similar amendment in Committee.

This is distressing subject matter for an amendment to a Bill, and we regret having to bring it to the attention of the House. It relates to a criminal trial in 2021, when David Fuller, as the Minister mentioned, was convicted of the murder of two young women in Tunbridge Wells—Wendy Knell and Caroline Pierce—in the 1980s. That recent conviction followed a forensic lead that eventually led to his identification. In the course of the police’s gathering of evidence for his murder conviction, for which he received a whole-life tariff, video recordings that Fuller made of himself were found. For context, Fuller was an electrician whose employment by the Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust gave him access to hospital mortuaries, in which he filmed himself sexually assaulting the dead bodies of women and girls. There were over 100 female victims of such abuse in the film discovered in his possession. They ranged in age from nine to 100.

Some of Fuller’s convictions were for the offence of sexually penetrating dead bodies, which under the current law carries a maximum sentence of only two years in prison. As I say, it so happens that he received a whole-life tariff for two particularly abhorrent murders for which he was convicted, but had that not been the case, the maximum sentence available would have been two years for each offence. The evidence gathered by the police showed that Fuller also seriously sexually assaulted victims in non-penetrative ways. I will not go into detail, but I can tell the House that those crimes were extensive and grave.

Given that 100 victims were identifiable, more than 33 Members of this House, spreading right across the country, have in their constituencies the families of victims who are known to the police and to the NHS trust. All Fuller’s crimes are frankly unspeakable, but as well as the current sentencing limit being absurdly inadequate to deal with, in effect, the rape of dead bodies, the law does not cover any form of sexual assault that is non-penetrative. In her opening speech, the Minister referred to its being unusual for the House to consider an area of criminal law that simply has not been addressed before. There is clearly a gap that I hope all Members will agree needs to be closed. That is what we aim to do with the new clause.

Photo of Tracey Crouch Tracey Crouch Conservative, Chatham and Aylesford

This is one of the most harrowing pieces of casework that I have been involved in during my 14 years in this House. My right hon. Friend will remember that the gap, as he has just referred to it, was identified to us by one of the police officers who was involved in the horrific task of going through the evidence, and who said that the case shook him to the core, as I am sure it would many people. Will my right hon. Friend join me in paying tribute to the police officers, and of course the civilians who support them in going through the evidence at a forensic level, which I am sure many of us could not compute, and certainly could not comprehend?

Photo of Greg Clark Greg Clark Chair, Science, Innovation and Technology Committee, Chair, Science, Innovation and Technology Committee, Chair, Science, Innovation and Technology Committee, Chair, Science, Innovation and Technology Committee

I completely share my hon. Friend’s desire to pay tribute to the police officer who brought this gap in the law to our attention, to all his colleagues who had the painful duty of viewing the images, and more generally to the family liaison officers who had to support the 100 families of the victims, and indeed the staff of the Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust, who—knowing, in many cases, this individual—were devastated to discover what had gone on, completely unknown to them.

The new clause will make an important change to the law. It will increase the maximum sentence for the sexual penetration of a dead body from two years to seven years, and create a new offence of sexual activity with a corpse, which will carry a maximum sentence of five years to cover non-penetrative offences. Victims of Fuller were robbed of their lives and then their dignity, and the victims’ families have been robbed of adequate justice. The devastation of the families of Fuller’s victims has been heartbreaking, as my hon. Friend and other colleagues will know. They suffered the deaths of their daughters, sisters, nieces, aunts, wives, mothers and grandmothers. Then, having laid them to rest and grieved for their lost lives, hundreds received a knock on the door one night from the police, who had to tell them that the body of a person who was so precious to them had been desecrated in the most sickening ways by this vile individual, in a place—a hospital mortuary—that they thought was sacrosanct, safe and protected.

Many will never get over the shock and disgust that they felt when that news was imparted to them that evening; it stays with them, even now. Nor, as my hon. Friend says, will the police officers get over having to view every second of hundreds of hours of video showing the most depraved images that they have ever been confronted with. As my hon. Friend said, one of the officers was in touch with us, and called on us to close this gap in the law. He, his colleagues, and the families of the victims will never have restored to them the peace of mind that Fuller destroyed. The families’ memories of their loved ones will be forever tainted by association with the thought of what Fuller did to them. Sadly, we cannot correct that in this House, but we can ensure that the gravity of these offences is recognised. I am grateful to the Minister for supporting our new clause, and giving it the Government’s backing.

Photo of Peter Dowd Peter Dowd Labour, Bootle 3:15, 15 May 2024

It is a pleasure to see you in the Chair, Mr Deputy Speaker. I thank Greg Clark for speaking on the issue. For those of us who were on the Bill Committee—many of us are present today—it was in many cases quite distressing to hear of the experiences that so many people had had over the years. It is a tribute to Members present, including those who were on the Committee, that they are here to listen to those experiences.

My new clauses 35 and 36 relate to traffic collisions. New clause 35 is intended to require drivers who are involved in a collision with a pedestrian, cyclist or motorcyclist to remain at the scene of the collision and report it to the police, or face the consequences of their decision not to. New clause 36 would reduce the amount of time that the driver involved has to report the collision from 24 hours to two hours. Technology has moved on. The provision for 24 hours is an old element of the Road Traffic Act 1988. Everybody has the capacity to report things very quickly.

I thank hon. Members who put their names to my new clauses. As I said, I sat on the Bill Committee for several weeks. We went through it line by line, and as I indicated, we listened to harrowing and distressing accounts of the experiences of victims—victims who literally went from the cradle to the grave. We have heard that again today. Colleagues who spoke in Committee will no doubt bring those accounts to the attention of a wider audience of hon. Members today. We have just heard one such example. Those accounts are worth listening to.

For my part, I bring to the attention of colleagues my reasons for tabling my two new clauses; the groups that have supported me in doing so inclue RoadPeace, Cycling UK and Action Vision Zero. There was a Westminster Hall debate on 15 November 2021 about two petitions that had gathered more than 100,000 and 165,000 names respectively, calling for tougher sentences for, as they are colloquially known, hit-and-run drivers who cause death, and for the offence of causing death by dangerous driving to be widened to include a failure to stop, call 999 and render aid on scene until further help arrives. The Department for Transport said in response to the petitions:

“The Government takes this issue seriously. The Department for Transport is looking into the issue of such incidents of failure to stop resulting in death or serious injury, and exploring whether there are further options that can be pursued.”

That was well over two years ago. What have the Government done in response? What has the Department for Transport done? It appears to me to be not a great deal.

I raised the issue of leaving the scene of a collision in the Bill Committee earlier this year. I did not push my new clauses to a vote then, because I understood that either the Ministry of Justice or the Department for Transport were working on the matter, and could be liaising on it, especially as the Department for Transport had already recognised that some assessment of the situation must be undertaken, and had ostensibly committed to doing that. Lord Paddick in the other place withdrew an amendment on 8 November 2021 to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill that would have amended the Road Traffic Act 1988 because Baroness Williams of Trafford said that her ministerial colleagues at the Department for Transport understood the concerns raised and were

“exploring options…including…the available penalties and how the offence operates as part of long-term and wider work on road safety.”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 11 November 2021;
Vol. 815, c. 1557.]

I wrote to the Minister earlier this year to say that I was not tied to the letter of my new clauses and the penalties therein, but I do not appear to have received a response, which is regrettable. If I did receive a response, I apologise, but I do not believe that I did. I assume there was some liaison between Departments on the matter. In Committee, I set out in a bit more detail why I was pursuing this issue. I go back to the point about how long it has been since the Government have moved on their position. It is 10 years since they said that they would undertake a full review of traffic offences. Regrettably, that has not happened, yet there seems to be an irrefutable case for it. What will it take for the Government to look at these issues affecting our constituents?

I offer hon. Members a few stats, to put this matter into context. Every 16 minutes, someone is killed or seriously injured on the road in the United Kingdom. That is a stark figure. If we average that out, it means that over 10 years, 31,000 men, women and children have been killed or seriously injured in collisions, and there have been a total of 130,000 casualties right across the piece, although I accept that the number includes very minor collisions. In a year, 1,766 people were killed—1,711 in Britain and 55 in Northern Ireland—and 28,941 were seriously injured. Road deaths have increased to pre-pandemic levels, and serious injuries are up 8%. I stand to be corrected on these figures, but that is an average of 85 people killed or seriously injured every year in each of our constituencies.

Meanwhile, many drivers simply leave the scene of the collision—as many as 17,000 people, according to the Motor Insurers Bureau. Not all those cases result in injury or fatality, but there are families who know that their son, daughter, husband, brother, sister or relative was left on the road, dead or dying, by someone who just decided to go off. If a person decides to drive away and leave somebody dead or seriously injured on the road, they must face the consequences of their decision—that seems pretty simple—and explain in due course why they left the scene of the crime. Whatever the reason was, they must face the consequences for doing what they did.

In Committee, I asked whether I needed to give hon. Members examples of what families have had to go through. I did not want to, because it was harrowing and distressing enough to hear about them, as the right hon. Member for Tunbridge Wells will know from the case he mentioned. There were huge numbers of examples, and I do not want to repeat them. People know; they do not need things drawn out graphically.

I repeat what I said in Committee: how would we reply to a constituent who said that we have the power to take action? Would we say, “It’s a shame, but there’s nothing much I can do about this. I’m sorry to hear that”? What if our constituent said, “You have the power, the capacity and the wherewithal to change this”? Would we just shrug that off and say, “Nothing to do with me. I’m sorry; there’s nothing I can do”? Would we sit there in silence? Would we look at the data and the information? What would we do? Well, I know what I want to do. I want to try to change the law, so that those who leave others dead and dying in the road are held to account, and face up to their actions. It is our solemn duty to protect our constituents. If we cannot protect them from people who decide to leave them dead or dying, we must at least try to send a message, for the sake of their families, who seek not retribution, but justice. That is what I want to do.

I will finish with a study by Dr Matt Hopkins at the University of Leicester, who interviewed dozens of hit-and-run drivers about why they failed to stop. A fair proportion of hit-and-run collisions, as they are called, involved drivers who did not have valid insurance and often did not have a valid licence. Others were banned from driving at the time of the collision. Still others were under the influence of drink and drugs. They were trying to avoid responsibility, not just for potentially killing someone, but for being drunk or on drugs, or whatever it was. I understand that people might leave in a state of panic, but they must none the less face up to their responsibilities.

New clauses 35 and 36 are an attempt to send the message out—not in a super-duper emotional way; I am not trying to threaten—that if a driver, whatever the circumstances, decides to leave the scene of an accident, they must face the consequences. I am not wedded to the sentence being five or six years in prison, or to the amount of the fine; we can debate and have dialogue about that—or I hoped that we would, but regrettably we have not. That is why I brought the new clauses back today. I have not said that I will push them to a vote; I do not want to. I just want people to bear them in mind, and to think about the impact that such actions have on families. Those people must be held to account.

Photo of Dehenna Davison Dehenna Davison Conservative, Bishop Auckland

I know that this place can have a reputation for being home to nothing more than Punch and Judy politics, but in debates like these, we see the best of this House, as people raise their experiences and those of their constituents, and work, often in a cross-party fashion, to bring forward changes to legislation that will have the right sort of tangible impact for everyone across our country. On that basis, I will support a number of amendments, including those of my hon. Friend Elliot Colburn and my right hon. Friend Caroline Nokes, and, of course, the new clause that my right hon. Friend Greg Clark and my hon. Friend Dame Tracey Crouch tabled in Committee, which I am glad the Government accepted.

It will be of no surprise to anybody in the House that I rise today to speak to new clause 9. Before I go any further, I thank the Minister for her kind words about my dad. I hope that she will not mind my saying that her own father—her constituency predecessor—would, I am sure, be incredibly proud of the work that she is doing in her ministerial post and in her constituency.

I hope that the House will forgive and indulge me as I tell—hopefully for one last time in the Chamber—the story of my dad. Dominic Davison was a 35-year-old self-employed stonemason, a brilliant dad, a brilliant family man and a great friend to all who knew him. On a Friday night in 2007, he went to the pub with his friends and never came home. Regrettably, he was involved in an altercation that resulted in his receiving one fatal blow to the head—a blow so significant that he was dead before he even hit the ground. That is why I have dedicated much of my campaigning time since then to trying prevent other families from having to go through the horror and shock that my family had to go through.

However, today is not about my dad, me or my family. As I have campaigned, this issue has transformed from something deeply personal into something much greater; it is about the resilience of all the families who have experienced such horrific tragedies and have pushed through, and who are now campaigning for change. It is only right that I pay tribute to the incredible work of Maxine Thompson-Curl and her partner, Tony, who run the One Punch UK charity, based in the brilliant north-east. That initiative came from another terrible tragedy.

Maxine has long spoken of the story of her son Kristian, who was in his late teens when he died. As the designated driver—a great lad—he had gone to pick up his mates from a nightclub, and went to the loo while they were finishing their drinks. A guy approached him in the toilets and asked whether he had a cigarette. He said no. The result was that Kristian received a single blow to the head. He fell over and hit his head on the ground, and was in a coma for, I believe, about 10 months before regrettably passing away.

Maxine has dedicated her entire life since then to campaigning not only for improvements to the criminal justice system, but for improved awareness more broadly, so that fewer people out there feel that the first step they should take if they are aggravated or frustrated is to raise their fists. The work of One Punch UK includes going into schools to talk to young people about the dangers that can arise from that one split-second moment of silly action, which can ruin not only the lives of those who lose their loved ones, but the life of the person who throws that blow. I commend those at the charity for their work.

In talking to families from right across the country, in constituencies far and wide, we have pulled out a few key themes on where the system is not working as it should and as many of us would expect. Regrettably, the core theme is sentencing. There are a few cases that I can raise. Shaun Hardy’s perpetrators received sentences of just 27 months, Lee Burns’s perpetrator received a two-year suspended sentence, and Robert Holland’s received a sentence of three and a half years. There have in recent years been improvements to the length of sentences passed, but even now, it is believed that the average sentence for taking a life through that kind of violent punch is around four years. The question that we in this House must ask ourselves is: what is the price of a life? What is the price of losing a loved one?

I can safely say from experience that no sentence will ever be enough to make up for the tragedy, trauma and anguish faced by individuals who have lost loved ones like that, but four years is not justice; it is nothing short of insulting. I tabled new clause 9 to improve sentencing, not just to bring a sense of justice for the families impacted by these horrific crimes, but to improve faith in our wider criminal justice system, which we know is facing difficulties among members of the public.

The new clause is based on legislation introduced in a number of Australian states. We have used very similar wording to try to make it as specific as possible. I am incredibly grateful for the engagement from the Ministry of Justice and the Home Office, including from the Secretary of State for Justice, the Home Secretary and, of course, my hon. Friend the Minister. I appreciate their concerns about creating discrepancies in the law—for example, our new clause talks specifically about a punch, so if someone were to be slapped forcefully and fall over backwards, the clause would not apply. Of course, I do not want to allow emotions to dominate when we are ultimately here in this House as legislators to make the best law and have the best possible impact for our constituents.

I have been very grateful for the strong levels of engagement throughout my campaign on one-punch awareness. I and One Punch UK offer our thanks to the Government, and to Members right across the House who have got involved in our campaign, come to our awareness days and signed amendments to improve things for families going through these horrific tragedies, for their engagement.

I do not intend to press my new clause to a vote because the Government have—again, I am grateful for this—come forward with a wonderful package of measures that we believe will make a brilliant and tangible difference for the families impacted by such horrendous tragedies. For example, we have been offered a full review of low-culpability homicides, taking into account not just single punches but any single blow and other such crimes, to look at whether or not a sentencing review is needed. Of course, we would like that review to get started as quickly as possible, and I know that the Minister recognises the urgency with which we have been campaigning on this matter. I and One Punch UK look forward to working with her and the Victims’ Commissioner to get that review under way; I will be on their backs, making sure that it is a strong review with strong recommendations, and will be pushing for the Government to accept the recommendations at the end of the process.

Sentencing itself is only part of the picture, because one of the difficulties we have experienced is the expectation gap in sentencing. Let us go on a journey from the perspective of someone whose loved one is lost. The first moment is the knock on the door to say that your loved one has been killed, and the second moment is learning the reason why. The third moment is learning that the case is going to go to a criminal trial. At that point, in your mind, it does not matter what rational explanation you have been given: your loved one has been murdered, so your expectation is that a murder charge will be brought and the defendant will go away for life. It is emotional—it is not rational—but that is the true experience of victims. To then find out that a lower charge of manslaughter will be put forward and that the charge will be lower-culpability manslaughter, meaning that the average sentence will be more along the lines of four years, is an incredibly difficult journey for any victim to go on.

Most good, law-abiding families do not have intense experience of the criminal justice system, nor should they. As such, one of the things we have been pushing for is a single point of contact specialising in one-punch assaults, to be that hand-holding guide from day one through to the trial and beyond, so that those expectations can be dealt with right from the get-go, in order to avoid that horrific expectation gap and the feeling of betrayal by the criminal justice system. On that basis, I am incredibly pleased that the Government have appointed Rob Kirby to that role as part of the National Police Chiefs’ Council. I look forward to meeting him and working with him to design his workstream, to make sure that we get that work under way as soon as possible.

Ultimately, the end goal is to stop as many families as possible from having to go through that journey in the future. Awareness is absolutely key, and once more I must praise the work of One Punch UK. It goes into schools and educates young people, and it goes into prisons and talks to perpetrators about how they can turn their lives around. There is an individual who I must also praise. His name is Jacob Dunne. Jacob was a perpetrator who threw a single punch and went to prison. He turned his life around, and he now fights for restorative justice—he himself goes and speaks to young adults who have made bad choices to encourage them that there is a better way. Recently, he has worked with James Graham to produce a play at the Nottingham Playhouse called “Punch”, which I am looking forward to seeing tomorrow—well, I say that. I imagine it is going to be intensely emotional, but I do look forward to seeing it, because I think it will be a really positive step in raising awareness and hopefully discouraging anyone else from raising their fists at the wrong moment.

On the point of raising awareness, once again I am very grateful to the Ministry of Justice and the Home Office for committing to fund a further tranche of the Walk Away campaign. That is a public awareness campaign, and they are allowing me to help co-design it alongside One Punch UK, to make sure we spread the message to the maximum possible number of people that raising your fists is not the right answer.

Once again, I am very grateful to all colleagues who signed new clause 9. I would of course have liked it to be accepted and to see it pass, but all of us in this place know that we cannot let the perfect get in the way of the good. If someone had told me at the start of this campaign that we would achieve what we have managed to achieve today, I would have bitten their arm off. I was recently asked whether I consider this package of measures to be my legacy; I absolutely do not, mainly because I am not going to stop campaigning on this issue even when I have left this place. It is the legacy of all those families who have lost loved ones, of all those campaigners who have fought for change and, of course, of my dad Dominic. I know that he would be as grateful as I am to the Government for the positive steps that they have brought forward today.

Several hon. Members:

rose—

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

I will call Members whose amendments have been selected for separate decision first. I call Jess Phillips.

Photo of Jess Phillips Jess Phillips Labour, Birmingham, Yardley

I was not expecting it to be me—thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. I have tabled amendments. I am sure everybody in this House will be delighted to hear that I will not be pushing all of them to a vote, because we could be here all night if I did.

Many people have put in a great amount of work, including the previous speaker, Dehenna Davison. I wonder whether, in her summing up, the Minister could give us some idea of whether the Bill will ever make it on to the statute book, because we are all working hard to put things into law, but we potentially have just 12 weeks left in this place, and it is a pretty long Bill to get through the Lords. I am worried about progress being stalled and about whether we are wasting our breath, but here I am and I will waste mine.

New clause 44, which stands in my name, seeks to replace the term “controlling prostitution for gain” with “sexual exploitation of an adult”, and to provide a definition of adult exploitation in the Sexual Offences Act 2003. In 2015, a significant change was made through the Serious Crime Act, whereby “controlling a child prostitute or a child involved in pornography” was replaced with the term “sexual exploitation of a child”.

Children who were once labelled prostitutes are recognised as being children who have been groomed and abused, and who are in desperate need of support. Unfortunately, no such change occurred for adult victims of sexual exploitation. I noted the earlier conversation on the issue of cuckooing, and the importance of understanding that a person can be groomed and coerced. The people who rent or own properties in that circumstance would be adults, so we do recognise that adults can be groomed; it just is not reflected in our laws. In fact, new clause 47, which also stands in my name, talks about that as well.

Sexual exploitation occurs when individuals or a group take advantage of an imbalance of power to coerce, manipulate or deceive a person into sexual activity. That is often done in exchange for something that the victim needs or wants, and it will disproportionately benefit the perpetrator. The impact on lives is devastating.

One case study from the STAGE group highlights the sudden change in perception of sexual exploitation as a person reaches adulthood:

“Meena was 15 when she was introduced to her perpetrator. He began…supplying her with alcohol and drugs to the point she developed a dependency on alcohol. He used her fear around shame as a form of control to ensure she did not speak out about the abuse he would subject her to. Between the age of 15-18 Meena was seen as a victim of CSE and professionals did all they could to safeguard her. At 18 the exploitation was continuing. However, since moving into adult services the police and adult social care have questioned whether Meena was just making unwise choices and whether she was getting something out of these exchanges… Meena had a missing episode. She was located following a sexual assault. However, the responding police officer informed” her support worker

“that this experience cannot be sexual exploitation because Meena is over 18.”

The lack of a legal definition and the continuing label of sexual exploitation of adults as “controlling prostitution for gain” has led to the continued abuse of countless women like Meena and to the lack of response from safeguarding agencies. New clause 44 would play a vital role in changing the perception of adult victims of exploitation. As I have said, new clause 47 would make an aggravating factor of the grooming in these cases—adult cases—just as we do in cases of childhood sexual exploitation.

Since 2019, the STAGE partnership against adult sexual exploitation, which I declare I am the chair of, has supported over 700 adult women who have experienced grooming, and that is just in the north-east and Yorkshire. STAGE’s work has confirmed that grooming is a common technique used to manipulate people for sexual exploitation. There are considerable overlaps in the perpetrators’ behaviour and tactics with those seen in cases of child sexual grooming, and it has a devastating negative impact on people’s ability to consent and make capacitated decisions. It is a deliberate process of limiting the freedoms of a person by gaining control over them and creating dependency. However, for adults who have experienced grooming, it is often reduced to making poor life choices because of the belief that grooming can only happen to children. Adult victims of grooming are repeatedly asked victim-blaming questions such as, “Why did you get back in the car? Why did you stay with them? Why didn’t you leave?”

I do not know if Members of this House have seen the TV programme “Baby Reindeer”, but it is one of the best examples I have ever seen. It is interesting because it is about a man, and I therefore think that, as a nation, we might be more ready to believe it. There is an incident where he goes back to somebody with more power than him, who has a hold over him in his career and is feeding him drugs for dependency. He goes back, but under our current laws he would not be considered to have been groomed. That would not be a mitigating factor in any case that he could take. If he was a child, it would be a mitigating factor—nobody is arguing against that.

Photo of Iain Duncan Smith Iain Duncan Smith Conservative, Chingford and Woodford Green 3:45, 15 May 2024

The hon. Lady is making an important point. All of this comes back to how we view vulnerability, because it displays itself in very different ways. In almost all these cases, there is some base vulnerability, and a drug addict or a person who has been accused of various things realises that, on balance, they had better do what they are told or coerced into. That is the real point, is it not?

Photo of Jess Phillips Jess Phillips Labour, Birmingham, Yardley

I absolutely agree, and it can truly happen to anybody—we have seen how people even in this House can be coerced into things. It is dangerous. If there are criminal charges for blackmail, sexual violence or whatever against a person, grooming should be an aggravating factor, regardless of age, on the basis—as the right hon. Gentleman rightly says—of a differential of vulnerability. Until grooming of adults is recognised in legislation, it will continue to be misunderstood by law enforcement and the criminal justice system, and victims will not be adequately protected.

New clause 45 would essentially decriminalise the offence of loitering or soliciting for the purposes of prostitution, and repeal section 1 of the Street Offences Act 1959. Tens of thousands of sex trade survivors who are convicted of that offence endured violence and abuse from punters and pimps, or they were criminalised for offences arising from their exploitation. The exploiters and abusers remained at liberty, continuing to offend, while we criminalised the victims.

In one case I was told of, a young woman was 15 when she was first exploited into prostitution by a man posing as her boyfriend. He became her pimp, and as well as sexually abusing her himself, he made her sell sex on the street where she often feared for her life. For years she suffered violence and abuse from her pimps and punters, and was regularly arrested by the police while they exchanged friendly greetings with her pimp—that, by the way, is essentially protected under the law in our land at the moment, which needs some heavy review. As a consequence of that history, which dates back to the 1980s, she has 39 convictions for soliciting and loitering, which will remain on her record for life, despite her having exited prostitution more than 30 years ago. She is one of thousands of women who have lived through that experience.

Times have changed. Those in much of street prostitution are now widely understood to be the victims, and they are usually no longer arrested. The new clause would provide the necessary recognition that women convicted of such offences were not criminals. It would ensure that the UK complies with international human rights obligations to women exploited in prostitution, and it would replicate the majority of Council of Europe states that have fully legalised or decriminalised prostitution, or adopted the sex buyer model, which decriminalises only those exploited and not those who profit or benefit from prostitution.

New clause 46, which is connected to new clause 45, would create a mechanism for those who received convictions for loitering and soliciting for the purpose of prostitution to have them disregarded. We have seen quite a push in the House regarding the criminalisation of people from the Post Office and—quite rightly—to have those convictions quashed. I am asking us to consider those young children and very vulnerable women who were criminalised, because that will remain on their criminal records until the survivor reaches the age of 100. It means that women who were convicted continue to be disadvantaged by the mandatory retention of such records, as a result of being historically subject to violence and exploitation. Despite recent changes to the disclosure regime, women are still at risk of those records being disclosed in certain circumstances. In the Post Office drama, one woman could not go into her kid’s school to do a painting session. We are talking about women who have been exploited not being able to go into our kids’ schools.

New clause 48 argues that strangulation should be seen as an aggravating factor in the sentencing of murderers, and the Minister sought to address some of these issues. Working with many families of murdered women, many of them speak to me of the horrors of how their loved one was killed by strangulation. Strangulation is not a weapon. Weapons have different sentencing regimes, and in this instance, a man’s strength is their weapon; he brings a weapon by bringing the strength to strangle and kill somebody. We have gone over the debates and the amazing work of Carole Gould and Julie Devey looking at the differentiation between those who kill a stranger or anyone in the street with a knife getting a 25-year minimum sentence, and someone who kills their wife with a knife in their home getting a 15-year minimum sentence. That is fundamentally wrong. Schedule 21 to the Sentencing Act 2020 needs a massive review, but one thing we could definitely do is put in aggravated factors specifically on strangulation, as Clare Wade suggested.

We debated new clauses 49 and 50 extensively in Committee, and they relate to whether victims of domestic violence deserve defences in the law. I imagine this matter will get an even bigger run-out in the Lords. Many learned Members of the other place very much wish to see these mitigations for cases where women commit crimes as a result of the pattern of abuse they have suffered. I look forward to that being the ongoing debate down there.

We did not debate new clause 93 in Committee, so I will just talk about it. I like it as a policy, because it does not cost anything, which the Minister will be pleased to hear. It calls for the sentencing code to be amended to require judges to consider making compensation orders where there is evidence of economic loss or damage as a result of the offence. I know from my constituents and the charity Surviving Economic Abuse that even when a survivor is lucky enough to have her case reach court and her abuser handed a prison sentence, she has to live with the long-lasting impact of the abuse. Some 5.5 million UK women have had their money and belongings controlled by their current or former partner in the past 12 months. Many economic abuse survivors often end up homeless, destitute and with damaged credit scores that prevent them from rebuilding their life.

While the sentencing code requires judges to consider awarding compensation when making their judgments, in reality they do not. Research by Surviving Economic Abuse looked at successful controlling or coercive behaviour prosecutions that featured economic abuse between 2016 and 2020, and it found that despite evidence of loss and damage caused by the perpetrator, just 2% of cases resulted in the perpetrator being ordered to pay compensation. New clause 93 would help ensure that judges consider whether a compensation order is appropriate in cases of economic abuse.

That is the end of my amendments. However, my right hon. and learned Friend Ms Harman has had many a mention today. She cannot be here today, but she has asked me to make some remarks on new clause 2 on her behalf. I make them very much on my behalf, too, with one particular question to the Minister. I have already asked her about the age being under 13. If somebody came to me and said that the father of their children had raped a 14-year-old, I do not think they would be particularly happy that they still had to go through the family court process, so I very much hope that when the Minister says this is an iterative process, that will actually be the case. There are still massive safeguarding issues.

New clause 2 would change the law to protect the children of convicted child sex offenders by taking away their father’s parental rights. That would be hugely significant and would lay down that fatherhood is a privilege, not a right and that people will forfeit it if they are a danger to their children. That would be a major change. The patriarchal hangover whereby a father’s rights over a child were sacrosanct will, at long last, give way to the priority of protecting the child.

It has long been recognised that children need protecting from sex offenders. While in the 1990s we brought forward protection for children through the sex offenders register and restrictions on people who have been convicted of serious sexual offences, we did not tackle parental rights and protect the offender’s own children. Somehow, the patriarchal view that a father’s rights over their own children must not be disturbed was a carve-out. Obviously that was wrong, because the rights of the child—not the rights of the father—should be at the forefront.

A recent family court case in Cardiff put a spotlight on that. When the father of Bethan’s daughter was sent to prison for child sexual abuse, Bethan was horrified to discover that, despite being in prison, he still had rights over their child. When he was sentenced, he was given an order banning him from any future contact with children, but that ban did not extend to his own children. Bethan spent £30,000 going through the family court fighting to protect her child from him.

The courts and the law should step forward to protect children. It should not be left to the mother—especially because, in most of these cases, the mother will be a victim as well. The court should strip the father who has done the offending of rights over his child.

As the Government have said, they are adopting this change. I have already said that I have concerns about some of the limitations with regard to the offence type. Let us be honest: I do not believe in the rights of fatherhood when parents are abusive at all.

When working with my right hon. and learned Friend, there are a lot of messages—that is what it is always like. The drafting of the legislation has essentially been copied and pasted from previous campaigns that we worked on with regard to Jade’s law on homicide, and there is a worry about the drafting of proposed new section 10B to the Children Act, which requires local authorities to make an application to the family court to review the decision to remove the sex-offending father’s parental right in every case, even when there is no issue at all with the mother. In her closing remarks, will the Minister address that?

Several hon. Members:

rose—

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

Order. I urge colleagues to be considerate of each other in the length of time that they are taking. I am trying to ensure that we get everybody in, and the debate will finish at 7.20 pm, so that means that colleagues have about 10 to 12 minutes each.

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

I rise to speak in favour of new clause 57 and what was new clause 7 which has been copied by the Government in new clauses 94 and 95 on cuckooing. Having discussed the matter, I very much welcome the fact that the Government have essentially adopted my original new clause. Some modifications have taken place, and I agree with all of those.

It is critical that cuckooing is an offence in itself. When we talked to the police about it, they were clear throughout that they could not get into houses where there were problems—or even perhaps criminal activity was taking place—because there was no offence of having taken over the house. It will make the police’s job a great deal easier if they do not have to be able to demonstrate suspicion that a criminal act is taking place in the house; they will simply have to believe that the house has essentially been cuckooed. They will then be able to go in and discover lots of stuff.

Many criminals take over these houses for the simple reason that they know it will take the police a while to get their act together and be able to get inside. That action will be speeded up, which I think ultimately will help the police dramatically.

I made the point to Jess Phillips that vulnerability plays a massive part in all this. Who knows what vulnerability is, but some victims have drug, alcohol, physical and mental health problems, and may have other learning difficulties and other disabilities. We forget about the learning disabilities element, but vulnerability can encompass somebody’s lifelong failure through all education systems and everything else. They are vulnerable, but they may not display those vulnerabilities to the public cognisance. Therefore, cuckooing—using someone to take over their house—is what happens. Hidden behind those doors, the victims go unnoticed.

Photo of Rob Butler Rob Butler Conservative, Aylesbury 4:00, 15 May 2024

Building on that point, does my right hon. Friend accept that, sometimes, vulnerable people might appear to be exactly the opposite? They might put up a façade of great confidence or even of arrogance, including in the criminal justice process, which I have witnessed as a magistrate. We need to look carefully behind that, to assess whether someone is arrogant or vulnerable.

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

I could not agree more. That is why I was insistent that the Government are clear in the guidance that coercion and other acts negate the idea that, superficially, the individual is declared to have given their permission. That needs to be investigated more deeply by the police before they say, “It’s all right, they gave their say so, it is fine.” It is not fine. That vulnerability needs to be examined. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making that point, and I am grateful to the Minister for making it clear at the beginning that that will be in the guidance.

Research from the Centre for Social Justice and Justice and Care highlighted that, despite the terrible impact on victims, taking control of a person’s home in this way is not specifically a crime. The specific offence of cuckooing is therefore needed to rectify the harm done. It has been claimed endlessly that civil orders do the job, but they do not because they are short term. They can be obtained quickly but they are not lasting and do not do anything—perpetrators are back into the process because they are not criminal orders. That is the point: if we make this a criminal offence, suddenly these perpetrators will have to think twice.

I am being brief because I welcome the Government’s decision to amend their own Bill and put it into law. I am grateful for that, and it will be celebrated up and down the land by many people who have felt abandoned. The issue is linked in many senses to what the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley said earlier about vulnerability. It may open a wider debate about how vulnerability is recognised in criminal law.

New clause 57 would create an offence of causing death by serious injury and dangerous, careless or inconsiderate cycling. If accepted, it would ensure that cyclists are held accountable for their actions, enhance road safety and provide justice for victims and their families. Simply, it tries to bring in what has, for some reason, been completely left out of the normal criminal codes and highway code with regards to some of problems caused by the increase in cycling. Let me make it clear that I am very keen for more cycling to take place—it is good for individuals and the environment. I recognise all that. This is not anti-cycling, despite what many people say about it—quite the opposite. It is about making sure that cycling is safe and reasonable.

I want to raise the case of Matthew Briggs, who has been campaigning for a law recognising death and serious injury. He is in the Gallery, witnessing these events. His attempt to get a cyclist prosecuted after his wife was killed in central London in 2016 involved a legal process so convoluted and difficult that even the presiding judge has said, since she has retired, that it made a mockery of the law. It needs to be addressed that the laws do not cover what happened to Matthew’s wife and a lot of other people. They had to use a Victorian law made in about 1850, about wanton and furious driving, which referred to horse riding. Nothing has been done ever since. It is quite a different offence, to be frank, and it certainly is not about cycling.

As far back as the 1950s, it was recognised that juries were slow to convict in motor manslaughter cases—that is recognised in a report that I will come to in a second—which led to major changes in the law for drivers. The case for changing the law on cyclists is now urgent. By the way, it is not just me saying that. Back in 2018, the Department for Transport commissioned an independent inquiry into this very issue. Some of the points it made are really relevant, but nothing has been done since. It stated:

“there is a persuasive case for legislative change to tackle the issue of dangerous and careless cycling that causes serious injury or death;
in order to bring cycling into line with driving offences.”

It is interesting that it referred to a number of countries that do incorporate that. It has not led to a fall in cycling in those countries—it is still increasing—but it is done on a lawful basis. The report quoted a barrister—this is a key component:

“I consider that this legislative change would have a positive effect on all road users.”

They went on to say that it

“would have a positive impact purely and simply on the basis of cyclists being well aware that if they were to ride in a careless or dangerous manner and were unfortunate enough to kill someone” laws would proceed against them. They went on to say:

“I would like to think that it would have a positive impact for people to think ‘I am going to slow down, I’m not going to do anything stupid’” because it could put them in danger with the law. As I said, that independent report is from 2018, but nothing has been done since. That has made this more important. Matthew Briggs and other campaigners often have faced a lot of abuse from people who simply do not want change to happen. It is time for us to recognise the impact of this issue.

Under the current 1861 law, even if someone on a bike has killed a pedestrian, they can only be jailed for a maximum of two years. That creates a clear discrepancy between different forms of dangerous behaviour on roads, and the punishment does not always fit the severity of the crime or achieve justice for victims. In one case, Mr Justice Mitting stated:

“If the vehicle ridden by” the suspect

“had been motorised he would have had no defence to a charge of causing death by dangerous driving, an offence which carries a maximum sentence of 14 years’ imprisonment.”

There have been calls for legislative change for some time—I mentioned the report—but the numbers are growing.

It is worth looking at some other cases, which show that Mr Briggs’s case is far from isolated. Families who have lost loved ones or who have suffered injuries are desperate for change. In July 2020, Peter McCombie, 72, was killed by cyclist Ermir Loka, who had jumped a red light. In June 2022, Stewart McGinn, 29, was jailed for a year after he sped on his bike around a corner in Monmouth, south Wales, hitting Jane Stone, 79, who died four days later.

In June 2022, Hilda Griffiths—this is a very important case—who was aged 81, was run over by a cyclist, who was racing along at 29 mph in a 20 mph zone on a high-performance racing bike. She subsequently died. The extent of Hilda’s injuries were so severe that all the NHS medical professionals at St Mary’s Hospital could not believe that the collision had been with a bicycle. At the time, they thought they had misread the notes and that it must have been a motorbike or a vehicle that caused such extensive, life-threatening injuries. The case was unable to proceed because the speed limit does not apply to cyclists. These anomalies need to be resolved.

On 1 May, I met Paolo Dos Santos, who was knocked unconscious after she was hit by a speeding cyclist who was overtaking a car—overtaking a car—at the same spot. She suffered several facial injuries and now requires reconstruction surgery for her upper jaw socket. Without initial surgery, she would have lifelong discomfort and pain, and would not be able to use her mouth properly to chew, or anything else. In 2016, Diana Walker, 76, died when a cyclist hit her in Pewsey, Wiltshire. In June 2020, Ian Gunn, 56, died in south Manchester, yet the cyclist was cleared of wanton and furious driving.

It is interesting: I am talking about not just deaths, but injuries. I hope colleagues note the age of most of the victims. It is older people who are affected and it is worth recognising that this is a real problem.

The Department for Transport produces statistics on pedestrians involved in road collisions in Great Britain as reported by or to the police. Between 2018 and 2022, 2,000 pedestrian casualties in Great Britain occurred in a collision involving a pedal cycle. Of those, nine were fatal, 657 were very serious injuries and 1,292 were injuries. The number of pedestrians hit by cyclists has increased by a third since 2020, and in 2022, the most recent year for which figures are available, 462 collisions between cyclists and pedestrians were recorded by police. According to data from NHS England, 331 pedestrians were admitted to hospital after a collision with a cyclist between 2022 and 2023. Six of those patients were over the age of 90, and 11 were under the age of four.

We can see a pattern here: the elderly and the very young are becoming the people most affected. It should also be borne in mind that most of these injuries and accidents are not reported to the police because most people do not think anything will happen—unlike motor accidents, although I take the point made earlier by Peter Dowd that even motorists try to abscond.

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

I will, but very briefly, in view of your strictures, Madam Deputy Speaker.

Photo of Rehman Chishti Rehman Chishti Conservative, Gillingham and Rainham

May I make a specific point about road traffic accidents? We are debating a Criminal Justice Bill, and we are discussing support for victims. The maximum penalty for driving without insurance is a £300 fine or six points on the driver’s licence, unless the case goes to court, in which case drivers can receive unlimited fines and be disqualified from driving, irrespective of whether their offence is the first or the 10th. Should we not address that aspect as well, with the aim of making our roads safe?

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

I hope my hon. Friend will forgive me if I do not go down that road at this particular point, because I am dealing with a very focused new clause, but I think that, as a minimum, we need to bring matters back into balance and allow ordinary pedestrians and others to recognise that there is a problem that needs to be rectified. I hope the Government will do that.

There has been an explosion in the number of electric bikes. The other day, I watched as someone on an electric bike passed a small primary school, just at the last moment avoiding the children who were coming in and out of it. I genuinely believe that he must have been doing over 30 miles an hour—coat flapping in the wind, not a care in the world, wearing no protection and certainly with no concern for those young children. It gave quite a shock to many of the mothers who were standing there. I watched with astonishment at the arrogance of the cyclist. It has been reported that some of these bikes have been adapted so that they can go faster than the legal speed limit for vehicles. These are not simply retrospective issues; they are developing issues.

I believe that the new clause will achieve equal accountability. Drivers are held accountable for dangerous driving resulting in death, and cyclists should face similar consequences for reckless behaviour that leads to fatalities. It will achieve deterrence, because stricter penalties for dangerous cycling will act as a deterrent, and it will achieve justice and closure for the families of victims who deserve it; outdated laws that do not adequately address cycling-related fatalities can leave them bereft. Finally, it will achieve public safety, because updating traffic laws can contribute to safer road environments for all users, including pedestrians, cyclists and motorists.

New clause 57 stands not only in my name but in those of many colleagues on both sides of the House, and I recommend it to the Government. I recognise that it is not perfect—as was suggested by Alex Cunningham—but I hope that the Government will adopt it, given that it can be modified in the other place if necessary. Not to adopt it now is to deny that there is a problem. I intend to press it when the time comes, but we do not have to divide on it, because I hope and believe that there is a chance of the Government’s adopting it, which would be a relevant and good position to take.

Let me end by commending Matt Briggs. He has campaigned bravely for some time, and has been vilified by many parties who do not want this to be done. His wife died and he has been without her for a number of years, but he has never relented in his campaign. Just over a week ago, I heard him speak on Radio 4, and his testimony so moved me that I decided we had to start acting now. I make no apology for that. As I have said, the new clause is by no means perfect, but action is better than inaction in so many cases.

Photo of Gerald Jones Gerald Jones Shadow Minister (Wales), Opposition Whip (Commons), Shadow Minister (Scotland)

I would like to speak in support of new clause 16, which is in my name. It seeks to amend the Road Traffic Act 1988 to provide that dangerous, careless or inconsiderate driving offences may be committed on private land adjacent to a highway. I am grateful to my hon. Friend Carolyn Harris for presenting and supporting my new clause in Committee, and for the positive comments in Committee from colleagues on the shadow Front Bench and the Government Front Bench, as outlined by my hon. Friend Alex Cunningham earlier.

I should like to give some background to the new clause. In August 2017, a 22-month-old child, Pearl Melody Black from Merthyr Tydfil, was tragically killed when walking with her father and brother. Pearl was killed by an unoccupied vehicle that rolled from a private drive in Merthyr Tydfil on to the highway and down a hill before crashing into a wall that subsequently crushed Pearl and injured her father and brother. In the months after the incident, officers from the serious collision unit of South Wales police worked tirelessly to put a case together to provide justice for the family. In short, all tests concluded that the car was mechanically sound and that it had rolled because the handbrake was not fully engaged and the automatic transmission was not fully placed into “park” mode.

The case was sent to the Crown Prosecution Service and worked on by the London office as well as by the independent QC hired by the CPS to consult. Everyone was hopeful of a conviction under the death by dangerous driving category. The CPS also looked into other possible options. In June 2018, however, the CPS stated that it was unable to send the case to court because a glitch in the law stated that, in order to bring a prosecution under the Road Traffic Act 1988, the vehicle must have started its journey on a public road. So, even though Pearl was killed on a public road, the fact that the vehicle started its descent from a private drive meant that prosecution was not possible. The coroner stated that the vehicle was well maintained and that it seemed that the issue was very much one of driver operation. The inquest heard that the handbrake had not been fully applied in “park” mode.

The inquest into Pearl’s death was heard in October 2018, and the outcome was that it had been an accident. However, with the support of South Wales police and the CPS, Pearl’s parents have sought to change the law—and they continue to do so—so that other families are not in a similar situation of not being able to secure justice due to a legal loophole following such a tragic and completely preventable incident. As Gemma and Paul Black acknowledge, as the legislation would not be retrospective, it would not help to bring justice for Pearl, but preventing anyone else from suffering such an injustice might provide some comfort.

I introduced a ten-minute rule Bill to amend the 1988 Act, and that Bill had cross-party support. However, as with most ten-minute rule Bills, it fell due to a lack of parliamentary time. A new clause in this Criminal Justice Bill would allow for the change to be made. It is wholly wrong that in cases such as the tragic one I have outlined justice cannot be achieved where there can be no conviction simply because the land on which the incident takes place is not classified as public. If the law on driving offences occurring on private land adjoining public land were changed, it would be a powerful deterrent to road users showing carelessness, as well as to those who have no doubt exploited the current loophole in the law to avoid conviction when they have undoubtedly been at fault. People would be likely to take more care and pay more attention when driving or parking on private land close to public land, in the knowledge that there could be serious consequences for careless or reckless behaviour.

There are instances where private land adjoining public land is regularly used and potentially dangerous to those around it. These areas include residential driveways, as I have outlined, as well as schools, nurseries, supermarkets, shopping centres and doctors’ surgeries, to name some of the most common. When we consider some of these examples, we can see that driving on that specific category of land can present a high risk to people in everyday situations, especially children, the elderly and some of the most vulnerable among us.

I am sure that all hon. and right hon. Members would agree that nobody who has suffered the loss of a loved one or had an accident or injury as a result of a driving offence should have to endure the injustice of seeing those responsible go free simply because of a loophole in the law. Prosecutions for driving offences—and, indeed, any illegal action—should be based on what happened, not where it happened. I am hopeful that, if these changes are made, it would give people such as Gemma and Paul Black, and many others, the peace of mind that there are consequences for dangerous driving, no matter where it occurs, and it would help to prevent such needless and avoidable tragedies.

The Criminal Justice Bill is the first opportunity in a number of years to amend the Road Traffic Act. I understand that the Ministry of Justice is supportive but, as it relates primarily to transport, it is for the Department for Transport to provide a workaround. I am therefore grateful to the roads Minister, Guy Opperman, for meeting my constituents Paul and Gemma Black a few weeks ago. He offered some hope, and he offered to do what he can to help. I am also grateful for the positive conversation with the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, Laura Farris.

Although there has been work on this complex issue, there is no definitive progress as yet. Perhaps the Minister could give some indication as to the Government’s current thinking when she winds up the debate. I will continue to chase progress, because I believe this is a matter of common sense and justice. I hope the Government will offer some support, hope and peace of mind for my constituents Paul and Gemma and, no doubt, for many others across the constituency.

Photo of Vicky Ford Vicky Ford Conservative, Chelmsford 4:15, 15 May 2024

Before speaking to new clauses 25 and 26 in my name, I want to say that it was a huge honour and privilege to serve in Committee, where we did a huge amount of work on the Bill. We can all see elements of the Bill that affect our constituencies. In Chelmsford, outlawing the scanners that thieves use to intercept car key signals so that they can drive away with our vehicles is welcome. Essex’s police and crime commissioner has campaigned for the new knife crime laws. Along with others, I have campaigned and lobbied the Minister for the amendments she tabled on spiking. I also support the amendments before us today on a huge range of matters, including the ones on dangerous cycling, cuckooing and revenge porn.

This shows the Bill’s incredibly wide scope, which provides an opportunity to update crucial laws in so many areas. Faint-hearted or cowardly Ministers would not have given us a Bill with such broad scope. They would have shied away from it, fearing having so many amendments and so many areas of controversy. They would have feared colleagues tabling amendments to play political games, and they would not have taken the risk. Ministers have done the right thing by introducing a Bill with such broad scope. They recognise that even the best laws sometimes need a fresh pair of eyes, because situations change, and they want our laws in this country to be the best they can possibly be. I thank them for not shying away from the work and for being so brave in allowing these discussions to happen.

My amendments are far from playing political games. They propose extremely important laws to protect children from the vilest of vile crimes—child sexual abuse and, particularly, online child sexual abuse. There is a good reason why, for so many decades, it has been illegal for people to have images of child sexual abuse on their computer, because we know that people who look at this sort of content are more likely to step from the visual world into the real world to abuse children. I would argue that people who abuse children in the virtual world are even more likely to go on to abuse real children.

New clause 25 would update our laws on paedophile manuals to include AI-generated material. New clause 26, which would also update the law for the rapid evolution of AI, would make it illegal to use digital tools such as bots or avatars to simulate sexual communication with a child. This would include acts such as creating a bot or avatar to rape a child in the digital world.

I thank the Internet Watch Foundation for its work on these new clauses, which are supported by the police lead on child sexual abuse and others. Artificial intelligence is developing extraordinarily rapidly. There has been an explosion in AI content, and the consequences of that in the dark world of child sexual abuse are devastating. AI-generated images are becoming so widespread on the internet that when the IWF conducted a snapshot study between September and October of just one dark web forum, it discovered that more than 20,000 AI-generated images of child sexual abuse had been uploaded in just that one month on that one forum. These images are now so realistic that it is incredibly difficult for law enforcement agencies to tell the difference between real images of real children, who need real safeguarding, and those that have been generated using AI.

I turn to new clause 26. Under section 15A of the Sexual Offences Act 2003, it is an offence to communicate sexually with a child. The new clause creates a new offence of simulating sexual activity with a child; this includes using, creating or sharing bots or other tools to simulate sexual communication with children. I am told that in online paedophile communities there is always a desire to utilise technology to bring the fantasies of child sexual abuse closer to a reality. The evolution of AI technology is seen as the ultimate solution—it is grim; it allows child abusers to feel as close to the sensation of interacting with and abusing a real child as possible without actually committing the physical act of abusing a child. However, just as we know that a person who regularly views image of CSA is more likely to sexually abuse a real child, it is absolutely clear that a person who abuses a virtual child, or directs an online companion or bot to do so, is much more likely to go on to abuse a real one.

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller Conservative, Basingstoke

My right hon. Friend is dealing with an issue that demonstrates the type of issue pervading all of this Bill. Again, I pay tribute to all the people who served on the Bill Committee and dealt with such a difficult range of issues, as they have done a great service to our House.

Photo of Vicky Ford Vicky Ford Conservative, Chelmsford

On behalf of all of us who served on the Committee, I thank my right hon. Friend for that. I should say that the Ministers and shadow Ministers did a huge amount of work on the Bill.

To put it simply, the online act of abuse lowers the bar to physical offending. There is huge concern regarding the development of AI chatbots and the ease, speed, and quality with which text-to-image-based generative AI tools have been developed. Furthermore, it is important to recognise that this is becoming a risk to massive numbers of children. The National Crime Agency estimates that approximately 680,000 to 830,000 people in the UK—between 1.3% and 1.6% of the adult population—pose some form of sexual threat to children.

Android and iOS app stores have a plentiful supply of AI companion apps. They enable the user to create an imaginary online friend, to choose what that friend looks like and to direct what they do. The three largest apps have already received well over 1 million downloads each. Within minutes of downloading one of these popular apps, law enforcement operatives were able to have an interactive communication with an AI chatbot discussing the abduction, sexual abuse, torture and murder of an eight-year-old girl.

Furthermore, through monitoring offender discussions online, we know that technically capable users are actively building AI chatbot companions specifically for the purpose of having realistic, paedophilic role-plays involving AI child avatars. Ian Critchley, the national police lead on child protection, has warned that the metaverse creates a

“gateway for predators to commit horrific crimes against children”.

There are many stories of child avatars having been subjected to the most hideous of rapes. In evidence to the Education Committee, of which I am a member, the Children’s Commissioner described a child who had

“virtually experienced being raped and sexually abused.”

She said that we must not think that that type of rape is not traumatic, just because it happens in an online world. It is traumatic. It is abuse, and it can be part of grooming. She warned us legislators to

“not underestimate the safeguarding issues”.

The type of behaviour that we are discussing normalises the sexual abuse of children. It encourages those with sexual thoughts about children to act on their urges. We know that this type of behaviour can and does lead to contact offending in the future. It puts real children at risk of significant harm that will impact them for their whole life. Furthermore, Madam Deputy Speaker, you will be concerned to hear that many AI-generated tools have been trained on real material, involving real children. That type of interaction is far from being a victimless crime. It is clear that AI chatbot technology has to be more tightly controlled. It needs to be regulated. At present, there is no responsibility placed on individuals or entities who create or share these vile digital tools, let alone on those who use them. My amendment will change that.

New clause 25 covers paedophile manuals. There is an existing offence of possessing guides to the sexual abuse of children—so-called paedophile manuals. The new clause would update legislation so that it referred to guides giving advice on creating child sexual abuse content using generative artificial intelligence or machine learning. Section 69 of the Serious Crime Act 2015 prohibits the creation, distribution and use of paedophile manuals. However, the legislation is applicable only to directions on the sexual abuse of real children; it specifically omits “pseudo photographs.” It makes no reference to directing people on how to use technology, such as text-to-image generative AI or machine learning, to create child sexual abuse material, or to providing hints and tips on how to create such images.

One recent 210-page manual contained detailed instructions on how to extort images and videos from adolescents. The guide advised people to first ask the child to share images of them wearing swimwear, a bikini or underwear. Once those images have been obtained, the guide discussed how to use nudifying AI technology to remove the clothing from the child. It then explained how to blackmail the victims into sending nude images of themselves, and how to use those images for sextortion. It also contained information on the devices, apps and websites that a perpetrator can use to protect themselves from detection.

Sextortion is another crime that is growing incredibly quickly. The National Centre for Missing & Exploited Children in the US reported 26,718 cases of sextortion globally in 2023, compared to just 10,000 the year before. There has also been an explosion of cases in the UK. The National Crime Agency recently wrote to all schools about the growing risk of sextortion. Hon. Members may have heard about the recent case of 16-year-old Murray Dowey, from Dunblane, who died by suicide after becoming a victim of sextortion. It is a heinous and growing crime—a scourge. Just imagine how much worse it will become if we allow it to become rocket-fuelled by AI altered images. New clause 25 will ensure that our laws cover digitally generated images and the digital generation of material. Finally, I thank the Government for new clause 65, which introduces a duty to report child sexual offences. However, I would just say to the Minister that further clarity on how that provision works in practice is very important.

Amendment 25 is not scheduled to be discussed today. I hope the Minister can confirm that the Government will introduce an amendment on paedophile manuals in the other place. I know that colleagues in the other place intend to re-table the amendment.

I hope that the Government will accept amendment 26. I do not think that the Government Whips want to call on Conservative colleagues to walk through the No Lobby against an amendment tackling the rape of children. I shall listen closely to what the Minister says in her closing speech.

Photo of Kim Johnson Kim Johnson Labour, Liverpool, Riverside 4:30, 15 May 2024

This afternoon, we have heard about some really strong amendments that would strengthen the Criminal Justice Bill, but other amendments seek to criminalise homelessness, further restrict peaceful protest and vastly expand police surveillance powers.

Today, I wish to focus on new clause 28 in my name, which continues the campaign to fix the law on joint enterprise. I began my campaign with support from the amazing campaigners at JENGbA, Liberty and many others for my private Member’s Bill back in February. I was grateful to receive the support of nearly 40 colleagues, who back this amendment, as well as a commitment from my Front-Bench team back in February that Labour will seek to review and reform joint enterprise as and when we get into power.

A charge of joint enterprise too often leads to an assumption of guilt in the courtroom. The defendant is forced to prove their innocence, which turns our justice system on its head. That is a failure of our justice system, supposedly the best in the world, and an affront to the taxpayer, who is left footing the bill for sloppy sentencing. My amendment would enshrine in law the concept that a person can be prosecuted under joint enterprise only where they are proved to have significantly contributed to a crime. That would raise the bar for prosecution, and would provide the jury with the tools to differentiate between defendants who deserve to face a mandatory life sentence for their role in a serious crime, and those who do not.

This miscarriage of justice is worse than the Post Office Horizon scandal, because it involves children as young as 13 being convicted and incarcerated for a crime that they did not commit, and being given a whole life sentence, with little or no option for appeal. Campaigning by JENGbA and Liberty led to a six-month pilot data collection project by the Crown Prosecution Service, which has now agreed to roll out the scheme fully and permanently. Analysis of the original data revealed that more than half of those prosecuted under joint enterprise were aged under 25, with black youth 16 times more likely to be prosecuted under joint enterprise laws than their white counterparts. I personally welcome the commitment from the Director of Public Prosecutions to further investigate these disparities.

The evidence clearly shows that the legislation is being widely used as a dragnet to maximise convictions. We need only scrutinise the Old Baily daily court lists to witness how widespread this practice is. Joint enterprise allows the prosecution to use a racist gang narrative to imply guilt, and to persuade juries using prejudicial stereotypes in place of cold, hard evidence, in a way that is often compared to Russian roulette. Human rights group Liberty submitted one such case last year to the Criminal Cases Review Commission after 11 defendants, all black, were collectively convicted and sentenced to a total of 168 years in prison for a single murder. Evidence included a rap video made online a year earlier, photos of some of the defendants using hand signs, and the alleged favouring of the colour red. I hope that the CCRC, which twice rejected Andrew Malkinson’s request to review, will look at this request more favourably.

In that and similar cases, the prosecution called police officers to give their opinion, as experts, on alleged gang culture, a concept that still evades legal definition but carries with it a racist stereotype intended to sway a jury. That is extremely prejudicial, considering the relationship that the police have with black communities, and considering that black people are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system.

New data from experts at Manchester Metropolitan University has revealed that nearly £250 million is spent each year on processing defendants in joint enterprise cases. An average of 1,088 people every single year are convicted under joint enterprise; the total cost to the taxpayer of their future punishment is a colossal £1.2 billion. With prisons not only chronically overcrowded but unsafe, as highlighted by the recent prisons inspectorate urgent notifications about Wandsworth and other prisons, and with violent crime on the rise, enough is enough. Joint enterprise is costly and ineffective. It is time for a change in the law.

If the social cost of joint enterprise were not conclusive, the economic cost must be the final nail in the coffin for this shocking miscarriage of justice. It has been a decade since evidence was first presented to Parliament, yet our prisons are dangerously overflowing and failing to rehabilitate. The taxpayer is still footing the bill for thousands of people having been wrongly jailed for the crime of another. If someone does not make a significant contribution to a crime, they should not be prosecuted for it; it is as simple as that. Joint enterprise is a stain on our justice system, and the law must be reviewed and changed to stop this dragnet. It is possible to both uphold justice for the victims of crime and put an end to this injustice. My simple change to the law would do just that. I hope that Members will recognise the need for urgent change and support my new clause.

Photo of Elliot Colburn Elliot Colburn Conservative, Carshalton and Wallington

I rise to speak to my new clause 32, which would address the disparity between existing protected characteristics and current hate crime legislation. Hate crimes relating to race and religion carry higher maximum penalties than those associated with sexual orientation, transgender—or perceived transgender—identity, and disability. That has established an unjust, dual-tier justice system. My proposal aligns with the prior expansion of aggravated offences, such as the inclusion of religiously aggravated offences in 2001 following the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, which initially legislated only for racially aggravated offences. It also builds on the Law Commission’s 2021 report, which emphasised the necessity of parity of protection across all protected characteristics, and has garnered substantial support from disability and LGBT+ organisations.

Many people have asked whether this is some sort of woke frontier. We know that a lot of pearl-clutching happens in this place when we mention trans people. I reassure the House, and those concerned about such things, that this is no woke crusade. Indeed, I do not intend in the new clause to divert from existing legal definitions of LGBT+ identities. Nor do I seek to redefine the barriers of aggravated offences. The new clause would simply close a loophole that the Law Commission identified whereby some protected characteristics are treated differently from others in the legal system, for no good reason that I can see.

We have debated many times why sex and/or gender are not included; however, the Law Commission recommended —this was accepted by the Government in their response—that they should not be, because in some cases it would lead to a situation where the offence would be harder to prove. The Law Commission therefore suggested that we go down a different route in legislating for offences against women and girls, which the Government accepted. The Government have not yet responded to the Law Commission’s 2021 report on these issues. When the Bill was in Committee, the Government asked for additional time to do so, and did not accept an almost identical new clause—in fact, it may have been identical.

Let me set out some background, and show why the time has come for us to close this loophole, and why I hope that the Government will agree to do so. My new clause comes against a backdrop of escalating hate crime rates, which underscore the urgency to act. Between 2011-12 and 2022-23, incidents across all monitored strands of hate crime have surged dramatically. Notably, racially aggravated offences have more than doubled, exceeding 100,000 cases in 2021-22. Similarly, hate crimes based on religion, sexual orientation and transgender identity have seen staggering increases of 433%, 493% and 1,263% respectively. Furthermore, violent hate incidents have surged, comprising a growing proportion of overall hate crime statistics.

Against that backdrop, I believe the time has come for us to ensure that all protected characteristics are treated equally in law, and my new clause seeks to do just that. If the Government are not minded to accept the wording I have proposed, I would be very interested to have a conversation with Ministers in the lead-up to the Lords consideration of the Bill. If a commitment is made from the Dispatch Box that a Government amendment will be tabled in the Lords in lieu of mine, I will be happy to back away. If not, I will press my new clause today.

It is imperative that all people, regardless of their disability status, their sexual orientation or their gender identity, feel secure and protected from fear and violence. I can see no justification in law for treating those protected characteristics differently. By treating them all as an aggravating factor, we can ensure equitable treatment under the law for those who are victims. I hope that the Government will either support new clause 32 to advance this critical objective or be willing to table their own amendment in the Lords in lieu of mine.

Photo of Carolyn Harris Carolyn Harris Labour, Swansea East 4:45, 15 May 2024

Hon. Members may be shocked to learn that some forms of pimping are still legal in this country. One of the most significant examples is pimping websites, which are dedicated to advertising people for prostitution. They function like online brothels, making it as easy to order a woman to sexually exploit as it is to order a takeaway.

Despite it being an offence to place a prostitution advert on land, for example in a phone box, our laws have failed to keep up with technology, meaning that those same adverts can be placed legally, for a fee, on pimping websites. That represents a win for the website owners, some of whom are generating millions of pounds in profit every year, and for sex traffickers, who can easily and quickly advertise people for prostitution and connect with a wide customer base across the UK, but certainly not for the victims—the people who have been advertised and sold for sex and who have no legal protection from their perpetrators.

As a member of the Home Affairs Committee, I have heard harrowing evidence on the dangers of these sites. Shockingly, one pimping website admitted to the Committee that it allows single individuals to advertise multiple women for prostitution at the same time on its site, as well as allowing the same contact number to be used across multiple different adverts. Those are both red flags for sex trafficking. The Committee also heard of a trafficking gang that spent £25,000 advertising a group of young Romanian women. Rather than alerting the authorities, the website owners allocated them an account manager to help them to spend more money, showing a total disregard for the women’s welfare. It is quite clear that these pimping websites are now a key component of the business model for sex trafficking, and they must be stopped.

The provisions in the Online Safety Act 2023 do not close the legislative gap that allows online pimping. That is why the Home Affairs Committee recommended a new offence of enabling or profiting from the prostitution of others, which I have tabled as new clause 8. New clause 8 would make it illegal to advertise another person for prostitution, regardless of whether it takes place online or offline.

I am delighted to have cross-party support for the new clause, including from the Chair of the Select Committee, my right hon. Friend Dame Diana Johnson; the co-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on commercial sexual exploitation, Ronnie Cowan; Sir Iain Duncan Smith; and my hon. Friend Sarah Champion. It is an absolute scandal that pimping websites are allowed to operate in plain sight. I urge the Government to support my new clause.

New clause 29 is also designed to combat human trafficking. The definition of “human trafficking” in the Modern Slavery Act 2015 is out of line with the internationally agreed definition, and traffickers are benefiting from that. The United Nations protocol on trafficking, the Palermo protocol, does not require victims to have been physically transported from one place to another for an activity to be recognised as trafficking, but our Modern Slavery Act does. Essentially, that means that an exploiter who forces a woman into prostitution, advertises her on a pimping website, controls how many men she has to have sex with each day, and takes her money from her could get a substantially lower penalty simply by virtue of not physically having transported her.

The maximum penalty for controlling prostitution for gain is seven years’ imprisonment. For trafficking, it is life. It is vital that we send a message to all traffickers that there are no get-out clauses for that offence, and that we say: “If you trade in human beings, if you profit from women being raped and abused, the absence of a car journey or a flight should not exempt you from punishment.” New clause 29 would bring the UK definition of human trafficking in line with international standards and remove the opportunity for perpetrators of such crime to play the system. That, too, was a recommendation of the Home Affairs Committee.

Again, I urge the Government to support the new clauses.

Photo of Paul Beresford Paul Beresford Conservative, Mole Valley

I restrict my interest today to new clause 55, which I tabled. It would set up the offence of child criminal exploitation—in other words, it is Fagin’s law. The essence of the name Fagin explains the new clause. In simple terms, if an individual—whether an adult or a child—approached a child with the intention of persuading that child to engage in criminal activity, that in itself would be a crime. That would apply whether or not the child ultimately engaged in the criminal act.

I am delighted to see the Minister for Crime, Policing and Fire on the Front Bench, because I blame him for my dealing with this. We discussed it in a meeting, and I put it to him that we really ought to adapt the grooming legislation or bring forward new legislation to deal with the criminal exploitation of children. Like a normal Minister, he said, “Can you go away and sort it out, and come up with something for me?”, which I have done. He might now refuse it this evening, but I hope that he does not, because I will keep on coming back.

The most obvious crimes to target are county lines, organised shoplifting, independent shoplifting, pickpocketing, carrying goods from pickpocketing, carrying weapons or the proceeds of crime on behalf of another—usually an adult who has groomed the child—prostitution and sex activities, of which there has been quite some mention, as there always is, and, finally and horrifically, the grooming of a child for terrorist purposes. They wrap the child in a bomb, send them off to wherever they need to go, and press the button—absolutely horrific.

I have had considerable discussions with a few very senior, very knowledgeable police officers. They are—unlike what the Minister may feel—very enthusiastic about this tiny bit of legislation going through. One of the senior officers, who targets county lines, explained to me that they rely mostly on trying to fit the Modern Slavery Act to that particular problem, but it is a poor fit.

It has been pointed out to me that this approach has already been covered in section 44 of the Serious Crime Act 2007. In answer to a recent parliamentary question of mine, I was informed that section 44 was used 93 times in 2021-22 and 60 times in 2022-23, which is pathetic. Those figures are further diminished when we look at them a little more closely: they relate to the number of offences, not to the number of individual defendants, and I am not sure whether some or any of them involve a child.

A second, even more senior, police officer who I have worked with has a special interest in child protection—that is his job. He has made it clear that he is enthusiastic about this move, and I am sure he will thank the Policing Minister if we nod it through today. He has made the point to me that while there are provisions in the Serious Crime Act—which I have just mentioned—as well as in the Modern Slavery Act 2015, the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and other Acts that the police can try to make fit, they are a poor fit. It does not work, because that legislation is not specific to children.

In essence, senior police officers point out to me that those pieces of legislation are rarely used to stop child criminalisation. They also make the point that if the legislation were adapted ever so slightly to refer to a child, that would make a difference. Any Members present who are parents or have had care of children will know that children—not all of them, but most of them—are persuadable.

One of my villages, Bookham, has a petrol station on the A246 with a shop attached to it. That shop is big, well known and open 24 hours. Late one evening, the single man who was in there looking after the customers noticed that there was a single person in the shop, an eight-year-old child in a dressing gown. She was helping herself, and was obviously going to zip out the door with what she had pilfered. When he approached her, she said, “If you come any closer, I’ll open my dressing gown, and I’ve got nothing on underneath.” She would not have thought of that. She could not have thought of it—she was only eight. She was quite clearly doing that for somebody else, who was probably sitting outside with a camera. That is the sort of thing that we should be stopping. Of course, I am going to find out in due course whether I am persuading the Minister.

As I have said, the opinion of that child protection officer is that the legislation we have does not fit. He and many other senior police officers working in this area want further legislation to specifically equate grooming through criminal exploitation with what is contained in the Sexual Offences Act 2003, targeted at child protection. All the officers who have an interest in the protection of children with whom I have discussed this matter have pointed out that the key difference between my new clause 55 and section 44 of the Serious Crime Act is that my new clause is specifically targeted at the child. From my discussions with police officers, I have been impressed by the deterrent effect on criminals who may be prosecuted for a child offence. That, I understand, tends to make life in jail even more difficult than it might otherwise be.

As a number of senior lawyers—including Members of this House—have pointed out to me, there is overlap and duplication within British law. I am no lawyer, but many lawyers have said that to me. If my new clause 55 became law, the tariff applied to the crime would be that which would apply to the crime that the culprit was attempting to persuade the child to commit. If it was murder, the tariff would be life; if it was just pilfering from a shop, it would be very much less. As many Members will be aware, for many years, I have been pushing for improvement in legislation for the protection of children. I have also worked—particularly as a councillor—in the inner cities, so I know they are vulnerable. If my new clause is accepted, it would make a huge change to the protection of children against a life of crime.

Photo of Diana R. Johnson Diana R. Johnson Chair, Home Affairs Committee, Chair, Home Affairs Committee

There have been some excellent speeches on this first day on Report on the Criminal Justice Bill, and I support many of the amendments that have been spoken to. In my remarks, I particularly want to focus on amendments tabled by hon. and right hon. Members that the Home Affairs Committee has recommended in a number of our inquiries.

I will start with new clause 8, on pimping websites, which seeks to establish an offence of enabling or profiting from prostitution. It was tabled by my hon. Friend Carolyn Harris, and I commend her for her speech and for setting out so clearly why this is important. The Home Affairs Committee has recommended this change, and we concluded that it is imperative that the Government make it a criminal offence to enable or profit from the prostitution of another person to reduce and deter trafficking for sexual exploitation.

During our inquiry on human trafficking, we were shocked to find out that not only do pimping websites used by traffickers enjoy impunity—I hope the Minister for Crime, Policing and Fire is listening to this particular point because this is about his officials—but Home Office officials and the National Crime Agency collaborate with these pimping websites. They sit in meeting rooms with the operators of these websites, and

“encourage them to only provide services which minimise the likelihood of illegal or high harm activity”.

Yet the National Crime Agency, when we questioned it about this approach, was not able to offer any evidence that this approach to these sites has led to any reduction in trafficking or has helped the safeguarding of victims. The Committee was therefore forced to conclude that collaboration has been a “resounding failure”.

What our inquiry laid bare is that websites advertising prostitution are a significant facilitator of trafficking for sexual exploitation, and the Online Safety Act 2023 is not going to solve the problem. The Online Safety Act does not outlaw pimping websites. In fact, disturbingly, draft guidance published by Ofcom would actually provide a defence for pimping websites to ignore warning signs of sex trafficking. Quite helpfully, I have just been to a meeting with Ofcom to challenge it on this draft guidance, and I was not impressed by the answers it gave me about what it would expect from website providers in carrying out a risk assessment.

The Home Affairs Committee has been quite clear that, if one man is advertising 10, 20, 30 or 40 women on a pimping website using one telephone number, to us it is a red flag that exploitation, and most likely trafficking, is going on. Yet we were told by Ofcom this afternoon that it did not necessarily mean that because, perhaps out of the goodness of his heart, the man might be helping women who choose to advertise sex by allowing them to do so on his website, so it would be wrong for Ofcom or the website operator to infer that trafficking and exploitation was could be happening. I hope Ofcom will read this debate and listen to the criticisms of the draft guidance that it has produced so far.

The Home Affairs Committee heard from witnesses about websites advertising prostitution, and we took the view that these websites are a market-expanding force. As my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea East said, they centralise and concentrate the customer base for traffickers—men who pay for sex, basically—and as a consequence they are a magnet for traffickers. Even if the sites are not flagrantly ignoring the signs of sex trafficking, which they are at the moment and may well be able to do under the new guidance from Ofcom, I and the Committee do not believe there is any way to make those sites safe. It is very easy for traffickers to cover their tracks on such sites—for instance, by simply making their victims upload their own adverts to the websites. That is why the Home Affairs Committee backs the change in new clause 8, which I hope the Minister will look at again.

I also support new clause 29, tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea East, which concerns the definition of human trafficking. It would bring the statutory definition of human trafficking in line with the internationally agreed definition of trafficking, first by removing the requirement for the exploitation to have involved travel, and secondly by clarifying that the consent of the victim is irrelevant, in relation not just to the travel but to the exploitation itself. That legislative change was recommended by the Home Affairs Committee as a result of our inquiry into human trafficking. We concluded that it was vital to remove the requirement of travel, and clarify that consent to exploitation is irrelevant to whether a crime has been committed, in order to

“strengthen law enforcement’s ability to bring the full force of the law against perpetrators of exploitation.”

It is simply too easy for sex traffickers to operate in this country right now, as my hon. Friend set out in her speech, and I ask the Minister to look at what the new clause would achieve.

Amendments 32 to 41 on spiking were tabled by Richard Graham, and I pay tribute to him for his dogged determination to ensure that the Government get this right. One thing I have learned in this place over the years I have been here is that we must persist until we get the outcome that we want. Two years ago the Home Affairs Committee published the results of our inquiry into the crime of spiking. We found that spiking can have a deeply damaging impact on the victims’ physical and mental health, and that urgent action was needed to improve the reporting, investigation and prosecution of incidents, as well as to support victims. Crucially, the Committee determined that the absence of a specific offence of spiking, in addition to limited reporting and investigation, meant that there are few deterrents for offenders. We concluded that introducing a specific criminal offence would act as a deterrent, by sending a clear message to perpetrators that spiking is a serious crime that attracts severe penalties. It would also facilitate police work to identify perpetrators and patterns of offending, by enabling the police to collect better data on the prevalence of spiking incidents, as well as encouraging victims to report spiking to law enforcement.

The amendments would tighten up the new clauses in the Bill that relate to spiking, ensuring that they cover attempted spiking and spiking perpetrated to humiliate, to annoy, or for entertainment. I am pleased to add my support to the hon. Gentleman’s amendments, and the Government would be well advised to accept them so that we can finally have a robust law on spiking that deters offenders and ensures accountability.

I also wish to mention Government new clause 86. The Home Affairs Committee is currently conducting an inquiry into non-contact sexual offences, which encompasses a range of sexual offences involving no physical contact between the perpetrator and the victim, such as voyeurism and indecent exposure. There are significant concerns that that form of violence against women and girls is not taken seriously enough, with perpetrators too rarely held to account. I am pleased that the Government are taking some action relating to non-contact sexual offences, and Government new clause 86 creates an offence of creating a purported sexual image of an adult without consult. The Home Affairs Committee is developing a range of recommendations to strengthen action against non-contact sexual offending more broadly, and I look forward to sharing those with the Minister and Government in due course.

I support the amendments tabled by my hon. Friend Jess Phillips. On new clause 9, I congratulate Dehenna Davison on her campaign over many years on that important issue. I also support the Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee on the amendments that she has tabled.

Photo of Richard Graham Richard Graham Conservative, Gloucester 5:00, 15 May 2024

There are so many things in this important Bill on which it would be a great pleasure to talk, but you will be relieved to hear, Madam Deputy Speaker, that I wish to focus my remarks on the amendments in my name.

Earlier this morning, I met two of my constituents and two people who live about a mile outside my constituency. I pay particular tribute to Hilary and Henry Stinchcombe. Hilary’s daughter and her daughter were murdered by Hilary’s daughter’s husband some years ago on the edge of Gloucester. What that family has been through, as they said today, reminds them, me and everyone here of how incredibly important it is that criminal justice Bills address some of the most horrific crimes that anyone can go through.

I am grateful for the Government having done so much work on this issue. I am particularly grateful, speaking primarily to amendments 32 to 41 in my name, for having had so much help from so many colleagues, whether they are the 23 Members who have signed the amendments or the 43 Members who have spoken in two debates and accompanied me in two ten-minute rule Bills, or whether that is the terrific support given by Dame Diana Johnson, who led a Home Affairs Committee investigation into spiking and has given me a huge amount of moral support.

Spiking is an entirely cross-Bench, cross-party, cross-everything issue. It is important, because a bit of legal history is being made. It will be the first ever appearance of the word “spiking” in draft law. In the year to August 2022, which I think is the latest data, the National Police Chiefs’ Council recorded just under 5,000 reported cases of spiking, divided almost equally into cases by needle and drink, with a much smaller number of other reported cases, primarily from food. That is why this change matters so much. Anyone who does not believe that the word “spiking” deserves to be in law is missing a point that is much bigger than any of us realise.

It has been a long journey, as the right hon. Lady alluded to. Following her absolutely correct observation that persistence is perhaps the No. 1 thing that any of us in this House needs to have if we want to achieve changes in legislation, she will be interested to learn that the Latin word “Prorsum” was the motto of HMS Gloucester. I take my inspiration from both the Latin and English word, and she is right to mention it. It has been a longer journey than Members from all parts of the House might have imagined from the size and scale of the data. There have been endless meetings with Home Secretaries, safeguarding Ministers, Justice Ministers, Select Committee members and other colleagues, and those have eventually led us here. It is almost three years since I first became aware of the importance of the issue—as so often happens to all of us, it was through a constituent—through the experience of my constituent Maisy Farmer and her mother Rosie.

What has made the difference to the atmosphere in which Ministers have been able to bring this forward in legislation? I have no doubt that the ebullient support and anecdotal evidence from Dawn Dines, the founder of Stamp Out Spiking, and the first-hand experience from Members such as my right hon. Friend Caroline Nokes and my hon. Friend Mims Davies have made a difference. Another factor is the fact that the actress who plays a spiked heroine in “Coronation Street” was comfortable to come and talk about the huge amount of correspondence she had from playing that role. There is also what others, such as the journalist Kate McCann, have been through and are now able to talk about. All these things have had their influence.

Today, we have the word “spiking” on the front page of the legislation, and that is above all because the Home Secretary and the Justice Secretary get it. In fact, they got it some time back. Because the safeguarding Minister, my hon. Friend Laura Farris has researched and done the detail, we are able to look at the specifics of the legislation being proposed.

Effectively, the Bill updates sections 23 to 25 of the Offences against the Person Act 1861 with clearer, modern, post-Sherlock Holmes language—by the way, I imply no disparagement of the great man or his casework successes. But that is exactly what I called for in our January 2023 debate because language matters, behavioural change is a valuable side-effect of legislation, and police records do need to show that spiking is the cause of both the primary and, sometimes, secondary offence. The former police drugs lead Jason Harwin specifically said that we need a spiking offence in law because that would help to identify the picture more quickly.

Can the Minister—not the safeguarding Minister but the Minister for Crime, Policing and Fire, who is on the Bench, if he can tune in briefly—confirm that the offence covered by these changes will be known as “spiking”, will come under that umbrella word of “spiking” and will be recorded by the police as such in their data, so that we can, for the first time, really get an accurate sense of how many cases of spiking there are, both primary and secondary?

Can the Minister also confirm that the Bill will apply equally to both genders and transgenders? Can he respond to my concerns that the draft legislation may not necessarily cover the point made by the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners that

“the creation of a separate criminal offence for spiking would send a clear message to perpetrators…and victims”?

If it is not to be a separate offence, can he confirm that that message will be absolutely clear, as well as the methods through which it will be relayed? Can he also confirm, therefore, that the analysis of the data and incidence will specifically be about spiking and named as such? That should encourage more victims to come forward.

There is also the question of motive. The Bill understandably focuses on harmful substances, which is indeed what most spiking cases involve, but not all. As we know, motivations for spiking vary. Some elements of spiking are clearly about creating fear and causing humiliation without actually having harmful substances, but that does have a harmful impact. We therefore need to be able to ensure that harmless as well as harmful substances are covered, even though they will waste a lot of potential investigation time. We need to ensure that everyone is clear that so-called harmless substances that are intended to humiliate the victims are not acceptable and will be punished in law.

My amendments are designed to fill the potential gap by replacing language about definitive action—“administer”, “administering”, “attempt” or “attempting” —with an intent to injure, an intent to aggrieve and an attempt to humiliate, making sure that, whether the action actually took place or was prevented, stopped or decided not to be launched, the attempt is covered in law. I hope that the Minister will give me the reassurance that the safeguarding Minister implied earlier from the Dispatch Box in answer to a question that the Criminal Attempts Act 1981 very much covers the attempt to spike as well as the actual spiking.

Amendment 41 would add to clause 13 the words

“to annoy or humiliate the other person, or for the purposes of the entertainment of the person or any other person.”

That would cover the non-harmful substances issue—in other words, the act of spiking as a lark, for fun or just for amusement. It is not at all funny for the victims involved.

Those are the main points that I wanted to highlight. To summarise, all 10 of these amendments seek the same three simple objectives: first, to ensure that this section of the amended 1861 Act will be known to the police for their record keeping as “spiking offences”; secondly, to ensure that attempts to spike, even if frustrated, are covered by the Bill and its proposed tariff of punishments; and, thirdly, that attempts to injure, humiliate and be amused by non-harmless, non-harmful substance spiking are covered.

These are probing amendments. If the Minister who is in his place or the safeguarding Minister is able to give me absolute assurances that these aspects are all covered, quoting as far as possible from relevant legislation, I will consider not pushing my amendments to a vote. I believe that all colleagues who have supported me, including the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee, the right hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North, would accept that situation.

Ultimately, this is about trying to ensure that everyone is clear that spiking is explicitly in the law as a criminal offence, whether the substance is harmful, whether the spiking was successful and whether it was a joke or intended to be a joke. It is an offence that causes mental distress as much as physical harm. If the Minister can convince me on those points, we will have the tool to get to grips with spiking and to support parents, the nightlife scene, the police, the NHS, university students and wider society. That would be a fantastic legacy of this Parliament, in line with the Prime Minister’s commitment to reduce violence against women and girls, who predominantly are the victims of spiking, and the unstinting work of the Home Secretary, the Justice Secretary and the safeguarding Minister to support us to get spiking into law.

Photo of John Martin McDonnell John Martin McDonnell Labour, Hayes and Harlington 5:15, 15 May 2024

My hon. Friend Jess Phillips said that it was uncertain whether this legislation would ever reach the statute book, because of the time available to us in the run-up to the general election. I hope that some of the measures to be dealt with on day 2 of consideration of the Bill do not get on to the statute book. However, across the House today, there has been an interesting setting of the agenda for the next stage of the debate on the Bill in the Lords and perhaps for the period after the general election. Perhaps an incoming Labour Government will have to deal with those issues as well. They reflect a number of concerns that we deal with as constituency MPs.

I congratulate Richard Graham on tabling his amendments on spiking. It is an issue that affects many of our constituents. I hope that the Government will respond positively and work through the detail. Perhaps we can have something in the Lords that overcomes some of the Government’s concerns about it. I agree that using the expression “spiking” is important, so that people know that we are dealing with it.

Photo of Peter Dowd Peter Dowd Labour, Bootle

I welcome the amendments tabled by Richard Graham. It is important to indicate that my hon. Friend Judith Cummins was also involved in supporting amendments on this matter. I welcome the cross-party agreement on this issue.

Photo of John Martin McDonnell John Martin McDonnell Labour, Hayes and Harlington

The Bill Committee itself also worked hard to try to reach consensus on some of the issues.

Sir Iain Duncan Smith is not in his place, but cuckooing has become a critical issue in some of our constituencies, where the most vulnerable people have their accommodation taken over by drug dealers and feel intimidated. Often, they are the most vulnerable, with special educational needs or mental health problems. It is a relatively new issue that has come to light in some of our constituencies, and it needs to be addressed.

On the amendments tabled by my hon. Friend Peter Dowd, in a dignified way he did not go into the detail of individual incidents, but there have been cases in my constituency. We had three youngsters—one aged 17 and two aged 16—killed by a hit-and-run driver. The drunk driver was eventually caught. The issue was not just that they broke the law but that they did not stick around to help in any way, or even report the incident so that emergency vehicles could get there more quickly to assist those who had been harmed.

The two issues I want to draw attention to are the ones whose campaigns I have been involved in. First, my hon. Friend Kim Johnson tabled new clause 28 on joint enterprise. I think we are all getting long in the tooth on this one. We have been campaigning for years—for decades—for some clarity in the law, so that it does not operate as a dragnet that draws people in. In some instances, we have had cases where the individual drawn in was not at the scene of the crime or was distant from the scene of the crime, yet they have been prosecuted for serious crimes, often murder. For that reason, the significant contribution of new clause 28 reflects discussions and debates within legal circles but also in the courts themselves. It is a simple amendment that would bring some justice to many cases where people have, unfortunately, experienced what I believe is a miscarriage of justice.

Secondly, Elliot Colburn, who is not in his place at the moment, raised the more effective use of the law to tackle hate crime. I convened a meeting of disability groups a few weeks ago. There is a wave of hate crime against disabled people at the moment, on a scale that we have not seen for a number of years. We have had incidents not just of abuse in the streets, but even people being pulled out of their wheelchairs. I do not want to be party political here, but I have to say that statements by some individual Ministers about lifestyle choices and benefits and so on have not helped. In fact, it has directed some hate crime towards people with disabilities. We need to recognise that that happens—we should not sweep it under the carpet—so we should have an effective legal response to it. New clause 32, tabled by the hon. Member, is an effective way of ensuring the message goes out there to people that hate crime is a serious offence and that if they commit it they will be prosecuted and the sanction will be effective and serious. I hope that the Government will accede to new clause 32, but if he does put it to a vote I shall certainly be voting for it.

I want to raise another issue, prisons overseas, that I just find preposterous, to be frank. Sir Robert Neill, the Chair of the Justice Committee, referred to it and I agree with him. I tend to think it is a stunt. I do not see it as a practical way of dealing with the overcrowding problems in our prisons. We should deal with them in exactly the way the Justice Committee has been saying for a number of years: send fewer people to prison, in particular those for whom prison is inappropriate—those with mental health problems, drug problems and so on. If we do send people to prison, build appropriate prisons so that we can maintain them but, more important, rehabilitate them.

This flies in the face of all we know about rehabilitation and everything we have learnt over the years. I declare an interest as an honorary life member of the Prison Officers Association. Everything we know from the professionals involved—probation officers, prison officers and others working within the system—is that to rehabilitate people one of the best things we can do is, first, make sure they have access to their families. It is their families who urge them to behave, rehabilitate and come out as quickly as possible. Secondly, we can ensure they have full access to training and education to rehabilitate. Thirdly, we can ensure that they have proper legal advice, so they know the situation they are in and come to terms with it, and understand the law as it applies to them.

My fear is that, if we depend on prisons in foreign countries, access to family will be limited—that is inevitable. There is no assurance that I can see that prisoners would receive appropriate training or rehabilitation. Access to legal advice within the UK system would inevitably be restricted. This therefore flies in the face of everything we know about how prisons should work, and it flies in the face of many of the things that the Government themselves say about how the system should operate to maintain safety but, at the same time, rehabilitation.

A number of amendments and new clauses have been tabled on the basis of professional advice from others. I urge the Government to accept that we should not send abroad prisoners who, within a limited period, will face potential release. I also think that prisoners who have been imprisoned for public protection should not be doubly harmed by being sent abroad, and that proper consideration should be given to inspection arrangements. I believe that it will be almost impossible to maintain an appropriate inspection arrangement for both prisons and escort services when they are located abroad, and that if it is maintained, it will be extremely expensive.

This is not worth the stunt that it is. It is a short-term measure, and I think that Ministers will have egg on their faces at the end of the day. At least the amendments and new clauses could ensure that there are proper inspections and regular reports to Parliament on how the system is operating, although I wish that the Government were not going ahead with it.

As I have said, I do not think the Bill will reach the statute book, but there are a range of issues that we can, on a cross-party basis, take forward into whatever legislation is forthcoming. There are a great many amendments and new clauses that I will not mention, because others have done so more effectively, but they have set a very good agenda for a discussion about criminal justice in the future—although I do not think the second day of debate will be as constructive as today has been, because some of those proposals would have an impact on our civil liberties and human rights and therefore cannot be supported.

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller Conservative, Basingstoke 5:30, 15 May 2024

The speech from John McDonnell has served to demonstrate the extraordinary breadth of the Bill. I have sat heard this afternoon about the incredible work done by my colleagues, on both sides of the House, on an immense range of issues, and I think that that must underline to our constituents how hard many Members work on very, very difficult matters. Dame Diana Johnson has called on us to be persistent. She will think that I am a very persistent Member of Parliament when it comes to the issue of intimate image abuse, which I have been talking about for nigh on a decade. She is right: we have to be persistent, because it pays off.

I want to touch briefly on some of the amendments and new clauses that have been discussed today before I turn to new clause 86. Let me first reiterate my support for new clause 2—tabled by the Mother of the House, Ms Harman—which deals with the question of parental responsibility after rape. It is an important new clause, and I hope that Ministers have listened closely to what has been said. Let me also pay tribute to my hon. Friend Kate Kniveton, who has spoken out movingly on this issue.

The amendments on spiking tabled by my hon. Friend Richard Graham are a testament to persistence, and he deserves all our gratitude not only for the work he has done in getting his proposals to this stage, but for keeping us all so well informed about the work that he is still doing. Amendment 160, tabled by my right hon. Friend Caroline Nokes—the Chair of the Select Committee—has picked up some of the issues that I shall be talking about, namely the way in which we treat non-consensual sexual images. The Government need to do more work on this: “must try harder” is my suggestion.

My right hon. Friend Greg Clark, whose name is attached to new clause 62, made an extremely moving speech about his proposal for legislation to deal with that most appalling of crimes, the sexual abuse of people who have died and are in the safety of a mortuary. New clauses 25 and 26 were tabled by my right hon. Friend Vicky Ford, and I hope that Ministers listened carefully to the compelling case that she made about the rapidity with which the online world is moving and the need for us to keep the law up to date.

Let me now turn to new clause 86. I am pleased that the Government tabled it, although they knew that this matter needed to be addressed following the passage of the Online Safety Act 2023. The new clause shows that they continue to understand the importance of classifying the making of intimate images without the permission of the person in the picture as a sex crime. Yet again, however, we are trying to tackle it as though it were more about why the pictures were taken, rather than about the fact that they were taken in the first place. That is the wrong approach, and it is as wrong now as it was when we debated this issue in the Online Safety Bill. I thought that we had dealt with that argument, but clearly we have not.

It was out of scope of the Online Safety Bill to make the making and taking of an intimate image without consent a crime, so I really welcome the fact that the issue is being dealt with now. The Online Safety Bill tackled the distribution of those images, but we argued successfully during the passage of that Bill that when it comes to sexual offences—new clause 86 creates a sexual offence—our law needs, first and foremost, to be about consent. It must be about whether there is consent or not, not about whether the perpetrator intended to cause distress or alarm. Despite the response to my intervention earlier, it remains unclear to me why new clause 86 is not constructed in the same way as the provisions in the Online Safety Act 2023, given that it will work hand in hand with them.

So, what are we talking about? We are talking particularly about whether it should be a crime for somebody to take or make an intimate sexual image of another person without their consent. At the moment, the Bill says that it will be a crime only if the Crown Prosecution Service can prove beyond reasonable doubt that the person taking or making the picture had the intention to cause the victim alarm, distress or humiliation. Mention was made earlier of online rape, and that is the terminology that many of the victims use. The victims I have spoken to are still a victim of that crime, whether or not the perpetrator had the intention to cause them alarm, distress or humiliation.

Even more concerning is the fact that the Government already know from evidence that many of the people who create these images do so not to do harm, cause distress or alarm their victims; they do it for money. Oddly, they sometimes do it for fun. They do it for their mates. They do it because they have a collection of similar pictures. All those people who have had nude images created or taken are no longer victims if a good lawyer can prove that the person taking the image had no intention to cause alarm, distress or humiliation. That has to be wrong, and I call on the Minister for Crime, Policing and Fire, my right hon. Friend Chris Philp, who is sitting on the Front Bench, and the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend Laura Farris, to think again. They have not got this right.

The harm lies in creating the sexually explicit image without consent. The Bill sets out that that is not the way the law will treat this, and that someone will have to prove an intention. There needs to be a motive of the perpetrator proving sexual gratification. As all the lawyers in this room know—I am not one of them—that is incredibly difficult. A consent-based approach would focus on the core wrong of non-consensual sexual conduct. Motives are not required in most sexual offences.

Mention was made earlier about the way in which some organisations have removed nudification apps from their websites. I am concerned that they might work out that if they stated that their motive was just to make money, they would not be breaking the law if they allowed those nudification apps to continue to be available. I am also concerned as to whether the Government have talked to Ofcom, the regulator, about how it will be able to limit the appearance of these images, given the way in which the law is currently framed.

So, there are two questions from me. Will the Minister urgently reconsider new clause 86 and bring it into line with the Online Safety Act? I have a simple idea for her, which is to amend the amendment so that it is consistent with the Online Safety Act in having a base offence that includes production of a sexual image, which can include the taking or creating of an image. Or, the Government could amend their proposed creation offence to make it consent-based, not intention-based. The former I think, is straightforward.

Secondly, I welcome the fact that some companies are taking pre-emptive action to remove their nudification apps, which I called for in the 2021 International Women’s Day debate, but they will quickly see that this incredible loophole means that, so long as they have the right legal defence, such nudification apps are entirely within the law. Will the Minister tell the House how the Government are going to make these nudification apps unlawful, and get rid of them once and for all, as people across the nation want?

I thank Professor Clare McGlynn again for assisting me in interpreting the intention of Government amendment 86. It was published on Thursday, so I apologise to the House for not being able to give a more detailed analysis—I have had it for only the past three days. I hope that, at some stage, Ministers will be in a position to explain their thinking and, I hope, change their mind. I know the safeguarding Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury has put in writing that she wants to send a “crystal clear message” that making intimate image material is “immoral” and “a crime.” She needs to try harder to make sure the Bill does just that.

Photo of Emma Lewell-Buck Emma Lewell-Buck Labour, South Shields

I rise to make a short speech in support of new clause 9, in the name of Dehenna Davison. I thank her for her kind words about my friends and constituents Maxine and Tony.

Maxine Thompson-Curl lost her son, Kristian David Thompson, in 2011. He was just 19 years old, and his life was taken by one punch. One punch can and does kill. To lose a loved one at a young age in such a senseless way, when they were simply on a night out, is a pain that I cannot imagine.

Since Kristian’s passing, Maxine has devoted her life to raising awareness, supporting others and campaigning for stronger sentencing. She has done this via her charity One Punch UK, which she runs with her husband Anthony Curl. Using her pain, love and grief, Maxine has always been relentless in educating people to stop, think and walk away instead of using their fists.

Although it is generally accepted that there is a concerning rise in one-punch attacks across the UK, there are no official figures on the lives lost and devastated by a single punch. What we do know is that, almost every time a precious life is taken in this way, it is reported that the perpetrator was intoxicated, and their sentence for taking the life of another is almost always extremely lenient. The average sentence is four years, and some walk away after just four months in prison. That is four months for taking somebody else’s life. Justice is an important cornerstone of our legal system. Although nothing at all can bring back a loved one, for many people an important part of being able to grieve is knowing that there are consequences for the person who took their loved one away from them.

New clause 9 would put an end to lenient sentences and would hopefully act as a deterrent, so that people think and walk away before using their fists. It would also mean that we have reliable data on the prevalence of one-punch attacks. In the first four years after similar legislation was passed in Australia, the number of one-punch deaths halved. One Australian attorney general has reported a massive reduction in violence since the legislation was introduced.

More than five years ago, the then Minister said that he was happy to look at my proposal in relation to one-punch sentencing, and I am pleased that the Government have looked at this new clause and agreed with the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland, but my constituents remain of the view that stronger sentencing is needed. It is indeed what they have campaigned on for many years. With that in mind, I carefully considered the Minister’s response to the new clause in Committee, and I am not fully convinced of her argument. She stated that one-punch attacks are already covered under manslaughter, but there is no mandatory minimum sentence for manslaughter and therefore no minimum sentence for one-punch attacks. That is why we ask for that in the new clause. She stated that the Government wished to avoid “anomalies in the law”, and gave the example of someone being killed by a punch to their abdomen. She will know, as will other hon. Members, that a single punch to the head is likely to be more catastrophic than a single punch to the abdomen, as it can cause fatal damage to the brain; it can stop breathing, starving the brain of oxygen, and cause the victim to collapse and strike their head on a hard surface.

The Minister also stated that the Government wished to avoid another anomaly in cases where someone is killed by two or more punches, as opposed to one. Surely those cases would be viewed as involving intent to cause serious harm, whereas one punch could sometimes be viewed as a mistake, and thus result in a more lenient sentence, as we so often see. I sincerely hope that she can address those concerns in her closing comments.

Maxine told me this week that she knows full well that the new clause may not be accepted by the Government today, but she is thankful for any awareness, and to have the issue raised again on the Floor of the House, because she knows the life-shattering damage that one punch can cause. Before I end, I pay tribute again to the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland—I am sure that she will be in her place again very soon—for her bravery and determination in pushing the Government to do the right thing for those who are no longer with us, and for those left grieving for them. As the Minister said in her opening comments, I am sure that the hon. Lady’s dad is looking on with pride.

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

This has been a wide-ranging debate, because it is a wide-ranging Bill, and it has touched on a number of difficult, sometimes sensitive and complex topics. However, the tone of the debate does the House a great deal of credit. I appreciate the tone and approach taken by both Front-Bench teams; there is more common ground than not on a number of these areas. Let us see what we can do to improve things. I particularly appreciate the approach adopted by our Minister today, whose engagement has been exceptional on all these matters; I am grateful to her.

Let me deal with some of the amendments. I certainly congratulate my right hon. Friend Sir Iain Duncan Smith on his work on cuckooing, which is a real issue; I have seen it in my constituency. We have a gap in the law that we need to plug. I also endorse what was said by my right hon. Friend Dame Maria Miller about new clause 86 and related matters. The concept of consent is perfectly well established in the law on sexual offences, and there would be nothing abnormal in making consent, rather than motive, the gravamen of the offences in question. In fact, that approach would bring them more into line with the rest of the canon of sexual offences. I really hope that the Government will think hard about that. Obviously, I take on board the points made about the amendments that my right hon. Friend Caroline Nokes spoke to, and the powerful speech made by my right hon. Friend Greg Clark about the desecration of corpses. That is a vile concept, and clearly the law needs to be amended.

I will concentrate on two matters that the Justice Committee has examined over a period, the first being the provisions on the transfer of prisoners to serve sentences in prisons overseas. I made it clear that I am sceptical about the efficacy of that measure. I do not say it is unlawful, and I do not think the Opposition are saying that either. I accept that it has happened in limited circumstances elsewhere, including in states that are party to the European convention on human rights. The most obvious example is Belgium renting prison space in the Netherlands, but there has also been an example in Norway and Scandinavia. However, our situation is very different. Those two instances highlight the limited value of such arrangements. The prison space that Belgium rented in Holland was very close by—in some cases, it was literally up the road—and there was a similar situation in the Scandinavian countries. In addition, those countries are in the Schengen area. Those instances are not the same as transferring people overseas, some distance away. The practical implications, which John McDonnell and others referred to, will get in the way of the proposal achieving anything.

I am grateful to the Minister for recognising some of the concerns raised by Opposition Front Benchers and the Law Society. It is imperative that proper legal advice be available. It is important that there be an inspection regime that ensures parity of standards with those in United Kingdom prisons. Again, I stress the importance of maintaining family ties. The Minister follows these things very closely, so she will know that the evidence overwhelmingly shows, time and again, that the three best things for getting people to turn their life around and not reoffend are a roof over their head, a home, and a family or relationship. If a family relationship or close family ties of any kind are undermined, it makes it more likely that people will reoffend.

Given the number of safeguards that will have to be put in place—to safeguard not just convention rights, to which the Minister rightly referred, but common law rights, which predate the convention and our incorporation of it into our domestic law through the Human Rights Act 1998—it is highly unlikely that anyone will ever end up going abroad. I would much rather we concentrated on more direct measures to deal with the crisis of overcrowding in our prisons. The overseas jail cells measures will not make any difference to the pressures on prison places, or any contribution to long-term demand. If we want to return foreign national prisoners abroad, it would be much better to speed up our prisoner return agreements and get those prisoners to serve their sentence in their home country. That would be constructive. We already have the measures and the legal framework to do that; we just need to be much more rigorous in our use of them.

If we really want to deal with overcrowding in our prisons, the Government and the business managers need to get a grip and bring the Sentencing Bill back to the Floor of the House. That Bill contains valuable, sensible and balanced measures that deal with public protection properly. It provides a far better suite of measures to reduce unproductive forms of imprisonment, and concentrate the very expensive resource of prison where it is most needed: on violent, dangerous and serious offenders. That would be a far greater contribution.

I pay massive tribute to my hon. Friend Dehenna Davison for her work in this area. As a lawyer, during my time at the criminal bar, I have both prosecuted and defended one-punch manslaughter cases. I fully understand the impact on families; I have sometimes had to talk to families who have had to accept manslaughter charges. With great respect to my hon. Friend, I do not think the wording of her new clause, as it stands, would meet what is required to deal with this. I am concerned that we are looking at the offence in a piecemeal fashion. Unlawful act manslaughter is a legally complex area. It is often not easy for juries to understand; it is not even easy for judges looking at the factual situation to direct on. That was highlighted recently in the Court of Appeal decision in the case of Auriol Grey, the severely autistic and disabled lady whose actions, tragically, caused an elderly cyclist to fall off her bicycle into the path of a car and be killed. She was originally convicted on the basis of unlawful act manslaughter. A very strong Court of Appeal quashed that conviction, which highlights some of difficulties in such cases.

Photo of Emma Lewell-Buck Emma Lewell-Buck Labour, South Shields

I am interested in the comments of the hon. and learned Member. As the Bill goes to the House of Lords, will he work with me and others who are concerned about one-punch attacks to draft something that he thinks would do what it is supposed to, and be more legally sound?

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

I am always happy to talk about it. It is my conviction that a single piece of legislation purely on one-punch manslaughter is not the answer. If there were to be legislation, it should be a wholesale reform of the law of homicide. The Law Commission recommended a reform of the law of homicide as long ago as 2006, but that was not acted on. That would deal with not just the issue of unlawful act manslaughter, but the other forms of manslaughter, including gross negligence manslaughter, reckless manslaughter and the interplay between murder and manslaughter; manslaughter is often an alternative verdict. Then of course we have the special defences in relation to diminished responsibility, which reduce, under certain circumstances, murder down to manslaughter. That is a slightly complicated field. The law is difficult for juries to follow, and we oftentimes use law that goes back to almost the 17th and 18th century. As for the right way forward, we should do two things. First, all the work being done around the information campaigns, including one-punch awareness and the “walk away” message, takes exactly the right approach. Secondly, we should look again, cross party, at a wholesale reform of the law of homicide, which could pick up those issues.

Joint enterprise remains a problem. I pay tribute to Kim Johnson for the work that she has done, and for her amendment. I am not convinced that its wording is right, but we have to return to this matter, for the very important reason that many families of those who have been convicted under joint enterprise had hoped that the Supreme Court decision in the case of Jogee, which reversed what it described as the wrong turn taken in the case of Chan Wing-Siu in 1985, would see a number of people’s convictions quashed. In reality, subsequent decisions of the Court of Appeal have tended to narrow the approach in Jogee, very often because of the factual situations, which vary greatly. We do therefore need to look at this issue. I am not sure that the wording in the amendment is the answer, but I hope that we can work constructively on that. There are certain circumstances in which there is a role for joint enterprise, but the expansion of it beyond what most people regard as reasonable is a matter of real concern. I hope we can continue to work cross party to find a better solution.

Photo of Rob Butler Rob Butler Conservative, Aylesbury

A concern that the Government have raised previously when joint enterprise has been considered is the use of the word “significant”, and the term “significant contribution”. The Government have argued that that is too vague. Does my hon. and learned Friend agree that “significant” is commonly used in criminal justice, and that judges and magistrates are very experienced in advising juries or lawyers on deciding what “significant” means? The Government need to come up with something a little more compelling than the suggestion that “significant” is not a meaningful word.

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

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. “Significant” is a good starting point for the work that we need to do. The intellectually rather convoluted approach that we have to joint enterprise at the moment is really not tenable. A jury will understand “significant”. If we are to have an indictable offence, we need a test that a jury will readily comprehend. “Significant” is comprehensible to jurors.

Photo of Peter Dowd Peter Dowd Labour, Bootle

In light of today’s debate and the discussions that we had over several weeks in Committee, does the hon. and learned Gentleman agree that there is a lacuna in legislation in a whole range of areas? I think he is suggesting that we need a cross-party approach, but time is running out. Does he think that certain things could be pushed through, but not in a rushed fashion; they would be considered carefully in the Chamber?

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

I agree with the hon. Gentleman’s sentiments. Many of these matters will require consideration —and, on the homicide angle, the involvement, I hope, of the Law Commission. It could be asked to revisit its report of 2006. In fact, I hope that will be done, whatever the party in government. The same is true in relation to sentencing for one-punch manslaughter. I am cautious about minimum sentences generally. I understand the feeling that sentencing is sometimes too low, but at the moment manslaughter can encompass a huge range of facts and degrees of culpability. Any sentencer has to balance the consequence of the act against the level of culpability of the offender. The huge range in culpability creates a difficulty with minimum sentences. It would be better to ask the Sentencing Council to review the matter. If that is done in the knowledge that there will be a cross-party approach, it will carry more weight and give us better outcomes.

Finally, I will touch on the production of defendants in the dock to hear a sentence passed. It is a sensitive issue. The sense of outrage among victims and families when people refuse to come up into the dock is perfectly understandable. It is cocking a snook at the system, and at the suffering and grief of the victims and families, but there are practical issues that we have to bear in mind. The Government ought to look at some of the safeguards that have been proposed, particularly given our duty of care to prison staff. I pay tribute to our prison staff, who take risks every day in prisons. It is even harder in the holding cells of a court, and the passageway up to the court and into the dock.

Anyone who has been in a dock, as some of us have many times—professionally—will know that they are tight spaces. It is not easy. Staff do not have the same defensive and protective arrangements that they would have in a prison. If those staff are contractors, who may not do it on a regular basis, there are real risks. We do not want those people to come to harm. We must also ensure that ultimate discretion as to what is appropriate always lies with the judge, because the last thing we want for victims’ families is for psychopathic or extremely aggressive defendants to try to hijack the sentencing proceeding and use their presence in court to turn up the bile, anger, rage or, in some cases that we have seen, political posturing—for example, in terrorist cases. It is terribly important that the judge has the ultimate say in all these matters.

I hope that I have encompassed most of the issues raised. There are others that we do not have time to touch on. I see that my hon. Friend Elliot Colburn is still present. I hope that the Government will think about his new clause 32. I looked at the Law Commission’s report. It is carefully reasoned and moderately expressed, and I hope that the Government will find the means, either in this House or in the other place, for further discussion, and will take his legitimate concerns on board.

There has been good progress with the Bill. It is better for what it does not include, in some cases; we will come to that on day 2. Much of what it does include has been improved, but it highlights the complexities that face the criminal justice system as a whole. We always have to be careful not to tinker when sometimes we need a more holistic approach and, of course, the resource to go with it, which is the other key thing that we need. I am grateful to all those who spoke in the debate, and to the Minister for the constructive tone that she has adopted throughout.

Photo of Laura Farris Laura Farris Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office) 6:00, 15 May 2024

This has indeed been a wide-ranging debate—we use that phrase too often in this place, but it is true today—and it is a pleasure to bring it to a close. I am grateful to all hon. Members who took part. In the time available to me, I will seek to respond on as many of the non-Government new clauses and amendments as I can, and to answer questions. If I fail, please give me a nudge. I will then write to hon. Members or catch up with them at some point and give them a response.

I will begin with new clause 9, picking up where I left off. I was addressing my hon. Friend Dehenna Davison and her excellent campaign. Let me set out the steps that the Government are taking. She alluded to them in her excellent speech, but I will confirm what they are. We have worked with the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for homicide, Kate Meynell, to appoint a named lead for one-punch homicides. That person will carry out an initial scoping exercise to properly establish how many of these cases are occurring, and to understand whether there are barriers to investigation and prosecution for these offences. I take my hon. Friend’s point that we should consider how the offence is communicated to the family, given the particular issues that arose in her case.

We will also build on action already taken, including the three-month Walk Away campaign that was launched in December 2023. That dovetails very neatly with the work of One Punch UK. I know that that is something my hon. Friend will be involved in.

We will establish a lower-culpability manslaughter homicide service practice review, led by Victim Support, which delivers the homicide service. The review will consider cases of manslaughter where there is lower culpability, and I look forward to working with my hon. Friend and getting started on that. We will also conduct individual sentence reviews into particular cases where there is an objection to the end of the sentence, and we will look at the sentencing remarks. She gave the names of a number of campaigners in her speech, and I look forward to picking those up with her.

I will comment briefly on new clause 28, relating to joint enterprise, which was raised by Kim Johnson, by my hon. and learned Friend Sir Robert Neill, the Chair of the Justice Committee, and by others. The new clause would caveat and curtail the law of joint enterprise only to those who had made a significant contribution. The hon. Member for Liverpool, Riverside knows that joint enterprise is there so that those who act as the burglary lookout, who provide the weapon in the murder or who drive the getaway vehicle do not escape the consequences of their crimes, which shatter lives.

It is already the case, following the Supreme Court decision in R v. Jogee, that the person must have helped or encouraged the commission of the offence and intended to do so. I have considered a number of examples of cases where there have been convictions on this basis in recent years, such as the boy who sent a WhatsApp to his colleague to encourage her to conduct a fatal attack or the 14-year-old lad who stood on the edge of a woodland as lookout while his friends gang-raped a girl. They are very painful cases. I will simply say this: I think that people who participate in crime, even on the periphery, should not escape liability, and I do not think anyone can advance a credible argument that they should. We on the Government side still think that those people ought to be locked up.

Photo of Kim Johnson Kim Johnson Labour, Liverpool, Riverside

I admit that, and I have not said that we should get rid of joint enterprise, but we know that thousands of young people and children have been incarcerated for something they have not done. The law is not being used in the way it should be, as Sir Robert Neill mentioned in respect of the Jogee case. We took a wrong turn and we have taken another wrong turn. We need to get it right.

Photo of Laura Farris Laura Farris Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

I am going to respectfully differ from the hon. Lady. I am happy to have another conversation with her about it, but I am afraid that even those on the periphery often have their hands all over the crime.

I will return briefly to new clause 59 on bladed articles, which was tabled by the shadow Minister, Alex Norris. The issue of ninja swords was raised by the other shadow Minister, Alex Cunningham. I want to provide reassurance that both straight-bladed ninja swords, which the new clause is directed at, and curved swords are covered. Curved swords were banned by the Government in 2008, and he will know that possessing a sword or any knife—even a kitchen knife—in a public place without good reason is already a criminal offence, punishable by up to four years in prison.

The reason why straight swords are more difficult to ban is that some of them are held by military historians and for commemorative purposes. However, I wanted to provide reassurance to those on the shadow Front Bench that the Policing Minister engaged recently with the NPCC lead on knife crime, who reassured him once again that the NPCC was not seeking a ban on the use of straight-bladed swords. In fact, of all the knife crime fatalities in the last year, around 1% were caused that way.

What the NPCC is asking for is a clampdown on the online sale of knives to under-18s, which we are doing under the Online Safety Act; the power to seize knives in a private place if the police think they will be used for a criminal purpose, which is already in the Bill; and a ban on machetes and zombie knives, which we are bringing in in September. I wanted to provide that reassurance.

New clauses 25 and 26 were introduced by my right hon. Friend Vicky Ford, who I cannot see, but I am sure—

Photo of Laura Farris Laura Farris Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

She has just popped out. She made an outstanding speech, which illuminated and identified yet more of the nefarious ways that child abusers find to conduct some of the most serious offences against children. She knows, as was clear in her constructive speech, that artificial intelligence raises unique problems. I agree without hesitation with the force of what she said, and about the identification of an offence as she has presented it. I recognise that it is our duty as parliamentarians to future-proof our legislation, and I thank her for her detailed work on this issue. I commit to working with her and to trying as best we can to get something ready for Report in the other place.

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend Elliot Colburn for the sensitive and thoughtful way in which he approached the Law Commission’s report and the issue of hate crimes, and for his new clause 32 to introduce protected characteristics to the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. Of course, I have read the Law Commission’s excellent report on this matter, and I can confirm that a response to it was always forthcoming this year. I want to make two slight qualifications that might explain some of the delay.

Many Members will be aware that the Law Commission did not recommend making sex a protected characteristic for hate crimes, and may remember that there was a campaign to make misogyny a hate crime, which the commission rejected. That required careful thought, because not all the protected characteristics have been treated in the same way. Another issue is the implementation of the hate crime legislation in Scotland, which has been both highly contentious and, I am afraid, somewhat chaotic. Of course, we wish to avoid replicating those mistakes. However, I want to provide reassurance by saying that our intention is to deal with this matter—subject to all the normal approvals—in the House of Lords, and I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington will come and work with me on it.

The other excellent speech that I want to refer to was that of my right hon. Friend Caroline Nokes. She alighted on two important issues—cyber-flashing and intimate image abuse—that are not on the priority offences list in schedule 7 to the Online Safety Act 2023. That is not because we did not consider them important or sinister offences—she will need no persuading, given everything that we have done on intimate image abuse, that the opposite is true. The fact is that they were not on the statute book, or certainly had not been commenced, when we passed the 2023 Act. I know that the Secretary of State is well aware of that, particularly in relation to both those issues. I know that my right hon. Friend is conducting an urgent review as we speak, and I am sure that, in the weeks ahead, I will be able to update her on where we are on this. I do not want her to think for a moment that we are dragging our feet.

Photo of Caroline Nokes Caroline Nokes Chair, Women and Equalities Committee, Chair, Women and Equalities Committee

I appreciate that my hon. Friend is seeking to give me an assurance from the Dispatch Box, but it is perhaps not quite as fulsome as I would wish. She says that the priority offences register can be reviewed. It would be very helpful if we had a specific timescale by which the measures could be added. That would give reassurance to all victims that such images will be made illegal in their in own right, and that Ofcom and internet service providers will work together to take them down. We already have the criminal offence, so the perpetrators can go to prison, but the victims want the images—the repeat offence—to be removed from the internet.

Photo of Laura Farris Laura Farris Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

I listened very carefully to what my right hon. Friend said, and I agree with every single word of it. Some of this sits with the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, as she knows, so I would need to have a conversation with the relevant Minister, but I feel as strongly as she does on this matter, and I assure her from the Dispatch Box that I will use my best endeavours.

The road traffic amendments, which I will talk about briefly, were beautifully presented during the Committee and again today. I have spoken a few times with the Members who tabled them, who are well aware that those matters sit with the Department for Transport. I understand that they have had engagement with the Department and that an important review of this issue has certainly been contemplated.

Photo of Vicky Ford Vicky Ford Conservative, Chelmsford

I apologise to my hon. Friend—I was briefly out of the Chamber, discussing my amendments with the Home Secretary. It is clear that AI technology is moving incredibly quickly in a vile, disgusting way that is putting children at risk of sexual abuse. Could my hon. Friend repeat the commitment she has given: that she will work with me on the two areas that my amendments have highlighted, and will work with me, the IWF and others to ensure that the issues we have pinpointed are addressed as the Bill goes through this House and the Lords?

Photo of Laura Farris Laura Farris Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

I thank my right hon. Friend for her intervention, and I am sorry that we somehow did not manage to overlap when I made my comments about her. I thought her speech was outstanding, and I agree without hesitation: she is quite right to say that we need to future-proof our legislation. As I said, I think we are the first country—if not, we are one of the first—to put an offence on to the books relating to the creation of deepfakes, which shows that we are alive and very responsive to this issue. I will make the commitments that my right hon. Friend has requested.

Photo of Vicky Ford Vicky Ford Conservative, Chelmsford

To be clear, is the Minister giving a cast-iron guarantee that we will address these issues of paedophile manuals and using a chatbot to communicate sexually, including raping a child through a chatbot, by working with the IWF and others to ensure that the laws are clear, and that if necessary, there will be amendments in the Lords?

Photo of Laura Farris Laura Farris Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

Yes, I can give my right hon. Friend that commitment.

I was interrupted, but I was briefly paying tribute to the very passionate speeches that have been made about road traffic accidents. These are not small matters—the case of the little girl in the constituency of Gerald Jones is such a painful one, and I know that the Transport Secretary and other Ministers have been very affected by it. As the hon. Member knows, this matter is not straightforward for reasons that we have discussed, but I hope progress will be made on it in a way that helps his constituent.

My right hon. Friend Sir Iain Duncan Smith made an excellent speech on the offence of causing death or serious injury by dangerous, careless or inconsiderate cycling. It is not in dispute that whether a vehicle is a car, an electric scooter or a bicycle, if it is operated in a certain way, it is effectively a dangerous weapon on the road. We are supportive of my right hon. Friend’s amendment, and we will be bringing it back in the Lords; we will be changing it in the Lords, as he knows, but we are accepting it.

I think I have covered all the amendments that have been selected.

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

I assume that my hon. Friend meant that she will accept the amendment when I move it.

Photo of Laura Farris Laura Farris Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

Yes, I did mean that.

The final amendments that I will speak to are new clauses 91 and 92, relating to a new criminal sanction on water companies.

Photo of Philip Dunne Philip Dunne Chair, Environmental Audit Committee, Chair, Environmental Audit Committee

Everyone in this House wants to ensure that our water regulators have at their disposal all the tools they need to get on top of the sewage discharge issue, but as the Minister sums up, could she explain to the House whether Ofwat already has the powers being sought in the amendments tabled by Tim Farron? If the same powers were given to the Environment Agency, that would be more likely to lead to confusion and a lack of clarity about which agency is taking the lead on such prosecutions, which might lead to prosecutions falling through the cracks.

Photo of Laura Farris Laura Farris Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

My right hon. Friend is quite correct: that is the basis on which the Government cannot accept the amendments. Of course, everybody agrees that water companies should be punished as robustly as possible, but it is also the case that we have pre-existing offences that apply. Pollution incidents are already the subject of criminal sanctions available to the Environment Agency under the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2016, and there is a serious risk of duplication, not least because—I hope Tim Farron will not mind my saying this—the sanctions he has included in his amendments are just more fines, and we already have a fines regime.

Let me set out very briefly the basis on which, in a principled way, we are saying no to the amendments. As the environment regulator, the Environment Agency can and does prosecute company directors and other senior officers under the relevant regulations. It has a power to fine, and there can be convictions for polluting rivers and coastal waters, where it can be proved that the offence has been committed. Expanding criminal liability would simply create a repetition of the existing powers. It is the Government’s view that the amendments would create a dangerous and unacceptable risk of double jeopardy across the two regulatory regimes that are administered by Ofwat and the Environment Agency.

The amendments would simply duplicate the existing sanctions, as my right hon. Friend Philip Dunne put it, for not meeting performance commitments. More seriously, they could undermine the robustness of the Environment Agency’s criminal sanction regime. On that basis, I hope the hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale will understand why we do not want to see duplication in an area where there is already the capacity to prosecute, a criminal law regime and the sanction of fines, which is everything that his amendments seek.

Photo of Jess Phillips Jess Phillips Labour, Birmingham, Yardley

I fear the Minister is coming to the end of her remarks, but she has not addressed my new clause 44. Does she have any comment on it?

Photo of Laura Farris Laura Farris Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

I thank the hon. Lady for reminding me, but I had not forgotten. I listened carefully to her speech and I have read all her amendments, not all of which were selected, but some of which she has raised before. On the general defence, she will know that the Law Commission is currently undertaking a review of the defence of duress in relation to women and the crime—

Photo of Laura Farris Laura Farris Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

I know that the amendment has not been selected, but I want to provide the hon. Lady with some reassurance on it, because we on this side of the House continue to think about the issues she has raised. She is aware of the Law Commission’s review of the defence of duress as it applies to murder. I want to provide her with an update and some reassurance that we will take the lessons that come out of that review, and consider it more widely, if appropriate, in alignment with the point that I think she made earlier in this debate.

On new clause 44, this is an important point between us, but the Government are resisting it not because there is any real dispute of principle, but because there is dispute of degree. There is a concern that by amending the wordings of sections 52 and 53 of the Sexual Offences Act, as so drafted, we could unnecessarily narrow the scope of section 52 as it has been applied in the criminal courts and potentially add an additional element to be proved in relation to section 53 that could make prosecution harder. We disagree not on the principle but about whether it will have the effect she is looking for. I did listen carefully to her speech and the way that she has presented the argument on previous occasions.

Photo of Richard Graham Richard Graham Conservative, Gloucester

The safeguarding Minister will have been briefed by my right hon. Friend the Minister for Crime, Policing and Fire on the exchanges across the House on the key issue of spiking, which will make its first ever appearance in legislation if the Bill is passed. I asked specific questions, which I would be grateful if she returned to. Although my amendments will not be pursued, it would be reassuring for everyone in the country if she said that the spiking clauses now injected will cover attempts to spike as well as proven spiking, and will apply to spiking attempts that may not be considered harmful in substance but are incredibly harmful to the people they humiliate.

Photo of Laura Farris Laura Farris Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

Yes, I can confirm that those inchoate offences—attempt offences—are all captured in the 1981 Act to which I referred in my opening speech.

On whether naming the offence of spiking will improve police record keeping, I say to my hon. Friend that it will absolutely do that. It will remove the discrepancy between what might have been called date rape under the Sexual Offences Act and what would have been recorded previously as a poisoning act under the Offences against the Person Act. For consistency in recording, we are very pleased to make the change.

Photo of Richard Graham Richard Graham Conservative, Gloucester

I thank the Minister for giving way again. On that specific point, she is effectively saying that the data collected by the police will now be collected under the umbrella of spiking, so we will have much better data and know how widespread the problem really is, which I think everyone will be reassured to hear. May I also thank her, the Home Secretary and the Justice Secretary for their fantastic and immediate support in getting this provision into the Bill, which I very much hope will pass through this Parliament before the next general election?

Photo of Laura Farris Laura Farris Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

It is not just the effect of the amendment that will improve police recording; one purpose of the amendment was to improve police recording and it will give, I hope, a much more accurate picture of the extent of the problem.

On the comments that my right hon. Friend Dame Maria Miller made regarding the creation offence related to deepfake images and intent, I will consider the point carefully. I would like to have further discussions on it.

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller Conservative, Basingstoke

I hope the Minister was listening to the Chair of the Justice Committee, who wholeheartedly agreed with the point I was making, namely that it would be entirely consistent with the sex offences law to remove intent from that measure and simply focus on consent. That is what we need to hear, and I hope the Minister will now agree at the Dispatch Box that she will consider that strongly.

Photo of Laura Farris Laura Farris Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

I certainly give my right hon. Friend that reassurance. I look forward to continuing our discussions throughout the passage of the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

New clause 86 accordingly read a Second time and added to the Bill.