Committee (3rd Day)

Part of Serious Crime Bill [HL] – in the House of Lords at 3:45 pm on 15th July 2014.

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Photo of Lord Elystan-Morgan Lord Elystan-Morgan Crossbench 3:45 pm, 15th July 2014

My Lords, at Second Reading a month ago, I committed the cardinal sin of making some very specific and detailed comments of a nature belonging more to a Committee stage than otherwise. I am not going to make up for it by making a Second Reading speech today, but I very much welcome the amendment in the name of the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss.

I have little doubt that the draftsmen of Clause 1 of the 1933 Act intended that “cruelty” should relate to both physical and non-physical cruelty. However, in 1981 in the case of Sheppard, this House caused some confusion in relation to that matter by placing what might be described as a somewhat heavy gloss upon the words of statute. The combined effect of the amendment and Clause 62 is that the situation will be made abundantly clear. I very greatly welcome that.

I also take the point that in so far as defining cruelty in terms of serious harm, a very great bringing together of two concepts has been achieved; that is, the definition of “significant harm” in Section 31 of the Children Act 1989, which of course is the section that sets up the machinery for the obtaining of a care order, is now almost exactly the same—or so near as to make no difference whatever—as the definition of the criminal offence that this clause brings about.

I take wholeheartedly the point made by the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, that the last thing one wants to do is to bring these civil situations into a criminal court. Sometimes that is inevitable. I also take the point that it is right that social workers and those involved in the protection of children in the civil field should, as it were, have the same hymn sheet as those who deal with those situations in the criminal field. They are two different fields, which should be mutually exclusive if humanly possible, but nevertheless it is right that the same standard should apply to both.