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Victims of Crime (Rights, Entitlements, and Notification of Child Sexual Abuse) Bill [HL] - Second Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 2:08 pm on 19th July 2019.

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Photo of Baroness Brinton Baroness Brinton Party Chair, Liberal Democrats 2:08 pm, 19th July 2019

My Lords, I thank the Minister and all noble Lords who have spoken during this Second Reading debate. Time is not particularly on our side so I will be brief. I am very grateful for the various focuses on different parts of the Bill, in particular on Clause 12 and the child sexual abuse mandatory reporting issue. I am particularly grateful to the right reverend Prelate for his comments, which have been extremely helpful. Obviously, this Bill was published over two years ago, before the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse really got under way. The issues of mandatory reporting and safeguarding going wider than the statutory agencies has become much more understood. Regarding the focus of the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, we need to see what the independent inquiry recommends in due course. I believe the evidence coming before it, some of which I have been watching in detail, makes it clear that we must move forward to mandatory reporting, but clearly the details will need to be resolved at a later date.

More generally, I am grateful to the Minister for trying to steer the difficult course of having published a consultation two days ago that she knows does not meet the requirements of the Bill but once again offering me some low-hanging fruit just out of sight. I look forward to seeing speedier progress than we have had over the last three years on these issues.

The key point made by many speakers today is that every single day’s delay means that another victim is facing an uncertain future. The Minister is reluctant to mandate training. I will pick one very brief example. It is the case of a woman who was attacked by her former partner, who threw her child away. She hit a wall and was quite badly hurt, then he threw her on to a bed and raped her. The senior investigating officer insisted on her making three separate statements because three separate crimes had been committed. It is clear under current guidance that the most senior of those crimes is the one under which a statement is made and used to reflect the others. Without mandatory training, without responsibility for those in the criminal justice system, there is no guarantee that people will not go rogue. Unfortunately, in that particular case, agony was put on the woman beyond the outrageous behaviour that she had encountered.

That is why I look forward to the Bill moving on. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, that the chances of that happening in the near future are probably quite slim but we have had support for this in your Lordships’ House before. I will at least be looking for a Bill to make amendments to in future. If this Bill falls because this Parliament comes to an end then I will look forward to laying it again, and I know I have support from colleagues in the other place as well. This Bill needs to become law.

Bill read a second time and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

House adjourned at 2.12 pm.