Amendment 292E

Part of Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill - Committee (10th Day) (Continued) – in the House of Lords at 10:45 pm on 22 November 2021.

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Photo of Lord Paddick Lord Paddick Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 10:45, 22 November 2021

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Stowell of Beeston, for bringing this amendment to the Committee, particularly in such a selfless way in that she said that she was neither a Catholic nor particularly religious. Seeing the arrival of Sir David Amess’s body at the House this evening was very moving, and our thoughts are with his family. I thank the noble Baroness for saying that she was not second-guessing the police officers at the scene of that terrible tragedy, but, as she said, there was a local priest who was not allowed to give the last rites.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leeds gave a very moving and sensitive speech, and I agree with much of what he said. I should declare an interest both as a Christian but not a Roman Catholic and as a police officer who served for more than 30 years. Religious faith is important to people, but so is bringing offenders to justice, particularly those responsible for offences where fatal injuries or injuries expected to be fatal are inflicted. The contribution of the noble Baroness, Lady Newlove, was extremely powerful in giving first-hand experience of that tension between the need to preserve evidence in order to convict those responsible and wanting to address the needs of the dying person and their family.

Securing forensic evidence is often vital to the identification and prosecution of offenders, as in the case of Sir David Amess. I agree that there needs to be a meeting of police and religious leaders—not just Roman Catholics—to ensure that both sides understand the needs of the other. Police officers should have a real understanding of the religious needs of people and the religious leaders should understand the needs of the police in these circumstances. As I said this afternoon in Oral Questions, surely there must be a role for government in bringing these two sides together, in facilitating this understanding and in ensuring that, after this understanding has been reached, operational police officers share it and know how to respond in these very difficult situations.

Interestingly, in groups of amendments that are to come, I refer to the valuable lessons from Northern Ireland to which I do not think we are paying enough attention. I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady O’Loan, for her remarks.