Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill - Third Reading – in the House of Lords at 4:15 pm on 25th January 2022.
Moved by Lord Wolfson of Tredegar
3: After Clause 136, insert the following new Clause—“Imprisonment for public protection etc: duty to refer person released on licence to Parole Board(1) Section 31A of the Crime (Sentences) Act 1997 (imprisonment or detention for public protection: termination of licences) is amended in accordance with subsections (2) to (6).(2) In subsection (2)(a), after “Chapter” insert “(whether or not the prisoner has subsequently been recalled to prison under section 32)”.(3) For subsection (3) substitute—“(3) Where—(a) the prisoner has been released on licence under this Chapter (whether or not the prisoner has subsequently been recalled to prison under section 32);(b) the qualifying period has expired; and(c) if the Secretary of State has made a previous reference of the prisoner’s case under this subsection, the period of twelve months beginning with the day of the disposal of that reference has expired,the Secretary of State must refer the prisoner’s case to the Parole Board under this subsection.”(4) In subsection (4)—(a) in the words before paragraph (a), for “an application” substitute “a reference”, and(b) in paragraph (b), for “application” substitute “reference”.(5) After subsection (4) insert—“(4A) A reference under subsection (3) must be made, and a reference under that subsection must be determined by the Parole Board under subsection (4), even if at the time of the reference or determination the prisoner is in prison having been recalled under section 32.(4B) If at the time of the determination the prisoner is in prison having been recalled under section 32—(a) subsection (2) does not apply, and(b) subsection (4)(a) has effect as if it required the Parole Board—(i) to determine whether it is satisfied that it is not necessary for the protection of the public for the prisoner, when released, to be released on licence in respect of the preventative sentence or sentences, and (ii) if it is so satisfied, to direct the Secretary of State accordingly.(4C) Where the Parole Board gives a direction under subsection (4B)(b)(ii)—(a) if at any time the Board directs the prisoner’s release under section 28, that section has effect in relation to the prisoner as if, in subsection (5), for “to release him on licence” there were substituted “to release the prisoner unconditionally”, and(b) if at any time the Board directs the prisoner’s release under section 32, that section has effect in relation to the prisoner as if, in subsection (5), for “immediate release on licence” there were substituted “immediate unconditional release”.”(6) In subsection (5), in the definition of “the qualifying period”, after “on licence” insert “(whether or not the prisoner has subsequently been recalled to prison under section 32)”.(7) Subsection (8) applies to an application made by a person under section 31A(3) of the Crime (Sentences) Act 1997 before this section comes into force.(8) If the application has not been determined when this section comes into force, subsections (4) to (4C) of section 31A of the Crime (Sentences) Act 1997 apply in relation to it as if it were a reference of the person’s case by the Secretary of State to the Parole Board under subsection (3) of that section.(9) Subsection (10) applies if a person remains on licence under Chapter 2 of Part 2 of the Crime (Sentences) Act 1997, or remains subject to release on licence under that Chapter, following—(a) the disposal before this section comes into force of the person’s application to the Parole Board under section 31A(3) of that Act, or(b) the disposal under subsection (4) of section 31A of that Act, as it has effect by virtue of subsection (8) of this section, of the person’s application to the Parole Board under subsection (3) of that section.(10) Subsection (3) of section 31A of the Crime (Sentences) Act 1997 applies in relation to the person as if the application had been a reference of the person’s case by the Secretary of State to the Parole Board under that subsection.”Member’s explanatory statementThis amendment and the amendments in the name of Lord Wolfson of Tredegar at page 133, line 13, page 135, line 13 and page 233, line 33 give effect to an undertaking given by Lord Wolfson on 15th December 2021 (Hansard col. 359). This amendment imposes a duty on the Secretary of State to refer the case of a person who is serving a sentence of imprisonment for public protection (or the equivalent youth sentence), and has been released on licence, to the Parole Board after ten years and annually after that.
My Lords, following my commitment and undertaking to the House on Report, I am pleased to be able to bring this package of amendments relating to imprisonment for public protection—IPP—before the House this afternoon. I thank sincerely the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett—and I understand why he is unable to be in his place today—the noble and learned Lords, Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood and Lord Judge, and my noble friend Lord Moylan for their commitment to this cause and continued engagement with me on this matter. We have had a series of meetings and calls, which have been invaluable. They offered me their considerable wisdom and experience both of this subject and of this House in order to get this amendment—if I may put it this way—across the table and over the line.
It was made very clear at all stages in this House that there was enormous strength of feeling that some beneficial change for IPP offenders was both right and necessary. I am pleased that we have cross-party support for this sensible, proportionate and effective change that will provide such benefit but at no risk to public protection.
I committed on Report to bringing forward an amendment which puts the Secretary of State’s policy of automatic referral of applications to terminate the IPP licence on to a statutory footing. This would enable all eligible IPP offenders to be referred to the Parole Board for consideration for licence termination at the appropriate time. The new clause that I have tabled delivers on this commitment.
The position is that Section 31A of the Crime (Sentences) Act 1997 sets out how IPP offenders are currently able to apply for licence termination. Once the qualifying period of 10 years has elapsed—that is, 10 years from the offender’s first release by the Parole Board—this section provides that offenders can apply to the Parole Board to be considered for licence termination. In practice, the Secretary of State has made it policy to do this on the offender’s behalf, but first had to obtain consent from the offender.
The principal change in the first of the amendments in my name is in new subsection (2), which amends the wording of Section 31A so that the Secretary of State will be legally required to automatically refer the offender where the 10-year qualifying period has expired. Where the offender has previously been referred to the Parole Board for licence termination, they will automatically be referred if 12 months have elapsed since the previous reference. That removes the need for the offender to give permission for the Secretary of State to make applications on their behalf, and will enable the IPP licence to be brought to a definitive end for more offenders.
The clause also adds a new subsection to Section 31A which deals with offenders who are in custody following recall under the IPP licence. When an offender is recalled to prison, their licence is automatically revoked, so they cannot have their licence terminated while they are in prison following recall because they are no longer on licence. But, in these cases, the Secretary of State will still be required to refer the offenders to the Parole Board on the point of eligibility and every 12 months thereafter. The Parole Board will then determine whether the licence should remain in force following any subsequent release decision. It will be up to the Parole Board whether to terminate the licence of an IPP offender in custody—but these provisions are specifically intended to ensure that all eligible IPP offenders, who are either on licence or have been recalled and had their licence revoked, have the opportunity to have their licence terminated.
The remaining subsections are technical, transitional and clarificatory to ensure that the clause works correctly. But I make it absolutely clear from the Dispatch Box that time spent in custody on recall does not affect the running of the 10-year qualifying period. There are two further amendments in my name, both of which are consequential. I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, for joining me in them. The second amendment ensures that this clause operates correctly with other subsections that might prevent a referral, and the third sets the commencement date at two months following Royal Assent.
Taken as a package, these amendments appropriately balance the need to protect the public with ensuring that IPP offenders who are assessed by the Parole Board as no longer posing a risk to the public are given every opportunity to have their IPP licence, and the IPP sentence as a whole, terminated. So, with renewed thanks to those noble and learned Lords who joined me, particularly in supporting the first amendment, for their sustained engagement, I beg to move Amendment 3.
My Lords, my noble and learned friend Lord Judge has asked that I go next. I have indeed added my name to the first substantive government amendment, but I indicated that I would—and I do—make it plain that I do so without any great enthusiasm. Rather, it is on the basis that one must be grateful for small mercies—here, alas, I put the emphasis on the “small”.
I am grateful to the Minister for doing what he could for us, and, so far as it goes, I welcome the small change brought about by the amendment. But, in my respectful view, it does not go remotely far enough. It is difficult to overemphasise how small a concession this is in relation to the overall problem of the remaining IPP prisoners. Even in respect of the recall prisoners, we had hoped that the maximum term for which a licence should remain in force would be reduced from 10 years to five.
Beyond that, I fervently hoped to do something for the 1,700-odd cohort of IPP prisoners who have never been released and who remain incarcerated 10 years after this whole sentencing regime was abolished by LASPO in 2012. Many of the 1,700 are substantially more than 10 years beyond their tariff term—but there it is. We now have to—and we do—put our faith in the House of Commons Justice Committee, which has taken evidence and listened to many, including me, and is shortly to report on the whole question of this remaining regime. One hopes that it will do something to meet this grave, continuing and, indeed, growing injustice. In the meantime, I make it plain that I support this most modest of amendments.
My Lords, with the agreement of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, I rise to thank my noble friend the Minister. I know from conversations with him that the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, who cannot be in his place today would join me in expressing our appreciation to my noble friend the Minister for the integrity, openness and engagement—and consequently the trust—he has engendered since Report. This is an example of government and the House working constructively to improve the operation of the criminal justice system and those affected by it.
The amendment moved by my noble friend addresses one limb of the amendment in my name in Committee and again on Report. It puts into effect the Government’s own previously announced policy of making the termination of licences automatic. I welcome that, but I still hope that soon the Government will also adopt the second limb of that amendment to reduce the qualifying period from 10 years to five. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood, said, the Justice Select Committee in the other place is considering this whole case.
I hope that when my noble friend replies he will be able to say that, if that committee recommends a reduction in the qualifying period from 10 years to five, the Government will be quick to adopt that amendment and put it into effect. Both measures—the automaticity of the referral and the potential reduction of the qualifying period from 10 years to five—are primarily aimed at IPP prisoners out on licence, not those in prison, though I appreciate that my noble friend has pointed out that those on recall may gain some benefit from this.
This is the first crack in the wall of this regime made in the last 10 years. It would be very easy for noble Lords to think that now is a moment when we could perhaps relax; the Government, having made a concession and implicitly recognised an injustice, will move, quietly perhaps, to resolve the whole matter quickly. But that is not what the Ministry of Justice is expecting to see happen.
In a Written Answer given in the other place by my right honourable friend Kit Malthouse on
My noble friend referred on Report to the existence of an action plan. He said that the ministry had an action plan for dealing with the problem. Requests to see the action plan have been met with a response from my noble friend to the effect that it will be available shortly, or it is not currently available, but we may look forward to it. I do look forward to it; we might all look forward to it, but we would like to see it soon. We would like to see it address this problem and put this scandal properly behind us as soon as possible.
My Lords, I thank the Minister, who has found himself wallowing in a misery of injustice and has done a great deal at least for the issue to be recorded in statute. For me, that is the only advantage of this amendment, but I respect very much the efforts he has made to produce an amendment at all.
Beyond that, I entirely agree with the observations from my noble and learned friend Lord Brown and the noble Lord, Lord Moylan. We have not got to the end of the beginning of this, but the end of the beginning has possibly come into sight. For me, after the shambles of this dreadful piece of statutory—I could get carried away and then I would be speaking unparliamentary language, but noble Lords all know what I mean; I shall just stick to shambles—we can begin to make up for what has gone on over too many years.
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for the amendment. He has followed through on a commitment he made on Report, which is greatly appreciated. However, like all the other noble Lords who have spoken, I wish the Government had gone further. Indeed, our little cross-party team put several other amendments forward, a number of which have been alluded to by the noble Lord, Lord Moylan.
This is one small improvement to a system that needs to be abolished for this group of prisoners caught on the wrong side of history. It is, however, a movement in the right direction. When the Minister spoke to me on the day that he made the commitment to bring the amendment forward, he quoted Newton’s second law. For noble Lords who, like me, do not have a clue what Newton’s second law is, it says that it is easier to move an object already in motion than one at rest. Well, the object is in motion and we—and, I believe, he—will try to push it along as far and as fast as we can whenever the opportunity arises. The ball is rolling and we will keep on pushing for justice and fairness for those whom the law has left behind.
My Lords, I appreciate that Third Reading is not the time for long and ponderous speeches, but I wanted to place on record—as someone who tabled amendments on Report and in Committee to deal with IPPs and the injustice that remains—that I wholeheartedly support the remarks of the noble and learned Lords, Lord Brown and Lord Judge, my noble friend Lord Moylan, and the noble Baroness, Lady Burt.
This is just the beginning and must be seen as something that will continue to be looked at, both by the Select Committee in the other place and the Ministry of Justice. I also place on record my personal thanks to my noble friend the Minister, who has dealt with this question with sensitivity and within the bounds of possibility that being a Minister in this House places on him. I thank him for what he has done and look forward to hearing more that will undo the injustice that the IPP regime is still visiting on a number of people.
My Lords, I feel very guilty that I was unable to arrange my diary to take any part in the Bill as it went through because this is the part of the Bill in which I would otherwise have taken an active part. I have already apologised to the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, outside this House for the fact that in the end I was not able to offer him any assistance.
I add only, as my noble and learned friend just has, my support and simply record that I was the Lord Chancellor who abolished indeterminate sentences in 2011 with the wholehearted support of the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, who was then in the House of Commons with me and defused any attempts to preserve this stain on the statute book, which he had accidentally introduced without any expectation that it would be used as it was and resolve into a problem.
If you had told me when we abolished this sentence that there would be thousands of people in the position that they are now, 11 years after abolition, because they were left over to be dealt with, I would not have believed it. What I proposed was simply a change to the burden of proof that the Parole Board had to apply when deciding whether it was safe to release somebody, but that was never implemented. The fact that all these years later we face these problems is something of a disgrace. I thank the Minister for making this modest move, but I certainly agree with what everybody has said about the modesty of it. It needs urgently to be addressed by the Select Committee in the other place.
My Lords, I too would like to echo the thanks for the Minister. He has, in a sense, been a lobbyist within the Ministry of Justice to get this modest amendment over the line. The noble Lord, Lord Moylan, summed up the position very well when he described it as the first crack in the wall. I was alarmed by the figures he quoted from his Written Question, where he seemed to indicate that there would be more prisoners in jail because of recalls, so the problem is likely to get worse and not better.
The noble Baroness, Lady Burt, referred to the Minister’s reference to Newton’s second law—that it is easier to move an object that is already in motion. My first degree was in physics, and I would phrase that slightly differently, in a way that is relevant to the politics: the rate of change of movement is proportional to the impressed force. We on this side are certainly interested in increasing the impressed force on this object which is currently under way.
My Lords, I am grateful for the kind words a number of noble Lords have said. This may be a modest start, but it is a start, and I am sure that the conversation will continue. In particular, as I said when we discussed this matter substantively, I am well aware that the Justice Select Committee is looking at this matter. It will be reporting soon and, while I cannot go quite as far as my noble friend Lord Moylan would want me to by saying that, if the committee recommends, for example, changing the qualifying period from 10 years to five years, the Government will adopt it, I can say—which I hope would be obvious anyway—that we will take anything that comes out of the Justice Select Committee extremely seriously and look at it with very great care.
The action plan has been provided to the Justice Select Committee. We will review it again following the publication of its report to take account of our consideration following its recommendations. I hope the House will forgive me if I do not respond to everybody who contributed. I am conscious that we are at Third Reading and there is other business before the House. But I thank everybody who has contributed to this short debate. In particular, I respectfully thank the noble Baroness, Lady Burt of Solihull, for our conversations and the correspondence we have had, which she knows I have been dealing with.
I am conscious that Newton has now been invoked on a number of occasions. I am not altogether sure whether Newtonian physics applies to government action, but I will proceed on the basis that it does. I will try to push things as far as I can, but for present purposes, the only things I will immediately seek to move are these amendments.
Amendment 3 agreed.
Clause 142: Calculation of period before release or Parole Board referral where multiple sentences being served