Amendment 148A

Victims and Prisoners Bill - Committee (6th Day) – in the House of Lords at 6:00 pm on 26 February 2024.

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Baroness Thornton:

Moved by Baroness Thornton

148A: After Clause 47, insert the following new Clause—“Licence conditions for serial and serious harm domestic abuse and stalking perpetrators under Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements(1) A condition of the release and licence of serial and serious harm domestic abuse and stalking perpetrators must be included in the Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements.(2) The Criminal Justice Act 2003 is amended as follows.(3) In section 325 (arrangements for assessing etc risk posed by certain offenders)—(a) in subsection (1), after ““relevant sexual or violent offender” has the meaning given by section 327;” insert ““relevant domestic abuse or stalking perpetrator” has the meaning given in section 327ZA;”;(b) after subsection (2)(a) insert—“(aza) relevant domestic abuse or stalking perpetrators,”.(4) After section 327 (Section 325: interpretation) insert—“327ZA Interpretation of relevant domestic abuse or stalking perpetrator (1) For the purposes of section 325, a person (“P”) is a “relevant domestic abuse or stalking perpetrator” if P has been convicted of a specified offence or an associate offence and meets either the condition in subsection (2)(a) or the condition in subsection (2)(b).(2) For the purposes of subsection (1), the conditions are—(a) P is a relevant serial offender; or(b) a risk of serious harm assessment has identified P as presenting a high or very high risk of serious harm.(3) An offence is a “specified offence” for the purposes of this section if it is a specified domestic abuse offence or a specified stalking offence.(4) In this section—“relevant serial offender” means a person convicted on more than one occasion for the same specified offence, or a person convicted of more than one specified offence;“specified domestic abuse offence” means an offence where it is alleged that the behaviour of the accused amounted to domestic abuse within the meaning defined in section 1 of the Domestic Abuse Act 2021;“specified stalking offence” means an offence contrary to section 2A or section 4A of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.(5) Within 12 months of the day on which the Victims and Prisoners Act 2024 is passed the Secretary of State must commission a review into the operation of the provisions of this section.””

Photo of Baroness Thornton Baroness Thornton Shadow Spokesperson (Equalities and Women's Issues), Shadow Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport)

It is a great pleasure to move Amendment 148A and speak to Amendment 148B. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Russell, and the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, for their support in this suite of amendments, both of which deal with stalking. They insert two new clauses into the Bill, and they are part of the whole suite of amendments on this.

I will be brief because my noble friend Lady Royall is in the Committee today, and she has been tireless over the years in championing this cause and using every opportunity to find remedies to deal with this pernicious crime, almost always perpetrated by men on women, wrecking lives, sometimes with fatal consequences. These two amendments, and the group following this concerning MAPPS in the name of my noble friend Lord Ponsonby, seek to bring further coherence to law enforcement, record sharing and protection for these victims.

If only the police could see stalking for what it truly is—often a stepping stone on the route to murder—perhaps they would take it more seriously. At present, I am afraid they do not—certainly, it is patchy—and stalking victims are dismissed too easily and too often. They are told, “It’s just online. It will die down. Change your number. Delete your social media accounts. It’s just a lovers’ tiff”.

I will give just one example and then sit down. When the Derbyshire police accepted that they failed Gracie Spinks—who was murdered after reporting her stalker to the police—and when they apologised to her family and promised that lessons would be learned, I could almost feel the weariness of victims, their families, the campaigners and the Victims’ Commissioner in saying, “How often do we have to be told that lessons can be learned when they haven’t been?” That is what these amendments and the ones we have already discussed are about: they seek to make a change. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Russell of Liverpool Lord Russell of Liverpool Deputy Chairman of Committees

My Lords, I was happy to put my name to these to these two amendments, and I am equally happy that the noble Baroness, Lady Royall of Blaisdon, is here. She will go into some current and fairly shocking detail about some recent examples of stalking that show that it is as pernicious and present as ever.

Both of these amendments are proposed in the clear and distinctly uncomfortable knowledge that I think all parties acknowledge: we have some way to go, to put it mildly, before we can say, with any degree of truth, that we have the measure of the huge and insidious problem that is stalking. These amendments propose some changes to MAPPA, including perpetrators in MAPPA, as a condition of potential release and licence, and the creation of a register to make perpetrators subject to notification requirements as a condition of release. The important common theme to both these amendments is the requirement for the Secretary of State to commission reviews to look at the issues and challenges around stalking in a comprehensive and informed manner.

But what is repeatedly and continuously frustrating is that we have proper on-the-ground evidence of approaches to stalking that are proving to be effective. In particular, there is the multi-agency stalking intervention programme—MASIP—which has marked a significant advance in our ability to anticipate, identify and tackle the complex issue of stalking. The MASIP model, thankfully funded by the Home Office, has pioneered this approach in London, Cheshire and Hampshire, and it works. Early evidence is compelling and extremely positive. So one just asks oneself: why is it not possible to do this more widely? The approach co-ordinates activity around both the victim and the perpetrator, and it incorporates an essential pathway to address the fixation and obsession in perpetrators that might be contributing to their stalking offending. The final evaluation proves that it works, so why is it so difficult, first, to acknowledge best practice when it is staring one in the face and, secondly, to implement it more widely?

One frustrating thing—here I refer to an article in today’s newspaper—is some news about the Government’s end-of-custody supervised licence programme, which was introduced in the autumn to relieve some of the huge pressure on our overcrowded jails, enabling perpetrators to be released earlier than their recommended sentence. It was put in as a temporary scheme, but it has apparently now been extended indefinitely. That does not mean for ever; it just means that the Government have given no indication of how long they intend to continue to allow this degree of leniency, the sole reason for which is the huge pressure on our prisons.

The Government rather inelegantly call this the problem of demand and supply in the prison population. If you were to try to explain that terminology to victims, they would find it slightly difficult to understand why supply-side economics should govern the early release of some perpetrators, particularly of domestic abuse and stalking, in many cases without the victims knowing what is going on.

We will make concerted progress only when we acknowledge the complexity of stalking and finally design a proactive and joined-up approach that is implemented consistently across all jurisdictions and agency boundaries and effectively identifies, outlaws and penalises any evidence of the unfairness and madness of what we are allowing today—effectively, a postcode lottery for victims.

Photo of Baroness Brinton Baroness Brinton Liberal Democrat

My Lords, I have signed Amendments 148A and 148B in this group. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, for her introduction and look forward to hearing from the noble Baroness, Lady Royall. The first amendment sets out an important addition to the arrangements for Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements, or MAPPA. We will hear about the detail of these amendments from the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, but I want to add that, throughout this Bill and its predecessors in your Lordships’ House, including the Domestic Abuse Bill and the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, we have repeatedly asked for more protection for people who have been victims of serial domestic abuse and, in particular, stalking.

Laura Richards’s ground-breaking work over many years in developing the dashboard profiling and documenting the most serious repeat offenders has changed the way in which specialist police teams view these perpetrators, but—I hesitate to say this for probably the third Bill running—MAPPA are still not applied consistently across police forces. One of the aims of these amendments is to make sure that happens. As we have heard, repeat perpetrators are far too often allowed to commit further crimes, including murder. Shockingly, a couple of years ago police research found that one in 12 domestic rapists was raping outside the home. A violent and controlling man leaving a partner does not mean that the violence ends. Many have extensive histories of abusing multiple women.

Amendment 148A sets out the licence conditions for serial and serious harm domestic abuse and stalking perpetrators, saying that anyone so identified should be part of a MAPPA. Proposed new subsection (4) sets out the definition of a relevant domestic abuse or stalking perpetrator. Similarly, the other amendment says that we must have an effective register. Non-domestic stalkers always seem to be left off. I always raise this problem in your Lordships’ House; there is an assumption that stalking is carried out only by a current partner or an ex-partner—or somebody who would like to be a partner and is therefore regarded as domestic—but about 40% of stalking cases have nothing to do with that at all. As we see from many stories in the papers day after day, these days people such as celebrities face massive amounts of stalking and do not get protection. Often, when people are arrested, it appears that they have stalked others as well.

The noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, made passing reference to the Gracie Spinks case. Derbyshire police and the police force that investigated its failings have learned from that, but we need consistency. I will give one recent example from Laura Richards. Last month a victim, Sadie, had been back in contact with her about her living hell over seven years. She is terrified that her ex will kill her children. In 2018 he was arrested for battery of her eight year-old daughter and an assault on her while she was holding her other daughter. He was convicted in 2019 and received a suspended sentence and restraining order. The police did not arrest him for stalking or coercive control. They told her that, because she had moved away, they would not arrest him for stalking and they would amend the restraining order to a lifelong RO. He has repeatedly breached it. As we discussed on earlier amendments, he then started family court proceedings.

I will not go on, except to say that she has had to flee three more times, and each time has hit problems with the new police force. There has been no consistency. He has a history of abusing others—exactly the point I made about police research finding that one in 12 domestic rapists rapes outside the home. This woman has no solution nearby to stop him continuing to behave in this way and mess up her life and those of her children. We need MAPPA to work effectively. These amendments are the first step in that direction.

Photo of Baroness Royall of Blaisdon Baroness Royall of Blaisdon Labour 6:15, 26 February 2024

My Lords, I support Amendments 148A and 148B. I am late to participate in this Bill, for which I apologise, but, as has been said, I am not late to debates on the insidious crime of stalking—a gateway to rape, serious harm and murder in slow motion. I have read the excellent exchanges on earlier amendments to this Bill on stalking.

Stalkers must be put before the courts, and sentences must reflect the seriousness of the crime. When stalkers are released from prison, given the nature of their obsessive and fixated behaviour, stringent measures must be placed on them to close down all opportunities to reoffend. As part of this, they must be automatically managed by MAPPA and included on ViSOR, soon to be MAPPS, so that their information can be shared and accessed nationally.

In the past I have often cited the horrific case of Zoe Dronfield. Jason Smith almost succeeded in murdering her in her home in 2014. He is up again before the Parole Board for release this year. Zoe is terrified for herself and her children. Smith was not rehabilitated 10 years prior to her attack after the horrific abuse of an ex who was a serving West Midlands police officer. He went on to abuse other women until he targeted Zoe. Currently, Zoe knows very little about the release plan. Smith has never admitted trying to kill Zoe, so how can he be deemed safe for release? She does not know whether she is marked at high risk, whether he is still vengeful towards her or whether he will be tagged. No measures have been put in place for her, and she feels like a sitting duck.

How can this be right? He must be added to ViSOR and managed by MAPPA, and every opportunity for his reoffending against Zoe, her children and future women must be closed down. Many stalkers change their name by deed poll. He must not be allowed to do that either. Positive obligations must be placed on him, including not to change his name. I would be grateful for an assurance from the Minister that this case will be looked at so that Zoe does not have to live in fear.

In January there were two horrific cases of stalking by two vengeful men. Thirty year-old Bryce Hodgson was shot by armed officers in Southwark after he broke into the intended victim’s home. He was armed with crossbows, a knife, a hatchet and a sword and was wearing body armour. There was no doubt that he was there to kill the victim, and most likely others if they got in his way—people who might have been trying to protect her. He had already threatened the police. As soon as I heard about this case, I wondered about his background. No one wakes up one day and starts behaving like this in the third decade of life. From everything I have learned about male violence towards women and children, I believed that he would have a history.

Sure enough, it came to light that he was a convicted stalker. He had been convicted of stalking a woman last June and was subject to a five-year restraining order. Croydon Magistrates’ Court heard last year how Hodgson had entered the victim’s bedroom without consent, sent text messages demanding that she open her door to him and described his vivid sexual fantasies to her. He pleaded guilty, but was spared a custodial sentence with a 16-week suspended prison sentence; he was ordered to undergo 12 months of supervision and carry out 120 hours of community service.

He was the most dangerous type of stalker—a predatory stalker with sexual fantasies that he was acting on when he broke into the victim’s bedroom. He was one of the rare few who are arrested and charged but, rather than put him before the court for a Section 4A stalking offence for putting the victim in fear of her life, and despite his being one of the most dangerous types of stalker, the CPS put him before a magistrates’ court on a Section 2A stalking charge. Notwithstanding the wrong charge, he clearly should have been put on a register.

In another case, on 31 January a woman and her two children were attacked by Abdul Ezedi near Clapham Common. He threw a corrosive alkaline substance at the woman, who we now know was in a relationship with the suspect. She was there with her daughters; she suffered what are likely to be life-changing injuries. Five police officers were injured as they responded, as were four members of the public. This attack was targeted, pre-planned and premeditated. Ezedi stalked the victim and intended to cause her maximum distress, pain and suffering when he threw that corrosive substance at her and her two girls. He then picked up the three year-old girl and tried to kill her.

There is always a history. In 2018, Ezedi was convicted of one charge of sexual assault and one of exposure, before being granted asylum in 2020. He received a nine-week jail term, suspended for two years, for this sexual assault and, for the exposure, 36-weeks’ imprisonment to be served consecutively—which was also suspended for two years. Why was he not included on ViSOR? This has been repeatedly raised following countless horrific murders, including those of Jane Clough, Shana Grice, Hollie Gazzard, Alice Ruggles, Janet Scott, Laura Mortimer and her 11 year-old daughter Ella Dalby, and Cheryl Gabriel-Hooper, whose 14 year-old daughter was present when Andrew Hooper shot her mother dead. Hooper had a history of abusing and stalking his ex; he broke into her house in the middle of the night wearing gloves and armed with a knife. He pleaded guilty to affray and received a suspended sentence—this was stalking. Cheryl also reported him to the police for coercively controlling and stalking her and her daughter. The abuse escalated when she finally left him for good.

Separation is the highest risk time for a woman fleeing a coercive controller and stalker. We know from research and analysis of domestic homicides that if a stalker makes a threat—which Hooper did—one in two stalkers acts on that threat; that is 50%. These are the most dangerous of perpetrators, and yet his violent history was not joined up by the police. He should have been on a register, which would mean that they had to check on the perpetrator’s history.

Laura Mortimer and her 11 year-old daughter, Ella Dalby, were stabbed to death in my home city of Gloucester, on 28 May 2018, by Christopher Boon. He had a history of assaulting a previous partner and her mother, in front of two children. He received a suspended sentence for this very serious offence. Boon was a fantasist who was £28,000 in debt, and he coerced Laura into putting her income into his bank account. She reported him to the police. She was too scared to pursue a prosecution but she did ask about his history, using Clare’s law. She was told that it could not be shared, and she was sent away. Days before the murders, Laura learnt that Boon was cheating on her and she told him to leave the house. He escalated his behaviour and stabbed Laura 18 times and her 11 year-old daughter 24 times. Women are not told about these dangerous and violent men’s histories even when they report serious violence and abuse at their hands.

A new database, MAPPS, is being developed, which will replace ViSOR, and we have MAPPA, the public protection panels which police, prison and probation officers, and other agencies attend. Stalkers must be proactively identified, assessed and managed by MAPPA. Stalking experts must attend MAPPA meetings to ensure that these dangerous men are diagnosed, assessed and managed. The same tactics must be applied to serial and dangerous domestic violence perpetrators and stalkers as to organised criminals and sex offenders. Early identification, assessment and management are vital to cut off opportunities for them to cause harm, and to ensure that they face the consequences of their actions.

Currently, the law relies on victims to report the individual crimes, and the police do not flag and tag serial and high-risk perpetrators. Instead, they focus on the victims—and this does not happen with any other crime. Police must index and share information with victims about serial abusers. Each police force must proactively identify 10 to 20 serial and dangerous domestic abusers, ensure that their information is included on the local police intelligence database, and refer cases to MAPPA. Convicted stalkers must be placed on ViSOR. The postcode lottery mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Russell, must end.

I hope the Minister does not refer to guidance, which is so often a response to questions about stalking. I hope we are not told that more lessons need to be learned; too many women have been murdered. We know what needs to be done. We do not need guidance, we need action.

The extraordinary Laura Richards, who has done more than anyone else in the world to try to protect women and their children from stalkers, started a petition to include serial domestic abusers and stalkers on ViSOR and be managed by MAPPA. Some 274,698 people have now signed this petition, including victims, bereaved families and professionals. I ask the Minister: when will the Government act?

Photo of Baroness Newlove Baroness Newlove Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

My Lords, I support these amendments, and I am so glad that the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, is back where she belongs, speaking on a topic that she is so passionate about.

Laura Richards has been mentioned by many speakers, and social media has a good way of reacting: I have her on Instagram as we are speaking, to give me some pointers, even though she is in California. Laura Richards is the expert on all this, and her patience to fight for victims over the years is commendable. She said she knows there is going to be change and she keeps doing it for victims—I admire this lady.

In the year ending March 2022, only 1.4% of reports to police about stalking ended with the stalker being convicted. That says a lot about how seriously stalking is taken by the very agencies that are supposed to protect victims. Most stalkers never see the inside of a prison cell; instead, they receive fines or community or suspended sentences, as has previously been spoken about. Really, for me, it is about listening to the human side of all these cases, and that is what we must never forget. It is not just about lessons learned or guidance. These are not items we pick up from supermarket shelves; these are human lives—people who have been brutally murdered, after several years of absolute hell, by someone who has done it on more than one occasion.

I really want to understand why the Government will not look at this register seriously. I spoke in the Domestic Abuse Bill when that came through. This has to be the end of it all. Instead of guidance, we must have proper risk management of stalkers and domestic abusers because, at the moment, it is virtually non-existent for convicted, or unconvicted, men who pose such a huge risk to women and children—now more than ever, we need to make sure that they feel safe and listened to. These are psychopathic people who do horrendous crimes to humans, and families have to pick up the pieces.

I am concerned about Zoe Dronfield, and I have picked up on certain things that my friend, the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, has mentioned. I will take that offline, because I sympathise with not having any control. As somebody who is still going through the criminal justice and parole system, I am very interested in the next stage of the Bill, which is about parole, and what it does and does not do. The victim has no control, or right to know what the offender is doing. We cannot find out what is going on, but the offender knows exactly where the victim is, because of exclusion zones and everything else. I do not speak for anyone else but as a victim who is watching out, for my three daughters, for offenders who are going to be released. When we are talking about stalking laws, this is important, because having no control more or less means that the victim has to shape their life around safety, whereas the system should protect victims more than ever.

Photo of Lord Roborough Lord Roborough Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, for her amendment relating to Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements, and all noble Lords who have contributed to this heartfelt debate. These are horrific offences, taken with the utmost gravity by the Government.

Amendment 148A seeks to include relevant domestic abuse and stalking perpetrators on licence within the remit of management under Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements—MAPPA. That would create a legal requirement on the police and the Prison and Probation Service to assess and manage the risks posed by individuals whose offending has taken place in the context of domestic abuse or stalking, and who either have more than one conviction of this nature or are assessed as posing a high risk of serious harm.

Amendment 148B seeks to make amendments to the Sexual Offences Act 2003, imposing on domestic abuse and stalking offenders the same requirements that apply to registered sex offenders. This would require the offender to report personal information to the police, including where they are living, their bank account details and passport details.

The Government agree that robust management of perpetrators of domestic abuse and stalking is crucial to help keep the public safe. We completely agree with the spirit of these amendments; however, we believe the objectives can already be met through current provision and policy.

On Amendment 148A, there is already existing legislation where individuals who are convicted of specified violent offences and sentenced to 12 months’ imprisonment or more are automatically eligible for management under MAPPA category 2. These offences include domestic abuse related offences such as threats to kill, actual and grievous bodily harm, attempted strangulation, as well as stalking including fear of violence. The list is kept under review; for example, in recognition of the seriousness of the offence, we are legislating in the Criminal Justice Bill to ensure that offenders convicted of controlling or coercive behaviour will be automatically managed under MAPPA.

Noble Lords may question why all perpetrators of domestic abuse and stalking cannot be managed under MAPPA. We need to ensure that the MAPPA framework, and the resources of the police, prison and probation services under the framework, focus on the most serious perpetrators, thereby ensuring that resources are targeted at those who pose the greatest risk. As committed to during the passage of the Domestic Abuse Act, we strengthened the Secretary of State for Justice’s statutory MAPPA guidance to include a chapter dedicated to domestic abuse and stalking. It mandates that all domestic abuse and stalking offenders who do not qualify for automatic MAPPA management must be considered for discretionary management known as category 3.

The Government have also worked with MAPPA agencies to improve practice, including the publication of a thresholding document to assist practitioners making the decisions. I can report that we have since seen a steady increase in category 3 management, with a rise of 37% in the last reporting year. We will continue to monitor the numbers of discretionary cases via the published MAPPA annual reports and to work with MAPPA agencies to develop practice in this area.

On the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Russell of Liverpool, to be automatically eligible for management under MAPPA, there must be a conviction for a sexual, violent or terrorist offence, and the individual must either be subject to notification requirements under the Sexual Offences Act 2003 or be serving a sentence of 12 months’ imprisonment or more. MAPPA management is available for only those perpetrators who have been convicted of or cautioned for an offence. Where the sentence is shorter but there is concern about the risk posed, a perpetrator can be managed under MAPPA on a discretionary basis. We have strengthened statutory guidance—I apologise to the noble Baroness, Lady Royall—to clarify that MAPPA management should be considered in all domestic abuse and stalking cases. Successive annual statistics indicate a rise in the number of discretionary cases, and the majority of the 42 MAPPA areas in England and Wales report an increase in the number of cases of domestic abuse managed under MAPPA.

On Amendment 148B, also in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, the Government believe there are already provisions in place that will allow for information on perpetrators to be collected and used to manage risk. All individuals released on licence are subject to standard conditions for the duration of their sentence which include the requirement for perpetrators to inform their probation officer of any change of name and contact details, and to stay only at an address approved by their probation officer. There are numerous additional licence conditions which can be imposed to address specific risk factors. Breach of a licence condition can result in the individual being recalled to custody.

For individuals who are not subject to licence supervision, noble Lords may be aware that the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 introduced provisions for domestic abuse protection orders. These orders—which will be piloted in the spring—will allow for notification requirements to be imposed on perpetrators, of which breach will be a criminal offence. Domestic abuse protection orders are a civil order and can be imposed without a conviction, providing an opportunity to protect a greater range of victims than the proposed amendment. Piloting will allow us to evaluate and test the effectiveness and impact of the new model ahead of an expected national rollout.

Similarly, we introduced stalking protection orders—SPOs—through the Stalking Protection Act 2019 which can impose any prohibition or requirements that the court considers necessary and also impose notification requirements. Breach of both domestic abuse protection orders and stalking protection orders can result in up to five years’ imprisonment.

On another point made by the noble Lord, Lord Russell of Liverpool, we agree that the implementation of measures to protect victims from harm should be reviewed to ensure they are fit for purpose. That is why we have committed to fund an external evaluation partner throughout the duration of the DAPN and DAPO pilot before taking a decision on rolling it out nationally and will continue to monitor the use and application of SPOs. We are aware that the police super-complaint submitted by the Suzy Lamplugh Trust on behalf of the National Stalking Consortium includes SPOs. We will take into consideration any findings and recommendations made by the investigating bodies when they report this year.

The noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, made some points about stalking protection orders and their enforcement. Some police forces, such as the Met, have been making excellent use of the new stalking protection orders we introduced in 2020. Others have applied for fewer than might have been expected. The VAWG strategy confirms the Home Office will work with the police to ensure all police forces make proper use of stalking protection orders. Among other actions, in October 2021, the then-Safeguarding Minister Rachel Maclean MP wrote to all chief constables whose forces applied for fewer orders than might have been expected to encourage them to always consider applying for them. In February 2023, the former Safeguarding Minister, Sarah Dines MP, did the same.

In answer to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Russell, on MASIP, I am afraid I am unfamiliar with the programme and suggest a meeting to discuss further whether there is more the Government can learn from it.

In response to the noble Baroness, Lady Royall of Blaisdon, and my noble friend Lady Newlove, I am afraid I cannot comment on individual cases. However, I am happy to arrange a meeting to discuss them in private.

On the implementation of stalking protection orders, data from HM Courts & Tribunals Service shows that in their first 23 full months—February 2020 to December 2021—almost 1,000 interim and full SPOs were issued. The number issued rose by 31% between February and December 2020 and the equivalent period in 2021.

For these reasons, the Government feel that the aims of the amendments are already met through existing provisions, and I therefore urge the noble Baroness to withdraw the amendments.

Photo of Lord Roborough Lord Roborough Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

I think I understand the point of the amendments, which is the belief that stalking and domestic abuse deserve to be treated the same way as terror and murder offences. I hope the explanation I have given shows that these offences, on a discretionary basis, can be treated with the same seriousness under MAPPA 2 and MAPPA 3. The Government have described an ongoing process of trying to improve the implementation of it.

Photo of Baroness Thornton Baroness Thornton Shadow Spokesperson (Equalities and Women's Issues), Shadow Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport)

I thank the Minister for the detail he has gone into. I am not making fun of him; I am genuinely wondering if he thinks it is all going in the right direction and fast enough. If so, we would not have needed to put the amendments down. We have tabled them because things are not moving fast enough.

Most of the examples my noble friend Lady Royall gave were not current, though some of them were. It is, therefore, perfectly all right to discuss them because they are a long time past and they show the failures of our systems to deal with and recognise stalking and the problems it poses. The reason we have tabled the amendments is because the systems we have at the moment are clearly not working and are very patchy. As my noble friend Lady Royall said, guidance does not always serve, and it does not serve in these circumstances.

I thank everyone who has spoken in the debate. It was very well informed. I think the Minister may have underestimated our determination on the matter. We may return to it at a later stage in the Bill. I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment 148A withdrawn.

Amendment 148B not moved.