Amendment 148A

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

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Photo of Lord Russell of Liverpool Lord Russell of Liverpool Deputy Chairman of Committees 6:00, 26 February 2024

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.