Amendment 148C

Part of Victims and Prisoners Bill - Committee (6th Day) – in the House of Lords at 6:45 pm on 26 February 2024.

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Photo of Lord Coaker Lord Coaker Shadow Spokesperson (Defence), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Opposition Whip (Lords) 6:45, 26 February 2024

My Lords, I apologise for not having contributed to debates on the Bill as it has gone through its various stages. I spoke to my Front-Bench colleagues and the others who have added their names to this amendment, and I want to bring my experience as the independent chair of the Nottingham Community Safety Partnership, as laid out in the register of members’ interests, by speaking briefly to this amendment.

I welcome the Government’s intention to move from MAPPA to MAPPS and all the various comments I have read that have been made throughout the passage of the Bill about the importance of change. However, the reality is that, whether it is called MAPPA, MAPPS or something else, without the sort of change that my noble friend Lord Ponsonby, the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, and the noble Lord, Lord Russell, and others have mentioned, nothing will change.

I am sick of having domestic homicide reviews. They say exactly the same thing, time after time. It is not a lack of desire or care on the part of the people involved; the system simply does not work. We have a situation where people do not share data because they do not think that they are allowed to—even though everyone says, “Oh, that’s ridiculous. Of course they’re allowed to”. The Minister of the Crown has to get hold of this; he needs to tell people to share the data in order to save lives—because they do not do so.

I am sorry to keep going on about this, but I am sick of reading about the same problem occurring, time after time: information is not being shared and people say that they did not know about this or that it was supposed to have happened. Again, it is not the dedication of the people that is in question—they all care and want to do good—but we need to know what is happening that does not allow it to take place.

The Minister has to get a grip of this. It does not matter whether it is called MAPPS or something else; without a change, nothing will improve. I know that that is the intention of the Government—of course their intention is not to make it worse—but what are we going to do about it?

I will tell the Committee about another problem. At times, the meetings are packed—absolutely rammed—with people representing, for hours, different parts of the system. What I say is that everybody is responsible but nobody is responsible. I repeat that: everybody is responsible because everybody cares, but nobody is responsible. The question is: who holds the ring? Who is the person accountable for ensuring that something is done and delivered, whether it is a review of a domestic homicide or prisoners coming out and being subject to the MARAC or MAPPS, as it will be called?

My final point is that the delivery of this from an office—I do not mean that disrespectfully—to a house or street is absolutely crucial, and yet nobody has done anything. I will give the Committee an instance. The Government have recruited new police officers—I am not making a political point—and so we have new front-line police officers, who are often very young and very willing, with the desire to do well. When they go to a prisoner out on licence or to a domestic incident, many of them go in blind, because they are young and inexperienced and have no idea what to do. They try to assess whether there is a threat to life, but, as we know, often with domestic homicides there is no immediate, obvious threat to life. That is the nature of domestic violence and, unfortunately, sometimes of domestic homicides; the offenders do not wear a sign saying, “I am going to kill someone”. The police officer goes there, as a 999 response officer, and deals with the immediate emergency as he or she sees it. Realising that there is no immediate threat to life, as far as they are aware, the police officer leaves.

Sometimes, the information that that has happened is not passed on. Sometimes, the police officer is rung again—“Come back, there is a problem”—and they go back but there is nothing going on. It is not as though somebody is running around with a gun, ready to shoot. If that does not change, it will not make a shred of difference whether you call it “MAPPS”, “super-MAPPS”, “extra-MAPPS”, or “brilliant-MAPPS”.

The Government want to make a difference, so they have to do something about the mechanism by which everybody is responsible but nobody is responsible, about what happens with the front-line delivery, and about the sharing of data and information. That is patchwork at best. My noble friend Lord Ponsonby, the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, and the noble Lord, Lord Russell, say that the report has to address those problems. But the Minister does not need a report in 12 months; he could get on the phone or get a meeting now and ask why it is that the law allows you to share data but you are not.

My question to the Minister is this. When people say that they cannot share data in MARACs, or whatever else, are they right? Are they in a situation where they can do that? I think that they are wrong; I think that they can share that information. As a start to what the noble Lord, Lord Russell, the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, and my noble friend Lord Ponsonby asked, why does the Minister not write to every single MARAC in the country and say, “Notwithstanding the Victims and Prisoners Bill that is going through Parliament, the existing law allows you to share information. Don’t worry, you will not be prosecuted or get in trouble for doing that”. They do not believe that—we may all say that that is ridiculous but that is the reality. What I want is for the Government to address on the ground the reality of what is happening. The Minister needs to get involved and do that. The Government want it to improve, as of course we all do, but that change is needed for an improvement to happen.