Offences aggravated by terrorist connection

Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:00 pm on 30th June 2020.

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Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Shadow Minister (Justice) 2:00 pm, 30th June 2020

I beg to move amendment 35, in clause 1, page 1, line 8, at end insert—

“(ab) In subsection (3), after ‘if’ insert ‘the court has found beyond reasonable doubt that’”.

This amendment determines that a court must decide beyond reasonable doubt that an offence has a terrorist connection.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship yet again, Mr McCabe. Hansard should have our notes, as we have already forwarded them.

We support the Bill but, as hon. Members can see, we have identified some ways in which we believe it could be made better. We will get into the details of that over the coming weeks. Terror attacks have shaken this country: people have lost their lives; people have lost their livelihoods; loved ones have been lost; people have suffered life-changing injuries. Nothing we do or say in this House can bring back those people who have died or heal those people who have been so badly injured, but we can try to ensure that justice has been achieved.

In his speech on Second Reading, my right hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy) talked specifically about some of the terror incidents that we have seen in this country and the conclusions we can draw from them. Two possible conclusions were that prison sentences are not long enough and that deradicalisation programmes in prison are not working.

That is why Labour seek to work with the Government on this Bill, starting with amendment 35. We hope to make the case for why we believe there are some amendments that would improve the Bill. Ensuring that Government legislation does not discriminate unfairly against protected characteristics is a key part of what we will try to achieve throughout the process.

Terrorism is often conflated with Islamic extremism, yet the fastest-growing terrorist threat comes from the far right. We want to ensure that the legislation is fair and proportionate. It must go hand in hand with a coherent deradicalisation strategy alongside the Bill, working to minimise the risks of an offender committing further terrorism offences once they leave prison.

Many of the amendments that we will ask the Committee to consider are simply probing amendments to better understand the Government’s thinking, and to give the Minister more time to think about the different issues as we progress through this stage of the Bill. However, there are other amendments that we believe the Government should adopt, if the Bill is to achieve what it sets out to do and be seen to be fair. We will go further into the detail, but I hope we can have healthy and robust debate about how to move forward, and prove to the public out there that politicians from different parties can work together.

Amendment 35 determines that a court must decide “beyond reasonable doubt” that an offence has a terrorist connection. The purpose of this probing amendment is simply to clarify that the finding of a terrorist connection for the new offences that the Bill brings into scope will be subject to the same “criminal standard of proof” as is currently the case, and would effectively amend section 69(3) of the sentencing code, covering offences aggravated by terrorist connections.

We believe we should spell out in the Bill the need to ensure that there can be no reasonable doubt about the connection, because it can have serious ramifications for the offender and the legal system. The House of Commons Library briefing on the Bill states, under the provisions in clause 1:

“If the court determines that there was a terrorist connection, it must treat that as an aggravating factor when sentencing the offender. The presence of an aggravating factor may result in a higher sentence (within the statutory maximum) than would otherwise be the case.”

The Library briefing paper goes on to say:

“The finding of a terrorist connection can also trigger terrorist offender notification requirements and may result in the court ordering forfeiture in a wider range of cases.”

The briefing goes on:

“Such a finding also engages the restrictions on release contained”

in the Terrorist Offenders (Restriction of Early Release) Act 2020, which

“requires that all determinate terrorist or terrorism-related offenders must be referred to the Parole Board at the two thirds point of their sentence before they can be considered for release.”

The Bill’s equality statement acknowledges that

“Asian/British Asian and Muslim individuals within the Criminal Justice System (CJS) have been disproportionately affected by terrorism legislation relative to the percentage of Asian/British Asian and Muslim individuals in the total population.”

The equality statement goes on to the say that the provisions in the Bill are

“unlikely to result in indirect discrimination within the meaning of the Equality Act”.

However, the Lammy review highlighted evidence of disproportionate outcomes for BAME individuals at the sentencing stage and in decision making by judges and magistrates.

While the review found decision making by juries to be largely fair and proportionate, the same was not found when considering decision making by sentencers. That is relevant to the clause, given that the finding of a terrorist connection is at the discretion of the judge, taking account of any representations made by the prosecution or the defence. That is concerning, given the findings of the Lammy review, which are currently being discussed on the Floor of the House. We believe that BAME individuals may be at increased risk of discrimination, with their crime considered to have a terrorist connection.

Amendment 35 would amend section 69(3) of the sentencing code to require that the court must find “beyond reasonable doubt” that an offence has a terrorist connection. The House of Commons Library briefing paper, which colleagues will have read, says that clause 1 would

“greatly increase the number of non-terrorist offences that can be found to have a terrorist connection”,

whereas currently only specified offences can be found to have such a connection. The widening of what can be found to have a terrorist connection will, I fear, disproportionately affect ethnic minorities. That is why we must press the Minister on how he will guarantee decisions are made on the measure of “beyond reasonable doubt”.

There is also the question of what case law is used to guide sentencers as to what constitutes terrorism, as well as what constitutes a connection to it. Some of the commentators on the Bill are not entirely convinced about what the Government are trying to achieve. I can understand that, as there are already a lot of specific terrorism offences.

Unamended, the Bill seems to create the potential for sentencers to grow their own definitions, both of “terrorism” and “connection”. Can the Minister give examples of where the absence of the provision addressed in clause 1 has resulted in an injustice or an insufficient response? There are concerns that the provision could do more damage than anything else. A wrongfully determined terrorist connection could fuel or develop a grievance against the authorities that might not have existed before. We cannot ignore the impact a wrongful terrorism sentence would have on an individual’s life. We cannot take that sort of chance. We must be sure; we must be beyond reasonable doubt.

Photo of Taiwo Owatemi Taiwo Owatemi Labour, Coventry North West

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr McCabe. I share the concern expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton North in relation to the burden of proof and the potential implications of the Bill in disproportionately convicting ethnic minorities by widening the scope of what a terrorist connection is under this legislation.

This is a sensitive subject. Terrorism and the actions of extremists have instilled fear, caution and a sense of doubt in many communities across our country. An act of terror and of any extremist is abhorrent. Those individuals should indeed be brought before a court of law and tried for their crimes, not least because of their direct action causing injury, committing murder or traumatising those who come anywhere near their path and because of the wider implications that will be felt across the country and the world in our age of quick-fire communications and social media.

In my generation, I have seen this in how the Oklahoma bombing instilled fear; in how 9/11 changed the world; and in how 7/7 changed my perspective and that it could happen here at home. The murder of Lee Rigby proved that even those who protect us are not always safe. The slain nine churchgoers at Emmanuel African Methodist Church and the Manchester concert bombings showed that no one, even those in the most innocent of settings, is off limits. The hateful act of violence that took Jo Cox proved that our own political discourse has taken an awful turn.

These acts by rampant extremists and the murderous death toll that they leave behind, the radical ideas that brought them to this path and the many plots that have been foiled that we will never know about show us that these crime, or crimes yet to be committed, are heinous. They also prove that we must determine, as this amendment seeks to do, that these crimes or plots are not small and should be taken with the utmost seriousness.

I have three concerns about widening the terrorist connection provision under this legislation and lowering the burden of proof. First, we are leaving it to sentencers to determine their own definition of what constitutes a terrorist connection. Secondly, it creates a form of suction like a vacuum that will imprison even more ethnic minorities and put them behind bars under terrorist legislation which will see them lose their freedom longer than they need to. Thirdly, and even worse, it potentially radicalises them while they are in prison.

There is a danger, as seen in clause 1, that by allowing any offence to be capable of having a terrorist connection, one’s judgement will inevitably come into play. This punishment carries a sentence of two or more years. It would not be amiss to say that everyone holds biases, including those who administer our laws and hand down sentences. By widening the scope and effectively leaving it open to interpretation, the Government want us to believe that we will capture individuals who may have slipped through the net thus far as ordinary criminals or should have been convicted of terrorism. Can the Minister point us to data that back this assumption? The likelihood is that we will just imprison people for the sake of being seen to be attacking the issues of terrorism and extremism.

We are already aware that ethnic minorities are disproportionately sent to prison under our legal system. We are also acutely aware that black and Asian men, particularly those of Islamic faith, are more likely to be seen as threats and harbouring extremist views. The Lammy review conducted by my right hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham highlighted some concerns about how our criminal justice system sees these individuals. The odds of receiving a prison system were around 240% higher for black, Asian and minority ethnic offenders compared with white offenders. Research commissioned by the review also found that at the magistrates court, black, Asian, mixed and Chinese women were all more likely to be convicted than white women.

The number of Muslim prisoners has more than doubled over the past 17 years. In 2002, 5,502 Muslims were in prison. By 2019, this had risen to 13,341. While in prison, Muslim prisoners described having their faith viewed by prison authorities through a lens of risk, according to the research, which also found that prisoners believed that this put them at greater threat of being radicalised. Given the biases in the system and the extraordinary likelihood of women from ethnic minorities receiving a prison sentence, what do the Government think this legislation will mean for ethnic minorities? Do they really think that lowering the burden of proof and expanding the scope of what constitutes a terrorism offence will do anything to keep these young men and women away from the hands of those who wish to radicalise them?

On this side of the debate, we want to reduce the threat of extremists and ensure that appropriate punishment is handed down to those who commit or seek to commit an act of terror. However, we should not pursue that by reducing the seriousness of this heinous crime, just to be seen to be doing something about it. The burden of proof is important, as is ensuring that courts, whether juries or sentencers, reach a solid burden of proof, such as “beyond reasonable doubt”, before coming to such a serious conclusion. We seek clarity, and the purpose of the amendment is to ensure that terrorist connections will be subject to the same criminal standard of proof as we currently know it. Otherwise, I fear that this measure will undermine our efforts to keep us safe and let down individuals, particularly from an ethnic minority, who are already disproportionately sent to prison under the criminal justice system.

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department 2:15 pm, 30th June 2020

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr McCabe, in our line-by-line consideration of the Bill. I thank the shadow Minister for his opening remarks, in which he expressed general support for the objectives of the Bill. I hope that we can, as he said, provide an example of constructive cross-party working, although I am sure he will have many questions about the detail. As the shadow Minister has said, and as the hon. Member for Coventry North West said in her speech, the threat that terrorism poses is a serious one, and one of our heaviest responsibilities as Members of Parliament is to protect our fellow citizens from such attacks, but in a way that is lawful, fair and just.

Amendment 35 seeks to specify a beyond-reasonable-doubt standard of proof in making the terrorist connection, as clause 1 does. I am happy to confirm for the shadow Minister that existing criminal court procedure already requires the criminal standard of proof to be met in making a determination of a terrorist connection, or indeed any finding of fact in relation to sentencing. If, after conviction by a jury, there is a finding of fact to be made by the judge prior to sentencing in what is known as a “Newton” hearing, under existing procedures the criminal standard of proof is applied. On the request that the shadow Minister and his colleagues make, I am happy to confirm that it is already inherent in the operation of our criminal justice system, and rightly so, for all the reasons that the shadow Minister and the hon. Member for Coventry North West have outlined. I trust that on the basis of that assurance they will see fit not to press the amendment, given that the provision they call for is already enshrined in law.

One further point: both the shadow Minister and the hon. Member for Coventry North West raised the question of what happens if the judge makes an error or exhibits some form of conscious or unconscious bias. That is extremely rare, but, if it did happen, there are of course appeal rights against both the sentence and any erroneous finding of fact associated with it. If a defendant or, by this point, an offender who has been convicted feels that the sentence is genuinely unfair or that an unfair determination has been made of a terrorist connection, they can appeal, so a safety mechanism by way of appeal also exists. I hope that on that basis the shadow Minister will not press the amendment to a vote.

Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Shadow Minister (Justice)

I am grateful to the Minister for his explanation. He believes that the matters are already covered in existing law, but perhaps he will accept that later in the Bill we will be discussing how we make sure that what has happened over a period of time has in fact demonstrated that the judges have got it right. In other words, we will revisit this matter with a view to seeking a form of review of how the legislation is working to ensure that we do not have the particular problems that might well be possible. I am also grateful to him for reminding us that in criminal proceedings we still have an appeal process in this country, and I am sure that that would operate appropriately. On the basis of what the Minister has said and on the basis that we will seek reassurance through a review process later in the Bill, I am content to beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Shadow Minister (Justice)

I beg to move amendment 36, in clause 1, page 3, line 30, at end insert—

‘(8) Before this section comes into force, the Secretary of State must commission an analysis of the impact of this section on people with protected characteristics, including but not limited to—

(a) the impact on people from minority faith groups, including the numbers received into prison and the length of the sentence served;

(b) the impact on people from BAME communities, including the numbers received into prison and the length of the sentence served; and

(c) the consequences of any disproportionate impact on people with protected characteristics on efforts by the prison authorities to rehabilitate prisoners convicted of terrorism offences.

(9) A copy of the analysis must be laid before both Houses of Parliament.”

This amendment requires the Secretary of State to commission an analysis of the equality impact of extending the ability of the court to identify a terrorism connection.

Photo of Steve McCabe Steve McCabe Labour, Birmingham, Selly Oak

With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment 42, in clause 21, page 18, line 23, at end insert—

‘(3) Before this section comes into force, the Secretary of State must conduct an analysis of the impact of this section on people with protected characteristics, including but not limited to—

(a) the impact on people from minority faith groups, including the numbers received into prison and the length of the sentence served;

(b) the impact on people from BAME communities, including the numbers received into prison and the length of the sentence served; and

(c) the consequences of any disproportionate impact on people with protected characteristics on efforts by the prison authorities to rehabilitate prisoners convicted of terrorism offences.

(4) A copy of the analysis must be laid before both Houses of Parliament.”

This amendment requires the Secretary of State to commission an analysis of the impact of extending sentences for offenders of particular concern on people with protected characteristics.

Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Shadow Minister (Justice)

These amendments would require the Secretary of State to commission an analysis of the impact of this section of the Bill before it comes into force on people with protected characteristics, as well as the consequences of any disproportionate impact on efforts by the prison authorities to rehabilitate prisoners convicted of terrorism offences. With this amendment, we seek to address the issue that was highlighted by the probing amendment and to clarify whether the same criminal standard of proof would apply to determining a terrorist connection for all offences, as is currently the case for listed offences. In particular, we seek to determine whether the clause may have a disproportionate impact on people from minority faith and BAME communities, including on the numbers who are received into prison and the length of the sentence served.

There are significant risks involved in expanding the number of individuals who fall under the provisions of separate terrorism legislation, particularly if the imposition of additional sanctions is seen as neither fair nor proportionate and is found to have a disproportionate impact on minority faith and BAME communities in particular. As I said during my speech on amendment 35, the equality statement on the Bill acknowledges that

“Asian/British Asian and Muslim individuals within the Criminal Justice System (CJS) have been disproportionately affected by terrorism legislation relative to the total percentage” of those individuals “in the total population.”

In 2016, a Ministry of Justice study of Crown court decision making found that, under similar criminal circumstances, the odds of imprisonment for offenders from self-reported black, Asian, Chinese or other minority ethnic backgrounds were higher than for offenders from self-reported white backgrounds. My hon. Friend the Member for Coventry North West spelled that out in some detail.

Photo of Bambos Charalambous Bambos Charalambous Opposition Whip (Commons), Shadow Minister (Home Office)

I do not know whether my hon. Friend was in the Chamber to hear the urgent question asked by my right hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham about the Lammy review, but he pointed out that, when the review was done in 2017, the proportion of BAME people in prison was 41%; it is now 51%. Does my hon. Friend have any thoughts about that?

Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Shadow Minister (Justice)

Unfortunately, I was not in the Chamber for that statement, but I bow to the superior knowledge of my boss and my Whip on this matter. It is absolutely essential that we never lose sight of the facts that my hon. Friend has just outlined.

Unfortunately, when it comes to magistrates courts, systematic scrutiny of magistrates’ decisions is hindered by the absence of reliable data collected on a number of key issues. For example, magistrates courts keep no systematic information about whether defendants plead guilty or not guilty, although there are similar disparities at the Crown court level. Magistrates courts also do not keep proper records of defendants’ legal representation, which means that no one knows whether particular ethnic groups are more or less likely to appear in court facing criminal charges without a lawyer.

The cliché suggests we are all equal under the law, but it would be foolish to deny that our justice system has a certain bias. We must make sure that when we amend or introduce legislation, we do so with our eyes and ears open. Particular attention needs to be paid to the equality impact of the Bill, to ensure that the House is as informed as possible about its impact. We must also ensure that the provisions do not have a disproportionate effect on minority faith or racial groups.

During the oral evidence session, one of my questions was to Peter Dawson from the Prison Reform Trust. We talked about the expansion of sentences for offenders of particular concern and how they would work. Peter Dawson said in written evidence:

“The expansion of SOPCs and the expansion of the number of offences able to be identified as having a ‘terrorist connection’ will need careful monitoring for their impact on prison security and on people from minority faith and ethnic communities”.

I asked:

“How can we improve the Bill to achieve that careful monitoring?”

Mr Dawson replied:

“It may not be something that the Bill can achieve, but I think it is reasonable to ask the Government, after the Bill becomes law, to provide a report on what the impact has been. I entirely take the point that the nature of terrorism at the moment means that certain communities are likely to be more heavily represented, but the point is that all criminal justice agencies need to go beyond that to guard against the unconscious bias that will otherwise creep in.”––[Official Report, Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Public Bill Committee, 25 June 2020; c. 38, Q88.]

Other witnesses talked about similar things during the evidence sessions. It is important that we do not lose sight of that.

Along with the expansion of sentences for offenders of particular concern, the clause has the potential to increase significantly the number of individuals in prison who are subject to separate terrorist sentencing. Many of those individuals are vulnerable to radicalisation and they have experienced a steady accumulation of institutional discrimination.

The danger with these provisions is that they could create a significant population of individuals in prison and under supervision in the community who will receive longer sentences and be subject to more onerous and lengthy supervision requirements and forfeiture orders than others who may have received shorter sentences for equivalent offences because the terrorist connection to their offence has not been identified.

That could place those individuals at greater risk from people who would seek to exploit that sense of grievance, in order to radicalise them in support of an extremist ideology. It could also undermine the effective management and supervision of this group in prison, increasing the currently small number of people designated as terrorism offenders to a substantial proportion of the population. This morning, we heard from a representative of the Prison Officers Association, who talked in some detail about the difficulties that prison officers now face in trying to manage particular groups in the prison establishment.

It is right that we commission analysis of the impact of our legislation and if such an analysis proves that there is a disproportionate impact on certain groups, Ministers need to act to correct any discrimination and, if required, change the law. Amendment 42 would require the Secretary of State to commission analysis of the impact of extending sentences for offenders, which is a particular concern regarding people with protected characteristics, and for that analysis to be laid before Parliament before the section comes into force.

Clause 21 replaces schedule 13 of the sentencing code, with the schedule set out in schedule 6 to the Bill. That schedule lists offences that require the imposition of an SOPC where an extended sentence or life sentence is not imposed. This will bring a wider number of offences into the SOPC regime, removing the possibility of those committing such offences from being eligible for a standard determinate sentence. That would mean that only the most minor terrorism offences—those with a maximum sentence of two years or less—would not require an SOPC where an extended determinate sentence is not imposed.

The Bill will also create new sentences—the equivalent of an SOPC for adult offenders in Scotland and Northern Ireland, and for under-18s throughout the UK. Clause 21 addresses a problem created by the TORER Act, which made all terrorist offenders serving a custodial sentence eligible for release two thirds of the way through their sentence, subject to the discretion of the Parole Board. There remained an issue with offenders who were not granted a release until the end of their sentence, and who, as a result, would be released into the community without any form of supervision. The amendment would address this anomaly by requiring that terrorist offenders in the UK would have a minimum period of supervision on licence of 12 months following release, even if they serve the full custodial part of their sentence in custody.

The combined impact of the TORER Act and the provisions of this clause, along with the provisions of clause 1 that allow for the court to determine a terrorist connection for any offence, is to significantly increase the number of individuals subject to separate and more onerous terrorist-sentencing legislation. This includes a longer period in custody, release subject to the discretion of the Parole Board, and a minimum 12 months’ supervision in the community.

There are significant risks involved in increasing the number of individuals who fall under the provisions of a harsher sentencing regime, particularly if the imposition of additional sanctions is seen as being neither fair nor proportionate, and is found, as I have said, to have a disproportionate impact on minority, faith, and BAME communities in particular.

The amendment also seeks to determine the consequences of any disproportionate impact on people with protected characteristics of efforts by the prison authorities to rehabilitate offenders convicted of terrorism offences. Many of those vulnerable to radicalisation have experienced a steady accumulation of institutional discrimination. The danger with the provisions is that they could create a significant population of individuals in prison and under supervision in the community who will receive longer sentences and who will be subject to those more onerous and lengthy supervision requirements than others who receive shorter sentences for equivalent offences. I have already covered that point. That could place them at greater risk from people who seek to exploit that sense of grievance to radicalise them in support of an extremist ideology. It could also undermine the effective management and supervision of this group in prison by increasing a currently small number of people designated as terrorism offenders to a substantial proportion of the prison population.

As hon. Members know, groups such as this are already untrusting of the auspices of the state. Should it be found, through the impact assessment we seek, that these groups are again subject to further over-representation, we have the potential for a perfect storm, whereby young BAME men who ordinarily would not be radicalised, and who potentially spend longer in jail than comparable white offenders, bear a resentment to the state and eventually leave radicalised. As my hon. Friend Mr Mahmood pointed out during the emergency debate on the early release of terrorist offenders, if we put prisoners of the same background and offence together, they become a unit, and if they are then put with other prisoners, who are often incarcerated for non-terror-related offences, they radicalise them. That is hugely concerning in itself, but more so if prisoners feel they have been victimised in the way they were treated by the criminal justice system before being incarcerated.

The Government’s duty under the Equality Act 2010 goes further than the Bill’s equality statement acknowledges —it includes the duty to foster good relations between people who share a characteristic and those who do not. Given the evidence of institutional discrimination across the criminal justice system, the Bill carries a severe risk of reinforcing stereotypes that result in unfair treatment and the stigmatising of a large group of people on the basis of their religious belief and ethnicity. The amendment invites the Government to describe the actions they will take, and subsequently review, to ensure that that risk is averted.

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department 2:30 pm, 30th June 2020

I thank the shadow Minister for his detailed exposition of some of the risks that we must seek to navigate and overcome. For justice to function, we must make sure that it is truly even-handed and fair in assessing anyone who comes before the court, regardless of their background, race or religion.

Photo of Taiwo Owatemi Taiwo Owatemi Labour, Coventry North West

Is the Minister not concerned that, without proper consideration of the impact of the Bill on many BAME communities, relationships between these communities and authorities may worsen?

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

Let me come on to that point, which is the substance of the amendment. The amendment calls for an assessment prior to the clause coming into effect; it does not ask for an assessment afterwards but beforehand. I submit to the Committee that the impact assessment published with the Bill and the accompanying equality statement, which looks specifically at questions of racial and religious discrimination—or the potential for those things to happen—has already thoroughly analysed the Bill’s potential impact. That detailed analysis, which obviously included a review by Government lawyers and others, concluded that nothing in the Bill would unlawfully discriminate against people of a particular ethnic or religious background within the meaning of the Equality Act 2010.

Of course, the provisions in the Bill are simply based on a measure of criminality—has somebody committed a specified offence? Is there a terrorist connection? Nothing in any of those provisions is biased for or against anyone from any particular background, as is the case with all laws that Parliament passes.

Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Shadow Minister (Justice)

The Minister says that nothing in the Bill would lead to further discrimination. I should hope that that would be the case for any legislation we pass. However, the fact remains that there are certain groups within our society—BAME and other groups—who are disproportionately disadvantaged in the legal system. The amendment asks the Minister to recognise that there could be even more of that as a direct result of the provisions of the Bill.

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

Where there are concerns of the nature of those raised in the Lammy review, which I think the shadow Minister or the hon. Member for Coventry North West mentioned earlier, the Government are committed to responding to those. Indeed, in a sense, we are in the wrong room in Parliament today to raise that, because there was an urgent question earlier on exactly that topic, to which the Under-Secretary of State for Justice, my hon. Friend Alex Chalk responded.

The Government are committed to acting in response to the Lammy review to make sure that no unconscious biases discriminate against any particular group. I have not had a chance to read the Hansard of the debate, and I suspect the shadow Minister has not either, but based on the conversations that I have heard taking place in the Ministry of Justice, I think that the Government generally and the Ministry of Justice in particular are committed to taking action where needed. I would have expected the response of my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham to the urgent question an hour or two ago to have confirmed that.

Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Shadow Minister (Justice)

The fact remains that the Lammy review talked about a whole range of provisions that were supposed to be implemented, but very few of them have been. Some have been partially implemented and others have not. Can the Minister simply accept that we are failing as a Government and a Parliament to ensure that discrimination does not exist in our system? We are simply not taking the action to do that. Does he further accept that the more legislation we have where particular groups of people, BAME or otherwise, feel that they are being discriminated against, the greater the discord in society?

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

Recent events obviously tell us how important it is to maintain social cohesion and confidence in the criminal justice system. The hon. Gentleman raises a point that goes far beyond the scope of the Bill, but it is a fair point none the less. If he listens to what my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham, my fellow Justice Minister, said in the House of Commons Chamber earlier, he will see that the Government are resolved to act where necessary to address issues of that kind.

The substance of the Bill is obviously public protection. It makes no distinction between any kind of terrorism, whether rooted in a twisted religious ideology or a far-right ideology, or terrorist acts committed for any other reason. The Bill, as with all Bills, as the hon. Gentleman says, is even-handed between different kinds of offence and different kinds of offenders. Where we need to do more systemically, not just in relation to the Bill but across the whole range of the criminal justice system, to make sure that everybody gets a fair hearing and fair treatment, the Government will do that. I hope that the response of my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham to the urgent question earlier will give assurance on that point. No doubt there will be many more opportunities to debate it.

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

On the specific question of amendment 36 to clause 1 and amendment 42 to clause 21, which call for an impact assessment prior to the commencement of those clauses, I repeat what I said earlier. We have already done that. It has been published as the impact assessment together with the Bill and the equality statement that went with it. The obligation being requested by the amendments has already been discharged, but of course we must remain mindful, as the shadow Minister eloquently said, of potential unconscious biases. We must be vigilant and make sure that our justice system is not in any way besmirched by them. I am confident that the measures my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham laid out earlier will achieve that.

Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Shadow Minister (Justice)

I am sorry that the Minister would not give way, because I wanted to press him on that particular matter. We have several days of debate, so we have plenty of time to deal with these issues. It is a bit disappointing.

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

I apologise; I did not realise that the hon. Gentleman was trying to intervene. Had I realised, I would, of course, have given way.

Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Shadow Minister (Justice)

Fair enough; I accept that.

The Minister was talking about how the Bill is important for public protection and I agree. It is essential to protect the interests of the public, but if the Bill results in a growing number of terrorists in prison, and if we are releasing into the community people who are still radicalised—or even new people who they managed to radicalise when they were in prison—perhaps public protection will not gain in the way that the Government hope.

I accept the Minister’s statement that he believes the law covers that, but I am disappointed that we cannot accept that a review, although it might cost a few pounds and take some time to commission, would at least give us some information to enable us to understand how well or how badly the legislation is working. I accept what he said, however, and I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

We touched on many of the purposes of clause 1 in our debate on amendments 35 and 36. Very briefly, clause 1 seeks to give judges the power to make a factual finding after conviction that a particular offence has a terrorist connection, to the standard of proof beyond reasonable doubt, as has been discussed, rather than simply referring to a fixed schedule of offences. If, for example, somebody commits an offence that is a serious offence but is not currently on the list of terrorist offences, the finding of terrorist connection can none the less be made. That has consequences in the rest of the Bill, and we will debate them in due course.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 1 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 1 agreed to.