Committee (9th Day) (Continued)
178B: Before Clause 113, insert the following new Clause—
“Effect of life sentence
In Chapter 7 of Part 12 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 (effect of life sentence) omit section 269(5) to (7).”
My Lords, this amendment also concerns an innovation introduced by the Criminal Justice Act 2003. Prior to that Act it was the practice of the judges trying murder cases to write to the Home Secretary recommending the minimum period to be served in prison as punishment. The Lord Chief Justice always added his own comments, either increasing or decreasing the tariff, as it came to be called. The Home Office usually accepted the judicial recommendation but sometimes the tariff was increased by a year or two. I never in my experience remember it being reduced. Then came the case of Anderson in the House of Lords, in which it was held that Ministers could play no part at all in the fixing of the tariff; sentencing was for the judges and not for the Executive. Section 269 and Schedule 21 of the 2003 Act was the ministerial riposte to that decision. The purpose of Amendment 178B is to repeal Schedule 21.
Schedule 21 lays down an elaborate framework within which trial judges must work when fixing the tariff for a particular case. It has four different starting points: 15 years, 25 years, 30 years and whole life. It has seven different aggravating factors and seven different mitigating factors, all of which must be taken into account. The schedule was drafted within the Home Office without, as far as I know, any input from the judges. So far as I can remember, it was introduced at a late stage in the House of Lords without any debate in the House of Commons, but I may be wrong about that. In any event, the question arises: what was the reason for introducing Schedule 21? Why did the Government not leave the tariff to the judges? After all, it is the trial judge who fixes the tariff in all other life sentence cases, including manslaughter—why not murder?
One possible reason would have been that the Government wanted to introduce greater uniformity in the tariff in murder cases. However, that argument will not run now because we now have the Sentencing Council, whose whole purpose and raison d’être is to secure uniformity, so far as it can ever be secured, and to ensure some input, at any rate, from experts and other members of the public. The Sentencing Council is working well. It covers all other crimes—including, as I have said, manslaughter—so why not murder? It is surely far better placed to give guidance on the tariff in murder cases than Parliament could ever be because it has a feel for sentencing as a whole and how murder fits in with other crimes. That is important.
Another possible reason for Schedule 21 is that the Government wanted to raise the general level of tariffs in murder cases—in other words, their view was that the judges were being too soft on crime. If that was the intention, the Government could not have been more successful. The new starting points had an immediate effect. The average tariff in all murder cases before 2003—when the 2003 Act came into force—was just over 13 years. The average tariff now is 17.5 years, which is an increase of nearly five years. No wonder the prisons are overcrowded and that we now have more prisoners—I want your Lordships to listen to this—serving life sentences and indeterminate sentences for the protection of the public than the whole of the rest of Europe put together, including Russia and Turkey. How can that be justified?
Whether Schedule 21 was intended to have such a dramatic effect, I do not of course know. Nor do I know whether there was any impact assessment before Schedule 21 was enacted. But what we all know is the need to reduce the prison population now by some means or another. We know that that is the desire of the Lord Chancellor. Perhaps I may say with great respect that he has made an excellent start by abolishing the indeterminate sentence for the protection of the public. I suggest that he now looks with a very critical eye at Schedule 21.
I said earlier that sentencing is for judges and not for Ministers, but at least when the tariff was fixed by the Secretary of State in murder cases, he would have some knowledge of the facts of the particular case. Parliament obviously can have no such knowledge. The attempt to control sentencing from the sidelines, as it were, has two very great dangers. The first is that you tie the judges down so tight that they cannot do justice in the particular case. The second, which perhaps is even more sinister, is that the level of sentencing will become a sort of political football, with each side wanting to appear tougher on sentencing than the other. That may to some extent have already started but if it were ever to become a reality it would spell an end to the idea of a just sentence for the individual convict.
Sentencing must always in the end depend on the view taken by the individual trial judge, which is why it is such an anxious process. In my view, the more we can leave it to the judge, subject to guidance by the Sentencing Council and with as little interference from Parliament as possible, the better. We can make a start by repealing Schedule 21. I beg to move.
My Lords, as has already been said by others, this House should always listen with great respect and interest to the noble and learned Lord. I agree with him to an extent in relation to a number of the issues that he has raised. I agree with him entirely that the sentence for public protection, the IPP, has become extremely undesirable and has resulted in a very large number of people remaining in prison for far longer than is necessary or even proper. I think that he would agree with me in the criticism I have made consistently with others over the years about the mandatory life sentence for murder.
However, I am bound to say that I would urge the Minister of State not to accept this amendment for a number of reasons which I at least regard as cogent and also hope that the House would. The first is that although the noble and learned Lord is absolutely right that sentencing is for the judges, as successive Home Secretaries have emphasised—I am pleased to see a very distinguished former Labour Home Secretary in his place during this short debate—sentencing policy is not for the judges. It is for the Government.
Part of sentencing policy legitimately, I would suggest to your Lordships, is setting the framework in which sentences for murder are imposed. The provision that the noble and learned Lord wishes to have repealed has had two practical effects, apart from setting clear, public and consistent sentencing policy, which is well understood by all the judges who apply it. The first is that in reality, it has diluted, although not completely removed, the offensive consequences of the mandatory life sentence. Those of us who have appeared as counsel for the prosecution and for the defence in many murder cases know that the effect of the provisions that the noble and learned Lord criticises has been to enable those who advise people charged with murder to give a tariff before the judge gives his or her tariff at the end of the case. In reality, people charged with murder are able to be advised as to their likely sentence beyond its being a mandatory life sentence.
The second consequence has been an exponential increase in the number of guilty pleas in murder cases. Lawyers are able to advise the accused person—sometimes with the help of the judge based on these clear statutory guidelines—as to the sentence that he or she is likely to face. With that knowledge—I speak from experience as a criminal barrister—I have seen a number of people charged with murder plead guilty after it has been made clear where on the statutory tariff they lie. Certainly, in my early years in practice, it was almost unheard of for anyone to plead guilty to murder.
An obvious effect of that consequence is that witnesses who may have suffered extremely traumatic events—sometimes the children of the murder victim—do not have to give evidence in court. Surely, that is an advantage. My view is that the current provisions provide for fairness to victims, fairness to defendants and apply a degree of predictability. In my view, they increase, rather than decrease, public confidence in the system.
It is a very nice view, and I wish we could say it with complete confidence, that we should simply leave murder sentencing to the judges, with some guidance from the Sentencing Council. But that does not go far enough. It is the specificity of the statutory provisions that makes the real difference day by day in criminal courts up and down the country, where murder cases are tried these days in most instances not by High Court judges but by circuit judges, with what is rather unhappily called a murder ticket.
In conclusion, my advice to my noble friend—for what little it is worth—would be to leave well alone, albeit with the option, of course, of changing the guidelines from time to time to meet circumstances.
My Lords, I am probably the only person currently in the House who has actually carried out murder investigations. When you knock on the door and say you are investigating a burglary, nobody takes much interest. When you knock on the door and say you are investigating a murder, the reaction is very different. I am fully in support of the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, because murder is different. It is not just any other crime. In my opinion, it is actually the crime by which the public judge the criminal justice system.
I find myself somewhat surprised to be arguing against the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, but I think that the combination he used of sentences for murder and indeterminate sentences does not, in this argument, add up, because this is about murder. I am fully in support of almost everything the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, has said. I had expected to speak for longer; I came to the House to speak to this amendment. In fact, the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, has said almost everything that needs to be said—except for this emphasis that I would place before your Lordships’ House that murder is different. I believe that Parliament has a right—indeed, a duty—to set the tariffs from which judges then make their decisions about sentencing.
My Lords, lest there should seem to be unanimity on these Benches, I support the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, in his amendment.
When I started out at the Bar, people did not plead guilty to murder at all. It was a throwback to the time when hanging was the only sentence that could be passed and therefore guilty pleas were sometimes simply not accepted and a person was told to plead not guilty so that the case could be properly proved. We have moved very far from that, to the present situation, which I find mechanistic. The gap between the 15-year starting point and the 30-year starting point is far too great, in my view. It is mechanistic in that once you get your starting point, you start to deduct for this and add for that, and at the end of the day, after this complicated arithmetic, you guess at what might possibly be the sentence and advise your client accordingly.
I do not find that a very helpful way of going about things. Today there are provisions for obtaining some guidance from the judge as to the sort of sentence he would pass in certain circumstances, and that is a better way of going. These artificial starting points of 15 years and 30 years have been laid down by people with no experience of how the courts work or how cases are brought to court, and with no personal contact with clients or anything of that sort, and are not the way we should be conducting our sentencing policy. I agree with everything that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, has said.
My Lords, the Front Benches are occupied by somebody from the lowest levels of the legal profession and somebody who is even lower because, as we were told the other day, he has done only a short period of legal education. I do not know about the Minister, but I find myself oscillating between the very eloquent, articulate and lucid explanations of the various positions. I was totally persuaded by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd—until I heard the noble Lord, Lord Carlile. Then—with all due respect to the noble Lord, Lord Blair—I was made to think more by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas. On balance, I am grateful that I was not a member of a jury to be addressed by any of these three eminent lawyers because I am not sure we would have reached a verdict even now—at least I would not.
On balance, I am persuaded by the arguments of the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, although I am concerned—as everyone in this House should be—at the very disturbing statistic that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, adduced about the number of people held on life sentences in this country being greater than that for the whole of the rest of Europe. That is not something about which the English system should feel at all complacent. Nevertheless, for what it is worth—which is clearly not much—I am persuaded by the argument that the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, advanced. It remains to be seen whether it endorses the position that the Minister will give us in a moment.
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, for those comments. I approach any discussions on Schedule 21 with great trepidation because very early in my ministerial career, I was lured by the eloquence of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, into agreeing with him about some of the flaws in Schedule 21, only to be hauled over the coals when I got back to the department and told that this was not departmental policy and I was not to listen to such siren voices.
I think the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, knows that both the Lord Chancellor and I—importantly, and less so—come instinctively to the view that judging is best left to the judges. This debate has taken place within this context. I am very grateful to my noble friend Lord Carlile for his intervention because he pointed out that what we are debating is where the responsibility of Parliament is in setting a framework, while leaving, properly, to the judges the flexibility to handle that framework.
I am also grateful for the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Blair, for two reasons. First, he made the unique point—certainly in this Bill—that he was going to shorten his speech because somebody else had made the speech earlier. All I say to the rest of the House is: “Go thou and do likewise”. Secondly, he made the important point that I think will come back again and again in our debates—I wrote it down—that murder is “the crime by which the public judge the criminal justice system” above all others. Therefore, as the noble Lord, Lord Blair, said, it is right that Parliament has a duty to set a framework in these matters.
I take the point of the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, that it may seem an artificial framework, but in putting forward the 2003 Act Parliament allowed judges the necessary discretion to arrive at any minimum term from any starting point, which allows exceptional cases for minimum terms to depart from the norm. It is not as inflexible as is suggested. The 2003 Act puts in place arrangements for all minimum terms to be imposed judicially—something which I think has general approval. However, Parliament took the view at the time that it was right to have statutory guidance on sentencing for murder. The guidance provides for consistency of approach but still gives the court the necessary discretion to deal with each case appropriately.
I note what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, said about the Sentencing Council and I pay tribute to its work, but the Government still believe, as Parliament believed in 2003, that it is right that Parliament should remain responsible for sentencing guidance for murder. It is for Parliament to reflect what circumstances should be considered as particularly or exceptionally grave for this, the most serious of crimes. With that explanation, I urge the noble and learned Lord to withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord and I am particularly grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Thomas. If it is right for Parliament to give such guidance, how did judges get on before 2003? The answer is that they managed perfectly well. The only effect of the rigid 2003 framework has been to increase the average sentence—I repeat the figure—from just over 13 years to 17.5 years. I do not suppose that anyone did an impact assessment before the 2003 Act was passed, but in my submission it cannot be right that we should suddenly increase the average by so large an amount without considering whether the framework is responsible for it and considering again whether that increase is actually justified.
The noble Lord, Lord Carlile, who made the main objection to this suggestion, has said that the tariff provides valuable help to counsel in advising what the likely sentence will be, but how did counsel manage before the 2003 Act? The answer is that they managed perfectly well and could manage perfectly well even today without Schedule 21. I can see that I have not persuaded enough of your Lordships, and in the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 178B withdrawn.
Clause 113 agreed.
179: After Clause 113, insert the following new Clause—
“Abolition of certain sentences for dangerous offenders (No. 2)
All those already serving sentences of imprisonment for public protection for serious offences must either—(a) have access to relevant rehabilitation programmes, or(b) have their sentences rescinded,within 30 days of the commencement of this Act.”
My Lords, the amendment, tabled in my name and that of the noble Lord, Lord Judd, pertains to the abolition of sentences of imprisonment for public protection, more commonly known as IPP sentences, as provided for in Clause 113. Of course, some of these issues have already been aired in our debates today. The amendments linked to Amendment 179 in this group contain provisions to apply this abolition retrospectively for offenders serving existing IPP sentences and deal with associated issues. Indeed, they may do so more comprehensively than my own amendment, so I will listen with interest to the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, and my noble friend Lord Ramsbotham when they speak to their amendments in the group. I realise that I am very much a layman in discussing these issues and that I stand alongside colleagues with a lifetime of professional experience, so I am grateful for the indulgence of the Committee.
As I said at Second Reading, IPP sentences were the result of controversial measures which effectively introduced life sentences via the back door for a great number of offences. Although the courts were able to set a minimum tariff which was to be served before a prisoner could apply for parole, I am told that the system rarely worked as intended. Little thought was given to determining prisoners’ tariffs and not enough focus was put on directing IPP prisoners towards relevant rehabilitation programmes, with the result that over 6,000 prisoners are now lingering in our prison system serving indeterminate sentences, over half of whom are past their minimum tariff.
Because of the requirements set by the Government, far too few of these prisoners are able to access the necessary courses which would entitle them to be considered for release. When we consider that these prisoners are serving on average 244 days beyond their tariff and that it costs something like £30,000 to keep someone in prison for that period, it is abundantly clear that the system surrounding IPP sentences is costly and, indeed, unacceptable. The Government are certainly right to abolish the IPP sentence, although I have some misgivings about what will be introduced in its place. Clause 114 will introduce a mandatory life sentence for those convicted of a second listed offence, and my concern is that judicial discretion will be damaged, an issue that we have already touched on in other contexts. What is important when sentencing offenders is to ensure that they are given sentences that are the most beneficial to the public, the victims and, indeed, to the criminals themselves, as mentioned by my noble and learned friend Lord Judge in an earlier debate, and indeed by the noble Baroness, Lady Stern.
Consideration should also be given to the treatment programmes or courses that such prisoners should undertake when in prison in order to get them to understand the gravity of their crimes and the impact on their victims. Introducing what are effectively mandatory life sentences for a second listed offence will strip the courts of their obligation to consider the individual circumstances surrounding each case.
To return to the matter in hand, I welcome the abolition of indeterminate sentences for public protection as provided for in Clause 113, but the reason I have tabled Amendment 179 is to probe the Government on why abolishing the system cannot also apply retrospectively. As I have said, thousands of prisoners are still languishing in the system without hope of rehabilitation or release. Without being directed into rehabilitation courses, this state of limbo will continue. That is why Amendment 179 would require the Government to grant these prisoners access to rehabilitation programmes or to rescind their sentences within 30 days of the commencement of the Act.
I note that a similar principle lies behind the amendments in this group tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, and my noble friend Lord Ramsbotham. However, Amendments 179ZA and 179ZB would require the Government to refer prisoners serving existing IPP sentences to the Parole Board unless there is compelling evidence that they continue to pose a significant risk of reoffending. Amendment 180 goes slightly further, calling for the Secretary of State to ensure that plans are in place to release within three months of the enactment of the Bill all prisoners currently serving IPP sentences. However, the amendments have in common the desire to end the indeterminate legal limbo in which prisoners serving existing IPP sentences find themselves. Perhaps I can put it to the Minister in this way. In the football parlance that he used in an earlier debate, he might be far from happy if a Blackpool player had incurred a red card and did not know for how long he would be suspended. I urge the Government to consider these amendments. I beg to move.
My Lords, I spoke about this matter at Second Reading and have great sympathy with the sentiment behind the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Wigley.
In common with the overwhelming majority of people involved in the penal system, I am delighted to see the back of the sentence of imprisonment for public protection. The sentence has been a disaster for criminal justice and for the prison system, which, as a number of noble Lords have already commented, is now clogged, with more than 6,000 IPP prisoners having no certain release date. It is particularly unjust that many of those prisoners who have passed their tariff dates are on lengthy waiting lists to start offending-behaviour courses which could reduce the risk they pose and make them good prospects for release.
I share the Minister’s concern that everything possible should be done to speed up prisoners’ access to these courses so that they do not continue to languish in prison unnecessarily. Will he consider making one other change to help the position of those serving IPP sentences? This matter was referred to also by the noble Lord. The Secretary of State’s directions to the Parole Board include a very strong direction that a life-sentence prisoner should normally spend a period in an open prison before release. This is a sensible proposition for many life-sentence prisoners. They usually spend many years in prison; they are often institutionalised; and a gradual adjustment to freedom by going to an open prison will often increase their chances of a successful release.
However, there is another side to this coin. Many IPP prisoners have tariffs as relatively short as one or two years, and many others have tariffs of three, four or five years. When they come before the Parole Board, they have not been out of circulation for anything like as long as most life-sentence prisoners and there may not be the same pressing need for them to spend a period in an open prison before release. Yet the Secretary of State's direction means that the Parole Board will be very reluctant to release them from open conditions. As a result, the board may recommend that they go to an open prison before release, which will lengthen their stay by perhaps another two years. Surely this is unacceptable.
I agree that a period in open prison before release is appropriate for many IPP prisoners, but it by no means applies to all such prisoners. A blanket provision cannot be applicable to all cases. If the Government were to amend the Secretary of State’s direction to remove the present strong presumption in favour of a period in open prison, it would enable the Parole Board to make a decision on the merits of an individual case. I would be grateful if the Minister could consider this suggestion and perhaps report to us before the next stage of the Bill.
As one who was involved in the review of the parole system when the noble Lord, Lord Hurd, was Home Secretary, I have no doubt that the Parole Board would welcome this change, which after all fits in with the rehabilitation element of a sentence.
My Lords, I have Amendment 179ZA in this group. The Minister can surely take pride in the abolition of IPP sentences and in the fact that he and this Government are leading public opinion in this area. The Minister suggested earlier that the Government were not given enough credit for leading public opinion, but here they most certainly are.
There were many weaknesses to the IPP regime. It was imposed in far more cases than was ever expected when the regime was introduced, but a major weakness was that a defendant, a convicted person or a prisoner had to prove a negative: that it was no longer necessary for the protection of the public that he should be confined. That was the great weakness. When he tried to prove that he could safely be released, all he could he do was produce certificates that he had completed courses from programmes that were offered to him in prison, but the second great weakness was that those programmes might not be available or a prisoner would be transferred in the middle of completing a course from one prison to another and would have to start again. That is the basic reason why people have been kept after the expiry of their tariff.
The new provision for extended sentences unhappily retains the necessity for a prisoner to prove that it is no longer necessary for the protection of the public that he be confined, so that great weakness in the existing system is being continued in the system of extended sentences.
I propose in this amendment that the whole system should be tightened up in relation to those who are beyond their tariff date and are serving at the present time. It should be tightened up to the point of becoming, for the first time, a fair system. In subsection (1) of my amendment, there is a duty on the Secretary of State to “immediately refer” the case of a prisoner who has served the entirety of his tariff to the Parole Board. That should not be a discretion; he must do it immediately. Then it is the duty of the Secretary of State—not a discretion—to release the prisoner,
“on license as soon as the Board has directed his release under this section”.
Subsection (3) attacks most directly the weakness that I described to your Lordships:
“The Board must direct P’s release unless the Board is satisfied, on the basis of clear and compelling evidence which post-dates P’s conviction, that there is a strong and immediate probability that P will commit a serious violent or sexual offence on release”.
If the tariff is 10 years, the Parole Board should look not at what happened 10 years earlier but the current situation and what sort of risk the prisoner now threatens the public with. What is the evidence that he will commit a serious, violent or sexual offence if he were released? At the moment, we ask the Parole Board to make that judgement without evidence, relying merely on certificates of programmes completed and so on. A judgment without evidence is otherwise called a guess. A person’s liberty should not be decided by how the Parole Board guesses the future.
Subsection (4) suggests that,
“where the Board has declined to direct release,”
the Secretary of State must—it is his duty to— demonstrate,
“that provision has been made for P to undergo relevant programmes”.
He must also,
“refer P’s case … at 6 monthly intervals until such time as the Board directs P’s release”.
In other words, P will not be left languishing with no programmes presented to him for an indefinite period of time. I happen to know that someone I represented has done all his programmes and got all the certificates but he is still being kept in. On what evidence has that been decided? It is just the way that the Parole Board guesses he will behave if he is released.
Most importantly, subsection (5) contains a limit—or final stop, or buffer—which means that if a person has been in prison for five years after his tariff expired he must be released in the case of specified violent offences, or after,
“8 years post-tariff custody in the case of a specified sexual offence”.
That limit for existing prisoners serving IPP sentences is based on the limit contained in the new provisions for an extended sentence. That limit—or final stop, or buffer—is put into Clauses 115 and 116.
Grouped with this are my Amendments 179BZA and 179BZB, which attempt to amend Clause 116 to introduce, again, the need for,
“clear and compelling evidence … that there is a strong and immediate probability that P will commit a serious violent or sexual offence on release”,
for the Parole Board to refuse to allow him to be released when his tariff has been fulfilled. Similarly, Amendment 179BZD indicates exactly the same provision.
This is an extremely important matter. More than 3,000 prisoners are still held after the expiry of their tariff. We cannot abolish IPP sentences and allow them to remain in prison indefinitely.
My Lords, I entirely agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, said about congratulating the Government on introducing change. I have to admit that, along with many others, I have hated IPPs ever since they were introduced by the Criminal Justice Act 2003.
Of course there are people from whom the public must be protected, some of whom have been awarded sentences of natural life. I freely admit that all is not well with the release of prisoners about whose risk of committing violent or sexual offences prison governors feel uneasy. Yet I knew of the inability of the Prison Service to provide sufficient offending behaviour programmes for those who require them. Also, 60 per cent of lifers serving determinate sentences are already one year over tariff, mainly because of the inability to satisfy what the Parole Board requires before sanctioning release, so I simply could not see that such an ill thought through introduction could result in anything other than the prison population being needlessly increased by a steadily increasing number of those whose release date was deliberately made uncertain.
Cynically, having become used while Chief Inspector of Prisons to Home Office Ministers and officials living in a virtual criminal justice system and being unwilling to accept objective advice based on facts, I feared that no notice of any outsider warnings would be taken—and how right I was. Since then, attempts have been made in this House to alleviate the IPP problem by raising the minimum tariff threshold, but the numbers of those above the original ministerial forecast and those who have exceeded their tariff already have continued to grow.
I was therefore delighted to hear the Secretary of State announce that IPPs were to end and see that confirmed in Clause 113. However, as the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, has stated, the Government have not said that they intend to alter the arrangements for those currently serving IPPs to earn their release, which will mean that such prisoners will continue to clog up the overcrowded prisons for years to come unless something is done. My amendments, and those to which I have added my name, are designed to end this situation as quickly as possible, in line with the Government’s aim of reducing the size of the prison population.
Before I speak to the amendments, I beg the indulgence of the House while I say something about some of the residual effects of indeterminate sentences, because they must not be disregarded when any meaningful consideration of the problem is taken. Prisons are fragile places in that, to work effectively, they depend on relationships of mutual trust, if not affection, between staff and prisoners. Let those break down and you are in trouble, which is precisely why it is so important that numbers of prisoners are kept as low as possible and that our understaffed and overcrowded prisons are looked at very carefully. As chief inspector, I introduced what I called the healthy prison test, in which I asked whether everyone felt and was safe, whether prisoners were treated with respect as fellow human beings, were enabled to improve themselves by access to purposeful activity and were enabled to prepare for release and maintain contact with their families.
IPPs fail every test on every account. The uncertainty that they introduce has encouraged too many of those awarded IPP sentences to take their own lives, and has also brought on much mental distress. It is inhuman to award anyone a sentence of 99 years, which is how indeterminate sentence length is described on the internet, when the prisoner does not know how or when he may qualify for release. It is patently wrong for release to be dependent on courses and programmes that simply are not available. I have lost count of the numbers of letters of complaint that I have had from families who simply do not know when their relative or loved one can qualify for release. In other words, IPPs have been an obscene, inhuman and expensive disaster.
My amendments are in two parts. Amendment 180 links with Amendment 179, tabled by my noble friend Lord Wigley, in that it seeks to establish a proper end game to the issue through a statement from the Secretary of State that individual plans have been made for the release of all those currently serving IPPs. I am not suggesting that all IPP prisoners should be released in three months, but that plans should be made in that period. For them all to qualify for that release, plans must ensure that those qualifications are both available and satisfied. Urgent plans must be made for the release of the 3,750 prisoners who are already over their tariff, which I accept will demand much detailed work, and probably resources.
However, urgent remedial action is required to put right a situation that should have never been allowed to develop, before it costs the taxpayer yet more millions of pounds. In saying this, I am conscious that the Parole Board, under its excellent chairman Sir David Latham, is already under extreme pressure, and that any alteration to current arrangements, such as the introduction of six-monthly reviews, would need to be very carefully considered because, at present, it would be unworkable. I know that Sir David is sympathetic to any proposal intended to produce release as soon as possible after tariff expiry, but it must be realistic. In the best interests of the Parole Board, therefore, and of enabling the Prison Service to better direct the use of its limited resources towards protecting the public by preventing reoffending, there is all the more reason for coherent planning of this release process.
Regarding coherent planning, I have said many times in this House that in every organisation I can think of, named individuals are made responsible and accountable for particular functions or activities. That is done not least because history tells us that unless someone is made responsible and accountable for making things happen, nothing happens. The only organisation in the world that I have come across where that is not the norm is our Prison Service, and it tells. That is why there is such inconsistency in the performance of individual prisons, and why overall progress never seems to be made. Management of an operational organisation is not easy and I am not criticising individuals currently in post. I merely point out that management is made a million times easier if someone is responsible and accountable for overseeing the execution of policy.
I do not believe that the IPP prisoner logjam will be cleared until and unless someone is made responsible and accountable to the Secretary of State for clearing it. Had such an appointment been made years ago, coherent release plans would already be in existence and problem areas, such as a shortage of courses, identified. Similar appointments are required for all other types of prison and prisoner, as well as groups of lifers, sex offenders and foreign nationals. I know that life would be much easier for Ministers and their officials if they could exercise their responsibilities through named, responsible and accountable subordinates. In order to give the resolution of the IPP problem the slightest chance of success, I must therefore ask the Minister to consider making such an appointment, which would be recommended by any management consultant—let alone a frustrated former Chief Inspector of Prisons.
I admit that the other amendments to which I have added my name are more prescriptive, and possibly more suited to a code of practice, but this is not a virtual problem and the details need to be spelled out. I do not need to say anything about Amendment 179ZA, because that has been more than ably spoken to by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas. Amendment 179ZB refers to “prisoners” rather than P, because of my unfamiliarity with judicial wording, but I am suggesting consideration of changing the burden of proof in the case of those whose tariff has expired. At present, prisoners are required to prove their qualifications for release but I am trying to suggest that once a tariff has been exceeded, it should be up to the Prison Service to prove to the Parole Board why a prisoner should not be released.
Amendment 179BZA is consistent with Amendment 179BZB which, thanks to the legal background of the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, expands, updates and is to be preferred to Amendment 179BZC. Amendment 179BZD is consistent with Amendment 180 in requiring the Secretary of State to satisfy himself or herself that, at all times, rather than being allowed to languish in their cells sentence plans—including participation in required programmes—have been made for all determinate and indeterminate prisoners. That brings me back to the need for someone to be responsible and accountable to the Secretary of State for ensuring that this happens. I cannot repeat that more strongly or often enough.
My Lords, I was not involved in criminal law during my practice as a barrister, but I became very interested in IPPs in 2009 because we were then dealing with what became the Coroners and Justice Act. I became particularly concerned at this because Dame Anne Owers, who was then the Chief Inspector of Prisons, together with the Chief Inspector of Probation had written an absolutely devastating report on the defects of IPP. The defects disclosed in the inspector’s report are several. There is a lack of accurate pre-sentence reports on prisoners, which has led to a number of unjustified IPP sentences being imposed on people who should not have had them applied at all. There is a lack of resources for the Parole Board to enable it to determine the fate of prisoners after the prisoners have passed their tariff date. This means that the prisoners may languish for months or even years in prisons where they can not get the training that they require before they can apply for release, so prisoners under IPP are serving what is potentially a life sentence.
There have been some improvements of IPP as a result of amendments made in 2008 to the Criminal Justice Act 2003, but those improvements were not enough. By 2009, it was clear in my view that IPP was a disaster. It could work only with a lot more money put into it; if it did not have that money, it was grossly unfair to at least some of the prisoners. The Parole Board does not have the money that it needs and, as matters now stand, it will not for the foreseeable future.
I am going to repeat something that I said in a debate in 2009 because it covers my views now. I said:
“The IPP is wrong in principle and wrong in practice. English courts have a long-standing system of sentencing. Under that system, only the most serious offences can be punished by life imprisonment. It is unnecessary and wrong to impose a de facto life sentence on convictions for an offence which does not carry the life sentence. The IPP is even more wrong in practice. It is wrong because many pre-sentence assessments are inadequate and lead to the imposition of IPPs on those who should not be subject to it. It is wrong because many IPP prisoners, especially in local prisons, have no access to training, without which they cannot get a hearing before a Parole Board panel”.—[Official Report, 28/10/09; col. 1249.]
Little has been done to correct the situation that was so clearly stated by Dame Anne Owers and her colleague. Now we have Clause 117 of the LASPO Bill and some further amendments from the Government. These are not good enough. What would be good enough is Amendments 179ZA and 179ZB in the names of my noble friend Lord Thomas of Gresford and the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, which are nearly identical; I hope that they will be merged in time for Report. What the amendments would do has already been explained to your Lordships: they would limit extended sentences only to cases where it had been shown that there was a strong and immediate probability, based on clear and competing evidence, that the prisoner would commit a serious violent or sexual offence.
Indeterminate sentences are deeply unsatisfactory. Amendments 179ZA and 179ZB come more than close enough to this test and I strongly support them. I also strongly support other amendments including Amendment 180, to which I am one of the signatories.
My Lords, the real scandal is that IPP sentences have gone on for so long. The previous Government had the chance to do something about them in 2008, as the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, has indicated, when it was already obvious that IPP sentencing was going badly wrong. I remember tabling an amendment at that time to raise the bar and therefore reduce the number of those eligible for IPP sentences. The noble Lord, Lord Bach, was sympathetic but met me only half-way. The Conservatives, I am sorry to say, opposed the amendment. As a result, we have the situation in which we now find ourselves. I entirely share the indignation so well expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham. I add only that in my view something must be done, and done soon.
My Lords, it is quite clear that more people are serving longer sentences under the system introduced by the previous Government than was anticipated. It is also clear that insufficient resources were devoted to meeting the requirement that people should undergo training and courses, on programmes to be provided within the custodial setting, as a condition of release. As the Prison Reform Trust has pointed out, the situation is even worse for prisoners who are mentally ill or suffer from a learning disability. There is certainly a very real problem with how prisoners are to be assisted in demonstrating their fitness to be released. That undermines what would potentially have been a valuable way of protecting the public. It undoubtedly caused the system to fall into disrepute. The fifth report of the Justice Select Committee of the House of Commons made a number of perfectly valid criticisms of those matters.
Not the least irony of the situation is that referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Wigley. He pointed out that the cost of keeping substantial numbers of people in prison is excessive in relation to the cost that would arise from investing in the necessary programmes to assist people to make their case and earn their release. I am bound to say that that position is likely to recur in conjunction with the Government’s proposals for extended sentences.
I do not dissent from the critique of indeterminate sentences, although I remain far from convinced that extended sentences necessarily resolve the problem. In that context, will the Minister indicate in replying what additional resources are planned for rehabilitation and the like under the new system? How will people who remain under the old system be dealt with? As has rightly been pointed out, a substantial number are still in that position.
I do not know whether the Minister is aware of the Answer given by the Minister in the House of Commons to a Question from Andy Slaughter MP about the number of people who were likely to be retained in prison as a result of the extended sentence programme. That was a very illuminating document. It showed that around 550 people a year would be sentenced and treated in that way, so that over 10 years 5,500 people could be in the same position as those who were sentenced under the previous regime. That is a formidable figure and, as the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, implied in respect of the existing system, a very costly one. I am not aware of any impact assessment or analysis of the cost of that new proposal. I do not know whether the Minister can direct me to any such analysis. In any event, the figures suggest a very significant cost.
Having said that, I have difficulties with various amendments that are being proposed. In particular, as has already been mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, it is asking too much, even if the system were to receive an injection of money, for courses and the like to be laid on in such numbers and in so short a time as to meet the targets that some of the amendments suggest. Therefore, the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, to require that within 30 days of the Act coming into force prisoners must have,
“access to relevant rehabilitation programmes”,
or be released simply does not seem realistic.
There is also an issue about the nature of the condition that would be imposed on those currently undergoing indeterminate sentences. The amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, directs the board to authorise release,
“unless the Board is satisfied, on the basis of clear and compelling evidence which post-dates P’s conviction”—
that is, the prisoner’s conviction—
“that there is a strong and immediate probability that P will commit a serious violent or sexual offence on release”.
In my submission, there are two problems with that wording. The first concerns “probability”. That seems to me to set the bar too high in respect of the protection that the public are entitled to expect. It amounts to almost a certainty that a prisoner would commit an offence. As I say, I think that is too high a bar.
The second problem, however, concerns the definition of the offences for which the test would be applied. A serious violent or sexual offence obviously should be included, but there are many other offences of a very serious nature which would not be caught by that definition. For example, arson and some terrorism offences would not be caught by it. A whole series of things could lead—although they were not necessarily intended to—to serious harm to individuals or the community at large. They would not be covered by the criteria suggested in this amendment. That would apply to a number of the proposed new clauses after Clause 113 and the relevant amendments to Clause 116.
That leaves us with two critical issues. The first is to deal with those who are currently held. To do that, it is clearly necessary—unless one is simply to open the doors, as it were—to provide precisely the originally intended programmes to facilitate their return to society, provided that they can satisfy the Parole Board that they are fit to be released. The timetable that is suggested is clearly inappropriate. However, the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, states:
“The Secretary of State shall within three months of enactment report to … Parliament that plans have been made for the release of all … IPP prisoners”.
That is the plans, not the implementation. That seems to me much more worthy of consideration.
As has been explained, the situation in terms of numbers is much worse than was originally envisaged. However, it is somewhat curious that the Northern Ireland experience appears to be rather different. At the behest of Paul Goggins, who I think was a Northern Ireland Minister in the previous Government, correspondence took place between the Northern Ireland Minister of Justice and, I think, the Lord Chancellor—it might have been the prisons Minister; I cannot recall who was involved. That correspondence set out a rather different experience because—one might think, counterintuitively—the number of people who were sentenced to indeterminate sentences in Northern Ireland was significantly less than had been anticipated, whereas on the mainland, or at least in England and Wales, the situation was the opposite and there were significantly more. I do not know whether that issue has been explored to any extent. The Government might think that it is not necessary to do so because they are changing the system. On the other hand, it might also be worth exploring in the context of the Government’s own new system because unless something is done, on the basis of the figures already available and to which I have referred in terms of the parliamentary Answer, there will be a steady increase in people suffering the same sort of regime under extended sentences while the number on indeterminate sentences declines—one hopes more rapidly than hitherto—given the right resources. I should very much welcome the Minister’s views, either today or subsequently, on that interesting comparison with Northern Ireland.
Essentially, the Opposition cannot therefore support most of the amendments in the group, although we would certainly endorse the view—as the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, suggested—that there ought to be a report to Parliament on the plans for release and how they are to be funded.
I am grateful to the noble Lord who is pointing out all sorts of difficulties. I am bound to say that I would be happier if he could at least feel the same sort of indignation that some of us feel at what has already gone wrong, and support the need to do something about it now. That is for the Government to do.
I share that view. I had hoped that I had made it clear that I think the previous Government did not invest anything like sufficient resources to fulfil their intentions. The intentions were reasonable but the means to fulfil them were not provided. That has to be acknowledged. However, I am afraid that the present Government are, to an extent, following the same course, if they do not look to avoid repeating the experience of under-resourcing a system that on their own figures is likely to lead to substantial numbers of people being held for a very long period—longer than is necessary for their good or society’s good—although there will always be some people who will have to be held for a long period.
Indeed, but the Government have, as I understand it, no real plans to deal with the 3,000 people who are still held on indeterminate sentences. My whole point is that just as the previous Government did not invest in this sufficiently, this Government are in danger of doing the same. Across your Lordships’ House there would be a view that this investment would repay itself in financial terms as well as in social terms.
My Lords, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, and the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, mentioned, IPP was identified long time ago as a train crash in waiting. I take pride that this Government have taken forward this reform. I note that, as always, there are those who say it does not go far enough—and that is the nature of reform. I was also pleased that there was a certain cross-examination of the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, because he is such a reasonable and likeable person that one would think he was going to slip past the responsibility that the previous Administration have to carry for bringing in these reforms.
We are trying to disarm a time bomb and it has to be done in a careful and measured way. This afternoon, we have heard unanimity of views on prison reform. I have to say, in trying to argue the case for prison reform to both Houses and the public at large, it would be easier if the Labour Party, for which I retain a residual affection, had resumed some of its old and traditional campaigning for penal reform, instead of indulging in a kind of “We’re tougher than you” arms race with those who need to be convinced of the case.
That is a fact of modern political life. The Labour Party of Sydney Silverman and Roy Jenkins is perhaps not here any more. Successive Labour Home Secretaries were very keen not have the term “liberal” attached to their term of office. Thus we face a problem such as IPP. We are trying to deal with the issue. The National Offender Management Service prisoner co-ordination group is chaired at director level. It certainly does not meet the catchiness of the request by the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, for a named person, but that group is trying to manage the specific problem of IPP prisoners. The new specification for offender management, which will provide for the prioritisation of resources based on risk, will be phased in from April 2012. It means that the higher the level of identified risk or the likelihood of reoffending, the higher the level of service that will be provided. In particular, that will result in improved targeting of rehabilitative intervention for IPP prisoners.
To take up the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, the key rehabilitation stage for those prisoners is being able to demonstrate in open conditions or temporary release that they have learnt new behaviour. NOMS has identified special issues surrounding waiting lists for IPP prisoners who have been assessed as suitable to be held in open conditions. Work is under way to improve the speed of allocation to open prisons, and a temporary release policy is being reviewed to consider whether suitable prisoners might be given access to temporary release from closed prisons.
The Government took the view from an early stage that IPPs must be replaced, and we have brought forward proposals in the Bill to do so. Once those provisions are commenced, no further IPPs can be imposed, even for previous offending. That is a major step forward. We are now concerned with those who have or will receive an IPP sentence prior to abolition. A range of amendments have been tabled on the subject, which we are now debating. The noble Lords, Lord Ramsbotham and Lord Thomas of Gresford, have tabled amendments proposing that the Parole Board release tests be changed. Their amendments also propose the conversion of current IPP sentences to automatic release sentences; that cases are referred back to the Parole Board every six months; and that the Secretary of State should be required to demonstrate that he has made programmes available to prisoners who are refused parole.
The amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, proposes that those offenders should either have access to a relevant rehabilitation programme or that their sentence be rescinded. By that, I presume he means that they should be given automatic release if programmes are not available. The noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, and other noble Lords have asked through another amendment for the Government to plan release for those prisoners. I should make it clear that, as the statute stands, the Government could not implement any such plans, because the power to direct release would remain with the Parole Board. Again, a conversion to automatic release would be required.
Let me start with the question of the conversion of IPP sentences. We do not think that it is right or appropriate retrospectively to alter sentences that were lawfully imposed by the court simply because a policy decision has now been taken to repeal that sentence. That is what would be required to make release automatic for those prisoners. Generally, sentences already imposed are not substantively altered by subsequent legislation. In this case, it would be particularly difficult, as the court would have to impose the sentence with risk management issues in mind.
Several of the amendments relate to the availability of programmes for IPP prisoners. There is rightly concern that those currently serving IPP sentences should be supported in progressing their sentence and achieving release on licence. The National Offender Management Service is using a range of measures to improve the progression of those prisoners through sentence, including improvements in assessment, sentence planning, delivery and the parole review process. We continue to monitor outcomes to ensure that further improvements are identified and implemented.
There have historically been issues concerning the timely assessment of offenders and the supply of the necessary level of interventions to meet demand. NOMS has already made significant improvements to increase the supply of rehabilitation interventions for this group: almost all IPP prisoners now have comprehensive needs assessments; better use is already being made of sentence plans to prioritise interventions for existing IPPs where the need is greatest; work is under way to ensure that programmes can be delivered more flexibly, supporting greater access and the inclusion of offenders with more complex needs such as learning difficulties; and a greater number of rehabilitative programmes have been completed.
The Ministry of Justice has recently undertaken research into Parole Board decision-making in these cases to better identify barriers to release. The points that have come out of that research are now being taken forward by NOMS in its work on improving support for IPP prisoners. They are points that one might expect: good-quality risk management proposals for community life; evidence of sentence progression, including appropriate courses; and time spent in open conditions and on temporary leave. It is clear that courses are not the only issue for these prisoners, but it is one that we will continue to address, alongside others. A new specification for offender management, which will provide for the prioritisation of resources based on risk, will take effect from April 2012. Once embedded, this will result in the improved targeting of rehabilitative interventions for IPP prisoners.
A key rehabilitation stage for these prisoners is being able to demonstrate in open conditions or on temporary release that they have learnt new behaviours. Work is under way to improve the speed of allocation to open prisons, and other measures are being looked into.
Before the noble Lord comes to a conclusion, perhaps I may press him on one matter. He has given a list of steps that are currently being taken. When does he assess that all those who are currently being held back on IPP because of the non-availability of courses and rehabilitation will have been cleared? Have the department or the Government set themselves a target for getting this done?
I do not think so, my Lords. I do not think that it would be sensible to go into such targetry. We are talking about individuals of whom individual assessments will be made. As I said, we are disarming a time bomb; we are looking at a backlog of, in many cases, extremely dangerous prisoners. Therefore, it is not just, as someone pointed out, a matter of throwing the gates open; this has to be a managed process. However, I hope that I have made it clear that that process is being managed—a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham—and that we are trying to target resources to make sure that this is carried forward with due urgency.
I do not know the detail of how the group is managing its work, but I do know that we are bringing forward a coherent programme to deal with what I readily acknowledge is one of the problems to which the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, and others referred. In some of these cases, there was a definite and horrible Catch-22 situation for prisoners. They were being asked to prove their fitness for release by carrying through certain programmes but were then told, “By the way, those programmes are not available”. That Catch-22 was not fair to those prisoners. We are trying to address that problem and focus resources on it. I will write to the noble Lord about whether the group to which I referred is an umbrella strategy group or an action group, but I know that all IPP prisoners will be assessed carefully and, where progress can be made with due concern for public safety, that will happen. I think that we can manage this safely and constructively out of the prison system very rapidly once the legislation is in place.
I should also say that parole hearing processes have become more streamlined, with reviews made through a combination of written evidence and oral hearing, and significant resources have been deployed to increase the ability of the Parole Board to increase its throughput. That has significantly reduced backlogs and significantly increased the number of parole dossiers produced on time. I note the suggestion that prisoners should be referred back to the Parole Board every six months. The maximum period that can elapse between the post-tariff review hearing is two years. All decisions on the timing of the next review are based on the individual circumstances of the particular case. Review dates are determined taking into account the extent and nature of the outstanding work that the prisoner needs to do to address his or her risk factors, and where necessary the testing and monitoring needed to demonstrate the impact and efficacy of the work done to address those risk factors.
A fixed period of six months between review periods would not take into account the prisoner’s individual circumstances, so could be counterproductive as it would require prisoner cases to be reviewed without consideration for the time needed to address the risk factors presented. Currently, review periods of between 12 months and two years are usual, but review periods of less than 12 months have been set.
On the Parole Board’s release test, to which several amendments relate—we are also debating whether Clause 117 should stand part of the Bill—I should say that I do not think it appropriate at this stage to change the release test in this legislation. Clause 117 gives the Secretary of State a power to change the release test, which is set in statute for IPP prisoners and prisoners serving the new extended sentence. We will continue to monitor the progress of current IPP prisoners and will consider the use of the power to change the release test, alongside careful consultation.
The Secretary of State is committed to such prior consultation. It is absolutely not the Government’s intention to use the power to make it harder for prisoners to demonstrate reduced risk. However, by way of safeguards, the use of this power is subject to an affirmative procedure in both Houses. I fully understand colleagues who say that we have not gone far enough and some of the detailed criticisms in this debate. I go back to the point I made in the earlier debate. Often these interventions are crafted compromises and, as such, they will have weaknesses and will not go as far as some would want. However, in getting rid of IPPs we are removing what is, to put it politely, an error of judgment in our penal policy, and we are doing it in a way that disarms the time bomb without raising public concern. I hope, in those circumstances, that the noble Lord will withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, I have listened carefully to the Minister but his opening remarks remain in the back of my mind—that IPP was something akin to a train crash. The victims of that train crash have been left in the wreckage for an indeterminate time before these issues will be sorted out. Of course, there has to be reference to the Parole Board and it may not be appropriate for some to come out. Surely, when the Government themselves have recognised that the system is not fit for purpose for the future, to continue it for those who are incarcerated without any indication of a timescale is doing them and the whole system a grave disservice.
I accept entirely that my amendment has faults and that there may be a version that meets the theme, which I suspect is accepted on all sides of the Committee, that further work needs to be done by the Government on this.
I very much hope that between now and Report the Minister will seriously consider how the Government can respond to the pressure that has come from so many sides, with many different suggestions for relieving the problem. I hope that they will consider this, and that an amendment will be tabled on Report so that their mind is focused on the issue and we do not allow the people who listened to the debate in this House to have all their hopes snuffed out by the response of the Front Bench. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 179 withdrawn.
Amendments 179ZA and 179ZB not moved.
Clause 114 : Life sentence for second listed offence
Debate on whether Clause 114 should stand part of the Bill.
My Lords, I say at once that Clause 114 seems to be wholly pointless. The only explanation for it that I can imagine is that it was a quid pro quo for the abolition of the indefinite sentence for public protection in Clause 113, in case somebody should say that the Government were getting soft on crime. Since the official position of the Opposition is not to oppose Clause 113—I am very glad about that—I suggest that the Government might now look again at dropping Clause 114.
In brief, the clause states that if a person commits an offence for which he serves 10 years in prison, and then commits another offence for which he might expect 10 years in prison, the judge must give him a life sentence unless this would be unjust. It has been called a mandatory life sentence, but of course it is nothing of the sort. The clause explains that the judge has discretion to do what is just, so there is no “must” about it. So what on earth is the point of Clause 114?
Considering the sort of facts that might give rise to a life sentence under Clause 114, the judge would almost certainly have a life sentence in mind anyway. If he does impose a life sentence, Clause 114 serves no purpose. If he does not, because it would be unjust to do so, Clause 114 adds nothing. Have the Government made any estimate of the number of people who will get a life sentence under Clause 114 who would not be given a life sentence anyway under the existing law? There is no point in replicating existing law with ever more offences.
Is Clause 114 perhaps meant to be a deterrent? Let us consider that for a moment and imagine a man coming to the end of his 10-year sentence in prison. How will he hear about Clause 114? Will he be warned by his solicitor, or will he hear about it from a fellow prisoner who is something of a barrack-room lawyer? The idea that this would ever act as a deterrent is ludicrous.
In debating a previous amendment, I warned of the dangers of Parliament becoming too closely involved in the sentencing process. At one extreme, it results in the sort of sentencing complexity of which we have plenty of evidence in the Bill. At the other, one finds clauses such as Clause 114 which, as far as I can see, serve no purpose at all and simply clutter up the statute book.
My Lords, I support the noble and learned Lord. “Pointless” is a very good description of Clause 114. It is pure political posturing. That is the trouble in the area of criminal law; there has been too much of this going on in recent years, and to little effect. Why on earth can we not leave the detailed business of sentencing in cases such as this, with the guidelines that already exist, to the people who hear the evidence and see the cases: namely, the judges?
We have seen far too much interference with the criminal law. As a practitioner, I go along to courts and am asked by people in the robing room, “How on earth did you let this happen? Didn’t you speak up and point out that it’s a waste of time or has consequences that are totally adverse to the interests of justice?”. Well, I am speaking up, but without a great deal of hope that my words will fall other than on stony ground. Surely we can avoid, at the very least, complicating the statute book with clauses such as this which do not do anything.
My Lords, I, too, support what has been said by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, and I agree entirely with the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, that this kind of provision is ill understood by those who have everyday contact with sentencing provisions and looks more like political posturing than legislation based on merit.
This provision is strangely contradictory within itself. It seeks to introduce mandatory life sentences for people aged 18 or over convicted of a specified offence that is serious enough to justify a sentence of imprisonment of 10 years or more who have previously been convicted of a specified offence for which they were sentenced to imprisonment for life or for a period of 10 years or more, yet it raises the possibility of situations in which defendants who commit two wholly different scheduled offences separated by many years, or even decades, receive mandatory life sentences. On the face of it, it looks tough and even unfair. Yet new Section 224A(2) of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 as set out in the Bill provides for a series of exceptions that seem to negate the provision in its entirety. So what is all this about? If there is a mandatory life sentence, but the judge thinks it would unjust to impose one, he has the discretion not to do so. I welcome that but, if that is the provision, why bother?
I find myself in complete agreement with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd. As far as this clause is concerned, the onus rests firmly with the Government. Nobody around this Chamber—Labour, Conservative, Cross-Bench or Liberal—disagrees. It is vital for the Government to prove that this clause is relevant. So far, they have not done that. There has been a chorus of disapproval surrounding this clause from all Members who have spoken, and it is virtually impossible for the Minister to be able to convince us that this clause is relevant. I will listen with bated breath, as I always do, to what he has to say, but I have dismissed it already.
My Lords, I shall add a few remarks to the chorus of disapproval. I welcome the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, raising this matter. I shall say a little about the use of life sentences in our law. I have some comparative figures for 2008 about the use of life sentences per 100,000 of the general population. For England and Wales, including IPP sentences, the figure is 20.9; for life sentences that are not IPP sentences, it is 12.71. I suppose the Minister might regard those as reasonable comparators. For France, the figure is 0.85, for Germany 2.41, for the Netherlands 0.14 and for Sweden 1.68. On the face of it—and I am reasonably confident about the accuracy of the data—there is an extraordinarily different way of sentencing within the criminal law in this jurisdiction from in the jurisdictions of continental Europe.
It says nothing about sentence length—that is an entirely different question—but it says a great deal about the admiration and affection that we seem to have for indeterminacy as a way of dealing with people. In the last group of amendments, the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, spoke eloquently about the impact of indeterminacy on the sentenced person. The sentenced person is left in limbo. He has a very vague idea of what the future holds and of whether a sensible plan could be made for the years that stretch ahead. He has no idea of who has the power to decide whether, and when he is released, how those decisions are made and how he can have an influence, by behaving in a certain way, on what happens in the future. I would imagine that it is a less desirable option than a fixed sentence, where it is clear to the person and to the family in the outside world what the future looks like and how it can be affected.
The proposal for another mandatory life sentence is highly undesirable and I support the amendment.
My Lords, in replying to the debate on the last group of amendments, the Minister spoke of his residual affection for the Labour Party in terms that he might have used about an elderly relative. I half expected him to cross the Floor and offer me a cup of tea and a biscuit. I appreciate his kind thoughts.
On the substance of what we are now discussing, I am not at all comfortable with the line the Government are adopting. I entirely support the amendment of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd. Either the Government intend there to be an effective mandatory life sentence policy, which would be wrong in principle; or they want to give the impression of so doing when they do not intend that, which would be disreputable. I am sorry that the noble Lord appears to be lending himself to either of those approaches.
The Minister referred to the party to which I belong as being less than liberal. Those who know me within the party I represent, here and elsewhere, know that I have not been uncritical from time to time of the penal policy of the previous Administration, for what that is worth. I was going to say that the noble Lord should perhaps look behind him, but there is only one Peer from the Conservative Party in the Chamber and she has the respect of us all.
I recall a poster in the 2005 election—I cannot resist reminding noble Lords about this—which I noticed en route from Heathrow Airport into London, which said:
“What would you think if a bloke out on licence raped your daughter?”.
That was the style of an election campaign of the noble Lord’s current partners. I do not for a moment imagine that he or his colleagues on the Liberal Democrat Benches, then or now, would approve of that approach.
One can debate the merits or otherwise of various party policies but that does not get us very far. However, the Minister talked about disarming a time bomb. The fear is that while he is disarming a time bomb he might be planting a minefield in terms of the effect of this provision about life sentences if it is carried out. Here I must plead guilty, before being charged, to inadvertently misleading the House when I gave statistics earlier, which I said related to the extended sentences. In fact, they related to the mandatory sentence provision. But they are the statistics and they demonstrate that over a decade around 5,500 would be added to the very long-term sentences if this provision should pass into law. A great proportion of them would involve serious crimes of violence against a person, as well as other offences. That was the substance of the Written Answer to the parliamentary Question to which I referred.
The noble and learned Lord has more than adequately, as one might expect, disposed of the case, such as it is, for Clause 114. I hope that the Minister today will agree that it should cease to form part of the Bill or at the very least undertake to look again at the provision and come back at Third Reading on the issue.
I asked for the House of Commons Hansard for 1 November. I could have picked quite a few but I shall pick one for the House to catch the flavour. As I have said, I have been faced with such unanimity today. Mr Sadiq Khan said:
“No amount of smoke and mirrors can disguise the fact that, by abolishing indeterminate sentences, he”—
the Lord Chancellor—
“is risking the safety of communities in each and every constituency”.—[Official Report, Commons, 1/11/11; col. 793.]
You can imagine him banging the Dispatch Box and a growl of “Hear, hear” coming from behind him. That is the difficulty we have in this. Quite frankly, if the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, or perhaps my noble friend, was dishing out awards for political posturing, it would not be to only one side of the House or to this end of the corridor. I am also a little—
I hesitate to interrupt my noble friend who I know will say that in the spirit of what he said earlier he regards all his Liberal Democrat colleagues in this House as entirely reasonable. But this is a bicameral Parliament. What are we to read into the fact that, as it happens in this House as we debate this important matter, there are seven Liberal Democrats on the Government side of the House and one Conservative Peer, who deserves credit for being here. If the Conservative Party is really committed in the way in which he has explained from that quotation, should its Peers not be here to say so?
I am sure that my noble friend’s comments will be noted in the proper places, particularly at reshuffle time.
There will always be debates about whether or not sentences are deterrent. I am not usually in favour of mandatory sentencing and deterrent sentencing, but it is hard to deny that deterrent sentencing could have an effect. It is not just a matter of some barrack-room lawyer; a hardened criminal would know the consequences of reoffending. I share a lot of the concerns about putting declaratory sections into Bills, but sometimes they have their place.
This clause introduces a new mandatory life sentence for an offender who has committed a second very serious sexual or violent offence. Both offences must be so serious as to merit a determinate sentence of 10 years or more. The offence must also be contained in Schedule 15B to the Criminal Justice Act 2003, which is inserted by Schedule 16 to this Bill. Schedule 15B contains the particularly serious offences that were in Schedule 15A to that Act. Previous Schedule 15A convictions make offenders eligible for IPPs and EPPs even if they have not reached the two-year tariff threshold. Schedule 15B also includes further child sex and specific terrorism offences, and the offences of causing or allowing the death of a child or vulnerable adult.
The new mandatory life sentence will affect only those who have committed, on separate occasions, two very serious sexual or violent crimes deserving a custodial sentence of 10 years or more. That is a small number of offenders, but this provision is intended to provide reassurance to the public that very serious repeat offenders of this type can expect to be held indefinitely in prison.
Perhaps the Box can have the chance to deal with this question. Has any analysis been carried out as to how many people would be liable to a life sentence for committing an offence that is not subject to a life sentence at the moment? It seems that they would be liable to a life sentence if the maximum was only 10 years. Has an analysis been carried out of how many offences in the schedule do not carry a life sentence?
That is not quite the point that I am making. It may be that only 20 people would be sentenced to life imprisonment, but would they be sentenced to life imprisonment under this clause, when for the actual offence that they had committed, they could not receive a life sentence? In other words, many serious offences carry life sentences; some do not. I would be grateful for an analysis as to how many would not have a life sentence were it not for this clause.
That is as I understand it, but I will write to the noble Lord if I am wrong. The other point that has been made—but of course if you try to be reasonable, you are derided—is that the courts are exempted from imposing the mandatory life sentences where they believe it is unjust to do so in all circumstances. It is the policy intention that offenders who have committed two serious offences not carrying life sentences will be liable to the mandatory sentence. However, we cannot at this moment assess the likely numbers that would be affected by that.
As I said before, we have a sense of schizophrenia about this. Perhaps I may finish with a quote from Sadiq Khan:
“Through their “two strikes” policy, the Government absolve themselves totally of any responsibility to identify the serious, violent offenders who are most likely to reoffend. That should be done at the time when the first sentence is handed down for the commission of a heinous crime”.—[Official Report, 1/11/11; col. 796.]
There is not much sense of rehabilitation or reform there. We have to deal with a serious set of reforms and what we get is headline-grabbing attacks on the basis that we are going to let out violent criminals and the rest of it. That is why I hope that some of the unity that was shown earlier about penal reform will resolve itself around support for the Government as we try to manage these proposals through the House.
My Lords, I am grateful for the support of those who have spoken, particularly the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, with her reference to political posturing, which to me seems to be what this clause really is; on this occasion for the support of the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, for which I am always grateful, and for that of the Official Opposition. But once again it was my noble friend Lady Stern who put her finger on it with those extraordinary statistics that she gave us of the comparison between those serving life sentences in England and Wales and all other countries. We seem to have a thirst for life sentences, and that bears out the only statistic that I gave earlier. I shall say it again: we have more people serving life sentences and indeterminate sentences than the whole of the rest of Europe put together.
Clause 114 agreed.
Amendments 179A and 179B
179A: Before Schedule 16, insert the following new Schedule—
“SCHEDULEAmendments of the Criminal Justice Act 2003: transitional and consequential provisionsPart 1Transitional provisions1 The Criminal Justice Act 2003 is amended as follows.
2 After section 267 insert—
“267A Application of Chapter 6 to pre-4 April 2005 cases
Schedule 20A (which modifies certain provisions of this Chapter as they apply to persons serving a sentence for an offence committed before 4 April 2005) has effect.”
3 After Schedule 20 insert—
“SCHEDULE 20A Section 267AApplication of Chapter 6 of Part 12 to pre-4 April 2005 cases1 In this Schedule—
“the 1991 Act” means the Criminal Justice Act 1991;
“the commencement date” means the date on which section (Simplification of existing transitional provisions) of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2011 comes into force.
2 Paragraphs 3 to 9 apply in relation to any person serving a sentence for an offence committed before 4 April 2005, whenever that sentence was imposed (see section (Simplification of existing transitional provisions)(1) of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2011).
3 (1) Any relevant period is to be treated, for the purposes of section 240ZA, as if it were a period for which the offender was remanded in custody in connection with the offence.
(2) “Relevant period” means any period which would (but for the repeal of section 67 of the Criminal Justice Act 1967) be a relevant period within the meaning of that section (reduction of sentences by period spent in custody etc).
4 Section 246 applies as if, in subsection (4)—
(a) the reference in paragraph (a) to section 227 or 228 were a reference to section 85 of the Sentencing Act;(b) the reference in paragraph (d) to paragraph 9(1)(b) or (c) or 10(1)(b) or (c) of Schedule 8 were a reference to paragraph 4(1)(d) or 5(1)(d) of Schedule 3 to the Sentencing Act;(c) in paragraph (g)—(i) the reference to section 246 included a reference to section 34A of the 1991 Act,(ii) the reference to section 255(1)(a) included a reference to section 38A(1)(a) or 39(1) or (2) of the 1991 Act, and(iii) the reference to section 255(3) included a reference to section 38A(3) of the 1991 Act;(d) the references in paragraph (h) to sections 248 and 254 included references to, respectively, sections 36 and 39(1) or (2) of the 1991 Act; and(e) in paragraph (i), the words from “in the case of” to “relates” were omitted.5 (1) Where the person has been released on licence under Part 2 of the 1991 Act or under section 60 of the Criminal Justice Act 1967 before the commencement date, the person is to be treated as if the release had been under this Chapter.
(2) In particular, the following provisions apply.
(3) A licence under section 34A of the 1991 Act is to be treated as if it were a licence under section 246.
(4) A licence under section 36 of the 1991 Act is to be treated as if it were a licence under section 248.
(5) Any condition of a licence specified under section 37 of the 1991 Act is to have effect as if it were included under section 250 (whether or not the condition is of a kind which could otherwise be included under that section).
(6) Where the licence is, on the commencement date, subject to a suspension under section 38(2) of the 1991 Act, the suspension continues to have effect for the period specified by the court despite the repeal of that section.
(7) A licence under section 40A of the 1991 Act is to be treated as if it were a licence under this Chapter, except that in respect of any failure (before or after the commencement date) to comply with the conditions of the licence, the person is liable to be dealt with in accordance with section 40A(4) to (6) (despite the repeal of that section) and is not liable to be dealt with in any other way.
(8) Sub-paragraph (1) does not affect the duration of the licence.
6 (1) Where a person has been recalled under Part 2 of the 1991 Act before the commencement date, the person is to be treated as if the recall had been under section 254.
(2) In particular, the following provisions apply.
(3) If the Secretary of State has not referred the person’s case to the Board under section 39(4) or 44A of the 1991 Act, the Secretary of State must refer the case under section 255C(4).
(4) If the Secretary of State has referred the person’s case to the Board under section 39(4) or 44A of the 1991 Act, that reference is to be treated as if it had been made under section 255C(4).
(5) A determination of a reference under section 39(4) or 44A of the 1991 Act is to be treated as a determination under section 256(1).
(6) If the person is released on licence, the duration of that licence is determined in accordance with section 249 (subject to paragraphs 17, 19 and 26 of Schedule 20B).
7 Rules made by virtue of section 42 of the 1991 Act have effect as if made by virtue of section 257.
8 (1) A person removed from prison under section 46A of the 1991 Act before the commencement date is to be treated as having been removed from prison under section 260.
(2) Section 260 applies as if, in subsection (7)—
(a) the reference to an extended sentence imposed under section 227 or 228 were a reference to an extended sentence imposed under section 85 of the Sentencing Act, and(b) the reference to the appropriate custodial term determined under section 227 or 228 were a reference to the custodial term determined under section 85.9 An order made under section 47 of the 1991 Act is to have effect as if it were an order made under section 243.
10 Section 264 applies as if the definition of “custodial period” in subsection (6) included, in relation to an extended sentence imposed under section 85 of the Sentencing Act, one-half of the custodial term determined under that section.”
Part 2Consequential amendmentsRepatriation of Prisoners Act 1984 (c. 47)4 In section 2(4)(b)(i) of the Repatriation of Prisoners Act 1984 (power to provide for prisoner to be treated as having been released) for “section 244 or 246” substitute “Chapter 6 of Part 12”.
Criminal Justice Act 1991 (c. 53)5 In Schedule 12 to the Criminal Justice Act 1991, omit paragraphs 8 to 13 (transitional provisions relating to the coming into force of Part 2 of that Act).
Crime (Sentences) Act 1997 (c. 43)6 Schedule 1 to the Crime (Sentences) Act 1997 (transfer of prisoners within the British Islands) is amended as follows.
7 In paragraph 8 (transfers to Scotland)—
(a) in sub-paragraph (2)(a), after “246 to 264A” insert “, 267A and 267B”;(b) in sub-paragraph (4)(a), for “and 249 to 264A” substitute “, 249 to 264A, 267A and 267B”.8 In paragraph 9(2)(a) and (4)(a) (transfers to Northern Ireland), for “and 254 to 264A” substitute “, 254 to 264A, 267A and 267B”.
Extradition Act 2003 (c. 41)9 The Extradition Act 2003 is amended as follows.
10 In section 59 (return of person to serve remainder of sentence), in subsection (11)—
(a) omit paragraph (a);(b) in paragraph (b), for “section 244” substitute “Chapter 6 of Part 12”.11 In section 132 (return of person to serve remainder of sentence), in subsection (11)—
(a) omit paragraph (a);(b) in paragraph (b), for “section 244” substitute “Chapter 6 of Part 12”. 12 In section 153B (return of person in pursuance of undertaking), in subsection (10)(a)—
(a) omit sub-paragraph (i);(b) in sub-paragraph (ii), for “section 244” substitute “Chapter 6 of Part 12”.Criminal Justice Act 2003 (c. 44)13 The Criminal Justice Act 2003 is amended as follows.
14 In section 240A(1)(a) (crediting of periods of remand on bail), omit the words “committed on or after 4th April 2005”.
15 (1) The repeal by section 25 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 of provisions in section 247 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 comes fully into force.
(2) Accordingly, in paragraph 2 of Schedule 2 to the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 (Commencement No.2 and Transitional and Savings Provisions) Order 2008 (S.I. 2008/1586), omit “and 25”.
16 Omit section 262 and Schedule 20 (prisoners liable to removal from United Kingdom).
17 Omit section 265(1A) (restriction on consecutive sentences for released prisoners).
Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004 (c. 28)18 Omit paragraph 46 of Schedule 10 to the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004.
Police and Justice Act 2006 (c. 48)19 Omit paragraph 33 of Schedule 13 to the Police and Justice Act 2006.
Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 (c. 4)20 In the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008, omit—
(a) sections 20(4)(b), 26 to 28, 32 and 33(1), (3), (5) and (6);(b) paragraph 29(2) to (5) of Schedule 26;(c) paragraphs 8 and 9 of Schedule 27.Coroners and Justice Act 2009 (c. 25)21 In the Coroners and Justice Act 2009, omit—
(a) section 145;(b) paragraph 43 of Schedule 22.Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 (Commencement No.1 and Transitional Provisions) Order 2008 (S.I. 2008/1466)22 Article 3 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 (Commencement No.1 and Transitional Provisions) Order 2008 (S.I. 2008/1466) is revoked.”
179B: Before Schedule 16, insert the following new Schedule—
“SCHEDULECriminal Justice Act 2003: restatement of transitional provisions1 The Criminal Justice Act 2003 is amended as follows.
2 In section 244 (duty to release prisoners on licence), after subsection (3) insert—
“(4) This section is subject to paragraphs 5, 6, 8, 25 and 28 of Schedule 20B (transitional cases).”
3 In section 247 (release on licence of prisoner serving extended sentence), after subsection (7) insert—
“(8) In its application to a person serving a sentence imposed before 14 July 2008, this section is subject to the modifications set out in paragraph 15 of Schedule 20B (transitional cases).”
4 In section 249 (duration of licence), at the end insert—
“(5) This section is subject to paragraphs 17, 19 and 26 of Schedule 20B (transitional cases).”
5 (1) Section 258 (early release of fine defaulters and contemnors) is amended as follows.
(2) After subsection (2) insert—
“(2A) Subsection (2) is subject to paragraph 35 of Schedule 20B (transitional cases).”
(3) In subsection (3) after “in this section” insert “or in paragraph 35 of Schedule 20B”.
6 In section 260 (early removal of prisoners liable to removal from UK), after subsection (7) insert—
“(8) Paragraphs 36 and 37 of Schedule 20B (transitional cases) make further provision about early removal of certain prisoners.”
7 In section 263 (concurrent terms), after subsection (4) insert—
“(5) This section is subject to paragraphs 21, 31 and 32 of Schedule 20B (transitional cases).”
8 In section 264 (consecutive terms), after subsection (7) insert—
“(8) This section is subject to paragraphs 21, 22, 31, 32 and 33 of Schedule 20B (transitional cases).”
9 After section 267A (inserted by Schedule (Amendments of the Criminal Justice Act 2003: transitional and consequential provisions)) insert—
“267B Modification of Chapter 6 in certain transitional cases
Schedule 20B (which modifies this Chapter so as to restate, with minor amendments, the effect of transitional provisions relating to the coming into force of this Chapter) has effect.”
10 After Schedule 20A (inserted by Schedule (Amendments of the Criminal Justice Act 2003: transitional and consequential provisions)) insert—
“SCHEDULE 20B Section 267BModifications of Chapter 6 of Part 12 in certain transitional casesPart 1IntroductoryInterpretation1 (1) The following provisions apply for the purposes of this Schedule.
(2) “The commencement date” means the date on which section (Simplification of existing transitional provisions) of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2011 comes into force.
(3) “The 1967 Act” means the Criminal Justice Act 1967.
(4) “The 1991 Act” means the Criminal Justice Act 1991.
(5) A “section 85 extended sentence” means an extended sentence under section 85 of the Sentencing Act and includes (in accordance with paragraph 1(3) of Schedule 11 to that Act) a sentence under section 58 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998.
(6) In relation to a section 85 extended sentence, “the custodial term” and “the extension period” have the meaning given by that section.
(7) References to section 86 of the Sentencing Act include (in accordance with paragraph 1(3) of Schedule 11 to that Act) section 44 of the 1991 Act as originally enacted.
(8) A “1967 Act sentence” is a sentence imposed before 1 October 1992.
(9) A “1991 Act sentence” is a sentence which is—
(a) imposed on or after 1 October 1992 but before 4 April 2005, or(b) imposed on or after 4 April 2005 but before the commencement date and is either—(i) imposed in respect of an offence committed before 4 April 2005, or(ii) for a term of less than 12 months.(10) A “2003 Act sentence” is a sentence which is—
(a) imposed on or after the commencement date, or(b) imposed on or after 4 April 2005 but before the commencement date and is both—(i) imposed in respect of an offence committed on or after 4 April 2005, and(ii) for a term of 12 months or more.(11) Where an offence is found to have been committed over a period of two or more days, or at some time during a period of two or more days, it is to be taken for the purposes of this Schedule to have been committed on the last of those days.
Explanation of dates2 The following dates (which are mentioned in this Schedule) are dates on which changes to the law relating to the release and recall of prisoners came into force—
1 October 1992 is the date on which Part 2 of the Criminal Justice Act 1991 came into force;
30 September 1998 is the date on which certain provisions of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 came into force;
4 April 2005 is the date on which this Chapter came into force;
9 June 2008 is the date on which section 26 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 came into force;
14 July 2008 is the date on which certain other provisions of that Act came into force;
2 August 2010 is the date on which section 145 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 came into force.
Part 2Prisoners serving 1991 Act sentences etc3 (1) This Part applies to certain persons serving a 1991 Act sentence.
(2) This Part also applies to a person serving a 2003 Act sentence which is—
(a) a section 85 extended sentence, or(b) an extended sentence imposed under section 227 or 228 before 14 July 2008.(3) But this Part does not apply to a person who—
(a) has been released on licence under Part 2 of the 1991 Act,(b) has been recalled to prison, and(c) (whether or not having returned to custody in consequence of that recall) is unlawfully at large on the commencement date.Duty to release on licence at two-thirds of sentence4 (1) This paragraph applies to a person in relation to whom—
(a) all the conditions in sub-paragraph (2) are met, and(b) the condition in any one or more of sub-paragraphs (3) to (5) is met.(2) The conditions in this sub-paragraph are that—
(a) the person has been convicted of an offence committed before 4 April 2005,(b) the person is serving a sentence of imprisonment imposed in respect of that offence on or after 1 October 1992 but before the commencement date,(c) the sentence or (in the case of a section 85 extended sentence) the custodial term is for a term of 4 years or more, and(d) the person has not previously been released from prison on licence in respect of that sentence.(3) The condition in this sub-paragraph is that the offence (or one of the offences) in respect of which the sentence was imposed is—
(a) an offence specified in Schedule 15 (specified violent offences and specified sexual offences) as it had effect on 4 April 2005,(b) an offence under any of sections 11, 12, 15 to 18, 54 and 56 to 63 of the Terrorism Act 2000,(c) an offence under any of sections 47, 50 and 113 of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001,(d) an offence under section 12 of the Sexual Offences Act 1956,(e) an offence of aiding, abetting counselling, procuring or inciting the commission of an offence listed in any of paragraphs (b) to (d), or(f) an offence of conspiring or attempting to commit an offence listed in any of paragraphs (b) to (d). (4) The condition in this sub-paragraph is that the person has served one-half of the sentence or (in the case of a section 85 extended sentence) of the custodial term before 9 June 2008.
(5) The condition in this sub-paragraph is that—
(a) the person is serving the sentence by virtue of having been transferred to the United Kingdom in pursuance of a warrant under section 1 of the Repatriation of Prisoners Act 1984,(b) the warrant was issued before 9 June 2008, and(c) the offence (or one of the offences) for which the person is serving the sentence corresponds to murder or to any offence specified in Schedule 15 as it had effect on 4 April 2005.5 (1) As soon as a person to whom paragraph 4 applies has served two-thirds of the sentence, it is the duty of the Secretary of State to release the person on licence under this paragraph.
(2) If the person is serving a section 85 extended sentence, the reference in sub-paragraph (1) to two-thirds of the sentence is a reference to two-thirds of the custodial term.
(3) Sub-paragraphs (1) and (2) apply in place of section 244 (release on licence of prisoners serving 12 months or more).
Duty to release on direction of Parole Board6 (1) After a person to whom paragraph 4 applies has served one-half of the sentence, the Secretary of State must, if directed to do so by the Board, release the person on licence under this paragraph.
(2) The Board must not give a direction under sub-paragraph (1) unless the Board is satisfied that it is no longer necessary for the protection of the public that the person should be confined.
(3) If the person is serving a section 85 extended sentence, the references in this paragraph to one-half of the sentence are references to one-half of the custodial term.
(4) Sub-paragraphs (1) to (3) apply in place of section 244 (release on licence of prisoners serving 12 months or more).
Release on licence at one-half of sentence: section 85 extended sentence prisoners7 (1) This paragraph applies to a person if—
(a) the person has been convicted of an offence committed on or after 30 September 1998 but before 4 April 2005,(b) the person is serving a section 85 extended sentence in respect of that offence,(c) the person has not previously been released from prison on licence in respect of that sentence, and(d) paragraph 4 does not apply to the person.8 (1) As soon as a person to whom paragraph 7 applies has served one-half of the custodial term, it is the duty of the Secretary of State to release the person on licence under this paragraph.
(2) Sub-paragraph (1) applies in place of section 243A or 244, as the case may be (release of prisoners serving less than 12 months, or serving 12 months or more).
Duty to release unconditionally at three-quarters of sentence9 (1) This paragraph applies to a person if—
(a) the person has been convicted of an offence committed before 30 September 1998,(b) the person is serving a sentence of imprisonment imposed in respect of that offence on or after 1 October 1992,(c) the sentence is for a term of 12 months or more,(d) the person has been released on licence under Part 2 of the 1991 Act, and(e) the person has been recalled before 14 July 2008 (and has not been recalled after that date).(2) But this paragraph does not apply if the court by which the person was sentenced ordered that section 86 of the Sentencing Act (extension of periods in custody and on licence in the case of certain sexual offences) should apply.
10 As soon as a person to whom paragraph 9 applies would (but for the earlier release) have served three-quarters of the sentence, it is the duty of the Secretary of State to release the person unconditionally.
Duty to release on licence at three-quarters of sentence11 (1) This paragraph applies to a person who—
(a) has been convicted of an offence committed on or after 30 September 1998 but before 4 April 2005,(b) is serving a sentence of imprisonment for a term of 12 months or more imposed in respect of that offence,(c) has been released on licence under Part 2 of the 1991 Act, and(d) has been recalled before 14 July 2008 (and has not been recalled after that date).(2) But this paragraph does not apply if the person has been released and recalled more than once.
(3) Nor does this paragraph apply if the sentence is a section 85 extended sentence (paragraph 13 applying to such a case instead).
12 As soon as a person to whom paragraph 11 applies would (but for the earlier release) have served three-quarters of the sentence, it is the duty of the Secretary of State to release the person on licence.
Release on licence: re-release of section 85 extended sentence prisoners13 (1) This paragraph applies to a person who—
(a) has been convicted of an offence committed on or after 30 September 1998 but before 4 April 2005,(b) is serving a section 85 extended sentence imposed in respect of that offence, (c) has been released on licence under Part 2 of the 1991 Act, and(d) has been recalled before 14 July 2008 (and has not been recalled after that date).(2) But this paragraph does not apply if the person has been released and recalled more than once.
14 (1) If a person to whom paragraph 13 applies is serving a sentence with a custodial term of less than 12 months, it is the duty of the Secretary of State to release the person on licence as soon as the person would (but for the earlier release) have served the period found by adding—
(a) one-half of the custodial term, and(b) the extension period.(2) If a person to whom paragraph 13 applies is serving a sentence with a custodial term of 12 months or more, it is the duty of the Secretary of State to release the person on licence as soon as the person would (but for the earlier release) have served the period found by adding—
(a) three-quarters of the custodial term, and(b) the extension period.Release of section 227 or 228 extended sentence prisoners: Parole Board direction15 (1) This paragraph applies to a person (“P”) who is serving an extended sentence under imposed section 227 or 228 before 14 July 2008.
(2) Section 247 (release of prisoner on licence) applies to P with the following modifications.
(3) The Secretary of State must not release P under subsection (2) of that section unless the Board has directed P’s release under that subsection.
(4) The Board must not give a direction under sub-paragraph (3) unless the Board is satisfied that it is no longer necessary for the protection of the public that the person should be confined.
(5) As soon as P has served the appropriate custodial term, the Secretary of State must release P on licence, unless P has previously been recalled under section 254.
Licence to remain in force to three-quarters of sentence 16 (1) This paragraph applies to a person to whom paragraph 4 applies.
(2) This paragraph also applies to a person if—
(a) the person has been convicted of an offence committed before 4 April 2005,(b) the person is serving a sentence of imprisonment imposed in respect of that offence on or after 1 October 1992 but before the commencement date,(c) that sentence is for a term of 12 months or more but less than 4 years, and(d) the person has not previously been released from prison on licence in respect of that sentence.(3) This paragraph also applies to a person if—
(a) the person has been convicted of an offence committed before 4 April 2005,(b) the person is serving a sentence of imprisonment imposed in respect of that offence on or after 1 October 1992,(c) that sentence is for a term of 12 months or more,(d) the person has been released on licence under Part 2 of the 1991 Act, and(e) the person has been recalled before 14 July 2008 (and has not been recalled after that date).(4) But this paragraph does not apply if the person has been released and recalled more than once.
(5) Nor does this paragraph apply if—
(a) the person is serving a section 85 extended sentence, or(b) the court by which the person was sentenced ordered that section 86 of the Sentencing Act (extension of periods in custody and on licence in the case of certain sexual offences) should apply.(6) If a person has been—
(a) released under section 34A of the 1991 Act or section 246 (home detention curfew), and(b) recalled under section 38A(1)(b) of the 1991 Act or section 255(1)(b) (no longer possible to monitor curfew),the release and recall are to be disregarded for the purposes of this paragraph.17 (1) Where a person to whom paragraph 16 applies is released on licence under section 244 or paragraph 5 or 6, the licence shall remain in force until the date on which the person would (but for the release) have served three-quarters of the sentence.
(2) Sub-paragraph (1) is subject to any revocation under section 254.
(3) Sub-paragraphs (1) and (2) apply in place of section 249 (duration of licence).
Period for which licence to remain in force: section 85 extended sentence prisoners18 This paragraph applies to a person who—
(a) has been convicted of an offence committed on or after 30 September 1998 but before 4 April 2005,(b) is serving a section 85 extended sentence imposed in respect of that offence, and(c) has not previously been released from prison on licence in respect of that sentence.19 (1) Where a person to whom paragraph 18 applies is released on licence and the custodial term is less than 12 months, the licence shall remain in force until the end of the period found by adding—
(a) one-half of the custodial term, and(b) the extension period.(2) Where a person to whom paragraph 18 applies is released on licence and the custodial term is 12 months or more, the licence shall remain in force until the end of the period found by adding—
(a) three-quarters of the custodial term, and(b) the extension period.(3) Sub-paragraphs (1) and (2) are subject to any revocation under section 254.
(4) Sub-paragraphs (1) to (3) apply in place of section 249 (duration of licence).
Concurrent or consecutive terms20 Paragraphs 21 and 22 apply where a person (“P”) is serving two or more sentences of imprisonment imposed on or after 1 October 1992 and—
(a) the sentences were passed on the same occasion, or(b) where they were passed on different occasions, the person has not been released under Part 2 of the 1991 Act or under this Chapter at any time during the period beginning with the first and ending with the last of those occasions.21 (1) This paragraph applies if each of the sentences is a 1991 Act sentence.
(2) Sections 263 and 264 (consecutive and concurrent terms) do not apply in relation to the sentences.
(3) For the purposes of any reference in this Chapter, however expressed, to the term of imprisonment to which P has been sentenced or which, or part of which, P has served, the terms are to be treated as a single term.
(4) If one or more of the sentences is a section 85 extended sentence—
(a) for the purpose of determining the single term mentioned in sub-paragraph (3), the extension period or periods is or are to be disregarded, and(b) the period for which P is to be on licence in respect of the single term is to be increased in accordance with sub-paragraph (5).(5) That period is to be increased—
(a) if only one of the sentences is a section 85 extended sentence, by the extension period;(b) if there is more than one such sentence and they are wholly or partly concurrent, by the longest of the extension periods;(c) if there is more than one such sentence and they are consecutive, by the aggregate of the extension periods.22 (1) This paragraph applies where two or more sentences are to be served consecutively on each other and—
(a) one or more of those sentences is a 1991 Act sentence, and(b) one or more of them is a 2003 Act sentence.(2) Section 264 does not affect the length of the period which P must serve in prison in respect of the 1991 Act sentence or sentences.
(3) Nothing in this Chapter requires the Secretary of State to release P until P has served a period equal in length to the aggregate of the length of the periods which P must serve in relation to each of the sentences mentioned in sub-paragraph (1).
(4) If P is also serving one or more 1967 Act sentences, paragraphs 32 and 33 apply instead of this paragraph.
Part 3Prisoners serving 1967 Act sentences23 (1) This Part applies to certain persons serving a 1967 Act sentence.
(2) But this Part does not apply to a person who—
(a) has been released on licence,(b) has been recalled to prison, and(c) (whether or not having returned to custody in consequence of that recall) is unlawfully at large on the commencement date.(3) In this Part, references to release under Part 2 of the 1991 Act include release under section 60 of the 1967 Act.
Sentence of more than 12 months imposed before 1 October 199224 (1) This paragraph applies to a person if—
(a) the person is serving a sentence of imprisonment imposed before 1 October 1992,(b) the sentence is for a term of more than 12 months, and(c) the person has not previously been released from prison on licence in respect of that sentence.(2) This paragraph also applies to a person if—
(a) the person is serving a sentence of imprisonment imposed before 1 October 1992,(b) the sentence is for a term of more than 12 months,(c) the person has been released on licence under Part 2 of the 1991 Act, and(d) the person has been recalled before 14 July 2008 (and has not been recalled after that date).(3) But this paragraph does not apply if, on the passing of the sentence, an extended sentence certificate was issued (see paragraph 27).
(4) If a person has been—
(a) released under section 34A of the 1991 Act or section 246 (home detention curfew), and(b) recalled under section 38A(1)(b) of the 1991 Act or section 255(1)(b) (no longer possible to monitor curfew),the release and recall are to be disregarded for the purposes of this paragraph.25 (1) It is the duty of the Secretary of State to release a person unconditionally under this paragraph—
(a) in the case of a person falling within paragraph 24(1), as soon as the person has served two-thirds of the sentence;(b) in the case of a person falling within paragraph 24(2), as soon as the person would (but for the earlier release) have served two-thirds of the sentence.(2) After a person falling within paragraph 24(1) has served one-third of the sentence or six months, whichever is longer, the Secretary of State must, if directed to do so by the Board, release the person on licence under this paragraph.
(3) The Board must not give a direction under sub-paragraph (2) unless the Board is satisfied that it is no longer necessary for the protection of the public that the person should be confined.
(4) Sub-paragraphs (1) to (3) apply in place of section 244 (release on licence of prisoners serving 12 months or more).
26 (1) Where a person to whom paragraph 24 applies is released on licence under paragraph 25, the licence shall remain in force until the date on which the person would (but for the release) have served two-thirds of the sentence.
(2) Sub-paragraph (1) is subject to any revocation under section 254.
(3) Sub-paragraphs (1) and (2) apply in place of section 249 (duration of licence).
Extended sentence of more than 12 months imposed before 1 October 199227 (1) This paragraph applies to a person if—
(a) the person is serving a sentence of imprisonment imposed before 1 October 1992,(b) the sentence is for a term of more than 12 months,(c) on the passing of the sentence an extended sentence certificate was issued, and(d) the person has not previously been released from prison on licence in respect of that sentence.(2) This paragraph also applies to a person if—
(a) the person is serving a sentence of imprisonment imposed before 1 October 1992,(b) the sentence is for a term of more than 12 months,(c) on the passing of the sentence an extended sentence certificate was issued, (d) the person has been released on licence under Part 2 of the 1991 Act, and(e) the person has been recalled before 14 July 2008 (and has not been recalled after that date).(3) In this paragraph “extended sentence certificate” means a certificate was issued under section 28 of the Powers of Criminal Courts Act 1973 (punishment of persistent offenders) stating that an extended term of imprisonment was imposed on the person under that section.
28 (1) It is the duty of the Secretary of State to release a person to whom paragraph 27 applies on licence under this paragraph—
(a) in the case of a person falling within paragraph 27(1), as soon as the person has served two-thirds of the sentence;(b) in the case of a person falling within paragraph 27(2), as soon as the person would (but for the earlier release) have served two-thirds of the sentence.(2) After a person falling within paragraph 27(1) has served one-third of the sentence or six months, whichever is longer, the Secretary of State must, if directed to do so by the Board, release the person on licence under this paragraph.
(3) The Board must not give a direction under sub-paragraph (2) unless the Board is satisfied that it is no longer necessary for the protection of the public that the person should be confined.
(4) Sub-paragraphs (1) to (3) apply in place of section 244 (release on licence of prisoners serving twelve months or more).
Additional days29 (1) Prison rules made by virtue of section 257 may include provision for applying any provisions of this Chapter, in relation to any person falling within sub-paragraph (2), as if the person had been awarded such number of additional days as may be determined by or under the rules.
(2) A person falls within this sub-paragraph if—
(a) the person was released on licence under section 60 of the 1967 Act before 1 October 1992 and the licence was in force on that date, or(b) the person was, on that date, serving a custodial sentence,and (in either case) the person has forfeited any remission of the sentence.Concurrent or consecutive terms30 Paragraphs 31 to 33 apply where a person (“P”) is serving two or more sentences of imprisonment and—
(a) the sentences were passed on the same occasion, or(b) where they were passed on different occasions, the person has not been released under Part 2 of the 1991 Act or under this Chapter at any time during the period beginning with the first and ending with the last of those occasions.31 (1) This paragraph applies where each of the sentences is a 1967 Act sentence.
(2) Sections 263 and 264 (consecutive and concurrent terms) do not apply in relation to the sentences.
(3) For the purposes of any reference in this Chapter, however expressed, to the term of imprisonment to which P has been sentenced or which, or part of which, P has served, the terms are to be treated as a single term.
32 (1) This paragraph applies where—
(a) one or more of the sentences is a 1967 Act sentence, and(b) one or more of them is a 1991 Act sentence.(2) Sections 263 and 264 (consecutive and concurrent terms) do not apply in relation to the sentences mentioned in sub-paragraph (1).
(3) For the purposes of any reference in this Chapter, however expressed, to the term of imprisonment to which P has been sentenced or which, or part of which, P has served—
(a) the terms mentioned in sub-paragraph (1) are to be treated as a single term, and (b) that single term is to be treated as if it were a 1967 Act sentence.(4) If one or more of the sentences is a section 85 extended sentence—
(a) for the purpose of determining the single term mentioned in sub-paragraph (3), the extension period or periods is or are to be disregarded, and(b) the period for which P is to be on licence in respect of the single term is to be increased in accordance with sub-paragraph (5).(5) That period is to be increased—
(a) if only one of the sentences is a section 85 extended sentence, by the extension period;(b) if there is more than one such sentence and they are wholly or partly concurrent, by the longest of the extension periods;(c) if there is more than one such sentence and they are consecutive, by the aggregate of the extension periods.(6) If P is also serving a 2003 Act sentence, sub-paragraph (3) is to be applied before the period mentioned in section 263(2)(c) (concurrent terms) or paragraph 33(3) (consecutive terms) is calculated.
33 (1) This paragraph applies where two or more sentences are to be served consecutively on each other and—
(a) one or more of those sentences is a 1967 Act sentence, and(b) one or more of them is a 2003 Act sentence.(2) Section 264 does not affect the length of the period which P must serve in prison in respect of the 1967 Act sentence or sentences.
(3) Nothing in this Chapter requires the Secretary of State to release P until P has served a period equal in length to the aggregate of the length of the periods which P must serve in relation to each of the sentences mentioned in sub-paragraph (1).
Part 4Provisions applying generallyLicence conditions34 (1) This paragraph applies to any licence (a “Parole Board licence”) which falls within sub-paragraph (2) or (3).
(2) A licence falls within this sub-paragraph if—
(a) it is or was granted to a person (“P”) on P’s release (at any time) on the recommendation or direction of the Board, and(b) P has not been released otherwise than on such a recommendation or direction. (3) A licence falls within this sub-paragraph if—
(a) it is or was granted to a person (“P”) on P’s release (at any time), and(b) condition A or condition B is met.(4) Condition A is that, before 2 August 2010, the Board exercised the function under section 37(5) of the 1991 Act of making recommendations as to any condition to be included or inserted as a condition in a licence granted to P (including by making a recommendation that no condition should be included in such a licence).
(5) Condition B is that, before 2 August 2010—
(a) P was released on licence under section 33(2), (3) or (3A) or 35(1) of the 1991 Act, and(b) the Board exercised the function under section 37(5) of that Act of—(i) making recommendations as to the inclusion or insertion of a condition in a licence granted to P (including by making a recommendation that no condition should be included in such a licence), or (ii) making recommendations as to the variation or cancellation of any such condition (including a recommendation that the condition should not be varied or cancelled).(6) The Secretary of State must not—
(a) include on release, or subsequently insert, a condition in a Parole Board licence, or(b) vary or cancel any such condition,except in accordance with directions of the Board.Fine defaulters and contemnors35 (1) This paragraph applies to any person if—
(a) the person has been committed to prison or to be detained under section 108 of the Sentencing Act—(i) in default of payment of a sum adjudged to be paid by a conviction, or (ii) for contempt of court or any kindred offence,(b) the person was so committed or detained before 4 April 2005, and(c) the term for which the person was committed or detained is 12 months or more.(2) As soon as a person to whom this paragraph applies has served two-thirds of the term, it is the duty of the Secretary of State to release the person unconditionally.
(3) Sub-paragraph (2) applies in place of section 258(2) (early release of fine defaulters and contemnors).
Early removal of prisoners liable to removal from UK36 (1) This paragraph applies to any person who—
(a) has served one-half of a sentence of imprisonment, and(b) has not been released on licence under this Chapter.(2) The reference in sub-paragraph (1)(a) to one-half of a sentence is—
(a) in the case of a section 85 extended sentence, a reference to one-half of the custodial term;(b) in the case of an extended sentence imposed under section 227 or 228, a reference to one-half of the appropriate custodial term.37 (1) If a person to whom paragraph 36 applies—
(a) is liable to removal from the United Kingdom, and(b) has not been removed from prison under section 260 during the period mentioned in subsection (1) of that section,the Secretary of State may remove the person from prison under that section at any time after the end of that period.(2) Sub-paragraph (1) applies whether or not the Board has directed the person’s release under paragraph 6, 15, 25 or 28.””
Amendments 179A and 179B agreed.
Schedules 16 and 17 agreed.
Clause 115 agreed.
Schedule 18 agreed.
Clause 116 : New extended sentences: release on licence etc
Amendments 179BZA to 179BZD not moved.
179BA: Clause 116, page 95, line 40, leave out “two-thirds” and insert “half”
My Lords, I can assure my noble friend the Minister that this is a reasonable amendment from a reasonable Liberal Democrat.
The purpose of the amendment is twofold. It would retain the current position whereby prisoners serving extended sentences are released after serving half their sentence, but it would also give the Minister an opportunity to explain the reasoning behind the provision in the Bill that offenders with extended sentences should in future have to serve two-thirds of the custodial term in custody before release compared with serving half the term, as they do at present.
Up to now, the point of an extended sentence has not been to increase the period that offenders spend in custody. Extended sentences are intended to make sure that, when offenders who pose a risk to the public are released, they are subject to a longer period than usual of post-release supervision on licence. This means that they are subject to restrictive conditions and controls at the same time as being provided with constructive, rehabilitative help. If offenders breach a condition on their licence, they can be recalled to prison. It is a very useful provision that means that society maintains control over the offender’s behaviour for a long period.
However, let me say where I see the anomalies. First, the Bill increases the time that an offender given an extended sentence spends in prison. This means that the time that he or she spends under supervision will be correspondingly reduced, which does not make much sense. Surely supervision is an essential element for the rehabilitation of offenders. The second anomaly is that, as the Bill stands, a court wishing to impose an extended period of post-release supervision will be able to do so only if it passes a sentence that also increases the length of time spent in custody before release. My noble friend must have an explanation as to why this provision is necessary.
If a judge does not want to increase the time that an offender spends in prison but wants to make sure that he or she has an extended period of supervision on release, why should they not be able to order this as they can under the current provisions for extended sentences?
If the Government are not willing to leave the release point at half the sentence as at present, will my noble friend agree to consider giving courts discretion over the issue? I am sure that this matter can be looked at before Report. In essence, will my noble friend consider amending the Bill so that a court can specify that the offender must serve either half or two-thirds of the sentence in custody depending on the circumstances of the individual case? The Minister and I are agreed on the final outcome that we all desire. Surely my formula will offer this. I beg to move.
Perhaps the Minister could indicate what assessment has been made of the effect of the new extended sentence provision on prisoner numbers and the time that prisoners will spend in custody, as well as the cost. In so far as the indeterminate sentence will, one hopes, reduce numbers when various changes have been made, this measure is likely, like the mandatory provision, to drive up both numbers and costs. Has an assessment been made of that? If it leads to extra costs, how will the Government manage the process? The noble Lord is to be congratulated on the amendment. The current provisions simply do not make sense in the context of what purport to be the Government’s objectives.
My Lords, perhaps I may clarify the point raised by my noble friend Lord Dholakia. The two-thirds release point applies only to the new extended sentence. The court must specify both the custodial term and an extended licence period when it imposes an extended sentence. The offender is released or can apply for release at the two-thirds point of the custodial term. The extended licence will start when the custodial term is concluded, so offenders will receive an appropriate licence period regardless of the point during the custodial term at which they are released. I listened to my noble friend’s idea about discretion. This is not something that courts would have discretion on. They will decide on the appropriate custodial term plus an appropriate extended licence. Yet, as always with suggestions from my noble friend, I will ponder this one between now and Report.
The impact assessment of our reforms anticipated that, in the long term, 2,500 fewer prison places are projected than in the current statute. That of course presumes that we will make progress in clearing the IPP numbers. As we heard, there have been numerous issues with IPP sentences, and we have proposed a replacement regime. A key element of that regime is the new extended determinate sentence—the EDS—for dangerous offenders. This sentence will apply where an offender commits a sexual or violent offence that merits four years’ imprisonment or more, or has very serious previous offending, as with the current IPPs and EPPs, and the court finds that he is dangerous. The court will set a custodial term, some of which may be served on licence, and also a further extended period of licence set by the court. The offender will always serve at least two-thirds of the custodial term in prison. In the most serious cases, release will not be automatic: the offender will have to apply to the Parole Board for release. This may mean that they stay inside until the end of the term.
My noble friend Lord Dholakia proposed that the minimum time in prison that offenders on the new extended sentence should serve is one half of the custodial term rather than the two-thirds that the Bill provides for. It is true that the current extended sentence has release at the halfway point, as do ordinary determinate sentences. Headline sentences should be equivalent to ordinary determinate sentences, whereas an IPP tariff is half the equivalent determinate sentence. These offenders will have a longer minimum time in prison than they would had they received an IPP or ordinary determinate sentence. However, in June last year the Government committed to introducing a tougher determinate sentencing regime to replace IPPs.
A key part of that tougher regime is that those on public protection sentences, now that they are no longer liable to receive IPP sentences, will spend more of their determinate sentence in prison. That is needed to enhance public protection and deliver public confidence. It will provide more time for offenders and NOMS to work towards rehabilitation. Overall, offenders who receive the new EDS sentence will have a finite, rather than a possibly indefinite, time in prison. That may be to the end of their sentence, before release. On that basis, it is justifiable for prisoners who have committed such dangerous offences to serve two-thirds of the custodial term in prison.
We will also step up rehabilitative support for dangerous offenders to help them to progress to release as soon as it is appropriate. We are introducing compulsory intervention plans for these offenders while they are in prison so that they are supported to change their ways and rehabilitate themselves. Sentence plans will include appropriate interventions, assessed as necessary, to address the risk that the offender presents. Offenders who engage with these requirements should be able to demonstrate reduced risk. I hope, therefore, that my noble friend will feel able to withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend the Minister for the explanation that he offered. The purpose of my amendment is not to dwell too much on whether it is half or two-thirds of the sentence; all I care about is the need to look carefully at whether the supervision period is affected by the decision. I would be very grateful if the Minister could write to me before Report. It may be that his explanation will suffice in this matter. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 179BA withdrawn.
Clause 116 agreed.
Schedule 19 agreed.
Clause 117 : Power to change test for release on licence of certain prisoners
179C: Clause 117, page 96, line 3, leave out “an IPP prisoner or an extended sentence prisoner” and insert “a discretionary release prisoner”
My Lords, if Clause 117 is to stand part of the Bill, Amendments 179C to 179F will ensure that the Secretary of State’s power to amend by order the release test that the Parole Board must follow when considering the release of prisoners applies consistently to all categories of determinate sentence prisoner whose release is determined by the board. Currently, the clause applies to the release test for IPP and extended sentence prisoners but there are some other types of determinate sentence which also include a period of parole eligibility and are subject to the same release test. We think the order-making power to change the test should apply equally in those cases. These amendments therefore propose to extend the order-making power to the other categories of determinate sentence to which it does not currently apply. These are: first, the 1991 Act prisoners serving four years or more who are parole eligible between the half and two-thirds points of sentence; and, secondly, the 2003 Act extended sentences imposed before 14 July 2008, when release between the half and end points of the custodial period is at the discretion of the Parole Board. This is simply about ensuring the order-making power in this clause is applied consistently to all determinate sentences when the same release test is used. I beg to move.
Your Lordships will recall that in connection with an earlier amendment I referred to the existing test—which will continue to apply under this Bill—for the Parole Board to apply in considering whether a person should be released. The existing test is that the board is satisfied that it is no longer necessary for the protection of the public that the prisoner should be confined. Your Lordships will recall the criticisms that I made of that. In his reply, the Minister said that Clause 117 gives power to the Lord Chancellor to change that test. I am a little bit puzzled, and I ask my noble friend to explain why that power to change the test is in there. Furthermore, I am very pleased that it is, because I think that the present test is neither fair nor just. The power to change the test is in subsection (1), where,
“the Parole Board … must direct the prisoner’s release if it is satisfied that conditions specified in the order are met, or … must do so unless it is satisfied that conditions specified in the order are met”.
I know that my noble friend, as he earlier confessed, is a follower of Blackpool football club, but at the weekend he may have had the opportunity of watching the Wales versus Ireland rugby match at Lansdowne Road. An incident there perfectly illustrates the situation. There was a pile-up over the line and the referee, instead of making the decision and awarding the try which Wales had so clearly scored, called in the TMO and said, “Has the try been scored—yes or no?”. Immediately, that illustrious and brilliant commentator Jonathan Davies, a brilliant player in his own day, said, “He’s asking the wrong question. The question he should ask is: ‘Is there any reason why this try should not be awarded?’”. By asking it as, “Has he scored it—yes or no?”, the referee was pushing the decision over to the TMO; but if he were to ask the second question, he would be taking responsibility by saying, “I am going to award the try unless you tell me that there is a reason why I should not”.
Applying the same approach to the release of a prisoner, the Parole Board should not be asking whether the prisoner has complied with this or that test; it should be asking: “Is there any reason why we should not release this prisoner? Is evidence being produced for us to look at in reaching a conclusion on whether this prisoner can be safely returned to the community?”.
That is the reason why I support Clause 117—in the hope that the second alternative, in subsection (1)(b), is adopted, and that the Lord Chancellor will then very quickly see the necessity of changing the Parole Board’s test to one that is far fairer: “Is there any reason why, after serving the period of the tariff that the judge has imposed”—which is supposed to be what the judge would have awarded by way of a sentence had he taken that course—“this person should not be released?”. I commend this clause and suggest that the power should be exercised very quickly.
My Lords, I gave notice of my intention to oppose that the clause stand part in order to be consistent with my now failed hope that the Government would accept the earlier amendments on the IPP. As they did not, it is obviously irrelevant now to say that the clause should not stand part. I shall therefore not oppose it. For all the reasons that the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, outlined, the clause contains some very important measures which provide the Secretary of State with tools to bring about many of the things that we hope will happen to the IPP sentence.
My Lords, this amendment is perfectly sensible. Before we get to Third Reading it would perhaps be helpful, if it is at all possible, to have a clear indication of how the Government propose to proceed. Presumably it will not be long before the affirmative resolution procedure is put into place once the Bill is enacted, and that might just allay some doubts around the House and outside it about what is likely to happen. Subject to that, we certainly take the view that it is sensible to proceed on the lines set out in the amendment.
I am grateful for that. As to what I was watching on Saturday afternoon, being a gentle soul, I take the view that rugby is a gentleman's game played by hooligans. I am not as keen on watching it—the violence is too much. I am glad, however, that everybody has noticed the point of Clause 117. It goes back to what I said before in that analogy about disarming the time-bomb. We need a little flexibility and a chance to see how the present probation rules apply, but this gives the Secretary of State the opportunity to adjust what we are doing in the light of the experience of the overall reform of IPP. I am therefore grateful for the support from all sides of the House and I hope that Clause 117 will stand part of the Bill.
Amendment 179C agreed.
Amendments 179D to 179F
179D: Clause 117, page 96, line 8, at end insert—
“(1A) “Discretionary release prisoner” means—
(a) an IPP prisoner,(b) an extended sentence prisoner, or (c) a person to whom paragraph 4, 15, 24 or 27 of Schedule 20B to the Criminal Justice Act 2003 (determinate sentence prisoners subject to transitional provisions) applies.”
179E: Clause 117, page 96, line 13, at end insert—
“( ) amend paragraph 6, 15, 25 or 28 of Schedule 20B to the Criminal Justice Act 2003 (release on licence of determinate sentence prisoners subject to transitional provisions),”
179F: Clause 117, page 96, line 18, leave out “IPP prisoners and extended sentence prisoners” and insert “each of the categories of discretionary release prisoner mentioned in subsection (1A)”
Amendments 179D to 179F agreed.
Amendment 180 not moved.
Clause 117, as amended, agreed.
180A: After Clause 117, insert the following new Clause—
“Disclosure of information about convictions etc. of violent abusers to members of the public
(1) The responsible authority for each area must, in the course of discharging its functions under arrangements established under section 325 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003, consider whether to disclose information in its possession about the relevant previous convictions of any violent abuser managed by it to any person deemed by the authority to be at risk.
(2) In the case mentioned in subsection (3) there is a presumption that the responsible authority should disclose information in its possession about the relevant previous convictions of the offender to the particular member of the public.
(3) The case is where the responsible authority for the area has reasonable cause to believe that—
(a) a serial violent abuser managed by it poses a risk in that or any other area of causing serious harm to a particular at risk person, and(b) disclosure of information about the relevant previous conviction of the offender to the particular member of the public is necessary for the purpose of protecting the at risk person from serious harm caused by the offender.(4) The presumption under subsection (2) arises if the person to whom the information is disclosed requests the disclosure.
(5) Where the responsible authority makes a disclosure under this section—
(a) it may disclose such information about the relevant previous convictions of the offender as it considers appropriate to disclose to the member of the public concerned, and(b) it may impose conditions for preventing the member of public concerned from disclosing the information to any other persons.(6) Any disclosure under this section must be made as soon as is reasonably practical having regard to all the circumstances.
(7) The responsible authority for each area must compile and maintain a record about the decisions it makes in relation to the discharge of its functions under this section.
(8) The record must include the following information—
(a) the reasons for making a decision to disclose information under this section,(b) the reasons for making a decision not to disclose information under this section, and (c) the information which is disclosed under this section, any conditions imposed in relation to its further disclosure and the name and address of the person to whom it is disclosed.(9) Nothing in this section requires or authorises the making of a disclosure which contravenes the Data Protection Act 1998.
(10) This section is not to be taken as affecting any power of any person to disclose any information about a violent abuser.”
My Lords, this amendment and Amendment 180B are tabled in the names of my noble friends Lady Royall of Blaisdon, Lord Bach and Lord Beecham.
I begin by paying tribute to Michael and Adam Brown. It is as a result of their campaign that we are here today and are debating this important issue in order that we can protect vulnerable women and men from the very small percentage of people who think that they have a right to hurt the partners they claim to love. In 2007 Michael’s daughter and Adam’s sister, Clare Wood, a resident of Salford, began a relationship with George Appleton, a man she had met through the social networking website Facebook. A year later she ended the relationship but became the target of a sustained campaign of violence and harassment from Appleton. Over the next six months Appleton stalked Clare, sexually assaulted her and threatened to kill her. Then in February 2009 he strangled her, killing her before setting her body on fire. After a six-day manhunt he fled to an abandoned pub in Salford and hanged himself.
Appleton had a long background of violence against women, including repeated allegations and convictions of harassment, threats to kill, and kidnapping one of his ex-girlfriends at knifepoint. Clare had no way of knowing this. Had she had that information, it could have saved her life. I think we would all agree that this is a horrifying story.
My right honourable friend Hazel Blears, MP for Salford, has advocated for this change of law and worked on this amendment, as Michael Brown is a constituent of hers. We need to change the law urgently to save lives.
At the inquest into Clare’s death, the coroner made the following recommendation:
“Subject to appropriate risk assessment and safeguard, I recommend that consideration should be given to the disclosure of such convictions and their circumstances to potential victims in order that they can make informed choices about matters affecting their safety and that of their children”.
Since Clare’s death, her father Michael Brown and brother Adam have campaigned for a change in the law to enact precisely the coroner’s recommendations to give women and men at risk of domestic violence the right to know of any threat that they face. The Respect & Protect: Clare’s Law campaign calls for women and men to be given the right to know. It has received cross-party support and has been backed by Fabulous magazine and Key 103 radio.
In 2009 a report commissioned by ACPO and compiled by Chief Constable Brian Moore of Wiltshire Police advocated the creation of a right to know, but by the creation of a positive duty on the police proactively to disclose information. This is not just a compassionate issue but one with serious public order, health and economic implications. Domestic violence represents 18 per cent of all violent incidents. The cost of domestic violence was calculated to be £15.7 billion in 2008 in public services, loss to the economy and victims. In 2009-10 in England and Wales, 21 men and 94 women were killed by a partner or ex-partner. Over the past 10 years, an average of between 111 and 146 people a year have been murdered by their partner or ex-partner. ACPO estimates that there are 25,000 serial perpetrators of domestic violence in the country. It has the highest rate of repeat victimisation of any crime, with 44 per cent of victims victimised more than once in the past 12 months. Therefore, if we act today we know that we will stop a significant number of repeat abusers and help a huge number of men and women to take control of their personal safety.
The public support this initiative. Polling conducted by Fabulous magazine in the summer of 2011 found that 91 per cent of women agree that they should be given the right to know whether their partner has a history of domestic violence; 84 per cent think that such a change in the law could save lives; and 77 per cent would consider leaving their partner if they found that he had history of abuse.
On 25 October 2011, the Home Office launched a consultation on the introduction of a domestic violence disclosure scheme. This followed a meeting between the Home Secretary, Theresa May, Michael Brown and my right honourable friend Hazel Blears. The consultation paper established the three following options: to continue current arrangements under the existing law; to create a “right to ask” national disclosure scheme; and to create a “right to know” national disclosure scheme. On 27 October 2011, Hazel Blears MP tabled a new clause to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill that would have introduced Clare’s law. The new clause was based on the legal framework established by Sarah’s law, which created a disclosure law for paedophiles living within a locality. Therefore, while the Home Secretary’s consultation on Clare’s law, which has just ended, is welcome, for the law to be changed, legislation surrounding crime and justice needs to be passed. The passage of the Bill through Parliament provides a legislative vehicle to which the change can be attached. At the moment, while there is some common law provision for disclosure, it is unclear and needs clarification. The Clare’s law proposal aims to empower men and women by giving them the right to request this information. A codification of the law will make it easier for men and women to make a request, and provide clearer guidance to the agencies on their roles and responsibilities.
The Hazel Blears clause represents the second option in the consultation. The first option does not offer a change to the current situation and the third creates obligations for the police that might be difficult for them to meet. The second option—a right to ask—gives men and women the opportunity to make a request without putting the police in the position of having to make a disclosure or risk negligence claims. Any change in the law needs a legislative vehicle. The passage of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill offers an opportunity to change the law. As this matter relates to crime and security, any change must be appended to a Bill that deals with either justice or crime prevention. With no other Bill to address these issues on the horizon, this offers the Government an easy way to change the law quickly, before more people are killed at the hands of serial domestic abusers.
Under the consultation put forward by the Government—the second option—a four-step process will take place. After an initial enquiry by A to the police, the police undertake an initial check on the police national database to identify whether any information is held on B. The police then meet A face-to-face to confirm their identity and that of B, to confirm the relationship between them, and to enable A to complete a formal application for disclosure. The police will then conduct full checks on the police database systems to inform a risk assessment for A. The police refer information about B to an appropriate multi-agency setting, probably a multi-agency risk assessment conference, which would then make a decision on whether to disclose the information to A. Such a decision would be informed by the risk assessment and whether appropriate safety measures could be put in place for the applicant. If disclosure was approved, it would be made by the police with an independent domestic violence adviser present to provide support to A, if required.
The introduction of the police national database in 2011 offers the opportunity easily to identify serial perpetrators of domestic violence. The PND gives police the ability to create national markers, such as a domestic abuse serial perpetrator marker, which could flag up prolific and dangerous subjects operating across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. This is a very important subject. I, Hazel Blears and, of course, Michael and Adam Brown, are thankful that we are able to debate this matter today. Debate was prevented in another place as, due to the timetabling on Report, this amendment was not reached.
When can the Government’s response to the consultation be expected? What was the weight of opinion in the replies? I trust the Minister can give an assurance that the Government will support this amendment to bring about Clare’s law. I can assure him that we would welcome further discussions with him, if required, to ensure a positive outcome which would do so much to provide a safety net for these people. I look forward to hearing a positive response from him on this matter. I beg to move.
My Lords, earlier today we gave support to Jane’s law. The noble Baroness referred to Sarah’s law. Now we are discussing Clare’s law. Those all stem from tragedies that have befallen families. The measure may be viewed as a case of slamming the stable door but we are trying to learn lessons from those tragedies and to give the families concerned at least the comfort of knowing that the lessons we have learnt will save others in the future. Therefore, I assure the noble Baroness that we have great sympathy with this proposal. We pay tribute to the campaign that Hazel Blears, the Member for Salford and Eccles, has pursued in co-operation with Clare’s family, and her work in tabling this amendment in the other place.
As the noble Baroness explained, the amendment would place a duty on responsible authorities such as the police, probation and Prison Service to consider disclosing information held in their possession about the relevant previous convictions of any violent abuser to any person deemed by the responsible authority to be at risk. The amendment is born of the circumstances referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Gale, of the tragic murder of Clare Wood by her ex-boyfriend. Noble Lords will know that the Government have been considering this issue very carefully. The Government are committed to ending violence against women and girls. The fact that approximately two people are killed by their current or former partner each week underlines how serious this issue is, and we are committed to looking at new ways of protecting victims.
However, disclosing information raises serious and complex questions about the appropriate circumstances in which information could be disclosed, particularly for the continued safety of a potential victim. As the noble Baroness, Lady Gale, explained, the Home Secretary launched a consultation so that everyone with an interest or concern could express their views to the Government and the Home Office. The Home Office is currently considering the 259 responses that have so far been received to that consultation.
As the noble Baroness explained, the options set out in the consultation included a right to know, which is the spirit of the amendment, and a right to ask, which could be modelled successfully on Sarah’s law—the child sex offender disclosure scheme. In considering the options, the Government’s paramount duty is the safety of the potential victim but, as the noble Baroness demonstrated in presenting her case, the options are more complex than might be thought at first blush.
The noble Baroness undoubtedly produced some powerful arguments and equally powerful statistics for action in this area. The Government want to consider the wide range of views on this important and sensitive issue before taking matters further. However, I hope that she will accept my reassurance that we intend to take the matter further. We can talk in the margins about whether further discussions would be helpful, and I would certainly be happy to try to facilitate them. I hope that she will accept my assurance—and that she can assure her colleagues—that we share a determination to address this problem and that if Clare’s law is the best way forward we will certainly progress in that way.
The noble Baroness has presented a formidable case. The Home Secretary has consulted and is considering those consultations. I think that we can work together to take this matter forward in a positive fashion. In those circumstances, I ask the noble Baroness to withdraw the amendment.
I am grateful to the Minister for his positive response, and I know that he understands that this is a crucial and serious issue. We have seen the success of Sarah’s law and I am sure that we will eventually get to Clare’s law. We look forward to working with the Minister to see in which way we can progress successfully on this matter. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 180A withdrawn.
Amendment 180B not moved.
Clause 118 : Employment in prisons: deductions etc from payments to prisoners
Amendment 181 not moved.
181A: Clause 118, page 97, line 7, at end insert—
“(c) arrangements for private companies to provide employment and training for persons who are required to be detained in prisons, young offender institutions and secure training centres;(d) the provision of resources for vocational training and skills training for persons who are required to be detained in prisons, young offender institutions and secure training centres; and(e) arrangements designed to ensure that all work carried out by prisoners provides them with nationally recognised qualifications, provides opportunities for learning and skills progression, and is evaluated for learning and employability outcomes.”
My Lords, the amendment is tabled in the context of something mentioned in the Green Paper that has occurred many times in statements by the Government relating to what they intend to do with prisoners—in other words, to make prisons become working prisons and to increase the amount of time that prisoners spend at work; the 40-hour working week has been mentioned.
Clause 118 amends Section 47 of the Prison Act, which lays down what may happen. New subsection (2) refers to secure training centres and young offender institutions; new subsection (3) adds that different provision may be made for different cases; and new subsection (4) talks about employment rules made by the Secretary of State in that context.
My reason for this amendment, which may look a little prescriptive, is that from experience I know perfectly well that there is no way in which under current circumstances the Government will be able to enact what they say they want to do. I have known for years and years that the problem is that NOMS and the Prison Service simply are not orientated or equipped, nor do they have the ethos, to provide the business-like structure that is necessary if work is to be provided. They never have and they never will. The NOMS bureaucratic procedures involved in dealing with private contractors are ludicrously complicated and frustrate those who would like to contribute by providing work.
I have always contended that the ideal in a prison is a full, purposeful and active day for every prisoner, designed to tackle what has prevented them from living a useful, law-abiding life, with the idea that they come out and do not reoffend. That is not realised by prisoners spending all day in their cells doing nothing. A census done now of prisons would, I believe, come up with a figure of nearly 50 per cent of all prisoners doing nothing, which means that there is no help for them to live a useful and law-abiding life.
I have said again and again that there is a need for someone to be in charge, responsible and accountable. I have said for years that until and unless a businessman is appointed to be in charge of the overall direction and provision of work in prisons, nothing will happen.
I have spoken to two distinguished providers of work in prison: Mr James Timpson, who not only runs four academies but has taken on almost 200 ex-prisoners in his employment around the country, and Mr Edwin Lucas, who has been working in the recycling trade as well as providing work in prisons for years. I listened with horror to the frustrations that they have expressed about trying to deal with prisons where no one has a clue about how to deal in a business-like way. For example, a van will arrive with deliveries of materials to be used by prisoners only to be sent away because people say, “We do not accept vans until four o'clock in the afternoon. It is now 11 o'clock in the morning, and you will have to wait”. That is not how business works. People do not answer letters. Invoices are invariably late. People bring in pallets of material and are sent bills by prisons.
Until and unless there is proper oversight, run by businessmen, which includes trained people responsible for conducting business activities in each prison, nothing will happen. The present inefficiency of the system, where every governor is allowed to do his own thing, is telling against that, because the businessmen who are working with prisons tell me that probably only 20 of all the governors are capable of conducting the sort of activities that are needed. The others simply do not have the understanding or the ability to do it. There is no reason why they should. It should not be part of the requirement for a prison governor, who is there for another purpose.
In order to make the rehabilitation revolution work, I desperately want work to be provided. I know that a number of things could happen. For example, one of the best programmes in prison currently is Toe by Toe, where prisoners teach other prisoners to read. I seriously believe that in the prison population many skills are held by existing prisoners which could be put to good use in acting as trainers, and which are free and therefore will not act as a resource problem for the Prison Service. You get a double whammy, because the person doing the teaching gets as much out of the process as the person being taught.
For years, there has been an inhibitor on prison governors using their initiative to bring work in: grant in aid, which is required by the Treasury. Under that, a governor can declare that he will make a profit from an activity that he is to conduct, including prisoners making things. He declares that profit and, if he makes it, he is allowed to keep it and apply it within the prison. If he makes more, he has to surrender it to the Treasury. If he does not reach what he has said he will make, he has to provide it from his budget. For years, the impact of this has been that people have not been willing to risk making a loss and therefore they have not encouraged the uptake of work as much as they might have done.
The three additional aspects that I have suggested the Secretary of State should consider are all to do with the provision of work. The amendment would make certain that those contracted were properly overseen and that all the activities, both vocational and educational, carried qualifications of worth that could be used outside. As I said, I admit that this is prescriptive but I feel so strongly that this work ethic must be encouraged and enabled that I could not resist proposing the addition of these paragraphs to Clause 118. I beg to move.
My Lords, I support the amendment so eloquently introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham. From what he said, I got the sense that it is really a probing amendment and that he did not expect to receive much support for it. However, he made such a powerful case that I hope the Minister might be swayed to think again about some of these points. As we have already heard in this Committee, it is obvious that many people enter prison without the capacity to read and write, let alone to hold down a job when they come out on release. Therefore, examples such as the Toe by Toe programme should be mandatory. Indeed, it is a pity that the amendment has not specified that it should be a requirement on the Secretary of State.
We have no objection at all to what is being proposed. Indeed, we would regard its prescriptive nature as being of benefit in the sense of tying down, as the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, said, what is required of prisoners—that they should have a full, purposeful and active day, and that every prisoner should undertake something instead of staying in their cells so as to at least become engaged and appreciate what is necessary in order to succeed outside prison. It would therefore also reduce the level of reoffending.
There are some good examples of work with prisoners having been done by private employers. National Grid had a project at Reading in which I was involved in an earlier life, and I thought it was absolutely exemplary. It provided what seemed to be the critical path forward for those due to leave custodial sentences in the sense that it provided them with housing, jobs and training. It started before the prisoners left in order to bring their reading and writing up to speed, and it allowed them to learn a skill—in this case, fitting—which meant that they were able to operate as soon as they left. As I understand it, that programme is still going. The recidivism rate was very small indeed, so the programme was certainly worthy in that regard. It also had the advantage of satisfying a need on the part of employers—they had realised that they were not getting an adequate supply of people to do the necessary jobs, and they found that this programme provided a ready supply.
Therefore, there can be a win-win in what the Government and private enterprise are looking for. Indeed, one might say that it could apply to charities and public bodies and not just to private companies. However, the essential point of the amendment is that, if it is decided that there will be employment from such activities in prisons, it should be done properly so that those who benefit from it have skills and qualifications that are nationally recognised, and it should be done in all cases so that we have a better outcome from the prison element.
My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, I have had the opportunity to look at some organisations that have become involved in providing work for prisoners and, like him, I am impressed. It is encouraging that those who have taken the risk, as some may see it, of employing ex-prisoners, helping to train them, and doing work in prisons, find it a very fruitful experience.
Sometimes I think that the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, is a little hard on NOMS. I fully accept that it is obvious that the vast majority of the prison estate was not designed for operating work regimes. Many very competent prison governors and prison officers are not equipped to run businesses. That is a given, which makes the idea of work in prisons difficult but not impossible. One of the things that we have tried to do in the past 18 months is to tackle in a practical way the realities to which the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, referred. Several hundred organisations already provide work and training opportunities inside prisons, but many are small and want to do more to attract business.
We aim to provide a competitive package for business. We will make involvement as straightforward as possible and get the commercial model right for both prisons and the private sector, subject to our paramount interest in ensuring security, in line with our legal obligations. NOMS is developing new structures and putting in place the right people to operate in a businesslike way. That includes the recruitment of a new chief executive for the prison industries team within NOMS and a business development manager who will have responsibility for finding new businesses and managing relations with customers.
We are trying to address some of the issues raised by the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, and as of now around 9,000 prisoners are employed in prison industries, which my rough arithmetic makes it to be around 10 per cent, or perhaps just a little over of the prison population. It is clear that there is much to do, but there are great prizes if we can get this right. Clause 118 is central to our plan to achieve our aim to make prisons places of meaningful and productive work where prisoners make reparation. Ensuring that prisoners and those detained in young offender institutions or secure training centres have access to training and can obtain qualifications is important. The Government certainly recognise the importance of this area and agree with the intent behind the amendment.
Let me assure noble Lords that we are already doing much of what we aim to do. Through our desire to increase the amount of meaningful and productive work done in prisons, the Government will give many more offenders the chance to learn the discipline and skills of working. As study after study has shown, offending patterns diminish once employment has been found. However, it is not just through prison working that we aim to reduce reoffending. Experience of a proper working week will be augmented by ensuring that their work links them to the right opportunities to develop the skills necessary to their finding employment when they are released.
We plan to deliver learning bases on clusters of institutions that regularly transfer offenders between them. The learning and skills offer will focus on the needs of employers in the areas into which prisoners will be released, as well as on key issues, such as numerous, literacy and communication skills. Here again, I pay tribute to Toe by Toe, which is a marvellous way of tackling illiteracy—one of the problems that comes through time and again in offending. Decisions on the most appropriate learning and skills offer will be taken locally with the key aim of giving offenders the skills that they need to find and keep jobs and apprenticeships on release. There will be no one size fits all approach, nor should there be. Within this new framework we are retendering the offender learning and skills services—a process that gives the chance to look afresh at how to work with the best range of providers. As well as learning the necessary skills and having the right qualifications, many offenders have barriers to entering the labour market that must first be tackled.
As the Deputy Prime Minister announced in August 2011, from the summer of this year offenders leaving custody and claiming jobseeker’s allowance will have to engage with a work programme provider on release, who will be paid for getting them into work. As well as creating this “day one” service, we are bringing together the claiming of jobseeker’s allowance and the processing of benefits before release rather than after it, so prisoners should have a shorter wait for their first benefit payment, which will help their resettlement. In addition, any prison leaver who claims jobseeker’s allowance within 13 weeks of release will be mandated to the work programme from the point of claim. We will also test, in two work programme areas, the addition of a reducing reoffending payment as part of our payment by results approach, in which we will use a variety of methods in the pilot phase.
We recognise that equipping children under the school leaving age with the skills they will need to succeed in life is vital. There is already an expectation that they will be in education rather than paid work. The raising of the participation age will mean that from 2013 all young people, including those in custody, must continue in education or training until the age of 17, and until 18 from 2015. Young people in secure training centres and under-18 young offender institutions will have access to a full day of education and constructive activity. In secure training centres, young people participate in education or training for at least 25 hours per week. In the under-18 young offender institutions, each young person will receive at least 25 hours per week of education and other constructive activity.
We believe that the amendment is constructive but unnecessary. Section 47(1) of the Prison Act 1952 allows the Secretary of State to make rules concerning the regulation and management of prisons, young offender institutions and secure treatment centres, and the treatment of those required to be detained therein. Subsection (3) states:
“Rules … may provide for the training of particular classes of persons”.
Clause 118 will not change those aspects of the 1952 Act, which cover the same ground as Amendment 181A.
For adults detained in custody, the rule-making powers contained in the Prison Act are augmented by provisions in the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009, including a duty on the chief executive of Skills Funding to,
“secure the provision of reasonable facilities for education suitable to the requirements of persons who are subject to adult detention”,
and, in doing so, to take account of a range of factors such as facilities and equipment. In carrying out this duty, the chief executive must have regard to various matters, including the desirability of prisoners continuing the education or training that they have begun, and making the best use of resources.
I have listened often to—and have always welcomed—the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, championing the concept of making work, training and education a priority. They are the key to rehabilitation. I hope that what I have said has convinced him that, although we may not have achieved all that he desired, we are listening and trying as best we can to move in the direction that he advocates. For that reason, I hope that he will withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, I am very grateful to the Minister for the care that he put into his response, and in particular for his closing remarks. I am also very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, for his words. As I said, the purpose of the amendment is to encourage something that I very strongly support. I hope that the Minister will be able to assure me that the business manager whom he said would be appointed will be a businessman and not a civil servant from NOMS. I do not decry civil servants who do civil servants' jobs, but we need a businessman in there, and I hope that one will be appointed.
I also hope that one of the first things that the business manager will do is carry out an inquiry with the people who currently provide work in prisons and allow them to tell him frankly of the frustrations and problems that they currently experience when trying to take work into prisons. The person concerned would find that very illuminating. If they take action on those frustrations, many of which I am very happy to pass on to the Minister because I have some censuses here, they would find it much more possible to deliver precisely what the Minister says he wants. If that happens—and, knowing the Minister, I am sure that it will—I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 181A withdrawn.
Amendment 182 not moved.
Clause 118 agreed.
182ZA: After Clause 118, insert the following new Clause—
“Benefits payments to prisoners
(1) Regulations shall provide that a person undergoing imprisonment or detention in legal custody who, at the time that imprisonment or custody commences, is in receipt of any of the qualifying benefits, shall be assessed, during his or her time in imprisonment or custody, for eligibility for those benefits at the time of his or her imprisonment or custody.
(2) For the purposes of this section, the qualifying benefits are—
(a) universal credit;(b) jobseeker’s allowance;(c) income support;(d) personal independence payment, to the extent provided for in regulations made under section 84 (prisoners) of the Welfare reform Act 2012; and(e) any other benefits provided for in regulations made under this section.(3) Regulations made under this section shall provide that the assessment required under subsection (1) shall commence as soon as a person is received into imprisonment or custody.
(4) Regulations shall in particular provide that a person appointed by the Secretary of State shall record, at the time a person is received into imprisonment or custody, details of any qualifying benefits which are in payment at that time, together with any personal information needed to establish the person’s identity, including but not limited to their national insurance number.
(5) An assessment of eligibility under subsection (1) shall be completed in such time as to ensure that the person assessed receives payment of any benefits for which he is assessed as being eligible no later than one week after his release from imprisonment or custody.
(6) Regulations under this section shall be made by the Secretary of State and shall be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure.”
I am sorry to be hogging the Floor. This amendment refers to an amendment that I have already tabled to the Welfare Reform Bill, and to something that has been worrying me ever since 1996 when I first came across it. It refers to the fact that when prisoners are released from prison they are given a release grant of £46, on which they are expected to live until their benefit payments, which they have had to apply for on release from prison, come through. That can take up to three weeks, and I defy anyone to live for three weeks on £46. Some prisoners qualify for double payment if they are of no fixed abode, but this became a Catch-22 situation when tagging was introduced because, in order to qualify to be tagged, you had to produce an address—and if you produced an address, you got only £46.
During the passage of the Welfare Reform Bill, I suggested that it should be made the responsibility of the Department for Work and Pensions, using the jobcentre staff who are present in every prison, to process benefit claims during a sentence so that when prisoners leave, if they are entitled to benefits, they receive not a release grant but the first payment of the benefit so that the following week they get the next one and so on, so that financial planning can begin on the certainty of the benefit payment.
It should not be too difficult because when they come into prison a very large number of prisoners are already on one form of benefit or another, which has to be suspended during the sentence, so it is not a question of starting again but merely of resuming something already there. All the information necessary—the national insurance number and so on—is already held, so it should not be too difficult. I have never understood why first the Home Office and then the Ministry of Justice did not insist on that happening because they must be desperately worried at the very large number of people who reoffend very quickly on release, literally in order to survive because they cannot live on £46. In many ways, this system is merely setting people up to offend and reoffend, which is therefore avoidable.
During the passage of the Welfare Reform Bill, I talked with the Minister and with officials in the Department for Work and Pensions, who told me that they had gone as far as they could. They have set up a scheme for employment benefits to be processed in prisons, starting this year, so they are covered, but all the others—those for the disabled, the elderly, children and so on—are not covered, so there is still a gap. There is also a problem because, under the new system that the Welfare Reform Bill will introduce, payment is in arrears—in other words, a prisoner has to come out and be out for a period of up to a week in order to qualify for a payment in arrears—so there is still a gap. This gap has got to be filled.
I believe that this is something that the Ministry of Justice should take on and ask for help with from the Department for Work and Pensions, which it is willing to give. Again there is the danger of being prescriptive but, having been worried about this for so long, and being quite certain that the Minister will be the first to want to stop a totally avoidable cause of reoffending, I suggest that when somebody is received in prison a standard set of questions should be asked to establish the national insurance number and the benefits. Then everyone should be interviewed by the jobcentre staff so that everyone knows what has to be done, and plans should be made for release a long time before the release process starts, rather than leaving it until the last moment, as now.
As much as probing whether the Ministry of Justice will take on this issue, the amendment suggests that the Department for Work and Pensions is waiting to co-operate in any way it can to eliminate an avoidable source of reoffending, thereby indirectly helping with the various matters that the Government hope to bring about in their Green Paper and a reduction in the size of the prison population. I beg to move.
My Lords, as has been set out very clearly, the amendment seeks to ensure that anyone leaving custody gains swift access to the benefits to which they are entitled. We often think that coming out of prison is very positive, but it can be traumatic for people, particularly those with multiple needs. With no financial contingencies, these people usually rely on a benefits system that they experience as complicated, slow and unhelpful. In extremis, some return to crime, as the noble Lord said, because before they went into prison that was their proven source of income. Delays in accessing benefits can lead to financial hardship, stress and an increased risk of reoffending.
The Prison Reform Trust in its Time is Money report found that eight of 10 former prisoners claim benefits, so it is essential that we make sure the process of claiming is as simple and as hurdle-free as possible to give these post-custody people the best chance of staying away from crime.
One report on adults with multiple needs documented the problems that they faced on coming out of prison, including delays of up to four weeks before the first payment, with no explanation; problems with claims made before they went to prison that had to be resolved before any new claim could be made; claims delayed because of no fixed address, as has already been referred to, or other unstable living arrangements; disputes over prison admission and release dates; and problems caused by not closing down a claim on entry to prison, which results in a fraud investigation and the new claim being suspended.
We also know that a third of people in prison do not have a bank account. This makes the payment of a deposit for housing or early expenses even harder to organise on release. Help beforehand and immediate access to benefits are key if the person is not to feel the need to return to using other people's money just to survive.
The report also emphasises the need for help and advice while still in prison—even more so over the coming years as the benefit system will, for most prisoners, have changed phenomenally by the time they come out from what they saw and knew about when they went into prison. For all the advantages in the Welfare Reform Bill—and, despite the arguments that we will have on Tuesday about its disadvantages, there are undoubtedly some advantages in it—the system of social security facing prisoners on release will be very different from the one they knew before. That will affect their re-emergence into a household. The payment of the universal credit to only one partner in the couple and other complications will need to be sorted out in advance.
In addition, half of prisoners have debts awaiting clearing on release, according to one survey, and one in three owes money for housing, which also makes access to a new home even more difficult.
The Centre for Social Justice has also highlighted similar problems faced by people leaving custody. Its report, Locked Up Potential, recognised that delays in processing benefits mean that many people who are discharged have no source of income when they most urgently need it. The report concluded:
“To bridge the finance gap, with the objective of reducing the resulting crime which it can fuel, we recommend that all prison employment and benefit advisers be required by the … DWP and the MOJ to initiate core benefit applications at least three weeks prior to a prisoner’s nominated release date”.
Along with the noble Lord, we consider three weeks to be rather too short. Nevertheless, will the Minister let us know what discussions his department has had with the Department for Work and Pensions about responding to the recommendations in that report, thus ensuring that those leaving prison are not left with gaps and delays in accessing the financial support that may be essential to them for starting a new life?
I welcome the comments that the Minister made in response to the earlier amendment about access to the work programme. Undoubtedly, that is of great advantage to people coming out of prison. Access to advice on the whole new system of universal credit well before a prisoner’s release date, and preferably when they first go into prison, would be of great advantage to them and to the rest of us. We hope very much that the Minister will accept this amendment.
My Lords, it is very nice to see the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, at the other side of the Dispatch Box. I presume that she is on the night shift. The noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, is correct. We recognise a certain familiarity about the amendment from another Bill but it is none the worse for that. The reality is that the MoJ and the Department for Work and Pensions are in close contact on these issues and are trying to work through them.
I am reminded of a visit I made to a Turning Point project in Birmingham when I talked to a young man who was being helped and trained. He said, “You can’t imagine the cold feeling in the pit of your stomach on your day of release”. The noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, indicated that there is a broad consensus that one of the trigger points for reoffending is problems in resettling in the community on release. It is also true that some face problems in accessing benefits. In addition, we should do more to equip offenders to work, enabling more of them to be productive members of society on release and not a burden on the state, which was the subject of our earlier debate.
The National Offender Management Service is working to develop financial capability in custody by increasing access to money advice services. A number of prisons also commission financial advice from local CABs and through contracted housing advice services. We also encourage rent arrear repayment schemes. NOMS has also granted funds to Unlock, of which the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, is president, to increase offender access to financial services. I was very pleased to attend and to speak at the launch of a handbook produced by Unlock to help prisoners with financial issues. We recognise that more work needs to be done to encourage prisoners to save towards their discharge across the estate and to make use of the IT available, which would support them in preparing for release.
More than half of those sentenced to custody are claiming benefits at the start of their prison sentence, and two years after release nearly half are still claiming out-of-work benefits. That is why we are working so closely with the Department for Work and Pensions to overcome the gap in access to benefits, which the noble Lord has outlined, and to ensure that our plans to get Britain working will get more offenders into jobs. However, I do not believe that the noble Lord’s amendment will assist in achieving these aims. It would require us to conduct unnecessary assessments for all prisoners. This is because the work done on entering prison is highly likely to need updating as the sentence continues. At this time of fiscal constraint, it is vital that we look extremely carefully at how resources are targeted.
Staff working in prisons already take relevant steps when someone comes into custody to help sort out their benefits. New prisoners are specifically asked about this at induction and are referred to one of the 140 Jobcentre Plus employment and benefit advisers currently working in prisons. However, support does not end there, as we also recognise that release from prison into the community is a key transition point in the journey from crime to rehabilitation. Prison staff and employment and benefit advisers also take steps to help individuals make an application for a community care grant, usually about six weeks prior to discharge, so that payment can be forwarded to the prison and made available on release. They will also help in explaining how an individual can apply for a crisis loan on release.
I am not so much the night shift as the Welfare Reform Bill shift. Of course, the grants that the noble Lord has just referred to are to be abolished. I trust that prisoners will be aware that they will no longer be available because the Welfare Reform Bill abolishes them.
Yes, but not instantly, and there will be a transition to the new scheme that I will explain shortly. It is unfair, if the noble Baroness sat through the Welfare Reform Bill, to start brandishing her knowledge at this time of night!
All this activity is aimed at ensuring that ex-prisoners can access advice on employment and benefits. It is backed by the new NOMS specification for rehabilitation services which requires, as a minimum standard, that prisoners are supported to sort out their financial problems.
As I mentioned earlier, during the debate on the noble Lord’s amendment on employment and training in prisons, we are working to overcome the remaining barriers as part of the Government’s welfare reforms. This includes our plans to use the work programme as the primary vehicle for help and support, whereby all prison leavers who claim jobseeker’s allowance will enter the work programme from day one of release from prison. This means some 30,000 prisoners a year will claim jobseeker’s allowance and start the work programme on release from prison or within the following 13 weeks.
These changes will also mean that instead of arranging an appointment for the prison leaver to attend and claim jobseeker’s allowance on release, the claim for jobseeker’s allowance will be taken in prison, to start entitlement immediately on release, allowing mandatory referral to the work programme. We will also continue to work with the DWP, Jobcentre Plus and other agencies, including in the voluntary sector, to ensure that prisoners have all necessary information about claiming benefits on release, and in pursuing programmes that prevent reoffending.
The noble Lord has specifically raised concerns about what will happen in the case of ex-prisoners who are not seeking work. As the noble Lord, Lord Freud, also explained in the debate that touched on this issue, we are aiming to address the finance gap through our plans for universal credit payments, which are paid monthly in arrears. Under the proposals, an applicant, on leaving prison and with a valid claim, can be paid their claim immediately through payment on account. I think this will strike the right balance, in ensuring that ex-prisoners can access their benefits quickly through payment on account, and that our resources are primarily focused on getting more offenders into work.
I hope with those explanations that the noble Lord will be reassured to the point that he will withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, knows that I cede to no one in my admiration for him. He demonstrates that he understands the problem, and I am sure that he understands it much better than I do—I am a complete amateur in these matters. I found his argument very telling, particularly the £46 Catch-22. I also found the statement by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, very telling.
I have the impression that the Minister recognises there is a problem. He is describing various means which are already in hand of perhaps reducing the scale of the problem, and that is good. However, what is wrong with accepting the amendment? If the means of amelioration which the Minister has described reduce the need to impose a deadline—I take it that the nub of my noble friend Lord Ramsbotham’s amendment is in subsection (5), with the one-week deadline—and mean that it would bite in fewer cases, that would be excellent. But would it not be good to have this provision anyway? I hope that the noble Lord will think further about the amendment because the arguments he has made are not arguments against it. He has made the argument that the scale of the problem which the amendment seeks to deal with may turn out, because of what the Government are doing or are planning to do, to be smaller than it was in the past. I accept that because it could well be true. However, that would still leave the core of a problem which the amendment would deal with. I hope that this matter will not be put away for ever.
My Lords, if the noble Lord was the head of a department of state he would not be advising me to accept the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, with such alacrity. However, I take the point. At the beginning of my remarks I made the point that we are now in close discussions with the Department for Work and Pensions in what we hope will be a genuine exercise in joined-up government. I remember one of the first experiences I had when I took over this office—and I should say that I am not the prisons Minister; my honourable friend Crispin Blunt is the Minister, and he has addressed these problems with great energy and commitment, but because of my responsibilities in this House I take an interest in this area. At any rate, I was reading in what was the strangest of all places, the Daily Telegraph, an article about a young man being released from prison with £46 in his pocket, but with a cold feeling in the pit of his stomach. The article went through the 48 hours after his release, by which time he was using that money to buy drugs and was back with the gang he had been associated with and which had sent him to prison in the first place. So we are not unaware of the problem.
I have said before that there is a revolving door of crime which sometimes our treatment of prisoners only exacerbates. What we are doing, in what I hope is a non-ideological way—I know about the fierce debates on the welfare Bill, but the noble Baroness was kind enough to comment that there are aspects of the reforms that are genuinely useful—is to see if we can stitch those reforms into our prisons. That will go a long way towards addressing the problems raised by the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham. As I have already indicated, I do listen to what he says and I will take back his ideas to see where they can mesh in with what we are trying to do with the DWP and the various initiatives that NOMS has taken.
I thank the noble Lord for giving way. He has been talking with a great deal of sensitivity and imagination in response to this amendment and I am encouraged and reassured by that. He seems to have a real grasp of the realities. I hope that he will be able to deal with a couple of points. He talked about a young man with a cold feeling in the pit of his stomach. I have encountered too many conversations of exactly that character. I remember something that I think I may have mentioned in the House before. A former chief constable was doing great work as a volunteer in a young offender institution, but he was bowled over when a youngster who was about to be released started to weep in his presence. He asked him, “Why are you weeping? You are about to be released”. The youngster said, “Because I am absolutely scared of what I am going to encounter outside”.
There are two things that we must bear in mind: first, that for some people—not, of course, the majority, but some—perhaps the very last thing they need is to go straight into a job. They need a great deal of support and counselling to prepare them. Front-line staff in prisons working with these youngsters often make that point. Secondly, agencies, advice and everything else are tremendous—what the Minister has been saying is terrific; the more of it that is available, the better—but it is not just that. What so often is needed in the context of the cold hole in the stomach is stable relationships and friendship. I hope that the Minister can give us reassurance that, in all the work that the Government are doing with the voluntary sector, they will give every encouragement to those voluntary organisations that are moving into this sphere and trying to provide a stable relationship—as it were, walking with the individual back into full rehabilitation into society.
Part of the problem with this debate is that we cover two areas, which we were discussing earlier. First, there are dangerous people from whom society needs protection, and we have to deal with them within our criminal justice system. Secondly, you do not need to be in this job very long, or to visit very many prisons, to realise that there are people in our prisons who have no place there and who, with a proper policy of rehabilitation in its broadest sense, can be stopped from reoffending. We are really fighting on those two fronts.
On whether there should be a glide path into work, perhaps that is where we can get the work-in-prison regimes working properly. That in itself can help in that direction. The other thing that I am also very enthusiastic about and would like to see developed, and where the voluntary sector is superbly equipped to help, is mentoring schemes, and finding people who are willing to act as mentors. That could have a powerful effect. I do not think that there is division in the Committee on that. We are trying the perhaps revolutionary idea of joined-up government in making sure that the move from prison to a proper, productive, law-abiding life is not aborted at those first steps through the prison gates because of lack of basic support.
Perhaps the Minister would use joined-up government to do one other thing. I mentioned when I intervened just now that the Social Fund was going to be abolished and that both grants and loans would become the responsibility of local authorities. The DWP has undertaken to issue a “settlement letter” about it to local authorities. One of the areas that we were worried about with regard to the Welfare Reform Bill was that a person would have to have a local connection to be able to claim either their replacement for social care grants or crisis loans. It is exactly ex-offenders who are least likely to be able to qualify because they may not have ties with the place that they go back to. It would be extremely helpful if the Minister could in discussions with the DWP stress the importance of that settlement letter making it clear that ex-offenders should be eligible for those payments even if they go to a local authority area where they have not just moved from because they are coming out of prison. His help on that would be greatly appreciated.
My Lords, I was very glad that the night shift had started so that the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, with her great experience of these issues, was here to contribute to the debate. I am very grateful to my noble friend Lord Kerr and to the noble Lord, Lord Judd, for their contributions. They added value to the debate.
I am extremely grateful to the Minister, who demonstrated, as has been mentioned, that he understands the problem. Yet, in 1996 I first received an official pat on the head from an official in the Home Office who said, “Do not worry, we are talking to the Department of Employment about this”. Absolutely nothing has happened about it and that was more than 15 years ago. In the run up to putting my amendments to the Welfare Reform Bill, I questioned officials in the Department for Work and Pensions who were not aware of any people in the Ministry of Justice involved in such discussions. I am glad that that is happening. It would be sensible to bring this amendment back on Report so that the Minister can tell us precisely what has happened since that time. I know that the Department for Work and Pensions is poised and waiting. The suggestions that I made to the Minister were requests from that department that would help it to help the Ministry of Justice. Hoping that that will happen, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 182ZA withdrawn.
Clause 119 agreed.
Clause 120 : Transit of prisoners
182ZB: Clause 120, page 101, line 9, at end insert—
“(2A) The relevant Minister may issue a transit order where—
(a) international arrangements apply to any of the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man which provide for the transfer between that island and a country or territory outside the British Islands of persons to whom subsection (2B) applies; and(b) the relevant Minister has received a request from the appropriate authority of that island for the transit of a person to whom subsection (2B) applies through a part of Great Britain.(2B) A person falls within this subsection if—
(a) that person is for the time being required to be detained in a prison, a hospital or any other institution either—(i) by virtue of an order made in the course of the exercise of its criminal jurisdiction by a court or tribunal in the island from which the transit request is made; or(ii) by virtue of any provisions of the law of that island which are similar to any of the provisions of this Act; and(b) except in a case where a transit request is made in the circumstances described in section 6D(1), that person is present in that island.”
My Lords, I cannot resist commenting on the last point made by the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham. He is such an old Whitehall warrior that he is always between one department and another, asking, “What are the difficult questions that I can ask them?”.
Clause 120 provides that prisoners who are being transferred under escort from one state to another for the purpose of serving a sentence of imprisonment may transit through the territory of Great Britain. Transit will normally involve a prisoner and escort changing aircraft at an appropriate UK international airport. The clause is required to enable the UK to fulfil its international obligations under existing and future prisoner transfer arrangements. Following discussions with the authorities of the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, it has become clear that further powers are necessary to enable escorts from these territories to transit through Great Britain when transferring a prisoner to another state. This group of amendments address that particular issue with the Crown dependencies. They have no other, wider or ulterior motives, despite talking about transiting through territories et cetera. They are to enable the Crown dependencies—the Channel Islands and the Island of Man—to participate in what are already international obligations. I beg to move.
My Lords, I am deeply sad that my appearance before the witching hour did not receive the approbation of the Minister, who did not welcome me to the Front Bench with my comments. I make no further comment on that. I also make it absolutely clear that the comments which follow have not been solicited by me creeping around Whitehall. The noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, has gone, but I will obviously take lessons from him about how to do that in future. He concealed his briefing very well to the end. Perhaps he should have done so until after the Minister responded.
The Minister is right. The wording of these amendments looks pretty innocuous on the surface but we wonder why they are there. I have five questions to leave with the Minister. He said that these were necessary to fulfil international obligations. That of course raises in one’s mind the words “extraordinary rendition”. Could he reassure the Committee that, as he said at the end, there is nothing that one should be worried about in that? Clearly, we are worried about extraordinary rendition. Is this a part of that overall process and, if not, could he explain precisely why the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man need to have this legislation at this time? I am sure that there is an innocuous explanation, but we would be grateful to have that. Perhaps in answering that he could also say what he estimates the effect will be of the provision. I cannot imagine that many international flights carrying prisoners and escorts, or without escorts, land in the Channel Islands and require this sort of arrangement; so it would be interesting to have the figures and, if he does not have them to hand, perhaps he could write to me.
Since we are on extraordinary rendition, which has been a sensitive issue for some time, perhaps the Minister could use the opportunity to refresh our memories about where we are on this. Is it still the case that the UK will not undertake extraordinary rendition of detainees in a manner that may be illegal? Confirmation of that would be gratefully received.
On the last point, of course I can give that guarantee. I very much welcome the noble Lord as part of the nightshift. I apologise for the omission during his earlier contributions.
The Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey are not part of the United Kingdom; they are Crown dependencies. Whether it was an oversight or not, I do not know, but this just clears things up so that they can operate through UK airports if that was needed. I understand that there have been two or three cases in the past three or four years, so this is not some mass movement of people. They are applications on a voluntary basis, with people wanting to be repatriated back to their own country, and for prisoner exchange purposes.
It may help if I speak to Clause 120. The clause would enable prisoners who are being transferred from one state to another for the purpose of serving a sentence of imprisonment to transit through the territory of Great Britain. Transit will normally involve a prisoner and escort changing aircraft at an appropriate UK international airport. It is required to enable the UK to fulfil its international obligations under existing and future prisoner transfer arrangements. The United Kingdom is party to a number of international prisoner transfer arrangements which require the United Kingdom to facilitate transit wherever possible. In the absence of a specific power to authorise transit, and where necessary to detain a prisoner during transit, applications have been routinely refused.
Clause 120 will enable the relevant Minister to authorise transit through the territory of Great Britain where a request is made in accordance with a relevant international prisoner transfer agreement to which the UK is party—in particular the Council of Europe’s framework decision which requires a member state to facilitate transit between member states when requested. It also provides a power for the police to detain a prisoner in transit only for a period necessary to complete the transit.
The Government fully support the principle that foreign national prisoners should be able to serve their sentences in their own country and we need to support partner jurisdictions in achieving this end. For this system to work effectively, Governments must to co-operate with each other in facilitating transfer. Indeed, the UK regularly seeks and obtains permission to transit through other countries when returning British nationals here.
I recognise that concerns have been raised about the rights and protection of individuals subject to transit, but I remind the House that only when a person has been convicted and sentenced by a court of law and when that person is being transferred for the sole purpose of the enforcement of that sentence in another country would transit through the UK take place. The prisoner concerned is unlikely to have any connection with the United Kingdom and any challenge to the prisoner’s transfer and detention should be made either to the sentencing or receiving state, not the United Kingdom.
This is a technical amendment and has none of the sinister implications that might have arisen at first blush. I hope that the assurances that I gave at the beginning to the noble Lord’s questions will satisfy him.
Amendment 182ZB agreed.
Amendments 182ZC to 182ZF
182ZC: Clause 120, page 101, line 10, after “(2)(a)” insert “or (2B)(a)”
182ZD: Clause 120, page 101, line 14, after “(1)(b)” insert “or (2A)(b)”
182ZE: Clause 120, page 101, line 23, at end insert “or (2A)(b)”
182ZF: Clause 120, page 103, line 25, after “6A(2)(a)” insert “or (2B)(a)”
Amendments 182ZC to 182ZF agreed.
Debate on whether Clause 120, as amended, should stand part of the Bill.
My Lords, I do not intend to detain the Committee long on this. This was not so much a probing matter as a sort of defensive one, in case the answers to the questions on the previous group of amendments proved in any way suspicious or raised questions about extraordinary rendition. I think I got it, although I found it a bit confusing as sometimes we were in Great Britain and sometimes we were in the United Kingdom. I will read Hansard very carefully. If there were any other points I am sure we can sort them out but, on that basis, we will not press this.
Clause 120, as amended, agreed.
House adjourned at 6.36 pm.