Motion on Amendments 1 and 2
1: Before Clause 37, insert the following new Clause—
“Exemption from civil liability for money-laundering disclosures
In section 338 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (money laundering: authorised disclosures), after subsection (4) insert—
“(4A) Where an authorised disclosure is made in good faith, no civil liability arises in respect of the disclosure on the part of the person by or on whose behalf it is made.””
2: Clause 64, page 52, line 32, at end insert—
“( ) An application to a sheriff for an order under section 59, 60, 62 or 63 must be made by summary application.”
My Lords, I shall also speak to Commons Amendments 24, 25, 35, 36 and 37. This first group of Commons amendments principally makes two further changes to the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.
Part 7 of the Proceeds of Crime Act places obligations on the “regulated sector”, such as banks and accountants, to submit suspicious activity reports to the National Crime Agency, where the reporter has suspicions that a transaction might be linked to money-laundering or the financing of terrorism. This part of the Proceeds of Crime Act provides for a category of suspicious activity reports, called consent SARs. Where there are reasonable grounds to suspect that a transaction might be related to money-laundering, the reporter may seek the consent of the National Crime Agency to proceed with the transaction to avail themselves of some defence against a money-laundering charge. Some 14,000 consent SARs are submitted each year.
The National Crime Agency has seven working days to respond to a consent SAR. If consent is refused, the National Crime Agency has a further 31 calendar days to investigate the transaction. While the reporter awaits the NCA’s decision on consent, the activity or transaction must not proceed. The process can therefore unavoidably hold up the financial transaction in question. The consequences for a customer whose request or transaction is so delayed may go beyond mere inconvenience and lead to financial loss. A customer who has suffered such loss may seek to take legal action against a bank or other institution to recover any losses or otherwise to make a claim for damages. While the Government recognise the concerns of customers, we believe that where an institution has suspicions regarding the transaction and reports those to law enforcement authorities in good faith, as the law requires it to do, that institution should not be liable for civil claims for damages.
The UK is obliged, under Article 26 of the EU’s third anti money-laundering directive, to provide protection to those who report suspicions of money-laundering in good faith from incurring civil liability for doing so. The common law currently affords such protection through the Court of Appeal ruling in the case of Shah, which held that while customers can require institutions to prove that the suspicion that gave rise to the SAR was reasonable, provided the suspicion is so proved, the institution cannot be held liable for loss suffered by the customer as a consequence of the institution’s failure to carry out promptly the customer’s instructions.
We believe that placing this civil immunity on a statutory footing will provide for greater legal certainty. Commons Amendment 1 is directed to that end. That immunity from civil proceedings will apply only where a suspicious activity report is submitted in good faith, and those in the regulated sector responsible for submitting such reports will continue to be liable for any negligent or malicious conduct. We will work with the National Crime Agency and the Financial Conduct Authority to ensure that the change to the law does not lead to an abuse of the process. We believe that this amendment to the Proceeds of Crime Act will strengthen the partnerships we have built with the regulated sector and will increase the regulated sector’s trust and confidence in the SAR regime.
Commons Amendments 35 to 37 give effect to a recommendation made by the Joint Committee on Human Rights in its report on the Bill. The Commons amendments would in turn amend the Proceeds of Crime Act to give statutory force to the 2012 Supreme Court judgment in the case of Waya. The Supreme Court ruling and these amendments relate to the making of a confiscation order following a criminal conviction. If the prosecutor applies to the Crown Court for a confiscation order, the court has to consider making such an order—it has no discretion. In its consideration, the Crown Court sets a value for payment on the confiscation order at what is termed as the “recoverable amount”.
The Supreme Court ruled in the case of Waya that the duty on the Crown Court to make a confiscation order should be qualified so that it did not apply where such an order would be contrary to the defendant’s right to the peaceful enjoyment of his or her property, as enshrined in Article 1 of Protocol 1 to the European Convention on Human Rights. I stress that that does not mean that a confiscation order should not be made in such cases. The Supreme Court was saying that the amount for which a confiscation order is made must be proportionate in light of the circumstances of a case. It is possible that a court may decide not to make a confiscation order, but we believe that that would be highly unlikely. The Crown Court would most likely decide to set an amount to pay at less than the full recoverable amount.
The current situation is, of course, that the Crown Court is bound by the judgment of the Supreme Court as the superior court. The Crown Court should be, and is, already applying the findings in Waya to confiscation cases before it. However, we wish to make the obligation on the Crown Court explicit and ensure its consistent application. As I have said, that accords with the conclusion of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, which said that,
“the Bill provides an opportunity to bring greater legal certainty to the legal regime governing the proceeds of crime by inserting into the statutory framework express language which would give clear effect to the judgment of the Supreme Court in Waya”.
Commons Amendments 24 and 25 make consequential amendments to the commencement clause.
Finally, Commons Amendment 2 makes a technical change to Part 4 of the Bill, which provides for the seizure and forfeiture of substances used as drug-cutting agents. Clauses 59, 60, 62 and 63 provide for applications in respect of various matters—for example, the continued retention of suspected drug-cutting agents—to be made to the appropriate court. In Scotland, such applications will be made to the sheriff. Commons Amendment 2 provides that in Scotland those applications must be made by way of summary application, as distinct from other forms of application, such as an initial writ or small claim. I beg to move.
Motion on Amendments 3 and 4
3: After Clause 65, insert the following new Clause—
“Sexual communication with a child
After section 15 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 insert—
“15A Sexual communication with a child
(1) A person aged 18 or over (A) commits an offence if—
(a) for the purpose of obtaining sexual gratification, A intentionally communicates with another person (B),
(b) the communication is sexual or is intended to encourage B to make (whether to A or to another) a communication that is sexual, and
(c) B is under 16 and A does not reasonably believe that B is 16 or over.
(2) For the purposes of this section, a communication is sexual if— (a) any part of it relates to sexual activity, or
(b) a reasonable person would, in all the circumstances but regardless of any person’s purpose, consider any part of the communication to be sexual;
and in paragraph (a) “sexual activity” means an activity that a reasonable person would, in all the circumstances but regardless of any person’s purpose, consider to be sexual.
(3) A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable—
(a) on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or a fine or both;
(b) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years.””
4: After Clause 65, insert the following new Clause—
“Child sexual exploitation
(1) The Sexual Offences Act 2003 is amended as set out in subsections (2) to (6). (2) For the heading before section 47 substitute “Sexual exploitation of children”.
(3) In section 48 (headed “Causing or inciting child prostitution or pornography”)—
(a) in the heading, for “child prostitution or pornography” substitute “sexual exploitation of a child”;
(b) in subsection (1)(a), for “to become a prostitute, or to be involved in pornography,” substitute “to be sexually exploited”.
(4) In section 49 (headed “Controlling a child prostitute or a child involved in pornography”)—
(a) in the heading, for “prostitute or a child involved in pornography” substitute “in relation to sexual exploitation”;
(b) in subsection (1)(a), for “prostitution or involvement in pornography” substitute “sexual exploitation”.
(5) In section 50 (headed “Arranging or facilitating child prostitution or pornography”)—
(a) in the heading, for “child prostitution or pornography” substitute
“sexual exploitation of a child”;
(b) in subsection (1)(a), for “prostitution or involvement in pornography” substitute “sexual exploitation”.
(6) In section 51 (interpretation of sections 48 to 50)— (a) omit subsection (1);
(b) for subsection (2) substitute—
“(2) For the purposes of sections 48 to 50, a person (B) is sexually exploited if—
(a) on at least one occasion and whether or not compelled to do so, B offers or provides sexual services to another person in return for payment or a promise of payment to B or a third person, or
(b) an indecent image of B is recorded;
and “sexual exploitation” is to be interpreted accordingly.”
(7) In section 1 of the Street Offences Act 1959 (loitering or soliciting for purposes of prostitution), in subsection (1), after “person” insert “aged 18 or over”.”
My Lords, I shall also speak to Commons Amendments 13, 15, 19, 33, 38, 40 to 48 and 52. Commons Amendment 3 responds to an amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, on Report and again at Third Reading. As the House will recall, the noble Lord and the NSPCC were concerned that there might be a gap in the law whereby an adult could communicate with a child for a sexual purpose without fear of prosecution. We responded by bringing forward a new offence to deal specifically with those concerns. I pay tribute to the work of the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, in working with the NSPCC to bring forward these changes, which we recognise as being important amendments to the Bill.
The new clause inserted by Commons Amendment 3 therefore creates a new offence which criminalises a person aged 18 or over who communicates with a child under 16, who the adult does not reasonably believe to be 16 or over, if the communication is sexual or if it is intended to elicit from the child a communication which is sexual. The offence will be committed whether or not the child communicates with the adult.
The offence will apply only where the defendant can be shown to have acted for the purposes of obtaining sexual gratification. Ordinary social or educational inter- actions between children and adults or communications between young people themselves will not be caught by the offence, and it is certainly not our intention to discourage the discussion of sexual matters in the context of such everyday relationships. The offence, which will apply equally online and offline, will be subject to a two-year maximum prison sentence. The new offence will extend to England and Wales.
Commons Amendments 15, 19, 41, 44 and 47 are consequential on Amendment 3. Importantly, Commons Amendment 43 provides that the new offence will automatically attract the notification requirements for registered sex offenders under the Sexual Offences Act 2003. The Police and the Crown Prosecution Service have welcomed the new offence and agree that it will help to ensure that young people are fully protected by the law and will allow the authorities to intervene earlier to prevent more serious forms of offending—for example, sexual grooming and contact offending—against children. The NSPCC has also strongly welcomed the new offence.
Commons Amendment 4 seeks to update the language used to describe child sexual exploitation offences in Sections 48 to 51 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003. In Committee in the Commons, Ann Coffey MP made a compelling case to remove from the statute book references to child prostitution and to limit the scope of the offence of loitering or soliciting for the purposes of prostitution so that it applies only to adults. Commons Amendment 4 gives effect to these changes.
This Government are clear that children who are sexually exploited, whether for financial gain or other reasons, should not be referred to as prostitutes and should be recognised as victims. The Government agree that such language is outdated and anachronistic. This Government believe that it is extremely important to convey the right messages about the treatment of children and young people who may be exploited or are at risk of exploitation. It is vital that any legislation relating to prostitution should recognise that children who have been subjected to sexual abuse or exploitation are, first and foremost, victims. They should not be stigmatised by legislation which treats them as perpetrators of crime or prostitutes.
This is also an opportunity to remove statutory references to child pornography where they exist and where, for similar reasons, children should always be seen as victims. Subsections (1) to (6) in Commons Amendment 4 make the necessary amendments to the 2003 Act. Commons Amendments 38, 42, 45 to 48 and 52 make the necessary consequential amendments to other enactments.
In addition to amendments to the Sexual Offences Act 2003, the Government are also of the view that we should, in the same spirit, amend Section 1 of the Street Offences Act 1959 so that the offence of loitering or soliciting for the purposes of prostitution would apply only to adults. This is the effect of subsection (7) in Commons Amendment 4 and the associated consequential Amendment 33. Unlike the amendments to the 2003 Act, an amendment to Section 1 of the 1959 Act would have a material impact in terms of criminality and enforcement. It would, in effect, decriminalise under-18s selling sex in the street. When considering this change it must be noted that, in practice, children and young persons under 18 are rarely arrested for loitering or soliciting. The Government consulted with the police on the impact of this amendment on their ability to protect children from sexual exploitation, and they welcomed the change. I am clear that this change is fully in keeping with the Government’s approach of treating children as victims, and preventing any suggestion that they may be complicit in their sexual abuse or exploitation.
I hope that the House will welcome the proposed changes in Commons Amendment 4. By introducing these changes we will make further strides in permanently shifting attitudes towards victims of child sexual abuse and exploitation. I commend these amendments to the House.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for his explanation of these amendments. It is helpful and we certainly welcome them. I am also grateful to him for recognising the persistence of my noble friend Lord Harris of Haringey on this matter. When he first raised the issue the Government were initially reluctant to take it on board not because they were not supportive of what he was trying to do, which was to think differently around these issues with the child as a victim. Even though the child might be engaged in sending sexually explicit messages or photographs, the child was still the victim. I referred at the time to a case that I was aware of whereby an older man was pretending to be a 14 year- old girl in order to get a real 14 year-old girl to send messages and photographs of herself quite willingly. But she was clearly a victim and was being exploited. We are grateful to my noble friend for his persistence and to the Government for taking this issue on board.
We also welcome the change in the language of the legislation by removing references to child prostitution and child pornography. Both are child abuse. Children cannot agree to be prostitutes. If money is changing hands, it is because they are victims. This shows how thinking has moved on. The noble Lord may not recall but, during the debates on the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill, I proposed amendments brought to me by the Police and Crime Commissioner for Greater Manchester, Tony Lloyd, about being able to close down premises being used for child grooming. The response from the Government Minister at that time, Norman Baker, was that the prostitution laws should be used. However, of course, those laws could not be used because the children were not prostitutes. Even though they may have been receiving some kind of payment at the time, it was clear that they were victims.
The only concern I would raise is on the language in subsection (2) of the new clause proposed in Amendment 4. Perhaps further progress is to be made. In the other place we proposed amending the reference to,
“offers or provides sexual services to another person in return for payment or a promise of payment”.
That talked in the old-fashioned language and we tried to move on by including,
“prepares to engage in, or engages in, sexual activity with”,
rather than “provides … for payment”. However, welcome as that change would have been, it does not detract from the fact that the Government are ensuring that that is an offence and recognise it as exploitation and abuse.
We welcome these amendments, which are a step forward. I know that my noble friend Lord Harris would join us in welcoming the support from the Government for his proposals.
My Lords, I briefly want to say that this is a real sea-change in attitude. I am delighted to hear the Opposition Front Bench because I have, in the past, argued with Ministers on other Benches who could not see the point of changing the word “prostitution” because they said that a crime was still being committed. Everyone now has understood that the language changes the attitude to the child and we are now really seeing children as victims. I am enormously grateful for this sea-change. It will change the way in which young people and children are dealt with. We know that the police have had a huge change in attitude in the way in which they work with these young people. The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Children, which looked at working with the police, heard from them on numerous occasions how helpful it would be if we perceived children as victims and no longer as perpetrators of crimes in this sexual area. I am immensely grateful to the Government for this work.
My Lords, I welcome the Government’s move in this direction whereby children are regarded as victims. We all know that a 14 year-old can be manipulative, but the important point about these amendments is that they put the onus on the adult not to transgress. In other words, they must make sure that they are not committing a crime and I am sure that this is what the Government wish to see. Putting the onus on to adults who get into correspondence with children is an extremely good move.
My Lords, I am very grateful for the contributions made in this short debate, particularly those made by the noble Baroness, Lady Smith. She is right about what is happening here. In some ways, the language needs to catch up with the change in attitudes in society, as was said by the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth. We need to do that catching up, but the law also needs to catch up with the technology, as was pointed out by the noble Baroness. We talk about this applying equally online and offline, because sadly we know that more often than not the engagements of these communications have been in an online community, where the perpetrator is not visible. It is therefore absolutely right, as was said by the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, that we should ensure that responsibility rests with the person who is making that initial contact.
The noble Baroness, Lady Smith, questioned the use of the term,
“offers or provides sexual services”,
in Commons Amendment 4. I have some sympathy with the comments she made, but in amending the Sexual Offences Act we sought to avoid changing the ambit of the relevant offences. The existing wording achieves this objective. I should stress that the wording,
“offers or provides sexual services”,
is used to define the term “sexually exploited” and should be read in that context. With those reassurances, and appreciative of that welcome, I beg to move.
Motion on Amendments 5 and 6
5: After Clause 70, insert the following new Clause—
“Duty to notify police of female genital mutilation
After section 5A of the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 (inserted by section 70 above) insert—
“5B Duty to notify police of female genital mutilation
(1) A person who works in a regulated profession in England and Wales must make a notification under this section (an “FGM notification”) if, in the course of his or her work in the profession, the person discovers that an act of female genital mutilation appears to have been carried out on a girl who is aged under 18.
(2) For the purposes of this section—
(a) a person works in a “regulated profession” if the person is— (i) a healthcare professional,
(ii) a teacher, or
(iii) a social care worker in Wales;
(b) a person “discovers” that an act of female genital mutilation appears to have been carried out on a girl in either of the following two cases.
(3) The first case is where the girl informs the person that an act of female genital mutilation (however described) has been carried out on her.
(4) The second case is where—
(a) the person observes physical signs on the girl appearing to show that an act of female genital mutilation has been carried out on her, and
(b) the person has no reason to believe that the act was, or was part of, a surgical operation within section 1(2)(a) or (b).
(5) An FGM notification—
(a) is to be made to the chief officer of police for the area in which the girl resides;
(b) must identify the girl and explain why the notification is made;
(c) must be made before the end of one month from the time when the person making the notification first discovers that an act of female genital mutilation appears to have been carried out on the girl;
(d) may be made orally or in writing.
(6) The duty of a person working in a particular regulated profession to make an FGM notification does not apply if the person has reason to believe that another person working in that profession has previously made an FGM notification in connection with the same act of female genital mutilation.
For this purpose, all persons falling within subsection (2)(a)(i) are to be treated as working in the same regulated profession.
(7) A disclosure made in an FGM notification does not breach—
(a) any obligation of confidence owed by the person making the disclosure, or
(b) any other restriction on the disclosure of information.
(8) The Secretary of State may by regulations amend this section for the purpose of adding, removing or otherwise altering the descriptions of persons regarded as working in a “regulated profession” for the purposes of this section.
(9) The power to make regulations under this section— (a) is exercisable by statutory instrument;
(b) includes power to make consequential, transitional, transitory or saving provision.
(10) A statutory instrument containing regulations under this section is not to be made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament.
(11) In this section—
“act of female genital mutilation” means an act of a kind mentioned in section 1(1);
“healthcare professional” means a person registered with any of the regulatory bodies mentioned in section 25(3) of the National Health Service Reform and Health Care Professions Act 2002 (bodies within remit of the Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care);
“registered”, in relation to a regulatory body, means registered in a register that the body maintains by virtue of any enactment;
“social care worker” means a person registered in a register maintained by the Care Council for Wales under section 56 of the Care Standards Act 2000;
(a) in relation to England, a person within section
141A(1) of the Education Act 2002 (persons employed or engaged to carry out teaching work at schools and other institutions in England);
(b) in relation to Wales, a person who falls within a category listed in the table in paragraph 1 of Schedule 2 to the Education (Wales) Act 2014 (anaw
5) (categories of registration for purposes of Part 2 of that Act) or any other person employed or engaged as a teacher at a school (within the meaning of the Education Act 1996) in Wales.
(12) For the purposes of the definition of “healthcare professional”, the following provisions of section 25 of the National Health Service Reform and Health Care Professions Act 2002 are to be ignored—
(a) paragraph (g) of subsection (3); (b) subsection (3A).””
6: After Clause 70, insert the following new Clause—
“Guidance about female genital mutilation
(1) After section 5B of the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 (inserted by section (Duty to notify police of female genital mutilation) above) insert—
(1) The Secretary of State may issue guidance to whatever persons in England and Wales the Secretary of State considers appropriate about—
(a) the effect of any provision of this Act, or
(b) other matters relating to female genital mutilation.
(2) A person exercising public functions to whom guidance is given under this section must have regard to it in the exercise of those functions.
(3) Nothing in this section permits the Secretary of State to give guidance to any court or tribunal.
(4) Before issuing guidance under this section the Secretary of State must consult—
(a) the Welsh Ministers so far as the guidance is to a body exercising devolved Welsh functions;
(b) any person whom the Secretary of State considers appropriate.
(5) A body is exercising “devolved Welsh functions” if its functions are exercisable only in or as regards Wales and are wholly or mainly functions relating to—
(a) a matter in respect of which functions are exercisable by the Welsh Ministers, the First Minister for Wales or the Counsel General to the Welsh Government, or
(b) a matter within the legislative competence of the National Assembly for Wales.
(6) The Secretary of State may from time to time revise any guidance issued under this section.
(7) Subsections (2) and (3) have effect in relation to any revised guidance.
(8) Subsection (4) has effect in relation to any revised guidance unless the Secretary of State considers the proposed revisions of the guidance are insubstantial.
(9) The Secretary of State must publish the current version of any guidance issued under this section.”
(2) Consultation for the purposes of subsection (4) of section 5C of the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 (inserted by subsection (1) above) may be, or include, consultation before the coming into force of this section.”
My Lords, in moving this Motion, I will speak also to Commons Amendments 20, 39 and 49 to 51. Commons Amendment 5 introduces a new mandatory duty for health and social care professionals and teachers in England and Wales to report cases of female genital mutilation to the police. The Government are clear that FGM is an extremely harmful crime. It is child abuse and can cause extreme and lifelong physical and psychological suffering to women and girls. We have taken a number of steps to put a stop to FGM, including a communications campaign to raise awareness of FGM, a suite of resources for front-line professionals and communities, the launch of the Government’s FGM unit and, of course, the various measures to strengthen the law included in the Bill.
Those in safeguarding professions are of course key to helping to achieve this. There is a striking disparity between what we know about the likely prevalence of FGM and the number of cases referred to the police. We believe that introducing a mandatory reporting duty will both ensure that professionals’ responsibilities in this area are clear and also increase referrals to the police.
The consultation on how best to introduce a new mandatory reporting duty closed on 12 January and we published the Government’s response on 12 February. The proposed duty takes into account the feedback we received from a wide range of respondents, including healthcare professionals, education professionals, community groups and members of the public. The duty will apply to all regulated health and social care professionals and teachers in England and Wales in respect of cases of FGM which either are disclosed to them by the victim and/or are visually confirmed. The duty will be limited to victims aged under 18 at the time the case is identified.
We recognise that some individuals working within these professions may be less likely to encounter cases of FGM and visual evidence in particular. We are clear that introducing this duty does not mean that there will be a new requirement for professionals proactively to look for cases or evidence; they will be expected to report only known cases which they encounter in the course of their usual professional duties. Furthermore, the position in terms of suspected or at risk cases will remain the same. We expect professionals to refer such cases appropriately, as set out in the multiagency guidelines on FGM, using the existing safeguarding framework and procedures. Likewise, the introduction of this duty will not mean that non-regulated practitioners no longer have a responsibility to report cases of FGM, known or otherwise. We will ensure that there is appropriate guidance explicitly to capture good safeguarding practice for such practitioners.
Where professionals become aware of cases, the duty will require them to make a report to the police within one month. As we will make clear in the guidance, this is a maximum timeframe. We expect the majority of reports to be made within shorter timescales. The one-month timeframe allows for exceptional cases where, for example, a professional has serious concerns that a report to the police may result in an immediate safeguarding risk to the child and therefore consultation with colleagues or other agencies prior to reporting is essential.
As highlighted by some consultation respondents, cases will have safeguarding and criminal elements, which must be considered in tandem. FGM is a criminal offence and we therefore believe that it is right for reports to be made directly to the police. We recognise that there may be concerns about this approach and that some are of the view that reports should instead be made to social care. However, we are clear that when a report is made, it will not necessarily result in immediate arrests or court action. The police will work with the relevant agencies to determine the most appropriate response.
In preparing to introduce the duty, we will work closely with the police to put in place a clear system that supports an effective multiagency response. In addition, through the new FGM unit, we will work with local communities and professionals to explain the duty and its primary focus on safeguarding girls and women to help manage any anxieties or concerns which could prevent communities from engaging with vital services. Where a professional fails to comply with the duty, this will be dealt with in line with existing disciplinary frameworks, which may include referral to the relevant professional regulator or the Disclosure and Barring Service. This approach will ensure that the sanctions imposed reflect the specifics of the individual case and it takes into account the views of the majority of consultation respondents. We will work closely with the bodies responsible for sanctions to ensure that due regard is given to the seriousness of breaches of the duty.
In addition to the duty, Commons Amendment 6 confers on the Secretary of State a power to issue statutory guidance on FGM and requires relevant individuals to have regard to it. This will take the form of multiagency guidance for front-line professionals, which will help ensure a more effective response to FGM, support improvements to multidisciplinary working, and promote effective implementation of the new mandatory reporting duty. The guidance will sit alongside existing guidance and legislation on safeguarding, which will remain unchanged and which are, of course, critical to preventing FGM. Commons Amendments 20 and 39 provide that the new reporting duty and statutory guidance will apply to England and Wales only.
Noble Lords will recall that on Report in this House the Bill was amended to provide for FGM protection orders for the purposes of protecting a girl against the commission of a genital mutilation offence or protecting a girl against whom such an offence had been committed. Commons Amendments 25 and 26 are essentially consequential to provide for legal aid to be made payable in FGM protection order proceedings.
Amendment 25 amends Schedule 1 to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 to provide that civil legal aid may be made available for the making, varying, discharging and appealing of FGM protection orders. The civil legal services available will be subject to the exclusions set out in Parts 2 and 3 of Schedule 1 to LASPO. Part 2 of Schedule 1 makes clear that certain types of legal aid services are not available; for example, those relating to a claim in tort in respect of negligence even when they might otherwise fall within the descriptions of legal services under Part 1.
Part 3 of Schedule 1 provides that the civil legal services listed in Part 1 of Schedule 1 do not generally include advocacy, but this is subject to exceptions. Advocacy in the relevant civil courts, including the family court, is already caught by these exceptions. However, Amendment 26 ensures that advocacy in proceedings to vary or discharge FGM protection orders in the Crown Court and the magistrates’ court is also included within the exceptions so that legal aid for advocacy will be available in such cases.
The Government consider that an amendment to the scope of the civil legal aid scheme in England and Wales is appropriate in these circumstances because of the important nature of these anticipated proceedings. Amendment 24, which is also in this group, is a minor drafting amendment. I know this issue was raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Basildon, at Third Reading so I trust that these amendments will be welcome to the Opposition and indeed to my noble friends.
Before the Minister sits down, could she clarify something about the amendment numbers? She referred to Amendments 24 and 25, neither of which is in this group: they were consequential amendments in group 1. The issue of FGM protection orders attracting civil legal aid seems to be covered by Amendments 50 and 51. According to the amendment list, government Amendment 24 is in group 1 and government Amendment 25 is in group 8.
My Lords, I shall speak to Amendments 5 and 6 in particular. Before I start, let me say that I absolutely agree with the Minister that female genital mutilation—FGM—is a horrible procedure, and it is right to criminalise it, with the severest of penalties for anybody involved. I have seen many adolescent girls and young women whose subsequent health has been affected by female genital mutilation—occasionally resulting in death during childbirth, but much more often in the horrible condition known as obstetric fistula, which I have seen in Africa. I am therefore totally committed to making sure that this horrible procedure is made illegal and removed.
During the passage of the Bill through the Commons, the Government introduced an amendment to make it a duty for regulated healthcare professionals to notify police of female genital mutilation, and the amendment was accepted there. Like the professional organisations—particularly the regulators of the medical profession, the General Medical Council and the British Medical Association, and some of the colleges, particularly the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health—I am concerned about that amendment.
Our concern is about the proposed duty to report FGM in all known cases in girls and young women under 18. That duty will be a significant step change in the law. I am not aware of any other circumstances in which healthcare professionals are required to refer patients to the police without any regard to the potential impact on the patient. That is what concerns me—the potential impact on the patients, particularly young girls under 18, including 16 to 18 year-olds.
Doctors are required to make the care of patients their first concern, but of course they have to balance that duty against wider public interest considerations. There are clear circumstances in which they should disclose information to an appropriate agency. For example, it might be necessary to protect a specific person or people, or the public more broadly, from a risk of death or serious harm, or to assist in the investigation or prosecution of a crime. The General Medical Council guidelines in Protecting Children and Young People: The Responsibilities of All Doctors make that absolutely clear.
The proposed duty, however, allows no scope to consider the best interests of the child or young person. In effect, the duty mandates that the wider public interest in investigating whether or not a crime has been committed would always outweigh the girls’ rights and interests, including those of the individual child or young person. It is difficult to see how that satisfies the proportionality argument or requirement of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. It also means that doctors will sometimes be obliged—I agree, in rare circumstances—to act against what are considered to be the best interests of the patient. That is in conflict with the primary duty of doctors.
The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health also found that,
“there is no credible or conclusive evidence that ... mandatory reporting … better protects children at risk of harm, and its introduction would undermine that cultural approach of risk and responsibility sharing that has been developed in the current system. Mandatory reporting still raises more questions than it provides answers”.
In response to the Government’s consultation, the professions argued that any duty to report FGM should include a “reasonable excuse” for not reporting if it would be contrary to the best interests of the child or young person to do so. Further consideration needs to be given to the position of young women between the ages of 16 and 18. There is no clear line between childhood and adulthood. While under-18s have a different status in law, at 16 it is presumed that young people have the ability to make a whole range of decisions, including about their own care. Discussions about the treatment and care of a 17 year-old may be indistinguishable from those relating to an adult. Particular risk may arise in the context of maternity care, and here I have a particular concern. A young woman may not present to healthcare services if she fears it will result in a referral to the police. Young women who have undergone female genital mutilation as children will be at increased risk during maternity care and childbirth. They require particular and extra care during labour. That duty would undermine the provision of care that might be given to them.
There are many positive aspects to the Bill which I absolutely support. It makes a real difference to the lives of children and young women. This particular duty goes counter to that and I wish there was a phrase saying that in some circumstances there might be a need to protect children and young women. If we cannot change this today, I hope that at least there will be a commitment on the Minister’s part to make sure that the guidance will reflect our concern.
I wish to speak to Amendments 5 and 6 and hope that, in the further consultation on the guidance, the Government will be able to address the concerns raised by the noble Lord, Lord Patel. I have a question for my noble friend the Minister. There is nothing in the amendment about sanctions for not fulfilling this very serious duty to report a very serious crime, but the letter from the noble Lord, Lord Bates, referred to the fact that the sanctions would be professional and employment sanctions. I wonder whether my noble friend can clarify what that means and say why the Government feel that such sanctions to this new duty would be any more effective than the professional sanctions that already exist within professional associations for the sort of misconduct that we are talking about. To ignore knowledge of such a serious crime is not the sort of thing we would expect of a professional. Some of us feel that overlooking such a serious crime must require a more serious sanction than just leaving it to the professional associations to deal with.
My Lords, Amendment 5 after Clause 70 is clearly a well intentioned measure, but I am concerned that if mandatory reporting of FGM is implemented in isolation it could have unintended consequences. Like my noble friend Lord Patel I am worried, in particular, that professionals will have no discretion and will be obliged to report, even when it may not be in the best interests of the child. The evidence from other countries where mandatory reporting of child abuse in general has been introduced suggests that there could be similar unintended consequences if a duty was introduced for FGM. Most notably: women and girls could be discouraged from seeing healthcare professionals because of concerns about catapulting themselves or friends and family into criminal investigations; professionals may seek to avoid discussions that could lead to disclosure if they are fearful of the consequences; and individuals would be likely to report on any occasion when they come into contact with a girl who they believe has undergone FGM, resulting in a girl being visited by police or social workers on multiple occasions in the short space of time before they are 18, which could be a fairly traumatising experience.
Will the noble Baroness please clarify what would happen in instances where the duty to notify police of FGM is not in the best interests of the child? Surely it is vital that the guidance on this piece of legislation is fully and carefully considered, and that experts who deal with these cases are fully involved. Can she also clarify the intentions for the guidance on how this duty will be implemented, and confirm whether this guidance will be subject to full consultation?
My Lords, I add a few words of strong support to those of my noble friends Lord Patel and Lady Howe. It seems that this is trying to deal with the problem after the horse has bolted. As the Minister knows, we argued at length earlier in discussions on the Bill about the need to tackle this matter at source, where these ideas are being pressed—by the leaders and religious leaders of some communities who believe that this is necessary to save you from hell and such matters. To go down this road will be quite dangerous, because there will be an inclination by families and communities to hide these children from view. Not only may they not seek medical attention—that would be incredibly serious, as my noble friend Lord Patel has said—these girls and women need extra healthcare and may get none at all if they are hidden away. But you can also imagine that these children may be hidden away from “ordinary” English schools, because teachers may come to know about what has happened, and these families and communities will be under more pressure to set up separate schools, not integrating with our society. That would be absolutely retrograde to encourage in some way.
Obviously this is an unintended consequence. I am sure the Government’s motives are utterly right and pure, but these things can have the most devastating unintended consequences, and one can just imagine the greater isolation, being kept away from healthcare, schools and so on. These children will be incredibly vulnerable if these amendments go through, and I put on record again that we need to tackle FGM—and my goodness, we need to tackle it—at source. It is probably far too late in the day, but really it is the community and religious leaders who need to be stopped when they are preaching non-authentic Hadith and pressing for FGM on that unauthentic basis. Even at this late stage I plead with the Minister to take a step back and think whether this is the right way forward. I profoundly believe it is not. The most eminent QC in this country, Dexter Dias, who knows about these things, would say the same. Go to the community and religious leaders; do not try and deal with this after the event when these children have already been tortured.
My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Bates, knows, I have taken a great interest in this subject. I am in favour of the Government taking every action they can, but having listened to my noble friends on these Benches, I have to say that we should row back from this new clause. As I listened to my noble friend Lord Patel, I could imagine the circumstances of a seriously ill child whose parents knew that if they took her to a hospital and she was examined, they would be putting themselves at risk. As we have heard, we could be creating an even worse situation. We have to try to seize the whole problem of FGM, but it must be done at an earlier stage. I have suggested before that if there is to be anything mandatory, perhaps it must be examination at a much earlier stage, but that is another matter.
My Lords, I found this quite extraordinary when I read about it in the newspapers. That is not because I do not think that the Government should be taking a strong line—I admire that—and not because we need to take action against FGM—many of us have spoken about it—but because we had an in-depth debate in which the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, and I held slightly different views about mandatory reporting. When we looked at mandatory reporting in its broader sense, it was clear that the differences between us were all about unintended consequences and not having thought through the issue from beginning to end. I was under the impression that mandatory reporting was to be taken away and there would be an in-depth look at the issue with a different sort of consultation, after which we would come at it again. FGM is at the most complicated end of mandatory reporting, as we have heard from my noble friends, so I had assumed that it would be included in that further debate. I am surprised that the provision has been brought forward in this way, even though most of us would want any possible action taken to prevent FGM.
My final point is that this clause cuts across the basic principle that the child’s needs are paramount, something which is repeated in all our children’s legislation. Here, the child’s needs are no longer paramount—the community wish to take action becomes paramount. I hope that this will be taken away and looked at again in relation to the arguments which have been made.
My Lords, what is always clear when we debate FGM issues is how complex they are. I think that the law of unintended consequences has been discussed throughout our debates. I have just read again the letter from the Minister, Karen Bradley, to Seema Malhotra MP setting out why the Government have brought this new clause forward. A consultation was held on 5 December on how to introduce mandatory reporting for FGM. As other noble Lords have said, it is a little strange that we did not have the benefit of that consultation when we held our previous discussions. It would have been helpful to have the consultation and the Government’s response, but they were not made available to us, although the other place did have the benefit of seeing them when it discussed these issues.
The purport of the amendments which have been put forward in your Lordships’ House on this issue is not just to deal with the problem afterwards, but to prevent it happening in the first place. It is also about sending a strong message that FGM is something we cannot tolerate at all. I have some concerns about mandatory reporting, but it is to be hoped that they can be addressed in the guidance and the review process. I think it is clear that we need to ensure that where health professionals are aware of instances of FGM, they should report them so that action, whether that be medical or legal, can be taken. The concerns which have been raised are ones that the Government will want to address when they are considering the guidance. If they find that there is any evidence of women not presenting to medical practitioners for care during pregnancy, it should be examined.
I just want to check whether the noble Baroness agrees that reporting to the police could actually deter families from taking these children to the health services. In saying that reporting needs to happen, I am very worried if this goes to the police.
I am not sure that I accept that a family whose daughter had undergone FGM and became seriously ill would not want that to be dealt with. It is quite a big jump to make, to put pressure on a family in that way. The noble Baroness says that they will not, but if that becomes evident, the Government will have to look. As I said, I have slightly conflicted views on this, but the House of Commons, I am sure, had the benefit of the consultation—although that was slightly split. I look forward to the response from the noble Baroness the Minister.
I come back to the point on legal aid. One issue that I raised with the Minister in earlier debates was whether legal aid would be available for FGM orders. At that time, she was unable to confirm that they would. We raised the point that without such legal aid, which is available for forced marriage orders, there would be no FGM orders. The point about prevention, which the noble Baroness made, is that unless you have the orders, there is not going to be prevention of FGM. We have had several conversations; the noble Baroness promised to write to me on several occasions, and I think she was frustrated that no correspondence was forthcoming. I am pleased now that the Government have confirmed that legal aid will be available for FGM orders. So we support the new clause, but I would be grateful if she could address some of the points raised in this debate, because justified concerns have been raised. That does not take away from the fact that the whole purpose of this is to try to prevent FGM from ever occurring and women from suffering such abuse.
My Lords, it is probably best to start with the point that not only is FGM illegal but it has been illegal for 30 years, and that all healthcare professionals—indeed, all professionals —who come into contact with children have a general safeguarding duty to those children. That is the underlying issue within the law, and it has been so, as I said, for three decades. As noble Lords have said, FGM is a terribly complex issue, and there are things beyond the law that we also need to do in terms of changing the culture and the practice of FGM.
I will start with the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Patel. The mandatory duty to report has actually received support from organisations such as the Royal College of Nursing and the Royal College of Midwives, but the noble Lord pointed out the concerns raised by the BMA. It has actually been supportive of the majority of the FGM measures in the Bill but it has highlighted some concerns in respect of the mandatory reporting duty, particularly what it means for victims. The Government appreciate that introducing a mandatory reporting duty will impact on many different sectors, and we recognise that this is very complex. However, we believe that it will be an important step forward in tackling FGM.
FGM is already a hidden crime, and introducing a clear mandatory duty will provide clarity for professionals on their responsibilities to report to the police. It will also lessen the onus on the girls to report FGM by putting responsibility on those whose job it is to safeguard girls who have been victims of what is a crime and what is child abuse. Of course, we recognise that there are existing legal and professional responsibilities in relation to safeguarding, and the new duty will have to be seen in the context of the existing statutory guidance—for example, Working Together to Safeguard Children.
Some concern has been expressed that the duty may act as a barrier to individuals accessing healthcare services. The Government recognise this risk, which is why we are clear that there will be no requirement for professionals to work outside their usual professional duties to actively seek out cases of FGM. We have focused the duty on known cases of FGM rather than suspected ones, and the new FGM unit working with government departments is conducting a programme of outreach with professionals and front-line communities, which will explain how the new duty, in tandem with other government reforms, will work in practice. We are also updating the multiagency guidelines on FGM and putting them on a statutory basis to support effective implementation of the duty.
There were also concerns about cases being referred to the police and the fear that this may act as a further deterrent to individuals accessing services. The Government have carefully considered the options for when referrals should be made, and we recognise that cases have both a criminal and a safeguarding element. FGM is a criminal offence and we therefore believe that the most appropriate reporting route is via the police. However, I reassure noble Lords that a report to the police will not necessarily immediately trigger a criminal investigation: when a report is made, the police will work with the relevant agencies to determine the most appropriate course of action. In preparing to introduce the duty, we will work closely with the police to ensure that a clear reporting system is in place prior to its introduction. In addition, we will have ensured that there is a reasonable timeframe within which professionals are required to make the report to the police, to allow time for consultation with other agencies in sensitive or complex cases.
Finally, I confirm that the Government will ensure that there is adequate time for consultation with stakeholders prior to the introduction of statutory guidance.
I again apologise to the House for the confusion about the provisions relating to legal aid. The relevant amendments in this group are indeed Commons Amendments 50 and 51. I think the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, asked what legal aid will be available for orders made in criminal proceedings. The Commons amendments make civil legal aid available for victims and third parties who may wish to apply, vary or discharge an FGM protection order.
The noble Baroness is aware that the orders are not based on criminal proceedings; they are civil orders. The confusion was caused because the Government have placed a civil provision within the criminal law, whereas our proposal was for a civil provision, wholly within civil law. I think that is what, partly, created the confusion around legal aid. It is purely a civil matter, although it sits within criminal legislation.
I thank the noble Baroness for clarifying that. I think I referred to this in my introduction, but the Government have made some quite tough choices in deciding which matters would remain in scope of legal aid. The ministry took account of the importance of the issues at stake, the individual’s ability to present their own case and the availability of alternative sources of funding. Legal aid continues to be available in the most serious of cases, for example where people’s life or liberty is at stake or where their children may be taken into care. Legal aid is available where not providing it would be likely to result in a breach of the individual’s rights under the European Convention on Human Rights or European law. I confirmed in my remarks at the beginning that civil legal aid will be provided.
My noble friend Lady Walmsley asked about the progress of the consultation on whether to introduce a more general duty to report suspected abuse of children and vulnerable adults. As my noble friend will know, following the earlier debates on the Bill in the House the Government committed to undertake such a consultation, and the outcome of that consultation will be reported on within 18 months of Royal Assent.
My noble friend also asked about sanctions for failing to report cases of FGM. The proposal will use existing disciplinary frameworks to consider sanctions. Given that in health these may include General Medical Council and Nursing and Midwifery Council fitness to practise proceedings, there can be a wide variety of recommendations made as to suitable action, which may include retraining, supervision or other measures.
The noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, made a very good point about legislation not always being the answer, and I think I covered that in my earlier remarks. It is around changing the culture, raising awareness and improving training for professionals, and people being aware that this is—and has been for so many years—a criminal offence.
I am sorry to interrupt the Minister. She repeated that it has been a criminal offence for 30 years and I absolutely agree. However, what has been a criminal offence for 30 years is to perform female genital mutilation, and we have failed to prosecute anybody for doing so. This might be a means to provide encouragement when a prosecution does come along, but we have to be aware, as my noble friend Lady Howe said, that there are serious things that may happen because of the amendment. If this amendment had already been in the Bill, we would have explored it in Committee in great depth. I am encouraged that the Minister says the guidance in the consultation will be wider. I hope that in the formulation of the consultation document, the noble Baroness and Ministers will also consult the professionals and teachers. It is not only the British Medical Association that did not like this amendment; it is also the General Medical Council, which is the regulator. If I do not report a case, I am breaking the law after this legislation, the General Medical Council will be obliged to investigate me and it might be to the point that it removes my licence to practise—I am temporarily still licensed to practise though maybe not for long. Therefore, it is a serious amendment to address.
I thank the noble Lord and pay tribute to his years and years of experience, of which I have none. I take his point that although it has been a criminal offence for 30 years, there have not been any prosecutions brought. This legislation has not come without extensive consultation with a variety of different stakeholders or without raising awareness within the population as a whole—that is why the Girl Summit sought to raise awareness. The noble Lord is absolutely right: it will not be done by legislation alone.
The consultation will involve a wide range of stakeholders. What we had before was certainly not perfect or else we would not be revisiting it 30 years later. We can only hope that, by raising awareness, trying to change culture and putting in place the various measures that we have, we will actually get to a better place for these girls in the future. We are going to watch progress as time goes on.
I will just mention to the noble Lord, Lord Patel, that we received 150 responses from a wide range of different areas when the consultation closed on 12 January and we have had various workshops with healthcare professionals. I hope that gives him some comfort regarding the Government’s intention.
Before the noble Baroness sits down—I was waiting in case she covered an area which I think may be important—can she confirm to the House that the guidance about the investigation of a reported case will include the ability to see whether it may be an index case in an area where FGM is being promoted, so that the prevention aspect of discovering one case can be built in and built on so that the community at risk is actively targeted with education and support to try to ensure that the girls at risk who are not yet subject to FGM are more adequately protected?
My Lords, I do not know the ins and outs of particular cases, but I see where the noble Baroness is coming from, which is that there may be learning about raising awareness in the communities involved. She certainly has a point, but perhaps I could write to her in due course.
Motion on Amendments 7 and 8
7: After Clause 70, insert the following new Clause—
“Controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship
(1) A person (A) commits an offence if—
(a) A repeatedly or continuously engages in behaviour towards another person (B) that is controlling or coercive,
(b) at the time of the behaviour, A and B are personally connected, (c) the behaviour has a serious effect on B, and
(d) A knows or ought to know that the behaviour will have a serious effect on B.
(2) A and B are “personally connected” if—
(a) A is in an intimate personal relationship with B, or
(b) A and B live together and—
(i) they are members of the same family, or
(ii) they have previously been in an intimate personal relationship with each other.
(3) But A does not commit an offence under this section if at the time of the behaviour in question—
(a) A has responsibility for B, for the purposes of Part 1 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 (see section 17 of that Act), and
(b) B is under 16.
(4) A’s behaviour has a “serious effect” on B if—
(a) it causes B to fear, on at least two occasions, that violence will be used against B, or
(b) it causes B serious alarm or distress which has a substantial adverse effect on B’s usual day-to-day activities.
(5) For the purposes of subsection (1)(d) A “ought to know” that which a reasonable person in possession of the same information would know.
(6) For the purposes of subsection (2)(b)(i) A and B are members of the same family if—
(a) they are, or have been, married to each other;
(b) they are, or have been, civil partners of each other; (c) they are relatives;
(d) they have agreed to marry one another (whether or not the agreement has been terminated);
(e) they have entered into a civil partnership agreement (whether or not the agreement has been terminated);
(f) they are both parents of the same child;
(g) they have, or have had, parental responsibility for the same child.
(7) In subsection (6)—
“civil partnership agreement” has the meaning given by section 73 of the Civil Partnership Act 2004;
“child” means a person under the age of 18 years;
“parental responsibility” has the same meaning as in the Children Act 1989;
“relative” has the meaning given by section 63(1) of the Family Law Act 1996.
(8) In proceedings for an offence under this section it is a defence for A to show that—
(a) in engaging in the behaviour in question, A believed that he or she was acting in B’s best interests, and
(b) the behaviour was in all the circumstances reasonable.
(9) A is to be taken to have shown the facts mentioned in subsection (8) if— (a) sufficient evidence of the facts is adduced to raise an issue with respect to them, and
(b) the contrary is not proved beyond reasonable doubt.
(10) The defence in subsection (8) is not available to A in relation to behaviour that causes B to fear that violence will be used against B.
(11) A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable—
(a) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years, or a fine, or both;
(b) on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months, or a fine, or both.”
8: After Clause 70, insert the following new Clause—
(1) The Secretary of State may issue guidance about the investigation of offences under section (Controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship) to whatever persons the Secretary of State considers appropriate.
(2) The Secretary of State may revise any guidance issued under this section. (3) The Secretary of State must arrange for any guidance issued or revised under this section to be published.”
My Lords, I shall speak also to Commons Amendments 17 and 21.
We can all agree that domestic abuse is a serious and pervasive crime; a point well made by the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, on Report. It is shocking that in the past year more than 2 million people in England and Wales were abused by those closest to them, and even more shocking that 85 women were murdered by a current or former partner.
However, comparing those figures to the number of people who reach out for help and access the criminal justice system shows that, despite prosecution and conviction figures reaching their highest ever levels under this Government, domestic abuse is still vastly underreported. A stark comparison of crime survey and Crown Prosecution Service figures suggests that just one in 20 of those abused by their families and partners have access to justice.
The sad fact is that we are still grappling with a reality where many people think a crime has been committed in a relationship only if violence is involved. Even the courts have taken the view that stalking and harassment legislation does not apply in ongoing relationships where abuse is interspersed with periods of affection. That rules out those cases of domestic abuse where controlling and manipulative perpetrators play on the affection of their partners or family members to avoid detection.
The Government understand that coercive and controlling behaviour can be harder to recognise, but can be every bit as damaging to its victims as physical violence. To quote one victim of domestic abuse who responded to our consultation,
“my bruises faded, but the psychological scars didn’t”.
In recognition of the harm that coercive and controlling behaviour can do, the Government have expanded the non-statutory definition of domestic violence and abuse to send a clear message that abuse is more than just physical. Last summer, we ran a consultation to ask whether the law also needs to be strengthened to provide better protection to victims of domestic abuse. Eighty-five per cent of respondents told us that the law needs to be strengthened; 55% highlighted the need for a new offence to make sure that a person causing someone they are in a relationship with to live in constant fear faces justice for their actions.
Commons Amendment 7 provides for just such an offence. The new offence makes it clear that abusing someone in a relationship is every bit as serious as stalking or harassing a stranger. It applies to repeated or continuous behaviour in relationships which, when incidents are viewed in isolation, may appear unexceptional, but has a significant cumulative impact on the victim’s everyday life. It causes them to feel fear, alarm or distress.
When I first spoke on this issue in the House last year, I said that legislation on this issue must be approached judiciously. I stand by that. There is a balance to be struck. Every relationship has its own power dynamics and this is not about outlawing arguments or saying that couples cannot disagree. It must be clear that the new offence does not apply to volatile relationships which stop short of being abusive. To capture this balance, key elements of the new offence are the need to establish the repeated or continuous nature of the behaviour and the ability of a reasonable person, whether part of or external to the relationship, to appreciate that the behaviour will have a serious effect on its victim.
We have made sure that the new offence does not duplicate existing criminal law. Child abuse does not fall into the ambit of the new offence because it is covered by existing offences. Nor does the new offence apply to extended family members who have never lived with the victim, because stalking legislation would capture those circumstances.
We must also be on our guard against the application of the new offence in circumstances where control may be necessary to secure a loved one’s safety. For example, I am sure that none of us would want to see the spouse of a person struck by mental illness imprisoned for medicating them or protecting them from situations which may cause them harm. I am equally sure that we would not want to see the parents of an unruly teenager convicted for proportionately curbing the behaviour of their wayward child. That is why we have included a defence in the framework.
Of course, we also need to be sure that manipulative perpetrators cannot use the defence to escape justice. To address this, the defence will not be available where the victim has been caused to fear violence. To rely on the defence, a defendant will need to show that a reasonable person would agree that their behaviour was reasonable in all the circumstances. This is not an easy test to meet if you have perpetrated a campaign of control against another person.
The maximum sentence of five years’ imprisonment for the new offence recognises the damage that coercive or controlling behaviour can do to its victims and is commensurate with the maximum penalty for stalking. Of course, the new offence cannot be implemented without an effective police response, so the work that the Home Secretary is doing to drive improvements through her national oversight group on domestic abuse remains as high a priority as ever.
The new offence, together with the guidance for investigators provided for in Commons Amendment 8, will make it easier for the police to protect victims and bring those who abuse them to justice. This will send a clear message that domestic abuse in all its forms will not be tolerated in our society. Commons Amendments 17 and 21 are consequential on Amendments 7 and 8. I beg to move.
My Lords, I welcome these amendments. As a long-term patron of Basildon Women’s Aid, for over 20 years, I am very much aware that coercive and intimidating behaviour is often a precursor to violent behaviour. I have spoken to women and found that it can start with, “Oh, I like to see you in that dress”. In one case, it went from what somebody wore and whether they wore make-up through to, if they even washed, they were seen as trying to attract other men, and that then led to violence. It can start very simply with what somebody wears or make-up and end in violent behaviour.
Not only does the amendment recognise that controlling or coercive behaviour in such relationships is dangerous, it could also be a preventive measure, because it could nip the problem in the bud before it gets to violent and more abusive behaviour. The amendment recognises how dangerous such controlling behaviour is. Even if it does not lead to violent behaviour, controlling behaviour is dangerous and corrosive to the individual. That is recognised in the courts already. Ongoing, day-in, day-out controlling behaviour has led to cases where the woman being victimised has turned on and been violent towards the perpetrator of such behaviour. The courts have now recognised that slow-burn behaviour. Intimidation has consequences, so the amendment is very welcome.
The Minister talked about the effective police response. Passing a law does not, on its own, make something happen, and he recognised that. In my area, the number of police officers and the pressure that they are under has an impact on the police’s ability to investigate and act on such issues. Too often, domestic violence can, as the noble Lord and the Home Secretary have recognised, come further down the list of priorities. I hope that, when the Government examine how successful this is, they also look at the resources that are available for the police to take the action that is needed.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for welcoming the amendment and for her additional emphasis on the point that this could be seen as a preventive measure. That is absolutely right and I hope that that will be the case.
On the noble Baroness’s specific point, the Home Secretary has not shied away from the fact that the police need to do more. That is why she has launched the review by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary on the police response to domestic abuse. That report identified that police practice in using the current law is inadequate. The chief inspector also highlighted failures in leadership that mean that strategic priorities are not being realised in front-line policing and there is a front-line culture in which domestic abuse is often not regarded as a serious crime. The Government are clear that this is not good enough. Lasting, meaningful improvement must happen now; and to make sure that change happens, the Home Secretary has established and is chairing the new national oversight group. This work is the Government’s main priority on domestic abuse and will lead directly to better protection of victims. However, in addition to important operational improvements, the new offence will strengthen the protection available to victims trapped in cycles of abuse and help front-line agencies provide a better response to this serious crime. I appreciate the cross-party support on this issue.
Motion on Amendments 9 and 10
9: After Clause 71, insert the following new Clause—
“Throwing articles into prisons
After section 40CA of the Prison Act 1952 (inserted by section 71 above) insert—
“40CB Throwing articles into prison
(1) A person who, without authorisation, throws any article or substance into a prison is guilty of an offence.
(2) For the purposes of subsection (1)—
(a) the reference to an article or substance does not include a reference to a List A article, a List B article or a List C article (as defined by section 40A);
(b) the reference to “throwing” an article or substance into a prison includes a reference to doing anything from outside the prison that results in the article or substance being projected or conveyed over or through a boundary of the prison so as to land inside the prison.
(3) In proceedings for an offence under this section it is a defence for the accused to show that—
(a) he reasonably believed that he had authorisation to do the act in respect of which the proceedings are brought, or
(b) in all the circumstances there was an overriding public interest which justified the doing of that act.
(4) A person guilty of an offence under subsection (1) is liable—
(a) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or to a fine (or both);
(b) on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or to a fine (or both).
(5) In this section “authorisation” means authorisation given for the purposes of this section; and subsections (1) to (3) of section 40E apply in relation to authorisations so given as they apply to authorisations given for the purposes of section 40D.””
10: After Clause 71, insert the following new Clause—
“Prevention or restriction of use of communication devices by prisoners etc
(1) Regulations may make provision conferring power on a court to make a telecommunications restriction order.
(2) “Telecommunications restriction order” means an order requiring a communications provider to take whatever action the order specifies for the purpose of preventing or restricting the use of communication devices by persons detained in custodial institutions.
(3) Regulations under this section must—
(a) specify who may apply for telecommunications restriction orders;
(b) make provision about giving notice of applications;
(c) make provision conferring rights on persons to make representations;
(d) specify the matters about which the court must be satisfied if it is to make an order;
(e) make provision about the duration of orders (which may include provision for orders of indefinite duration);
(f) make provision about variation (including extension) and discharge of orders;
(g) make provision about appeals.
(4) Regulations under this section may—
(a) make provision for a telecommunications restriction order to specify that a requirement of the order is not to apply in particular circumstances;
(b) make provision authorising a court to include in an order a requirement for the person applying for the order to pay any or all of the costs of complying with it;
(c) make provision about time limits for complying with orders;
(d) make provision about enforcement of orders (which may include provision creating offences);
(e) make provision about costs (or, in Scotland, expenses) in respect of legal proceedings;
(f) make different provision for different purposes;
(g) make incidental, consequential, supplementary or transitional provision, including provision applying any enactment (with or without modifications).
(5) The power to make regulations under this section is exercisable—
(a) in relation to England and Wales, by statutory instrument made by the Secretary of State;
(b) in relation to Scotland, by the Scottish Ministers.
(6) A statutory instrument (other than a Scottish statutory instrument) containing regulations under this section is not to be made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament.
(7) Regulations made by the Scottish Ministers under this section are subject to the affirmative procedure.
(8) In this section—
“communication device” means an item specified in section 1(3) of the Prisons (Interference with Wireless Telegraphy) Act 2012 (mobile telephones etc);
“communications provider” means a person providing a service that consists in the provision of access to, and of facilities for making use of, any telecommunication system (whether or not one provided by that person);
(a) in relation to England and Wales, the county court;
(b) in relation to Scotland, the sheriff;
“custodial institution” means—
(a) in relation to England and Wales, a prison, young offender institution, secure training centre or secure college;
(b) in relation to Scotland, a prison or young offenders institution;
(a) an enactment contained in subordinate legislation within the meaning of the Interpretation Act 1978;
(b) an enactment contained in, or in an instrument made under, an Act of the Scottish Parliament;
“telecommunication system” means any system (including the apparatus comprised in it) that exists (whether wholly or partly in the United Kingdom or elsewhere) for the purpose of facilitating the transmission of communications by any means involving the use of electrical or electro-magnetic energy.”
My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendments 16, 22, 23 and 28. Control and order is a fundamental foundation of prison life. Without it, safety cannot be guaranteed and the rehabilitation of prisoners cannot take place. It is known that the throwing of packages containing contraband, including psychoactive substances—often inappropriately referred to as “legal highs”—is a key method of supplying drugs into prisons. In some cases, it is co-ordinated by criminal gangs involved in a wide range of criminality. The presence of new psychoactive substances in prisons, now drugs of choice among many prisoners, is a significant and growing problem that we must address urgently. These drugs are having an increasingly destructive impact on prison security, order and the welfare of individual prisoners, with increasing evidence of links to mental health problems and violent behaviour.
While it is currently a criminal offence under the Prison Act to convey a number of items including controlled drugs into a prison, non-controlled substances are not covered by that legislation. As such, those caught trafficking a range of new psychoactive substances have been able to evade justice. This is not acceptable.
Commons Amendment 9 will create a new offence of throwing or otherwise projecting any article or substance into a prison without authorisation. The clause will criminalise the trafficking of new psychoactive substances into our prisons and also captures the throwing of other articles into prison that could pose a threat to prison staff and prisoners. We must not tolerate those who damage prison health and order by throwing items such as new psychoactive substances into prisons. This new offence will help to stop this harmful practice.
Commons Amendment 10 seeks to prevent the unauthorised use of mobile phones in prison. The unauthorised use of mobile phones presents serious risks to prison security. They have been used to plan escapes and support the commission of serious crimes by organised criminals. In January, we saw the sobering reports of the conviction of a prisoner in Wandsworth prison who had used his mobile phone to arrange the importation of machine guns into this country from Germany. I am sure that we all agree that such use of mobile phones in prison is completely unacceptable.
The National Offender Management Service uses a range of techniques to detect and seize phones in prisons. However, despite the success of these methods, as mobile phone technology advances and the size of handsets decreases, it is becoming easier for prisoners to conceal illicit phones in prison. Disconnecting phones would be a cost-effective and future-proofed method to prevent the unauthorised use of phones in prison. Mobile network operators have asked for a clear legal framework to support disconnection. Amendment 10 will therefore enable the Secretary of State—or, in Scotland, Scottish Ministers—to make regulations conferring a power on the civil court to make a telecommunications restriction order. Such an order will require a mobile network operator to disconnect those SIM cards and handsets that are found to be in use in prisons without authorisation, effectively putting those devices beyond normal operational use.
In the unlikely event that a genuine customer’s phone is disconnected in error, NOMS will advise the mobile network operator that the telecommunications restriction order no longer applies. This will allow the network operator to expedite the reconnection of the service. This will be done quickly, without the need to return to court to vary the order. The customer’s phone can still be used to call the emergency services, should that need arise. As an additional safeguard, NOMS will report annually to the Interception of Communications Commissioner, providing the details and frequency of any erroneous disconnections for scrutiny by the commissioner’s office.
It is unacceptable that prisoners should continue to use mobile phones to carry out criminal activity outside prison. Having the power to disconnect illicit phones in prison will help to tackle that flagrant disregard for the restraints of their incarceration. Our view is simple: we must constantly seek ways to improve prison security. These new offences will do exactly that. The other amendments in this group are consequential on these two new clauses. I commend these amendments to the House.
My Lords, this is pure curiosity on my part but, in relation to Amendment 10, might I understand how it would be possible to tell the communications providers that they should apply a telecommunications restriction order to a specific SIM card unless said SIM card had already been seized and obtained by the prison authorities—in which case, why would it be needed? Also, what steps have been taken to look at technological systems that would jam the signals inside prisons?
Those are very reasonable points to make. On general jamming in the prison compound, I recognise of course that some individuals working within that compound need to have mobile devices, which can be used to communicate. By that, I am referring to the staff prison officers.
On the specific issue of SIM cards, the National Offender Management Service currently uses a range of different techniques to detect and seize phones already in prisons, including the use of detection technology and regular cell and prisoner searches. However, despite the success of these approaches, as mobile phone technology advances and the size of handsets decreases it is becoming easier for prisoners to conceal illicit phones and move them around the prison estate. It is for the Crown Prosecution Service to decide whether to prosecute an individual for possessing a mobile phone in custody. Due to the way in which mobile phones are typically used in prisons, with multiple prisoners potentially sharing one phone, it is often not possible to attribute handsets and SIMS to specific individuals.
In many ways, I agree with the noble Lord that identifying the number on the SIM card is tremendously difficult when you are still searching for the device. However, in the light of experience, we are simply trying to make it as difficult as possible for the individuals concerned to do this. NOMS uses a range of measures to stop phones and SIM cards getting into prisons. However, due to the high number of deliveries, post items and individuals entering and leaving prisons each day, it is impossible entirely to prevent SIMs and handsets making their way on to the prison estate.
Those are the points that I have, which I hope have been some help. There might just be some communications data on their way to help me. The signal of an unauthorised phone or SIM card can be detected without physically seizing the phone SIM in question. Blocking has a role but can be expensive to use. The answer is therefore probably quite straightforward—it is now, anyway. Through the detection devices we can identify a SIM, even if we have not managed to locate it, and block it in the process. I hope that with that general reassurance, the House will accept these amendments.
Motion on Amendment 11
11: After Clause 73, insert the following new Clause—
“Codes of practice about investigatory powers: journalistic sources
In section 71 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (issue and revision of codes of practice), after subsection (2) insert—
“(2A) A code of practice under subsection (1) that relates (expressly or otherwise) to the exercise and performance, in connection with the prevention or detection of serious crime, of powers and duties conferred or imposed by or under Part 1 of this Act—
(a) shall include provision designed to protect the public interest in the confidentiality of journalistic sources;
(b) shall not be issued unless the Secretary of State has first consulted the Interception of Communications Commissioner and considered any relevant report made to the Prime Minister under section 58.””
My Lords, I shall speak also to Commons Amendments 14, 30 and 34. I will first deal with the Commons amendments.
Commons Amendment 11 relates to the use of powers under Part 1 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act—RIPA—to identify journalistic sources. The House will recall that this important issue was raised by my noble friend Lord Strasburger on Report in October. I hope I speak for the whole House when I say that a free press is fundamental to our democracy and nothing should be done which might endanger that.
When the issue was before us previously, I said that it would be premature to take action in advance of knowing the findings of a report into the issue by the independent Interception of Communications Commissioner. We now know the commissioner’s findings and the Government immediately accepted in full the recommendations contained in his report when it was published last month. Those included that there should be judicial authorisation of requests for communications data which are intended to determine the source of journalistic information. While the commissioner did not find widespread or systematic abuse, and found that the number of cases where police forces had sought to obtain communications data for the purpose of determining journalistic sources were few, he found that a lack of sufficient care and attention in some applications, including in the consideration of the implications for freedom of expression, was such that we needed to act.
We have not been able to bring forward in the Bill the legislative changes required to give full effect to the commissioner’s recommendation relating to judicial authorisation, given that the scope of the Bill is limited to serious crime. However, I trust that Commons Amendment 11 will make it clear that we will address the underlying principle as far as possible when we can. It provides that any code of practice issued under RIPA that deals with the use of the investigatory powers under Part 1 of that Act in relation to the prevention or detection of serious crime shall include provisions which protect the public interest in the confidentiality of journalistic sources. It also requires the Secretary of State to consult the Interception of Communications Commissioner and to have regard to any relevant reports that he has made.
Noble Lords will also be aware that we intend to lay very shortly for parliamentary approval the draft acquisition of communications data code of practice. That follows a public consultation on the draft code and addresses both the responses to that consultation and the Interception of Communications Commissioner’s recent report. The code, when approved, will require law enforcement to use production orders, which are judicially authorised, under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984—or the equivalents in Scotland and Northern Ireland—for applications for communications data to determine journalistic sources.
Nevertheless, it is clear that a long-term solution will have to wait until after the election. However, to be clear about our intent, the Government published last week a draft clause that will give full effect to the commissioner’s recommendation on judicial authorisation for applications to determine the source of journalistic information. Legislation will be required in the next Parliament in the field of investigatory powers to give effect to the recommendations of David Anderson QC, the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, which will give Parliament the opportunity to put into law the full recommendation of the independent commissioner. I hope that the Government’s approach provides reassurance to your Lordships that the Government take very seriously the issue of the protection of a free press and free expression.
I hope that Commons Amendment 11, in combination with the other measures I have outlined, including a requirement to use the judicially authorised production order route and a commitment to future legislation, will assure your Lordships of the Government’s intent in this area. I reiterate that the Government are committed to giving full effect to the recommendations made by the Interception of Communications Commissioner. We are doing as much as we can in the Bill, given the limitations of its scope, and will return to this issue in the next Parliament. I recognise that my noble friend Lord Strasburger would like the Bill to go further. I look forward to hearing what he has to say about his Amendment 11A and I will respond to that when winding up. In the mean time, I invite your Lordships to agree with the Commons amendments.
Motion on Amendment 11A (as an amendment to Amendment 11)
11A: Line 10, at end insert—
“(aa) shall include provision designed to protect the confidentiality of personal information obtained in connection with a person’s acting as a minister of religion, as a healthcare professional or as a Member of Parliament;(ab) shall include provision about the circumstances in which notice of legal proceedings relating to notices and authorisations under Part 1 of this Act in respect of data should be given to persons to whom the data relates;”
My Lords, when this Bill was last debated in another place, the Home Office rejected a new clause tabled by Julian Huppert and backed by cross-party Back-Benchers that was very similar to this Amendment 11 but had a number of key differences. My amendment seeks to probe the justification, if there is any, for the Government’s omission of those provisions.
The first of these relates to the protection that is due to other privileged material, as it is rightly intended to be provided for journalistic material. This is what might be called medical privilege, religious or spiritual privilege and elected representative privilege. When an individual makes contact with a doctor, priest or MP, they are entitled to a higher level of confidentiality than applies to other matters. Therefore, just as journalistic material should be subject to a process involving judicial authorisation before communications data are accessed by the police, so should this sort of communications data.
The justification for providing protection in respect of journalistic material in RIPA, provided by the Government when they eventually agreed, was that it was necessary to protect whistleblowers who could be identified by the police accessing the communications data of journalists. Surely the same applies in respect of the communications data of Members of Parliament, and their equivalent in the European Parliament, the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly and the Northern Ireland Assembly. Why are the Government in their new clause providing only that the code of practice should protect whistleblowers’ identity when they go to the press and not when they go to their MP to reveal serious wrongdoing?
The second justification given by the Government for judicial authorisation before the police could access journalists’ communications data was that there was confidential information inherent in the “metadata” that would be obtained; namely, that someone identifiable had contacted a journalist. Exactly the same applies in respect of communications data relating to medical practitioners. The fact that a certain person has been in communication with a healthcare professional with a specific specialty in itself reveals confidential information. Obvious examples are mental health care professionals, STD clinics, obstetricians and so forth. The Home Office has provided no justification for failing to provide protection for such data, nor indeed has it provided for safeguards to be written into the code of practice, which the amendments before us deal with. This is even more peculiar when one sees that the Government’s proposed change to the code of practice, which was all they were offering before the IOCCO’s report was published, makes specific reference to the types of privilege—medical, spiritual and Member of Parliament—which my amendment would require a code of practice to deal with. It is not good enough for the Home Office to say that it wants to go no further than the recommendations in the IOCCO’s report because that report in several places made reference to the equivalent public interest that attaches to the confidentiality in these areas.
The second matter that my amendment deals with is the question of notice for journalists of an application to a judge when their confidential sources’ identities may be revealed. Under PACE, when the journalist holds the confidential material—called “excluded material” under PACE—the default position is that the journalist is given notice; that is, that the application is heard by the court inter partes. When it comes to RIPA and communications data, the person who holds the material will in general be a telecoms company or an ISP. They are not going to be in a position, of course, to contest any application. They have no significant interest in protecting the confidentiality of any of the information they provide to the police, providing that the police are acting within the law. It is only the journalist who can and should, if circumstances permit, assist the court in identifying the degree of public interest in identifying any of his or her sources.
By analogy with the provisions in PACE, it seems only right that there should be provision in the new legislation that the Government have promised after the election to provide for judicial authorisation for journalists to be given notice of the application. No doubt it will be appropriate also to provide that that notice does not have to be given when there is a risk that such notice might significantly prejudice a criminal investigation because, for example, the journalist, himself or herself, is a suspect, or, if given notice, could destroy evidence, or because the journalist might tip off a contact who was a suspect in a criminal investigation that might lead to the suspect destroying evidence or absconding.
That is why my amendment seeks to require that the code of practice makes provisions for the circumstances in which the journalist could and should be notified of an application to access communications data that is likely to lead to the identification of a confidential source. It should make no difference to the question of whether, without prejudice to an investigation, a journalist can have the opportunity to make his or her case to the judge when the data in question are held by a third party telecoms company.
The courts have found it extremely useful to hear representations from the media about non-broadcast footage when the police had applied under PACE for the release of that material. The protection of whistleblowers requires that the only people who can speak up for them in court before they are identified under this legislation are given notice of the application, subject to not prejudicing the investigation. This is a concern for my party and the National Union of Journalists.
Before I finish, I should like to raise a number of questions to the Minister on this area. After Julian Huppert tabled his new clause, which would provide for judicial oversight in RIPA for applications relating to journalistic sources, the Government agreed to make a temporary arrangement that the police would be directed to use PACE when such circumstances arose, and that this would be achieved by a change to the code of practice. My first question is: when will the Government bring forward the proposed code of practice, because time is short before Parliament prorogues? Secondly, will my noble friend and officials meet urgently with me and the National Union of Journalists to discuss the form of that code of practice? Thirdly, is it intended that the code of practice will, as I have indicated by this amendment, set out the circumstances in which journalists can be given notice of an application under Schedule 1 of PACE, even though the existing PACE provisions do not provide that they be given notice because they are not holders of the data or material? Fourthly, will the Home Office take the opportunity in this code of practice to make it clear that the police should use PACE procedures for other forms of privilege before obtaining communications data relating to the other forms of privilege that I have set out, as well as to communications data that might reveal contact between a lawyer and his or her client? As I explained, the Government’s previously proposed change to the code of practice did specify that consideration needs to be given to these other forms of privilege on the same basis as that given to journalistic privilege.
The Government, in response to Mr Huppert’s proposed new clauses, also published draft clauses that they said would be included in any update of RIPA legislation following the report of the Anderson review, early in the next Parliament. Those draft clauses were made available to Members of the other place only about an hour before the debate on Mr Huppert’s new clause. It therefore seems appropriate to use this opportunity to ask the Government to explain some of their provisions before this legislation goes through, given that Members of the other place were not given that opportunity before deciding not to press Mr Huppert’s new clause.
My first question is why there is a provision in the draft clauses to bypass judicial authorisation for RIPA requests for telecoms data in the circumstances of “imminent threat to life”, when such provision does not exist in PACE. Why is the threshold used by the Government to decide when the journalistic privilege requirement to put the application before a judge is triggered higher in their draft clauses than in PACE? The draft clause states that the requirement for judicial authorisation is triggered when the purpose in whole or in part is to identify a journalist’s sources, whereas in PACE the threshold or test, much more appropriately, is that the application is likely to reveal the source. As I have explained, I believe there should be circumstances in which a journalist should be notified of an application to access their communications data, and that this should be included in the new legislation.
The Government’s draft clause, unlike PACE, does not even provide for notice to be given to those who hold the data. Will the Government explain this or reconsider it? The Government’s draft clauses do not contain the same provision as in PACE for it to be an offence to destroy material sought under an order granted by a judge. Will the Minister please explain this? Finally, will the Minister explain why in the draft clause there is no provision for the judge making the decision to have regard to the public interest in maintaining the confidentiality of journalistic sources? This was proposed by the amendment in the other place. I beg to move.
My Lords, in responding to my noble friend Lord Strasburger, I pay tribute to him for the way he has engaged with this issue. We have had some conversations about this, and I know that this is a subject he feels very passionately about. He also brings a great deal of expertise to the role, and a knowledge of how communications actually work.
The special case being made for journalists here is the fact that not only did the Interception of Communications Commissioner confine his particular examination in his report to looking at journalists, but someone who speaks to, say, a lawyer does not reveal what was said. If someone is trying to establish the source of a leak, knowing who spoke to a journalist may be more important than actually knowing what was said. This does not extend in the same way to other professions. That is what we are trying to say. It is a different way of looking at the particular situations in which journalists find themselves. I also say to my noble friend that we will very shortly lay before Parliament for approval the draft acquisition of communications data code of practice, following the public consultation. That will provide another opportunity to look at this.
My noble friend asked some specific questions about when the Government will bring forward the proposed code of practice. As the Minister for Modern Slavery and Organised Crime made clear in the House of Commons last week, the Government hope that the code of practice will be in place as soon as possible, but obviously this will be subject to parliamentary approval. My noble friend asked whether the Minister and officials will urgently meet with him and the National Union of Journalists to discuss that code of practice. Officials have already met with the National Union of Journalists early in the process. The NUJ has also responded to the consultation, and we have considered their response. Following the consultation, we have implemented significant changes in the code, as I have stated, and will publish it shortly. However, I am of course very happy to meet my noble friend and any others from the NUJ whom he wishes to bring with him.
It was also asked whether the code of practice will set out the circumstances in which journalists can be given notice of an application under Schedule 1 of PACE. My honourable friend Karen Bradley addressed the issue of providing notice in the House of Commons when considering these amendments in another place last Monday. It has never been the practice in this country that those who are subject to a communications data application are notified. There are obvious reasons for that, given that the crime may be under active investigation. We do not intend to depart from that, but we are of course very happy to listen to concerns.
My noble friend asked whether the Home Office will take the opportunity to make it clear in this code of practice that the police should use PACE procedures for other forms of privilege before obtaining communications data relating to other forms of privilege, such as that between a lawyer and client. As I mentioned, the draft code of practice was consulted on. It already makes it clear that special consideration must be given to any applications for data that relate to a person who is a member of a profession that handles privileged or otherwise confidential information. Following the consultation and the commissioner’s recommendations, the detail of the considerations of necessity and proportionality have significantly increased in the code, which will shortly be laid before Parliament.
My noble friend asked whether there was provision in the draft clauses to bypass judicial authorisation for RIPA requests in the event of an imminent threat to life. This is to cover a situation in which communications data to identify a journalistic source is required with extreme urgency. For example, if a bomb warning was telephoned to a journalist, or a newspaper officer, the police would want urgently to establish where the call was made from. That would technically count as trying to identify journalistic sources.
The Interception of Communications Commissioner looked at the Government’s threshold test for journalistic privilege in great detail. His recommendation, in paragraph 8.9 of the report, was:
“Judicial authorisation must be obtained in cases where communications data is sought to determine the source of journalistic information”.
We clearly sought to effect that, as I mentioned.
My noble friend asked in which circumstances a journalist should be notified of an application to access their communications. As I have said, my honourable friend Karen Bradley has already stated the Government’s view on this issue, providing notice in the debate in the House of Commons on 23 February that it was never the practice in this country that those who are the subject of an application for communications data are notified, as serious crimes may be involved.
The Government’s draft clauses do not contain the same provisions as PACE. In response to that point, acquiring communications data is not the same as acquiring a notebook or even a phone handset. The data are retained by the communication service providers, either for their own business purposes or under data retention legislation. I can think of no circumstances where, on receiving an order granted by a judge for communications data, whether from a journalist or in any other circumstances, a communications service provider would have any reason to delete that data.
Finally, my noble friend asked why there is no provision in the draft clauses for the judge making the decision to have regard to the public interest. The draft clauses require the judge to ensure that the requirements, in Sections 22(1) and 22(5) of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act are satisfied. Section 22(1) ensures that the application is necessary and Section 22(5) ensures that the application is proportionate.
I totally accept that those answers, as far as they go, may not be entirely satisfactory to my noble friend, but I hope that the overarching commitment that I have given to continue our discussion on this very important issue will enable him to withdraw his motion.
My Lords, I gave my noble friend the Minister advance notice of my questions. He has made a very good attempt at answering them and I thank him for that. Obviously, the devil will be in the detail of the code of practice. I will very gladly accept his invitation to come and discuss that with him. Clearly, we will all return to this subject in the new Parliament when the Anderson review is delivered. For now I am very happy to withdraw my motion.
Motion on Amendment 11A (as an amendment to Amendment 11) withdrawn.
Motion on Amendment 12
12: After Clause 73, insert the following new Clause—
“Termination of pregnancy on grounds of sex of foetus
(1) The Secretary of State shall arrange for an assessment to be made of the evidence of termination of pregnancy on the grounds of the sex of the foetus in England, Wales and Scotland.
(2) The arrangements made under subsection (1) shall be such as to enable publication of the assessment by the Secretary of State within 6 months of the date of Royal Assent to this Act.
(3) The Secretary of State shall consider the assessment made under subsection
(a) determine and publish a strategic plan to tackle substantiated concerns identified in the assessment made under subsection (1); or
(b) publish a statement and explanation in relation to why a plan under subsection (3)(a) is not required.
(4) Any strategic plan under subsection (3)(a) must include, but need not be limited to, steps—
(a) to promote change in the social and cultural patterns of behaviour with a view to eradicating prejudices, customs, traditions and all other practices which are based on the idea of the inferiority of women and which may amount to pressure to seek a termination on the grounds of the sex of the foetus;
(b) to ensure best practice exists in identifying women being coerced or pressured into seeking a termination on the grounds of the sex of the foetus, or at risk of being so, and in the provision of protection and support to potential victims; and
(c) to promote guidance to service providers, health professionals and other stakeholders.
(5) The Secretary of State must lay a copy of the plan, determined under subsection (3)(a), before each House of Parliament within 6 months of the publication date of the assessment under subsection (2).”
My Lords, noble Lords will be pleased to hear that I have only one amendment to deal with here—I hope I can get it right—which is Commons Amendment 12. Unlike the other Commons amendments we are considering today, Amendment 12 was tabled by a Back-Bench MP, Ann Coffey. It was agreed by the Commons on a free vote by 491 votes to just two. As in the Commons, the Government are not taking a view either for or against Amendment 12, and there will again be a free vote in this House should it go to a Division. That said, it might assist noble Lords if I provide the House with some background.
The Government have been consistently clear that abortion on the grounds of gender alone is already illegal. The Department of Health repeated that in guidance issued in May 2014, and it is important to stress that all independent sector providers have agreed to comply with, and operate on the basis of, the department’s guidance—and that they must do so as part of their licensing conditions.
The department has also undertaken detailed analysis to investigate whether the gender birth ratio in the UK varies by the mother’s country of birth beyond the range that might be expected to occur naturally. The analysis, first published in May 2013 and updated in 2014, concluded that, when broken down by the mother’s country of birth, no group was statistically different from the range we would expect to see naturally occurring. The Department of Health has rightly committed to repeat that analysis annually when new birth data become available. However, I stress that the Government will remain vigilant, will continue to monitor data and will be fully open to any other evidence that comes to light. Anecdotal reports of sex-selective abortion have been raised from time to time. Anyone with evidence of individual cases should report this to the police to investigate.
It is against that background that Commons Amendment 12 would require a further assessment of the evidence that terminations are taking place on the ground of the sex of the foetus alone. In addition to the analysis that the Department of Health is undertaking on an annual basis in this area, any other evidence that comes to light could be considered. The Department of Health is already considering what further sources of evidence can contribute to our knowledge on this important issue. The amendment would further require the Secretary of State for Health to consider the assessment and either to determine and publish a strategic plan to tackle substantiated concerns identified in the assessment, or to give a statement and explanation as to why such a plan is not required.
As I have said, it is for the House to decide whether to agree Commons Amendment 12. In considering the matter, noble Lords may wish to take account of the short debate in the House of Commons and the outcome of the Division in that House, as well as the views of noble Lords as expressed in this debate today.
Motion on Amendments 13 to 17
13: Clause 75, page 79, line 16, at end insert—
“( ) Subsection (7) of section (Child sexual exploitation) and paragraph 1A of Schedule 4 do not apply in the case of an offence proceedings for which are started before the commencement of that subsection.”
14: Clause 75, page 79, line 16, at end insert—
“( ) The amendment made by section (Codes of practice about investigatory powers: journalistic sources) applies only to a code of practice that is issued or revised on or after the day on which this Act is passed.”
15: Clause 75, page 79, line 26, at end insert—
“( ) in the Sexual Offences Act 2003, subsection (3)(a) of the section 15A inserted by section (Sexual communication with a child) above;”
16: Clause 75, page 79, line 28, at end insert—
“( ) in that Act, subsection (4)(b) of the section 40CB inserted by section (Throwing articles into prisons) above.”
17: Clause 75, page 79, line 32, at end insert—
“( ) section (Controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship)(11)(b).”
Motion on Amendment 18
18: Clause 75, page 79, line 32, at end insert—
“( ) In relation to an offence committed before section 85(1) of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 comes into force—
(a) a reference to a fine in the following provisions is to be read as a reference to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum—
(i) section 60(3)(a);
(ii) in the Sexual Offences Act 2003, subsection (3)(a) of the section 15A inserted by section (Sexual communication with a child) above;
(iii) in the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003, paragraph (b) of the subsection (2) inserted in section 5 by section 69(4)(b) above;
(iv) paragraph 4(5)(b) of the Schedule inserted in that Act by section 70(2) above;
(v) section (Controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship)(11)(b) above;
(vi) in the Prison Act 1952, subsection (4)(b) of the section 40CA inserted by section 71 above;
(vii) in that Act, subsection (4)(b) of the section 40CB inserted by section (Throwing articles into prisons) above.”
(b) the reference to a fine in paragraph 2(2)(a) of the Schedule to the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003, inserted in that Act by section 68(2) above, is to be read as a reference to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale.”
My Lords, as the House is well aware, there is no greater duty for a Government than the protection of its citizens in the face of a significant and very real threat to our safety and security. We are in the middle of a generational struggle against a deadly terrorist ideology. In such a climate, it is more important than ever to ensure that the police and our security and intelligence agencies have the right capabilities they need to tackle the threat from terrorism, both at home and abroad.
Only a short while ago, this House scrutinised a package of new powers in the newly enacted Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015. This Act significantly adds to the tools at our disposal to counter the threat posed in particular by British-born violent extremists. It disrupts the ability of people to travel abroad to fight, and to return here. It enhances our ability to monitor and control the actions of those in the UK who pose a threat, and it combats the underlying ideology that feeds, supports and sanctions terrorism. It is right and proper that we brought forward and enacted that legislation at the earliest opportunity, but we must also act at the earliest opportunity to ensure that when individuals who may pose a threat to our security have already travelled abroad to places of conflict, such as Syria and Iraq, to engage in terrorist-related activities, they too are not beyond the reach of the law when they return to the UK.
To this end, Commons Amendments 26, 27 and 29 provide for Clause 72 of the Bill to come into force on Royal Assent. The House will recall that Clause 72 will ensure that we are able to prosecute individuals who have prepared and trained for terrorism overseas by extending the extraterritorial reach of the offences in Sections 5 and 6 of the Terrorism Act 2006. Let me be clear that this measure does not come without safeguards. The Bill already makes clear that prosecutions cannot be brought retrospectively—that is, in respect of activities undertaken before the measure is commenced. We are also working with our law enforcement and security partners in advance of Royal Assent to ensure that this change is communicated to those who will use it.
I hope your Lordships will agree that, given the immediacy of the threat we are facing from terrorism and foreign fighters in particular, there is an overriding necessity to ensure that our law enforcement and security partners are provided with the right tools, as early as possible, to protect the UK public, and that this power should be available immediately. The other amendments in this group are minor or technical in nature. I beg to move.
Motion on Amendments 19 to 58
19: Clause 76, page 79, line 45, leave out paragraph (d) and insert—
“( ) sections 65 to (Child sexual exploitation);”
20: Clause 76, page 79, line 45, at end insert—
“( ) sections (Duty to notify police of female genital mutilation) and (Guidance about female genital mutilation);”.
21: Clause 76, page 79, line 45, at end insert—
“( ) sections (Controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship) and (Guidance);”
22: Clause 76, page 79, line 46, leave out “section 71” and insert “sections 71 and (Throwing articles into prisons)”
23: Clause 76, page 80, line 1, at beginning insert—
“( ) Section (Prevention or restriction of use of communication devices by prisoners etc) extends to England and Wales and Scotland (but not Northern Ireland).”
24: Clause 77, page 80, line 26, leave out “32” and insert “31A”
25: Clause 77, page 80, line 32, leave out “42” and insert “41A”
26: Clause 77, page 80, line 34, leave out “The following provisions” and insert “Sections 67 to 69”
27: Clause 77, page 80, line 36, leave out paragraphs (a) and (b)
28: Clause 77, page 80, line 40, at end insert—
“( ) section (Prevention or restriction of use of communication devices by prisoners etc);”
29: Clause 77, page 80, line 40, at end insert—
“( ) section 72 and paragraph 60 of Schedule 4 (and section 74(1) so far as relating to that paragraph);”
30: Clause 77, page 80, line 40, at end insert—
“( ) section (Codes of practice about investigatory powers: journalistic sources);”
31: Clause 77, page 81, line 17, at end insert—
“( ) Consultation for the purposes of subsection (2), (3), (6) or (7) may be, or include, consultation before the day on which this Act is passed.”
32: Clause 78, page 81, line 26, leave out subsection (2)
33: Schedule 4, page 103, line 38, at end insert—
“Street Offences Act 1959 (c. 57)
1A (1) The Schedule to the Street Offences Act 1959 (orders under section 1(2A): breach, amendment etc) is amended as follows.
(2) In paragraphs 2(3), 3(3) and 5(4), for paragraphs (a) and (b) substitute “a magistrates’ court acting in the relevant local justice area”.
(3) In paragraph 9(2), for paragraphs (a) and (b) substitute “any magistrates’ court”.
(4) Omit paragraph 9(4).
(5) In paragraph 10(4), for paragraphs (a) and (b) substitute “to a prison”. (6) Omit paragraph 10(5).
(7) In paragraph 11(1) omit “youth court or other”.”
34: Schedule 4, page 105, line 32, at end insert—
“Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (c. 23)
In section 71 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (issue and revision of codes of practice), in subsection (8), for “(3)” substitute “(2A)”.”
35: Schedule 4, page 105, line 33, at end insert—
“16A In section 6 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (making of order) at the end of subsection (5) insert—
“Paragraph (b) applies only if, or to the extent that, it would not be disproportionate to require the defendant to pay the recoverable amount.””
36: Schedule 4, page 108, line 3, at end insert—
“31A In section 92 of that Act (making of order), at the end of subsection (6) insert—
“Paragraph (b) applies only if, or to the extent that, it would not be disproportionate to require the accused to pay the recoverable amount.””
37: Schedule 4, page 110, line 21, at end insert—
“41A In section 156 of that Act (making of order), at the end of subsection (5) insert—
“Paragraph (b) applies only if, or to the extent that, it would not be disproportionate to require the defendant to pay the recoverable amount.””
38: Schedule 4, page 111, line 35, at end insert—
“( ) In Schedule 2 to that Act (lifestyle offences: England and Wales), in paragraph 8 (prostitution and child sex), sub-paragraph (2) is amended as follows.
( ) In paragraph (b), for “child prostitution or pornography” substitute “sexual exploitation of a child”.
( ) In paragraph (c), for “prostitute or a child involved in pornography” substitute “in relation to sexual exploitation”.
( ) In paragraph (d), for “child prostitution or pornography” substitute “sexual exploitation of a child”.”
39: Schedule 4, page 111, line 38, at end insert—
“Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 (c.31)
In section 8 of the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 (extent etc), in subsection (4) after “Scotland” insert “and sections 5B and 5C do not extend to Northern Ireland”.
40: Schedule 4, page 112, line 1, at end insert—
“In section 54 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 (sections 51A to 53A: interpretation), for subsections (2) and (3) substitute—
“(2) In sections 51A, 52, 53 and 53A “prostitute” means a person (A) who, on at least one occasion and whether or not compelled to do so, offers or provides sexual services to another person in return for payment or a promise of payment to A or a third person; and “prostitution” is to be interpreted accordingly.
(3) In subsection (2) and section 53A, “payment” means any financial advantage, including the discharge of an obligation to pay or the provision of goods or services (including sexual services) gratuitously or at a discount.””
41: Schedule 4, page 112, line 1, at end insert—
“ In section 78 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 (meaning of “sexual”), for “except section 71” substitute “except sections 15A and 71”.”
42: Schedule 4, page 112, line 1, at end insert—
“ ( ) In section 136A of that Act (meaning of specified prostitution offence etc) subsection (2) is amended as follows.
( ) After paragraph (a) insert—
“(aa) an offence under section 48 of this Act committed by causing or inciting a child to be sexually exploited within the meaning given by section 51(2)(a);”.
( ) In paragraph (b), for “section 48 of this Act, or Article 38 of the Northern
Ireland order,” substitute “Article 38 of the Northern Ireland order”.”
( ) After paragraph (b) insert—
“(ba) an offence under section 49 of this Act committed by controlling the activities of a child in relation to sexual exploitation within the meaning given by section 51(2)(a);”.
( ) In paragraph (c), for “section 49 of this Act, or Article 39 of the Northern Ireland order,” substitute “Article 39 of the Northern Ireland order”.
( ) After paragraph (c) insert—
“(ca) an offence under section 50 of this Act committed by arranging or facilitating the sexual exploitation, within the meaning given by section 51(2)(a), of a child;”.
( ) In paragraph (d), for “section 50 of this Act, or Article 40 of the Northern Ireland order,” substitute “Article 49 of the Northern Ireland order”.
( ) Subsection (3) of that section is amended as follows. ( ) Before paragraph (a) insert—
“(za) an offence under section 48 of this Act committed by causing or inciting a child to be sexually exploited within the meaning given by section 51(2)(b);”.
( ) In paragraph (a), for “section 48 of this Act, or Article 38 of the Northern Ireland order,” substitute “Article 38 of the Northern Ireland order”.
( ) After paragraph (a) insert—
“(aa) an offence under section 49 of this Act committed by controlling the activities of a child in relation to sexual exploitation within the meaning given by section 51(2)(b);”.
( ) In paragraph (b), for “section 49 of this Act, or Article 39 of the Northern Ireland order,” substitute “Article 39 of the Northern Ireland order”.
( ) After paragraph (b) insert—
“(ba) an offence under section 50 of this Act committed by arranging or facilitating the sexual exploitation, within the meaning given by section 51(2)(b), of a child;”.
( ) In paragraph (c), for “section 50 of this Act, or Article 40 of the Northern Ireland order,” substitute “Article 49 of the Northern Ireland order”.”
43: Schedule 4, page 112, line 3, at end insert—
“( ) After paragraph 24 insert—
“24A An offence under section 15A of this Act (sexual communication with a child).””
44: Schedule 4, page 112, line 18, at end insert—
“( ) Schedule 15 to that Act (specified offences for purposes of Chapter 5 of Part 12) is amended as follows.
( ) After paragraph 116 insert—
“116A An offence under section 15A of that Act (sexual communication with a child).””
45: Schedule 4, page 112, line 18, at end insert—
“( ) In paragraph 136, for “child prostitution or pornography” substitute “sexual exploitation of a child”.
( ) In paragraph 137, for “prostitute or a child involved in pornography” substitute “in relation to sexual exploitation”.
( ) In paragraph 138, for “child prostitution or pornography” substitute “sexual exploitation of a child”.”
46: Schedule 4, page 112, line 18, at end insert—
“( ) Schedule 15B to that Act (offences listed for the purposes of sections 224A, 226A and 246A) is amended as follows.
( ) In paragraph 35, for “child prostitution or pornography” substitute “sexual exploitation of a child”.
( ) In paragraph 36, for “prostitute or a child involved in pornography” substitute “in relation to sexual exploitation”.
( ) In paragraph 37, for “child prostitution or pornography” substitute “sexual exploitation of a child”.”
47: Schedule 4, page 112, line 18, at end insert—
“ ( ) Schedule 34A to that Act (child sex offences for purposes of section 327A) is amended as follows.
( ) In paragraph 7(b), for “15” substitute “15A”.
( ) In paragraph 7(e), for “abuse of children through prostitution and pornography” substitute “sexual exploitation of children”.”
( ) After paragraph 13A insert—
“13B An offence under section 66 of the Serious Crime Act 2015 (possession of paedophile manual).”
48: Schedule 4, page 113, line 28, after “Wales),” insert “in paragraph 4 (prostitution and child sex), in sub-paragraph (2)—
(a) in paragraph (b), for “child prostitution or pornography” substitute “sexual exploitation of a child”;
(b) in paragraph (c), for “prostitute or a child involved in pornography” substitute “in relation to sexual exploitation”;
(c) in paragraph (d), for “child prostitution or pornography” substitute “sexual exploitation of a child”.
( ) In that Part,”
49: Schedule 4, page 114, line 18, at beginning insert “Part 1 of”
50: Schedule 4, page 114, line 19, at end insert—
“( ) After paragraph 15 insert—
“Female genital mutilation protection orders
15A (1) Civil legal services provided in relation to female genital mutilation protection orders under paragraph 1 of Schedule 2 to the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003.
(2) Sub-paragraph (1) is subject to the exclusions in Parts 2 and 3 of this Schedule.””
51: Schedule 4, page 114, line 23, at end insert—
“ ( ) Part 3 of that Schedule (advocacy: exclusion and exceptions) is amended as follows.
( ) In paragraph 6—
(a) omit “and” at the end of paragraph (a); (b) at the end insert “, and
(c) proceedings for the variation or discharge of an order under paragraph 1 of Schedule 2 to the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003.”
( ) In paragraph 8—
(a) omit “and” at the end of paragraph (c); (b) at the end insert “, and
(e) proceedings for the variation or discharge of an order under paragraph 1 of Schedule 2 to the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003.””
52: Schedule 4, page 114, line 27, at end insert—
Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 (c. 12)
“ In section 116 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 (information about guests at hotels believed to be used for child sexual exploitation), in subsection (8)(a), for “prostitution and pornography” substitute “sexual exploitation”.”
53: In the Title, line 2, after “1933,” insert “the Sexual Offences Act 2003, the Street Offences Act 1959,”
54: In the Title, line 4, after “2005” insert “, the Prison Act 1952”
55: In the Title, line 8, leave out from “children;” to “to” in line 9
56: In the Title, line 8, after “children;” insert “to create an offence in relation to controlling or coercive behaviour in intimate or family relationships;”
57: In the Title, line 9, after “prison;” insert “to make provision for the prevention or restriction of the use of communication devices by persons detained in custodial institutions;”
58: In the Title, line 11, after “crime;” insert “to make provision about codes of practice that relate to the exercise and performance, in connection with the prevention or detection of serious crime, of powers and duties in relation to communications;”
House adjourned at 6.57 pm.