Committee (4th Day) (continued)
Clause 48: Power to photograph certain persons at a police station
116: Clause 48, page 39, line 21, leave out “, (1F) or (1H)” and insert “or (1F)”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment is consequential on Lord Paddick’s amendment to page 40, line 14.
My Lords, I rise to move Amendment 116 and speak to my Amendments 117 to 121 inclusive in this group.
Clause 48 gives the police the power to compel people to have their photograph taken at a police station without their consent. It includes someone arrested for a recordable offence and released without being charged or otherwise being prosecuted for an offence, if they have not previously been photographed, the previous photograph is unavailable or inadequate, or a constable thinks that another photograph might be useful to assist in the prevention or detection of crime.
We have had concerns for some time about those not convicted of a criminal offence having their photographs retained by the police, but forcing a person to attend a police station and taking their photograph without their consent in such circumstances seems draconian. However, the clause goes further. It includes anyone who has been convicted abroad of an offence which would have been an offence if committed in England or Wales, if the police do not already have a useable photograph of the person so convicted or if a police officer thinks that it might be useful to have another one.
Aside from how the police would know about such a conviction, particularly since the UK has lost access to EU databases that record all convictions in EU countries, some countries are notorious for having legal systems that fall far short of what would be considered acceptable in the UK. Surely, at least in relation to overseas convictions, there should be some judicial safeguard to ensure that such a conviction is safe, rather than a constable being able to force someone to be photographed in such circumstances. My probing Amendment 117 removes the conditions associated with an overseas conviction, and the other amendments are consequential. I beg to move.
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, for his amendment. I have a very brief comment for the Minister. The Explanatory Notes say:
“Section 64A of PACE confers a power on the police to take photographs from a person who has been detained in a police station and/or arrested. If a person is arrested, charged or convicted without a photograph being taken, there is no power to require them to attend a police station later for this to be done, although there is such a ‘recall’ power in … PACE relating to taking of fingerprints and DNA samples.”
There are so many important things in this Bill, and this is yet another. The noble Lord is quite right to point this out. Therefore, why was it thought not to be necessary to include the taking of photographs in the original legislation but now is thought to be necessary? What is the evidence for the change in legislation to include photographs?
Also, the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, made the very important point about the extension of that power to overseas offences. Does that extension of power include not only photographs but fingerprints and DNA samples?
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, for explaining what he described as probing amendments.
Clause 48 amends the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 to allow the police to require certain persons to attend a police station at a stipulated date and time for the purpose of taking their photograph. Comparing facial images, along with DNA and fingerprints, is a key tool for police to quickly identify and eliminate suspects. Under existing legislation, people who are arrested are taken to a custody suite to have their fingerprints, DNA samples and photographs taken straight away. If this is not done, there is a recall power to require those who have been arrested, charged or convicted to attend a police station so that their fingerprints and DNA samples can be taken. However, this power does not cover photographs and Clause 48 will address this omission, which I hope goes some way to explaining the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Coaker—I think it was an omission rather than being deliberate—and bring consistency.
As things stand, opportunities to take photographs are being missed—
I am saying it was an omission. I am not saying it was a mistake, because I do not know whether it was, but it was an omission. I think there is a difference.
As things stand, opportunities to take photographs are being missed. This means that matches to crimes the person may have committed in the past or may commit in the future are not made. As the noble Lord explained, these amendments specifically intend to probe the necessity and proportionality of the provisions in proposed new subsections (1H) and (1I) of Section 64A of PACE. These provisions cover occasions when the police have been notified of a conviction in another country that has an equivalent offence in England and Wales. Where there is no photograph on file, or it is of poor quality, police will now be able to ask an individual to attend a police station to have one taken for the purposes of preventing or detecting a crime. To ensure appropriate oversight, this will require authorisation at the minimum rank of inspector.
As I said at the start, these provisions simply align the police’s ability to take photographs in certain circumstances with provisions that already exist for DNA and fingerprints. In that sense, we are therefore not breaking new ground. We are dealing here with individuals who have been convicted of a criminal offence, albeit in another country. In the interests of protecting people in this country, it is right that the police should be able to take and retain a photograph of a convicted person in these circumstances. I hope that the noble Lord agrees, particularly given the existing precedent in PACE, that this a necessary and proportionate power, and that he will therefore be content to withdraw his amendment.
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, for his support. I have to say to the Minister that I am really none the wiser about the questions I asked. There is a catalogue of cases where people are convicted overseas and where it turns out that the convictions are unsafe and unsatisfactory because of the inadequate legal systems that operate abroad. Yet this is a blanket power for the police to summon and photograph anybody on the basis of an overseas conviction. The noble Lord has not addressed how there could be any safeguard against such an unsafe and unsatisfactory conviction overseas.
The Minister talked about where the police have been notified of an overseas conviction, but I do not understand what the mechanism is by which the police would be notified. So my questions remain unanswered by what the Minister said and I hope that, between now and Report, the Government will be able to answer them, otherwise we will be having another debate on Report. At this stage, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment 116 withdrawn.
Amendments 117 to 121 not moved.
Clause 48 agreed.
Clause 49 agreed.
122: After Clause 49, insert the following new Clause—
“Arrest without warrants: safeguarding
In section 24 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (arrest without warrants: constables), after subsection (4) insert—“(4A) A constable exercising the power conferred by subsection (1), (2) or (3) may not require or ask the person under arrest to enter a vehicle or premises other than a police station unless at least one other constable is present in the vehicle or when entering the premises, as applicable.””
My Lords, I have the duty of opening this debate on amendments tabled by noble Lords in response to Sarah Everard’s abduction, rape and murder by a man who was, at the relevant time, a serving police officer, and further to the public outpouring of revulsion and distrust arising from revelations about how the perpetrator was allowed to thrive in the police service, despite repeated concerns about his character and conduct over so many years. These emerged in particular during sentencing proceedings just over a month ago.
My Amendment 122 attempts to address the fact that as a matter of hard law—as opposed to soft guidance, practice, or anything of that kind—a lone arresting officer is currently permitted to require a person subject to arrest to enter a vehicle or premises other than a police station. This gives rise to obvious dangers of abuse of power and dangers to the majority of officers who, unlike the man in question, undertake hazardous and vital public protection duties in good faith.
I am grateful for the support of the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, and the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb. I think the subsequently tabled Amendment 123, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew, attempts to tackle a very similar mischief. He will forgive me, I hope, if in a moment I explain why I prefer my original proposal.
My Amendment 275 requires that the inquiry into matters arising from the Sarah Everard atrocity—for that is what it is—be put on a statutory footing under the Inquiries Act 2005. I am grateful not only for the signature of my noble friend Lord Rosser but for that of the noble Baroness, Lady Newlove, and my friend the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood. I am also grateful for the support that the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, and a number of other noble Lords from across your Lordships’ House have expressed for this endeavour.
Once more, I hope that my noble friend Lord Rosser —and my noble friend Lord Coaker on his behalf—will forgive me for preferring my precise formulation to his Amendment 281, not least because in this matter the ideal outcome must be for the Home Secretary to hear the legal and public confidence arguments and by her own volition launch a full statutory inquiry under the 2005 Act, long before the Bill before your Lordships’ Committee becomes law.
Finally, I will support my noble friend Lord Rosser’s Amendments 282 and 283, which seem so important given the obvious needs for better training and vetting in the police service.
Amendment 122 amends Section 24 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 governing the powers of police constables who arrest without warrant. It would prevent a police officer in or out of uniform from requiring an arrested person to
“enter a vehicle or premises other than a police station”
unless or until a second officer is in attendance. They would still be able to restrain the arrested person to prevent an escape if so required and, if necessary, to seek bystander assistance in so doing. However, there would be no question of a sole plain-clothed or uniformed officer driving off with an arrested person. This clear and simple change to our law must be better for the safety of all citizens and constables alike.
We now know that the first phase of the hideous abuse of power against Sarah Everard perpetrated by a predatory, murdering rapist was that he went hunting for a young woman under the cloak of dusk and draconian lockdown laws. He persuaded Sarah that he was arresting her under suspicion of breaching those same lockdown laws—something, by the way, that should require those laws being perhaps amended or repealed. While some senior voices in policing had the gall to suggest that she and other women are somehow too naive or compliant, and others have tried to suggest that we ought to perhaps flag down traffic, demand to speak to the control room on an officer’s radio or resort to private sector safety apps on our own mobile phones, it seems that no amount of new guidance to either citizens or constables can substitute for a clear and well-publicised change to primary legislation that everyone can understand.
They will forgive me, I hope, in the spirit of anxious scrutiny and rigorous legislative debate, but Amendment 123, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew, and, once more, the indefatigable noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, fails, in my view—or stumbles, at least—at the clear, simple and understood-by-everyone tests. Unlike Amendment 122, Amendment 123 attempts to protect only self-identifying women and apparent child arrestees from single male constables. This, it seems to me, creates various practical problems, not least in the context of so many young people aged between around 15 and 20, who may or may not present as just below or above 18. Let us bear in mind that this is about on-the-street powers, not the more careful evaluations of age and so on that are possible and vital in the police station and further on into the criminal justice process.
Furthermore, young black and gay men, protesters, the elderly, non-English speakers and people with any number of disabilities have their own reasons, perhaps, to fear getting into a car without a second person being present. A single male officer could also, it seems to me, have reasonable concerns about being required to transport a potentially dangerous male arrestee while driving and without support. So, I believe that Amendment 123 potentially risks breaching Articles 5 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights when read with the non-discrimination provision of Article 14, and for no obvious practical policy justification. Indeed, the requirement that the second officer must be a woman may at times be impractical and of no particular benefit. The protection from abuse in my simpler proposal comes with the presence of a second officer, not their sex.
A further problem, perhaps, with the overengineering of Amendment 123 is that it is capable of rendering an otherwise perfectly lawful arrest unlawful if there are subsequent arguments over conditions (1)(a), (b) or (c) relating to new proposed on-street rights of the suspect to make phone calls and potentially wait for a friend to arrive for up to 30 minutes or such other reasonable time. This kind of thing seems to me much more appropriate for the police station and would no doubt lead to a great deal of litigation as to whether arrests had been rendered unlawful, and consequent damages for unlawful arrest. I prefer the simpler Amendment 122 as more appropriate for primary legislation. Under my proposal, an arrest can be and remain completely lawful, but no one is to be placed in a vehicle or non-police station premises until a second officer arrives. This will protect citizens and lone officers, regardless of sex, gender or age.
Amendment 275 would require the Secretary of State, within one month of the coming into force of any parts of the legislation currently under scrutiny, to instigate a statutory inquiry under the 2005 Act into the matters arising from the abduction, rape and murder of Sarah Everard. It would identify the lessons to be learned for the professional culture, funding, vetting and organisation of policing, the prevention of violence against women and girls and the investigation and prosecution of misogynistic crimes. This inquiry would be chaired by a senior woman judge or senior woman retired judge and a supporting panel of people of appropriate experience.
Not one but two purely administrative reviews or inquiries have been announced by, first, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner and then the Home Secretary. Forgive me, but no process commissioned by the commissioner from inside the Metropolitan Police can hope to stand equivalent to the statutory independent Stephen Lawrence inquiry, chaired by the late Sir William Macpherson in the late 1990s. The task of once more rebuilding trust in our police service, this time for women in particular, deserves no less. Sarah Everard’s murder came after years of the most shameful attrition rates in the investigation and prosecution of crimes against women. Nothing short of a Lawrence moment will do.
Further, it seems to me that we must learn from the difficult experience that the noble Baroness, Lady O’Loan, had in chairing the Home Office review of the Daniel Morgan case and the excoriating statement she published in June. She spoke in terms of being hampered by her non-statutory status and inability to compel the Metropolitan Police in particular to provide witnesses, documents and co-operation. So, a fully statutory judge-led inquiry is vital not just to the public’s and in particular women’s confidence that these matters are being treated with the seriousness they deserve, but to ensure that the inquiry has the powers to compel co-operation that are sadly but clearly required.
As my noble friend Lord Rosser has signed Amendment 275, in my name and those of the noble Baroness, Lady Newlove, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood, I do not propose to enter into too much detail about why I prefer my amendment to his Amendment 281. On the one hand, his is a little too prescriptive about the terms of reference for an inquiry that should be led by a judge, in close consultation with both the grieving family and so many stakeholders; on the other, it is perhaps not quite sensitive enough to replicate Lawrence in being judge-led or making specific reference to the death of Sarah Everard as its catalyst. I hope that my noble friends will agree that we all want the Government to respond to good sense, practical law and public opinion, which sometimes all march in step, in giving the inquiry already announced by the Home Secretary full statutory force under the 2005 Act.
Finally, I commend my noble friend Lord Rosser, in his absence, on his Amendments 282 and 283, which go to what seems to me to be the obvious need for far better training and vetting for our police service, in the light of a number of recent scandals, from a woman’s point of view.
The rule of law is a fragile thing, even in a supposedly mature democracy such as ours. The police represent the thin blue line that, alongside our courts, exists to maintain that essential value. While I have spent a lifetime arguing against knee-jerk legislative responses, even to terrible crimes, when those same crimes expose genuine chasms in law and practice and the most heinous institutional dereliction of public duty, we as legislators would also be derelict not to respond. I beg to move.
My Lords, it is a genuine privilege to follow that eloquent introduction to this group of amendments by the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti. I make it absolutely clear from the outset that, for me, this is no competition between amendments: we are absolutely on the same page, in the same chapter and in the same book. In my view, it would be inexcusable for any Minister to reject these amendments on the grounds that they are not sufficiently well drafted.
The noble Baroness and I are both Back-Bench Members of your Lordships’ House; neither of us is a parliamentary draftsman. Yes, we are perfectly capable of drawing up a basic amendment or new clause and of obtaining advice elsewhere, as I am sure we both have. What we both trying to say, however, is that there needs to be a solution to the fear that now exists among young women about lone male police officers. It is a solution that the Government have to produce and that parliamentary counsel has to draft and put in a form that will be clear both to women and to the police.
Our feelings of sympathy for the family and friends of Sarah Everard are in no way diminished by the passage of time. Indeed, it is vital that we should keep this story running until we reach a satisfactory ending. If I may be forgiven for putting a personal slant on this, we are fortunate enough to have five daughters. One is a young professional woman, single, living with friends in a shared flat in Clapham, just like Sarah. She goes out with her friends or on her own and walks across the common, just like Sarah. She walks home when she feels like it and is obviously responsible in the way that she approaches her journey, just like Sarah. And she was brought up absolutely to trust the police, just like Sarah.
All those assumptions have been smashed on the ground as a result of this case. I am sure that we are not the only family who, for obvious reasons, sit up at night looking on Find My Friends, worried about the whereabouts of our children—although they tell us now that they are worried about our whereabouts and use Find My Friends for that purpose. We are genuinely concerned as they go about their lawful lives day and night. We have taught them the basic conventions of good self-protection and safety but, of course, one of the basic tenets of that domestic advice was that you can always trust a police officer: if something goes wrong and you can see a police man or woman, turn to them; they will see you right. We and they are now shocked to the core by the number of cases of police sexual misconduct that have come to light. This case is the very worst of the very worst, but it does not sit in a category all of its own. More than 70 incidents of police sexual misconduct, almost all by male police officers, have now come to light and been investigated to a greater or lesser extent.
Sarah Everard should, of course, still be alive and free to come and go as she wishes. In her death, she should not have to be remembered for the unspeakable things that happened to her, to which the noble Baroness referred—for the abuse of her person when alive and the desecration of her body in death. She must not be seen to have died in vain. It is our duty, in both Houses of Parliament, to take the appropriate steps to demonstrate to the world at large that Sarah Everard did not die in vain and that other young women—other women—will be protected from such events so far as is possible. That is our responsibility.
I fear that I had a fairly naive view of the accountability of the police—particularly, that their accountability was reliable and to be trusted. We know now that when they prefer to file misconduct in the drawer labelled “under the carpet”, they have been able to do just that. They have been culpably slow on the uptake when issues have come to light of the kind illustrated by what we know of Sarah Everard’s killer.
In my view, her death has shown that police leaders do not understand fully the demands and necessity of the level of accountability to be taken by highest ranks. What issue can anyone think of, beyond this one, that would lead to the resignation of a chief police officer? Surely this is it. The person involved may not be personally to blame—they may be a very good person—but nevertheless the buck has to stop somewhere, and it has not yet.
I am also concerned about the ethical issues behind this case. In my view, it raises profound ethical issues about behaviour and habits—everything from the tweeting of junior officers to the leadership of senior officers. At one time I chaired something called the London Policing Ethics Panel. I have been waiting in vain for our successors on that panel to take up the issue of the ethical matrix within which Sarah Everard’s death is being treated. When I looked on its website yesterday, it was not even mentioned as a live issue. There are police ethics panels all over the country. What is the point of them if they do not immediately pick up independently the baton offered by cases such as this?
The operational response has already been mentioned by the noble Baroness. It is wholly inadequate. As I understand it, the response of the Metropolitan Police is to offer a single call on the telephone of the officer who purports to make the arrest or on a number given by him. It is a proposal that the killer of Sarah Everard, if he had had to follow it, could easily have circumvented without any difficulty whatever. In my view, that response shows that the senior leadership of the Met, however well motivated—this is not intended as personal criticism—is simply not fit to mark its own homework. We need an inspection, as has been described. Above all, we need to create something that is at the core of what police officers think in their continuing training and is fully understood by women.
I think the noble Baroness, Lady Moulescoomb, and I probably tabled these two amendments, which are very different, at about the same time. They appeared on an amendment paper at about the same time, and my view was, “Let’s leave the options, because the final wording is the responsibility of them down there— the Government—to resolve, not us”. My amendment started its life in the pen of a young, female lawyer—someone I know well—who approached me. We worked on it together to try to produce a codifiable system that would guarantee the protection of women. While I regard my amendment as workable, I would welcome anything better and would be delighted to work with Ministers, as I am sure the noble Baroness would, to produce it.
I and others, including all those who signed these amendments, are determined that there should be a new law that women facing lone male police officers should understand: well advertised, well publicised, ubiquitously known. Above all, it should be a new law that the police would regard as absolutely core learning—something they would be reminded of frequently. When I was chairman of the London Policing Ethics Panel, I used to go on night patrol with the police from Stoke Newington police station. I was present at the going on shift meetings they used to have. It is the sort of law that police officers should be reminded of at those meetings, when some of the junior officers were deployed to tell the more senior officers what they were doing on that shift. It should be second nature to the police. Only if we take measures like that will Sarah Everard’s memory truly be respected. Only then will our daughters be able to have confidence in the police, day and night.
My Lords, I will speak to my Amendments 281 and 282, which concern police culture and police training. I say at once that I agree with my noble friend that the woeful police response, which the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, emphasised, sums up a real issue about culture that I do not see being tackled cohesively.
I understand why my noble friend favours her amendment because she wants an all-embracing Lawrence-type inquiry. I can see the strength of that. The benefit of the amendment that my noble friend Lord Rosser and I have signed is that it focuses on the culture of the police, which is a very important facet.
I was very struck by HM Inspectorate’s report, Police Response to Violence Against Women and Girls, which showed woeful inconsistency between the way police forces conducted themselves. The inspectorate highlighted that, at the level of individual cases, victims reported hugely different responses depending on which call handler they spoke to. Some were very sympathetic, others made the victim feel that they were not being believed. At force level, there were hugely unexplained variations about how forces used their protective powers and orders at their disposal. At local partnership level, the roles and responsibilities for partners working together in a multiagency safeguarding arrangement varied considerably. At the national level, actions to improve police responses were split over multiple government strategies. This surely has to be addressed if we are to make real inroads into these deep-seated problems about violence against women and girls.
Behind this woeful inconsistency, lack of leadership and lack of priority lies a great cultural impediment in so many of our police forces. I know that the Minister has commented before on the performance of her own police force, Greater Manchester Police, but I was struck by the Manchester Evening News investigation into the force last December. She might not want to comment on it and she might think it is not accurate, but it looked into the primary reason why the force missed 80,000 crimes last year. As noble Lords know, this led to action being taken, new management and a new chief constable, but what the Manchester Evening News said is that it discovered a tendency for
“obfuscation, denial, secrecy and an instinct to defend the indefensible”,
“misleading and inaccurate statements, denial of official criticism and legal stonewalling; police officers fearful to report failure and those attempting external scrutiny being brushed off.”
As the article says:
“Understanding and fixing the causes and solutions of what was dubbed a ‘rotten’ culture four years ago will … be central to that”.
I do not want to tar every police force with Greater Manchester’s brush, but lying behind that are major issues about how the police conduct themselves, which is very relevant to our debate.
I was interested in the interview with the former Justice Secretary, Robert Buckland, in the New Statesman on 27 October. Commenting on the Sarah Everard case, he said that instead of being “defensive”, senior officers must be “constantly vigilant” about weeding out dangerous officers and supporting those who need to improve. He said:
“Leadership is all about being honest and there will be times when the police have to own up.”
Where are the signs that most police forces and most police leaders understand that? I do not think there are many signs at all.
Then there are the comments of Sir Tom Winsor, Chief Inspector of Constabulary, to the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee recently. He warned of a culture of colleague protection. He said that forces needed to be “much more assiduous” in throwing out probationary officers who had a fondness for violence or exercising power, exhibited misogyny, racism or homophobia, or showed a lack of maturity and judgment.
Why on earth did he have to make that comment in the first place? Why on earth do police forces not exercise a considerable degree of vetting over probationary officers at that crucial first stage? He went on to say—and this is controversial—that professional standards units, which countered corruption, were often not staffed with the best people, which meant that substandard officers, whom he referred to as
“cancerous growths within the force”,
were not identified or pushed out. He gave the example of a group of male officers in the locker room who did not challenge or report two colleagues who boasted of picking up a female assault victim and taking her home, where she was raped. The pair were ultimately prosecuted but nothing happened to the officers who did not report them.
I rest my case. There are so many examples of a really damaging culture. We can see this being played out in relation to this awful, horrendous number of crimes against women and girls. We can change the law. We can do all sorts of things like that but until we change police culture, I do not think we are not going to have the effect we need.
I like both amendments and clearly, on Report there will be an attempt to composite them—if I may use that word, which my noble friends here will well understand and not love. So far, we have heard weasel words from the chief police officers. There is little indication that they understand that the culture they lead has got to change. I very much hope that this House, through our debates on this Bill, will be able to influence a change of direction.
My Lords, this issue of trust in the police is an interesting one. Trust has been eroding for many years now. Two cataclysmic events in the past couple of years have really made a difference. The first—not chronologically—is the murder of Sarah Everard and the way that the police policed the vigil and the ludicrous comments that solo women should hail a bus if they feel in danger and so on. Really, the whole police force needs some serious attention and serious guidance, and perhaps even a new police commissioner. That might be a very good idea.
The other thing was that during the pandemic we had law and we had guidance and then we had what the Ministers were saying at regular press conferences. That got very confusing for the police, to the point where they were trying to move people on for sitting and resting during a walk. That did not help the police and that was not the police’s fault. That was the Government’s fault for not being clear about instructions.
I support all the amendments in this group and agree that we need a statutory, judge-led inquiry. It cannot be allowed to drift past without real challenge by a judge. You have to remember that this was not somebody pretending to be a police officer: this was a real police officer abusing his position to abduct, rape and kill. The fact that he had a reputation already in the police is extremely damaging. This is a culture that we all know exists, and it should be fixed.
On Amendment 282, I have spoken many times here in your Lordships’ House about training for the police on domestic violence, because they have a reputation for assaulting quite a lot of the people they live with. We have to make sure that they get this sort of training. As far as I know, only about half the police forces in England and Wales have so far had domestic violence training. If they do not have that training, it really cannot be argued that they know what to look for and how to treat victims of abuse, so that is extremely valuable and important.
I will say one last thing on the Sarah Everard vigil. If we could only find out who authorised the way that the police behaved, that would be really good because it was appalling. There was one photograph of a girl flat on her stomach, being held down by four police officers: how could it have looked any worse for the police? A judge-led inquiry is the least we can expect from this horrendous crime.
My Lords, briefly, I speak in support of Amendments 122 and 275 in the name of my noble friend Lady Chakrabarti—who has already made an eloquent and erudite contribution, as the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, said—and other noble Lords. I will also echo elements of the noble Lord’s contribution.
Amendment 122 encapsulates and incorporates precisely the advice that I would now want to give to my own two daughters and, in due time, my own grand-daughter, in the light of what we all know happened to Sarah Everard. There has been talk of flagging down buses or otherwise seeking assistance, in the case of a lone arresting officer seeking to require a person subject to arrest to enter a car or, as the amendment says
“premises other than a police station”.
I simply do not find such advice or suggestions helpful or sufficient. These suggestions would not, I am afraid, assuage the well-grounded fears of many women in the wake of recent events and revelations about the behaviour of some police officers. The amendment, however, sets reassuring and necessary parameters, and I am in full support of it. We must use this legislation to afford clarity and safety to women.
With regard to Amendment 275, again, I believe that action taken hitherto by Her Majesty’s Government is insufficient and that a statutory inquiry, for all the reasons advanced already in this debate, is needed. It is needed to learn lessons but also to give a signal that we will now begin to restore the faith and trust in the police which has been so manifestly and extensively damaged.
My Lords, I have to tell the Committee that I find these debates very difficult. I was a police officer for over 30 years and, for part of that time, a senior police officer. Like the overwhelming majority of hard-working, decent and honest police officers in this country, I find it very difficult to hear this sort of debate and to say the sorts of things that I will say now. I do not have the same sympathy for senior police officers who are failing in their leadership. I recall speaking privately to a former Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and asking that individual, “What on earth is going on at the moment?”. He said, “Well, Brian, I think when the police come under pressure, diversity goes out of the window”. The police have been under a lot of pressure because their resources have been reduced, because knife crime has become an epidemic and because of the horrific situations we find ourselves in.
As the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, said earlier, it is not just about Sarah Everard. In the last two weeks we have had a Metropolitan Police officer charged with rape and another with indecent images of children. There were a whole series of cases that point to a real issue with the culture in the police service, and in the Metropolitan Police in particular. So I completely understand and support the principles behind the amendments, and I have indicated my support for Amendment 122 by adding my name to it.
I want to bring some real-world practicality to bear on the amendments. Amendment 122, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, suggests that a police officer
“may not require or ask the person under arrest to enter a vehicle or premises other than a police station unless at least one other constable is present in the vehicle or when entering the premises”.
Not only does that go to the heart of the Sarah Everard scenario, but it is entirely consistent with best practice for the protection of the person arrested and the arresting officer. I should explain that in the police a person who has been arrested is called a prisoner, and I will do the same.
First, it does not specify that the provision should apply only to a woman or a child, as Amendment 123 does. The noble Baroness pointed out how there might be legal difficulties with that but, as she said, what if the arresting officer is gay or the person arrested is a gay man? Where would the protection be for the arresting officer against allegations of inappropriate behaviour in those circumstances, or the protection for the arrested person, if we restricted it only to a woman or a child? As the noble Baroness said, a black person may also have fears about getting into a vehicle when there was only one officer present. From my own professional experience, I have lost count of the number of reports of black people who have been beaten up on the way to the police station. The issue that we need to address here is male violence perpetrated by police officers, whether directed at a male or a female prisoner, although women may understandably feel more threatened with a lone male arresting officer than a male prisoner would. Amendment 122 would provide protection for the police officer and for the person arrested, whatever sex or sexuality they may be.
Secondly, it is very dangerous for a lone police officer to drive with a prisoner in the car. The prisoner could attack the officer while driving even if handcuffed, as we saw with the tragic death of police Sergeant Matt Ratana, who was shot in Croydon police station by a handcuffed prisoner. Ideally, police officers should patrol and respond in pairs wherever possible, and at least one of those police officers should be female, but that is not always possible. Ensuring that two police officers are present is an important and almost always adequate safeguard.
As the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, said, and as the Minister said in answer to an Oral Question on Thursday, only about one-third of police officers are female—even fewer, I believe, in the Metropolitan Police—so the practicality of requiring a female officer to be present, as Amendment 123 demands, may not always be possible, and in some cases it would not be appropriate to release the prisoner if a female officer could not attend the scene.
I turn to the other aspects of Amendment 123. Giving the person arrested
“an immediate and reasonable opportunity to contact another person”
could have serious officer-safety implications. I myself have been subject to attempts to rescue a person that I had arrested, albeit that it was in Brixton a few months before the Brixton riots. There is a real danger that the arrested person could summon people to effect her escape from police custody. And, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew, alluded to, the problem with the arresting officer providing a telephone number purporting to be the number of a police station or control room, were he to have criminal intent, is that he may have an accomplice on the telephone number given to the prisoner.
Long delays between arrest and arrival at the police station, in my professional experience, expose both the arresting officer and the person arrested to danger. It may not always be possible, for example if the prisoner is violently resisting arrest, either to explain her rights to her or to provide them in writing. Again, in my professional experience, people do not want to be arrested by the police and are unlikely to attend a police station if allowed to go free. I completely understand the sentiments behind both these amendments. I have serious reservations about the practicality of Amendment 123, but I have no hesitation in commending Amendment 122 to the Committee.
I also strongly support Amendment 275, which calls for a Macpherson-type inquiry, under the Inquiries Act 2005, into the Sarah Everard atrocity and all the surrounding issues. This is something akin to the issues of public trust and confidence around racism that came out of the tragic death of Stephen Lawrence and that the Macpherson inquiry looked to address. We are facing an equivalent situation here in terms of misogyny and violence against women and girls. It is absolutely appropriate that we have a similar inquiry to the Macpherson inquiry to deal with that. I prefer Amendment 275, for that reason, to Amendment 281.
I also support Amendment 282: mandatory training for all officers, not just recruits, on violence against women and girls. Of course, culture is the most difficult thing to change, but training is an important part of changing that culture. I also support Amendment 283, with the caveat that I believe the vetting procedures used in the recruitment of all police officers need to be urgently reviewed, not just for officers transferring between forces.
The noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, talked about the Sarah Everard vigil. I will refer to this at length when we come to the public order parts of the Bill, but I was an advanced, trained senior police officer in public order. I read the Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services report into the Sarah Everard vigil. How HMIC came to the conclusions that the police did everything right, on the basis of what it wrote before it got to that conclusion, I have no idea. The evidence in that report is completely contrary to that conclusion, in my professional judgment. So, there is something seriously wrong here: how can we change the culture if we have that sort of whitewashing by HMIC?
The noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew, raised issues around police leadership and police culture and what I have described before as a culture of cover-up rather than own-up. I have always believed the way to build public trust and confidence is, when there is misconduct, to show you are ruthlessly dealing with it rather than trying to cover it up to protect the reputation of the force. I will say more about that when we come to a later group on the duty of candour. The noble Lord is absolutely right: there is a failure of leadership at the top of the police service. It makes me very uncomfortable to stand here and say that, but it is something I felt when I was in the police service and continue to feel now. I absolutely support these amendments.
My Lords, it is getting quite late in the evening, but I think everyone here would agree that this has been a fantastically high-quality debate on one of the most crucial issues facing our country today. I hope that many members of the public, let alone our fellow Peers, will read the brilliant contributions of my noble friends Lady Chakrabarti, Lord Hunt and Lady Blower, the noble Lords, Lord Carlile and Lord Paddick, and the noble Baroness, Lady Jones —I think I have mentioned everyone.
This really is an important debate, and at its heart is the trust and confidence the public of this country have in the police. We will not change attitudes and these issues with which we wrestle until we can ensure that the public trust the police. It is really hard, and it must have been difficult for the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, to say some of the things he did, but that is the reality and the police have to accept it. We all agree that the vast majority of police officers are good and do their duty, et cetera, but it does not alter the fact that the statistics tell us that there is a serious problem. This is not about blaming anybody; it is about saying what we are going to do about it.
I completely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, that this is not—and nobody has suggested it is—a competition of amendments. From his experience, my noble friend Lord Hunt knows that, between all noble Lords, we should be able to devise a set of amendments on which we all agree and which have, at their heart, a desire to improve the policing of this country and restore the confidence and trust of the British people. That is what all these amendments are about.
One or two issues arise from them. There has to be a statutory inquiry. I frankly cannot believe that the Government would resist that. There is just incredulity, because it just makes every sense. As my noble friend Lady Chakrabarti laid out, that is why the Inquiries Act was passed, and successive Governments have used it as the vehicle to deal with serious problems to which you want a response that people can agree with and have confidence in. You can set up other inquiries, which will all be well meant and do a good job, as the noble Baroness, Lady Casey, and others will. This is not to say that they will not do a good job, but I say to the Government that at the heart of this, public confidence is everything. It is the holy grail. It is the only vehicle that people will think of as correct. If you go to the supermarket, down the pub or to the sports club, or if you walk down the road and say it is a public inquiry led by somebody of stature, in whom people can have confidence, it will take you over the first hurdle, because people will believe its conclusions, whatever they are. All of us find it unbelievable that the Government are resisting this. Whichever amendment we choose as the best, surely we can agree on the principle of a statutory inquiry. It is certainly something to which we will have to return on Report, if the Government resist.
Why am I and the Chamber so exercised about this? We have heard very eloquently of the horror of the Sarah Everard case. Every now and again there is some horrible crime that unites us all in its horror. There is always something that ignites passion and fury within the public and the political establishment that demands action and that something more is done, beyond the normal “This is shocking, this is terrible”. This has to be a lightning rod that says, “No more, we’re going to change”. It cannot go on, and the Minister understands and knows this.
I googled it again. Time after time we hear it. This week, a serving Metropolitan Police officer was charged with rape. Channel 4’s “Dispatches” reports that 2,000 police officers have been accused of sexual misconduct over the past four years, which includes over 370 accusations of sexual assault and almost 100 of rape. A mugging victim came forward to the BBC with her experience when she reported her attack. The police officer on duty asked if he could take her out on a date, whether she was single, what she wore to work and whether he could take pictures of her. According to the BBC report, he was so confident that there would be no repercussions for his behaviour that he did it in writing on his official police email account. It is unbelievable and shocking at the same time.
I know Sue Fish because she is the former chief constable in Nottinghamshire, the area which I represented for a number of years. She said:
“This isn’t about an individual officer. This is about a prevailing culture within policing.”
We ought to be able to find a way around this. Notwithstanding the other amendments tabled by my noble friend Lady Chakrabarti, Amendment 281, tabled by my noble friends Lord Rosser and Lord Hunt, and the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, talks about a statutory inquiry to look at this issue of culture. Obviously, there is a need for some sort of statutory inquiry into what happened to Sarah Everard, but we must get to the root of what is happening with respect to the culture in the police. It is not everyone, but it is a significant number of police officers, which is why in Amendment 281 we have said that there must be a statutory inquiry
“into the culture of policing and the prevalence of violence against women and girls”,
to include members with specific
“expertise in the prevention of violence against women and girls”
and various recommendations to be made to it, and so forth and so on.
One thing I find here is that all noble Lords read the amendments, so I will not repeat everything that is in the amendment, but, if we cannot change the culture, we have a real problem. I will tell you what I think. The vast majority of police officers are sick of it and want something done about it, and the vast majority of police staff want something done about it. They are looking to our Government to do something about it, working with senior police officers. We talk about leadership, but we have a leadership role as well. It goes back to the signposting of a statutory inquiry as being so important—because that is the lightning rod that you hold up to the public to say, “We get it, we understand it, we realise why you’re so upset about it, we’re upset about it and that’s why we’re going to use a statutory inquiry to do something about it”.
I know that I am getting passionate about it, but if we resort to a calm, reasonable, almost closed-shop type of inquiry that has a look at it but does not have that sense of urgency, that sense that this is a moment when we need to grasp this issue, we will fail. We talk in later amendments about vetting and training. All those things are crucial, and something must be done about them.
Let me say this as well. I know that the Minister gets this, because she has already made a commitment to look at recognising violence against women and girls as serious violence, and to look at how it is assessed. That is a really important step forward, but the Government have the power to do more. They must not waste this opportunity, out of the horror of what happened in the Sarah Everard case, and in the horror of all the cases that we read about, all the inquiries recently by Zoë Billingham that talked about the “epidemic”, and all the recommendations in that report.
So what are we going to do now which shows that this time it will be different? Will we not have a statutory inquiry, however it is organised and whatever its terms of reference, which does something about what many people in this country are looking to their Government to do something about?
We want trust and confidence in the police. We have to find a vehicle by which the concerns that are raised in this House, the other place and across the country, are recognised, realised and something is done about them. A statutory inquiry surely has to be one way of doing that.
My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, and the noble Lords, Lord Coaker and Lord Carlile, for raising the very important issues arising from the terrible abduction, rape and murder of Sarah Everard, which has appalled us all and, as the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, says, time will not fade; every time our daughters leave the house it reminds us. It is imperative that Sarah’s family and the public understand how a police officer was able to commit such a terrible crime so that we can stop it from ever happening again and restore to our police forces that trust and confidence that the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, talked about.
As noble Lords will be aware, my right honourable friend the Home Secretary has recently announced her intention to launch a two-part non-statutory inquiry—I will go on to talk about that—into the circumstances surrounding Sarah’s murder. The first part of the inquiry will look at Sarah’s murderer and his tenure at the Metropolitan Police leading up to his conviction, as well as assessing any missed opportunities to hold him to account for his conduct.
The second part of the inquiry will look at any specific issues raised by the first part, which is likely to include wider issues across policing, including, but not limited to, vetting practices, professional standards, discipline, and workplace behaviour. A lot of noble Lords tonight have talked about the culture of the police, not just in the Met but all over the country. This is the opportunity to look at any systemic flaws in vetting or issues around policing culture that the noble Lord has highlighted in his amendment. We expect that the separate inquiry established by the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, being led by the noble Baroness, Lady Casey, into the culture and standards of the force, will feed into part two of the inquiry established by the Home Office.
I very much recognise the arguments around establishing an inquiry under the Inquiries Act, but I also understand the critical need to provide reassurance to the public at pace. A non-statutory inquiry satisfies the need to move at pace, allowing greater flexibility, and it can be tailored to the issues. We expect that the police forces for which Sarah’s murderer worked will all be witnesses to, and comply with, the inquiry. In February 2020 we amended regulations—this is an important aspect—to ensure that police officers are under a duty to co-operate as witnesses with investigations, inquiries and formal proceedings under the revised standards of professional behaviour. They are guilty of a disciplinary offence if they fail to do so.
The Home Secretary has also been clear that the Government will, following consultation with the chair, convert the inquiry into a statutory inquiry if it is determined that it cannot otherwise fulfil its functions. The Government are aiming to appoint a chair shortly and can then confirm the terms of reference. An update will be provided to the House at that point.
In relation to immediate concerns about the vetting of police transferees, the College of Policing updated its guidance this year having taken into account a recommendation from HMICFRS’s 2019 report Shining a Light on Betrayal: Abuse of Position for a Sexual Purpose. Forces should now assess details of transferees’ performance, sickness record, complaints, business interests, notifiable associations and corruption intelligence. Furthermore, the inspectorate is now undertaking an urgent thematic inspection of force vetting arrangements following a request from the Home Secretary. This will specifically look at whether forces are vetting transferees in accordance with the guidance.
On the broader issue of violence against women and girls, there is sufficient evidence of the problem, most recently set out in the policing inspectorate’s report, and the Government are absolutely committed to tackling these issues. Our approach is set out in the Tackling Violence against Women and Girls Strategy, published in July. This will drive change in the response to crimes against women and girls and sets out our ambition for a whole-system approach, focusing on prioritising prevention, supporting survivors and pursuing perpetrators, underpinned by a stronger system. This will be supported by a domestic abuse strategy to be published later this year.
On mandatory violence against women and girls training for all officers, the College of Policing’s new police education qualifications framework is a very important step in raising standards in policing, including in relation to tackling violence against women and girls. The curriculum for entry covers several areas addressing violence against women and girls, including vulnerability and risk, victims and witnesses, public protection and evidence-based policing.
Additionally, the College of Policing has developed a range of other training products, including the Domestic Abuse Matters programme, which has been delivered to 29 forces to date. We continue to work closely with the college to see what more can be done to encourage further take-up of this programme. I am pleased to say that the Tackling Violence against Women and Girls Strategy contained commitments for the college to publish new advice for police first responders and investigators about so-called honour-based abuse, as well as a new product which will advise police on how to respond to reports of sexual harassment in public places.
Amendments 122 and 123 seek to address the legitimate concerns of women and girls about the prospect of being arrested by a lone male officer—we had a debate about this the other day. The noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, and the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, are absolutely right about the vital importance of ensuring that officers are using their powers of arrest legitimately and recognising that this case has struck a most devastating blow to the confidence the public have in the police.
Powers to arrest and detain individuals are some of the most intrusive powers that the state has, and officers must use them lawfully and with accountability. For an arrest without warrant to be lawful, a person must be committing or about to commit an offence, or an officer must have reasonable grounds for suspecting that either of these has or will occur. The officer must also have reasonable grounds for believing the arrest to be necessary—for example, to prevent an individual from causing harm, or to allow the police to investigate the offence. When it is practicable to tell a person why their arrest is necessary, the officer should outline the facts, information and other circumstances which provide the grounds for believing this is the case. As the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, said, the public need to be very clear, and the Government need to set out that clarity for them. It is also important to recognise, as the noble Lord also said, that the vast majority of police officers carry out their work with integrity to protect the public and keep people safe, but I totally understand the concerns raised by this case.
As it stands, there is no prohibition on officers arresting individuals while patrolling alone, or on male officers arresting female individuals. As I said, I completely understand that horrific events such as this raise questions in the mind of the public. The Government recognise the importance of public confidence and how this has been shaken to the core by the events surrounding Sarah Everard’s murder. Police forces including the Met have issued some early guidance and reassurance for members of the public who might be concerned. Sir Stephen House, Deputy Commissioner of the Met, has said that the force will no longer allow plain-clothes officers to operate alone. That is a good start. Just last week, Dame Cressida Dick announced that plain-clothes officers will video call a uniformed colleague to confirm their identity when stopping a woman by herself.
Should individuals be concerned if they are approached by a lone officer, it is entirely reasonable under the circumstances for them to seek reassurance that they are acting legitimately. I would expect any officer receiving such a challenge from a member of the public to understand why it is being made and to take what action they can to assuage the concerns raised.
In conclusion, I welcome the opportunity afforded by these amendments—I know that noble Lords are not in amendment competition—to debate the implications of this horrendous case. We need to rebuild public confidence in the police. We think that the inquiry announced by the Home Secretary will play an important part in that process, including by making recommendations in relation to police vetting and training. These issues, and the question of how the police exercise their powers of arrest, are being addressed in the meantime and, on that basis, I hope that the noble Baroness will withdraw her amendment.
My Lords, I realise the hour is late, but there are two things I would like to mention. First, I am very interested in what the Deputy Commissioner Sir Steve House said. I do not know when he said it, but it does not seem to chime with the fact that, two weeks ago, I was challenged by a lone officer in plain clothes. That seems to be completely contrary to what the Minister said he announced.
Secondly, the Minister says there should not be an inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005 because we need to move at speed. I can tell noble Lords that the Metropolitan Police never moved quicker on racism than when it was announced that there would be an inquiry under the Inquiries Act. It was not when the inquiry reported that the Metropolitan Police swung into action to deal with racism. It was absolutely ready with an answer as soon as that inquiry reported, because it knew what the problems were and realising that this was all going to become public in an inquiry galvanised it into action.
I note the noble Lord’s points and I do not disagree with him. I ask the Committee to understand the commitment of the Home Secretary. She is deadly serious about ensuring that the inquiry moves at pace and, if necessary, converting it to a statutory inquiry if it is not meeting its commitments.
I will get the date for the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, and the Committee. The announcement from Dame Cressida Dick was on 20 October, some 11 days ago, but I will get the date on which Sir Stephen House made those comments.
My Lords, I am hugely grateful to all Members of the Committee for the substance and tone of our proceedings. I am particularly grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, who dealt with our minor points of detailed difference with such grace. If I may say so, what I really took away from his comments was the sense of a loving father speaking of his daughters and the hope that we might one day return to a moment when all our daughters and granddaughters can trust the police. I was also struck by the way he worked with the young woman lawyer in trying to bring matters forward with such urgency. I thank him so much for that.
I agree with my noble friend Lord Hunt of Kings Heath that we have to get to the culture of obfuscation and denial—understandable human instincts when we want to protect our colleagues and the service that we love. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, that if it had been a scandal of equivalent proportions at the Bar, we would feel as uncomfortable as the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, so we understand these things.
I say to my noble friends that my Amendment 275 also deals with culture, but this is not about precise amendments—this is too important for that—but about trying to persuade the Government on both of these issues, of trust and confidence on the one hand and effective change on the other, with which we are attempting to deal in this whole group of amendments. This is about trying to persuade the Government on the power of arrest on the one hand and the inquiry and the training and vetting on the other.
The noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, made such an important point when she talked about that period of lockdown and the way that that has, in a sense, exacerbated every problem in the world but also problems around the fault-lines between hard law, guidance, perceptions of the law and trust in policing and what really is the right thing. It was in that lockdown that this atrocity was perpetrated.
Of course, she was also the Member of the Committee who pointed out that, just hours or days after the perpetrator was charged, someone made the insensitive decision to police that vigil in that way. Whoever did so must have known what we were yet to find out. The noble Baroness, Lady Jones, spoke of the young woman who now features in all of the videos and photographs. We know that, subsequently, she has been stalked by serving police officers on her Tinder account. So we really are in trouble, and we are trying to respond to a really significant problem of culture and trust in policing in this country. We are not fabricating this. No one thinks that; I know that we are all on the same page.
My noble friend Lady Blower was also clear that guidance will not be enough. We have gone too far for that in relation to any of the really serious specific issues that the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, and I and others have been trying to address in these amendments.
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, for everything that he is doing in this group and on the Bill more generally. I say to him and anyone who is now feeling very concerned about and suspicious of policing in this country that there is another side. I would like to believe that the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, still represents more of what is real and true in our policing service and in our democracy built on the rule of law. I hope that we can all listen to him and heed his practical advice. The word “gallant” is used for the military; there is no equivalent for the retired senior police officers in your Lordships’ House, but there are many retired commissioners and others here. But it is the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, who has been engaged with the Bill day after day and has spoken from the heart and from years of practical experience. We have to heed him. I was heartened by hearing him discuss, on Amendment 122, the approach where we do not want lone police officers driving off with arrestees, for the protection of either. That is best practice, but we now need to put that into hard law to reassure everyone and as a matter of good governance.
My noble friend Lord Coaker said passionately—and he is so right—that we have crossed a line in terms of public trust. Once lost, it is really hard to regain. That is why he made the point, again and again, that a full statutory and judge-led inquiry is part—just part—of trying to regain that trust. Can any of us imagine a Lawrence or Macpherson inquiry that was not judge-led and on a statutory footing, with all the iconography and symbolism of justice that comes with that?
Important though those points are about iconography and public trust, there is a practical point too. That point was made by the noble Baroness, Lady O’Loan, in June. She said:
“Our work was made more difficult by the fact that the Panel was not established under the Inquiries Act … and therefore did not have the statutory powers available to such an inquiry. … At times our contact with the Metropolitan Police resembled police contact with litigants rather than with a body established by the Home Secretary to enquire into a case.”
This was not just any Home Secretary but a Home Secretary who was Prime Minister during the subsequent passage of that review. That is how hard it was without those practical hard-edged powers of compulsion.
Finally, I say to the Minister that I know she feels as we all do about this dangerous moment and the importance of rebuilding trust, and of course I welcome the steps that she and her colleagues have already taken, but we must go further in both these areas. On the police powers on arrest, it has to be so clear now what we say to these young women in particular. I am sorry to Mr House and Commissioner Dick, but their guidance about videophones and so on is not going to cut through—it is not enough. We need a clear-edged change in the law of some kind that makes it clear that sole officers cannot drive off with arrestees. Guidance, words and best endeavours even from senior Met officers will not be enough.
On the speed of the inquiry—which was the basis of the counter-argument made by the Minister against it being a statutory inquiry—the Lawrence inquiry took two years; the Daniel Morgan review took eight, because of the kind of resistance that has been set out; the Leveson inquiry took one year. Inquiries can take various lengths of time but, on this issue, I am sorry to say it but the powers of compulsion will be vital for a speedy and confident review.
I am so grateful for the tone and substance of this debate and I do not believe that the Minister has slammed the door on any of the suggestions that have been made; I will go home taking some heart from that. However, if we cannot make progress, I hope that, with the assistance of others in this Committee and further across your Lordships’ House, we will return to both these vital issues on Report; that is definitely our national duty at this time. With that, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment 122 withdrawn.
Amendment 123 not moved.
123A: After Clause 49, insert the following new Clause—
“Post-charge detention of children
(1) The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 is amended as follows.(2) In section 38, for subsection (1)(b) substitute—“(b) if the arrested person is a child, the grounds inserted into the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 by section (Youth remand) of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2021 apply;”.” Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would bring the PACE criteria for police remand of children into closer alignment with the court remand criteria.
My Lords, I rise to move Amendment 123A in my name. I apologise to the Committee. If I had had my wits about me, I would have grouped it with the previous police bail amendments. I am grateful to Transform Justice for bringing this issue to my attention and for its help and support in drafting this amendment.
The Government continue to place tighter restrictions on when courts can remand children in custody. Those are much stronger than the restrictions currently placed on the police when they decide whether to remand a child in custody to court. Court criteria, most of which do not apply to the police, include that: the child must be between 12 and 17 years of age and be legally represented, other than in exceptional circumstances; they must have been charged with a violent or sexual offence or have been charged with an offence where an adult would have received a custodial sentence of 14 or more years; or they have a recent history of absconding while remanded; or they have a history of committing imprisonable offences while on bail; and there is a real prospect of a custodial sentence for the offence in question. In addition, remand in custody must be necessary to protect the public from death or personal injury or to prevent the child from committing further imprisonable offences.
The police remand many more children in custody than the courts. In 2019, the year with the most recent data available, over 4,500 children were remanded in police custody compared with 884 children remanded in custody by the courts. Some 60% of children remanded in custody by the police had been charged with non-violent offences and only 12% of those remanded in custody by the police went on to be remanded in custody by the courts. Two-thirds of children remanded in custody by the police do not receive a custodial sentence.
In Clause 132, the Bill suggests further strengthening the restrictions on courts remanding children in custody, including that the history of breaching bail or offending on bail must be “significant”, “relevant” and “recent”. If detention is being considered for the child’s own safety, this would be possible only if the risk cannot be safely managed in the community. It would have to be “very likely” that the child would receive a custodial sentence rather than a “real prospect”. Courts would also be under a statutory duty to record their reasons for imposing custodial remand, including a statement that they have considered the welfare of the child in their decision and that they have considered alternatives.
The Bill as drafted does nothing to tighten the restrictions on the police remanding children in custody, or even to bring them into line with existing court restrictions. Amendment 123A intends to bring the Police and Criminal Evidence Act criteria for police remand of children into closer alignment with the court remand criteria. I beg to move.
My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, for moving his amendment. As the Committee might be aware, I sit as a youth magistrate, usually at Highbury magistrates’ court. I have to say that I was not aware of the difference in the remand criteria; I should have known but I did not. I also thank Transform Justice for bringing this to my attention. The noble Lord has very thoroughly explored the differences in the number of youths remanded by the police versus those remanded by the courts. I would be interested to hear what the Minister has to say in response.
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, for raising this important issue of children remanded in custody. I quite agree that police custody is not a suitable environment for children and that they should not be detained there unless it is absolutely necessary.
The provisions introduced by this Bill will amend the “tests” set out by the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, also known as LASPO, which must be satisfied before the court remands a child to custody. These are intended to ensure that custodial remand is used only as a last resort, where there are no other options and it is necessary to protect the public.
Before the courts get involved, if a child is charged with an offence, Section 38 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 provides that the police must release them either on bail or without bail pending their appearance at court, unless one or more specified conditions apply. These conditions are that the child’s name or address are not known or are not believed to be genuine; there are reasonable grounds to believe the child will not appear in court to answer bail; the detention is believed to be necessary to prevent the child committing an offence, causing physical injury, loss or damage to property, or interfering with the investigation of offences; or the detention after charge is believed to be necessary for the child’s own protection or in their own interests.
I would like to reassure the Committee that there is already a degree of alignment between police bail and court bail, and the police custody officer must have regard to the same considerations as those that apply when a court is considering whether to grant bail under the Bail Act 1976.
I acknowledge the concern that many more children are remanded post charge by the police than are remanded by the courts while awaiting trial, as the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, outlined, and that this may give rise to consideration of risk-averse decision-making by the police. I do not necessarily believe this to be the case. It is important to remember that post-charge detention by the police serves a different purpose from youth remand in the courts, so it is unrealistic to expect an exact alignment of the conditions required to make decisions.
With this in mind, it is perfectly possible for the police to make a decision to remand a child post charge and for the courts to make a decision not to remand the same child to custody, and for both these decisions to be reasonable based on the evidence and circumstances before each party. In the overwhelming majority of cases, a child remanded by the police will be held for no more than 24 hours.
I also acknowledge the concern that police remand is a driver of custodial remand—that is, for example, that a court is more likely to view a child remanded by the police as dangerous. I am not aware of any data showing a causal link between police remand and custodial remand. A comprehensive evidence base comparing the circumstances whereby police bail after charge decisions are made under Section 38 of PACE would be needed, giving consideration to the threshold for grounds to refuse bail and whether custody officers have access to and apply all relevant information when making a bail decision.
Before I conclude, I take this opportunity to put on record my thanks and the Home Office’s gratitude to Brian Roberts, who was the department’s expert on the Police and Criminal Evidence Act. Sadly, he died last month after 50 years of public service as a police officer and then an official in the department. He is greatly missed by his colleagues.
On the basis of my remarks, I hope the noble Lord will be happy to withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede, for his support.
I am afraid that there is a bit of a pattern developing here in the Government’s responses. On the one hand, the Minister said there is “a degree of alignment” between police remand in custody of children and court remand in custody. Some 4,500 children being remanded by the police and only 884 by the courts does not sound to me like alignment.
The Minister also said a child would never be remanded in police custody for more than 24 hours. Do courts sit on a Sunday? What happens to a child arrested on a Saturday afternoon? They are going to be in custody a lot longer than 24 hours.
Unfortunately, as I say, it is becoming a bit of a theme that the Government’s responses to amendments do not appear to be factually accurate. We need to review that. I am afraid I do not find the Minister’s response satisfactory, and no doubt we will return to this on Report. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 123A withdrawn.
Clauses 50 and 51 agreed.
Schedule 6 agreed.
Clauses 52 to 54 agreed.
House adjourned at 10.15 pm.