Committee (7th Day)
Relevant documents: 1st, 2nd, 4th and 6th Reports from the Delegated Powers Committee, 7th Report from the Constitution Committee.
Clause 79: Deciding on the conditions
172: Clause 79, page 74, line 2, after “offence,” insert “and the details of any financial costs they incurred as a result of the offence,”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment provides the victims with the opportunity to register their financial losses and seek compensation.
My Lords, in moving Amendment 172, I will also speak to Amendments 173, 177, 179, 180 and 186, to be inserted after Clause 79. These are about victims’ financial losses, which can often arise as a result of an assault on their person, their property or their belongings. The amendments seek to ensure that the authorities and the perpetrators are made available of these costs and that, in turn, where possible, there might be some restitution for these innocent people whose property and goods have been attacked.
I bring the issue to the Committee’s attention based on a most unfortunate and regrettable experience of a friend of mine, Mr James McAra, who lives just outside Scunthorpe. He was at home watching television on the evening of 13 September this year in his house at Ashby. He was alone—he is a widower, aged 78 years, who has lived there for 55 years. He has brought up his family; they have all flown the nest and he is left alone. At 10 pm, his life was changed. There was a terrific crash outside the house, then suddenly his windows were smashed in and his front door was crashed down. Five masked, armed men with sledgehammers appeared in the house. He confronted one of them, who then gave him a push and shouted to his accomplices, “Oh fuck, it’s an old man. We’ve got the wrong effing house.” With that, they turned around, ran out and left him in a terrific state of shock. In the event, it turns out that the noise outside had been the smashing of his car with sledgehammers. It was so badly damaged that it has had to be written off.
As noble Lords can imagine, this is a most distressing experience—an attack and assault—for a man of such an age. The police arrived promptly; by all accounts, they were excellent and knew straightaway what had happened. The two houses next door had been raided on numerous occasions over the last two years in relation to drug dealing, and only two months earlier a young man had been found dead in one of them. The police believed that the attack on his property was intended for one of those houses, related to the ongoing drugs problem. This couple of houses, with numerous instances of anti-social behaviour, has made this once peaceful street a nightmare to live in. As a consequence, James is now considering moving because of this sickening experience and attack.
I turn to the amendments. To compound matters, Mr McAra is well out of pocket from this experience. The car insurance in no way covers the cost of the replacement car he has had to get. Then he has had to pay the excesses on the house insurance for new doors and new windows, and he has now been told that his future insurance premiums on his car and his property—the lot—will go up next year. Where is the justice for a victim of this kind?
I suspect that the chance of getting some reparations from the attackers, if they could be found, arrested and convicted, is quite a long shot. However, we have been disturbed to learn that it is not always understood by the authorities what the total cost has been and that there is no formal request for a record of the costs that might arise, in a variety of different ways, when someone is attacked in this way. Obviously, a requirement for conversations with the victims is laid down and victim support is offered, but financial losses are not necessarily recorded. I believe, and I am sure noble Lords share this view, that they should be. They should be taken into account in determining punishments and, if it is possible to get restitution, they should be known factors taken into account for that purpose.
Having heard this story, I am sure that noble Lords, like me, feel that it is time for some changes to try to give further assistance to victims. Mr McAra’s constituency MP is Holly Mumby-Croft, a Conservative MP who knows all about these facts and has been as supportive as she could be in the circumstances. She has been advised that these amendments will be put before the Committee today and, in due course, we are hoping they will be adopted and go back to the Commons. I think she is hoping that she can look for a sympathetic hearing from the Front Bench today. For positive action, in adopting these amendments, which will cost little to implement, we must go some way towards actually making changes. The amendments before us would facilitate such changes. On behalf of victims affected in this way, particularly Mr McAra, I have great pleasure in moving this amendment.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe, has relayed to the Committee clearly a very distressing case of mistaken identity and anti-social behaviour generally in that street, apparently to do with drug dealing. If the perpetrators of this terrible crime were found, I am not sure that they would be given a caution, and I thought this part of the Bill was about police cautions—but I accept the general point that victims need to be protected. Although a caution would not be applicable in this case of the break-in at the home and the damage to the car, there might be one in respect of the general anti-social behaviour in the street. It is absolutely essential that the needs of victims are taken into account by the police, including for the financial losses that victims have suffered.
As I said on a previous group, out-of-court settlements have a high victim approval rating already. These amendments, in so far as they apply to police cautions, would ensure that they remain high, and to that extent we support them.
My Lords, I agree with the points that the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, just made. I also think that Mr McAra should be very grateful to my noble friend Lord Brooke for raising the points about the lack of a formal record of the cost of the incidents. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, that it seems very unlikely that anyone would get a caution for this sort of offence. Even if it got to court, there would be an obligation on the sentencing court to consider compensation, because one has to consider this whenever one sentences an individual. Nevertheless, my noble friend has raised an interesting question and I look forward to the Minister’s reply.
I hope I can be forgiven for intervening slightly out of order. I have been thinking as I listen to this debate about the very troubling case which the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe, raised, but I am not sure that what he is looking for is germane to this clause. However, there is an issue of general principle about unrecovered, uninsured losses arising from a serious crime of violence which does not cause considerable personal injury.
If there is an injury that would attract damages of £1,000 or more, some ancillary costs are payable under the criminal injuries compensation scheme. This raises in my mind that perhaps the Government should look at something like the Pool Re reinsurance scheme, which applies to claims which are uninsured as a result of terrorism events. The underinsured or uninsured person can go to this entity, which has been set up jointly by the public and private sectors, and recover the cost of damages for what has occurred outside the insurance scheme. I suggest to the Minister, who is an extremely experienced lawyer, that perhaps the Government should look at the criminal injuries compensation scheme and the Pool Re scheme and try to produce something which would deal with quite a significant number of cases which probably do not involve a massive amount of money, but in which people who are not very well resourced suffer a great deal, and disproportionately, as a result of the kind of offence that the noble Lord described.
My Lords, this group of amendments, proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe, seeks to require that reasonable steps be taken to obtain and take into account details of any financial costs incurred by the victim as a result of the offence when deciding on the conditions to attach to a caution and when deciding on the amount of the financial penalty.
I will begin with the particular instance that the noble Lord set out. Both he and the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, used the word “distressing” and I agree with that entirely. I would go further and say that it was appalling; it is a horrific set of circumstances and I am sure everyone in the Committee would share that approach. I extend deepest sympathies to Mr McAra. I am very pleased to hear that his local MP has been helpful and supportive; I was also pleased to hear that she is a Conservative, although one of the glories of our parliamentary system is that all MPs from all parties extend that sort of support to their constituents. It is very good to hear that the system is working.
I also tend to agree that this would be unlikely to be a caution case. I am hesitant to say any more, because prosecuting decisions are independent and a matter for the CPS. I defer in this regard to the experience of the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, but it sounds to me as though this would be more than a caution case.
The Bill states that both the diversionary and community cautions must have conditions attached to them. Those may include rehabilitation and reparation conditions, financial penalty conditions or conditions related to certain foreign offenders. I assure the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, that I give this amendment and the points that he made a sympathetic hearing, as he wanted, but I will explain why as a matter of principle we cannot accept it. This is not because we disagree with the point that underlies it but for the reasons which I will set out. The starting point is that Clauses 79 and 88 already provide for the authorised person to make reasonable efforts to obtain the views of any victim of the offence and take those views into account when deciding on the conditions to be attached to a caution. This includes obtaining their views on financial costs incurred and any decisions on seeking compensation.
Under the current cautions regime, the code of practice for conditional cautions makes clear provision for this in specifying that financial compensation may be paid to a victim. In addition, where the offending has resulted in damage to community property—I appreciate that in the case we have discussed the damage was to personal property—reparation may also take the form of repairing the damage caused, reparative activity within the community more generally or a payment to a local charitable or community fund, which might be more helpful if an offender does not have the financial means to pay. The current code also states that compensation for the victim should be prioritised ahead of other costs or financial penalties.
As is the case with the current code of practice for conditional cautions, the code of practice for the new diversionary and community cautions is the appropriate place to set out further detail on how the conditions attached to a caution may be decided. Again, that will include obtaining and considering any financial losses and requests for compensation. The code will be drawn up under the delegated powers in the legislation. We will consult widely, as the noble Lord would expect, and it will be laid under the affirmative procedure.
Consulting victims goes beyond just cautions. It is a key principle of the victims’ code, point 6.7 of which says:
“Where the police or the Crown Prosecution Service are considering an out of court disposal you have the Right”—
that is, the victim has the right—
“to be asked for your views and to have these views taken into account when a decision is made.”
As I have sought to explain, that will encompass the financial circumstances as well.
Finally, without wishing to be too particular on the drafting but just for the record, I point out that, although the parts of Amendments 177 and 186 relating to Clauses 81 and 90 share the same underlying intention, those clauses relate to financial penalties paid to a court, which are punitive and are not the same as the rehabilitative or reparative conditions, which I know are really the focus of the noble Lord’s amendment.
Before I sit down, I will briefly pick up the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew. He raised an interesting point of principle, which I am happy to look at and consider. My immediate reaction is that there may be a principled distinction between these cases and cases of terrorism, for which it is difficult to obtain insurance at all. There may be a difference in principle between an uninsurable risk and an uninsured risk or the cost of insurance going up. That said, I am happy to look at the point; no doubt we can have further discussions on it. I am conscious that it might be another government department that has responsibility in that area.
I hope that I have responded fully to the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Brooke. For the reasons that I have set out, I respectfully ask him to withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, I am grateful to everyone who has contributed. As noble Lords probably gathered, I was looking for a peg on which to hang my hat. I am pleased that I found a peg and I found someone who was prepared to cast a hat on it as well—I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, for finding a possible solution.
There is a problem and it should be addressed. People should not be out of pocket. The cost is not just in respect of the one year when they have the incident. If an insurance policy goes up, it goes up and it stays up; it is an ongoing cost to the individual. I am grateful to the Minister for saying that he will have a look at this, so if there is an opportunity to find a way through I am happy to leave it for now and see if we can have a conversation to find a way for victims to be given the proper compensation for the problem that they have encountered. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 172 withdrawn.
Amendment 173 not moved.
Clause 79 agreed.
Clause 80: Rehabilitation and reparation conditions
174: Clause 80, page 75, line 1, leave out subsection (8)
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment removes the subsection which allows the maximum number of hours attached to the unpaid work condition and the attendance condition to be amended by regulations.
My Lords, I will also speak to the other amendments in this group. The Committee has already considered these issues, so I can be brief. I apologise for not recognising that some of the amendments in a previous group covered similar issues.
In that previous group, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, suggested that the maximum number of hours attached to the unpaid work condition and the attendance condition, and the maximum fine that could be attached to a caution, should be set in the case of the fine and varied in all cases by regulations and that those should be amended only by the affirmative resolution procedure. The noble and learned Lord previously said in Committee that this was not an ideal solution, as regulations could not be amended and that this House was reluctant to use the “nuclear option” of praying to annul regulations, which is the only option available if it disagrees with a statutory instrument. Even with the affirmative resolution procedure in place, in practice, if the House disagrees with an increase to the maximum number of hours of unpaid work—or any of the other conditions attached to police cautions—there is little that it can do about it, unless changes are made through primary legislation.
I grant that the value of money is eroded over time by inflation and periodically the maximum fine capable of being attached as a condition to a caution may need to increase accordingly, but surely not the amount of time to be spent in unpaid work or subject to the attendance condition. There is a question of principle. If an offence is so grave that greater punishment is required, that should be a matter for the courts and not for a police officer to decide. There is precedent in our legal system for this principle. If magistrates want to impose a harsher sentence, they must refer eligible cases to the Crown Court, where a more senior judge can make a decision with more serious consequences.
When I joined the police service in the 1970s, the police performed the role of both investigator and prosecutor. Parliament then decided that prosecution decisions should be made by an independent body, the Crown Prosecution Service, for very good reasons that I do not need to rehearse here, while punishment of the individual has primarily been a matter for the courts, supported by reports from experts on the medical, social and criminal antecedents of the accused, in many cases, and considered by highly trained and experienced judges who are obliged to follow sentencing guidelines. In the proposals contained in this part of the Bill, the police are investigators, prosecutors and sentencers. There must be limits on the extent to which they should be allowed to carry out all three functions in relation to a case and those limits should be set out in primary legislation, on the face of the Bill. That is the purpose of these amendments and I beg to move Amendment 174.
My Lords, I listened with interest to the noble Lord, Lord Paddick. As he says, in this part of the Bill the police are investigators, prosecutors and sentencers. They also decide whether the matter should be sent to the CPS, with the people charged and sent into the court system. Of course, once the case gets into the court system, magistrates are judge, jury and sentencers. There are different roles at different stages of the system. The burden of the amendments in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, is in some way to codify, limit and guide the police when they are doing this pre-court intervention with the type of cautions set out in the Bill. I look forward with interest to the Minister’s response.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, for putting forward this group of amendments. If I can put it this way, the noble Lord realistically recognised that we have covered some of this ground before—not this particular issue but the conceptual underpinning on which it is based. I hope, therefore, that the Committee and the noble Lord will not take it amiss if I reply relatively briefly, because we have covered some of the points before.
Amendments 174, 176, 182 and 185 relate to the delegated powers contained in Part 6. The amendments propose to remove the clauses that allow the maximum amount of the financial penalty and the maximum number of unpaid work and attendance hours to be specified in regulations and would replace that by putting the details in the Bill. Amendments 175, 183 and 184 set out that the maximum penalty attached to a caution would be fixed at £200 and would make it explicit that an offender’s ability to pay must be taken into account.
The Bill contains powers to set and amend the amount of the maximum financial penalty and to amend the maximum number of unpaid work or attendance hours by regulations via secondary legislation. As I explained on a previous occasion, it was drafted that way to ensure maximum flexibility when responding to the needs of operational practitioners. Any changes to these regulations will be subject to parliamentary scrutiny in the normal way, but removing the delegated powers in their entirety, which is what Amendments 174, 176, 182 and 185 would do, would mean that there is no flexibility to amend either levels of financial penalty or the number of unpaid work hours. If we have the maximum financial penalty on the face of the Bill, to change it or update it, whether because of inflation or anything else, we would have to have to come back to primary legislation. I respectfully suggest that that is not a great use of parliamentary time.
Finally, as to the matter of whether the offender’s ability to pay should be explicitly set out in statute, of course it is a relevant factor, but we believe that this—alongside a range of other relevant factors around giving a financial penalty, the amount that it is set at and how quickly it is going to be paid—is better set out in detail in a statutory code of practice rather than in the Bill. With apologies for taking that a little shortly, I invite the noble Lord to withdraw the amendment.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for saying something. The whole point of not allowing it to be in regulations is that it is an important question of principle that once a crime gets to a certain level requiring a certain punishment, it should be for the courts to administer that punishment, in the same way that if a magistrate decides that the punishment they are able to give is not sufficient, they have to refer it to a higher court. These are the people with the experience, training and background properly to assess both the individual and the circumstances, and to apply the penalty. Therefore, it should be dealt with in primary legislation.
This should not be about providing maximum flexibility for operational partners. It should be about consistency and certainty, and citizens knowing that above a certain level of unpaid work, attendance at a training course or a fine imposed by the police, they cannot go without referring the matter to the courts. That is the whole point. I completely accept that the Minister has explained why it is in regulations and not in the Bill. However, he has not addressed at all the argument that it should not be that flexible.
Why is the accused’s ability to pay important? I was talking to my noble friend Lady Randerson about this amendment earlier today; like the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, she is an experienced magistrate, now retired. She said, “It is so important to take into account the accused’s ability to pay, because if you impose a fine, say, of £200 on somebody who has little or no income, it will almost guarantee that they commit a crime in order to get the £200 to pay the fine.” That is why that seemingly innocuous addition, which should be in the Bill, is in fact absolutely important. In the light of the Minister failing to engage with the heart of the amendments, we will return to this issue on Report, but in the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 174 withdrawn.
Clause 80 agreed.
Clause 81: Financial penalty conditions
If Amendment 176 is approved, I cannot call Amendment 177 by reason of pre-emption.
Amendments 175 to 177 not moved.
Clause 81 agreed.
Clauses 82 to 85 agreed.
Clause 86: Application of Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984
178: Clause 86, page 78, line 17, leave out subsection (4)
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment is to probe the effect of subsection (4).
My Lords, by way of a little light relief for the Committee, I rise to move Amendment 178 in my name.
In this part of the Bill, “Part 6—Cautions”, Clause 86 deals with:
“Application of Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984.”
On page 78, at line 17, Clause 86(4) states:
“Section 40 of the 1984 Act (review of police detention) applies to a person in police detention by virtue of section 85 above as it applies to a person in police detention in connection with the investigation of an offence, but with the following modifications—
(a) omit subsections (8) and (8A);
(b) in subsection (9), for the reference to section 37(9) or 37D(5) substitute a reference to the second sentence of section 85(6) above.”
Can the Minister please explain to the Committee what that means? We do not have the foggiest idea. Legislation is supposed to be capable of being understood by those to whom it applies, but this is incomprehensible to us, let alone to the poor police officer who has to apply it or the poor accused who may be subject to it. That is provided that I have the gist of what this whole thing is about, and it actually applies to police officers and the accused. However, I beg to move.
My Lords, taking that last point first, one of the glories of our system is that the drafting is done by parliamentary counsel, and I will not criticise the way it has been done. However, I agree with the underlying point made by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, that legislation ought to be—
I was going to say “comprehensible” but that is a pretty high test— perhaps “as clear as good legislation can be”. I have to leave at least some space for my former colleagues at the Bar to have a career; if we make it too precise, we will do people out of a job. However, there is a serious point here, and I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, that legislation should be as clear as possible. I will set out what the words are seeking to do, and if it is thought that there is a better way of putting them to get to the same result, obviously, I will be happy to hear it. However, let me explain what they seek to do.
Clause 86 sets out the provisions of PACE and the modifications required to them that will apply upon arrest for failure to comply with any condition attached to a diversionary caution. The purpose of the clause is to ensure that the diversionary caution operates effectively within the existing framework of police powers; it mirrors the approach taken in the Criminal Justice Act 2003, which gives the police powers of arrest for failure to comply with the existing conditional caution.
The subsection of this clause ensures that someone arrested and detained by the police is subject to the same treatment as any detained person, and periodic reviews of their detention are carried out. Obviously, that is important. The same subsection also contains modifications to put specific matters in the Bill: the power to detain those who are unfit to be dealt with at the time of arrest; the power of arrest for detainees bailed for any breach—that is, non-compliance; and the power to search a detainee in police custody following arrest.
The modifications make specific reference to the diversionary caution. For example, the PACE power to search and examine a detainee to ascertain their identity is modified to ensure that the power will still exist where a detainee has failed to comply with any of the conditions attached to the person’s diversionary caution. Therefore, it provides—I was going to say “clarity” but perhaps that might be pushing the point a little—that these powers apply only to the diversionary caution and not also to the community caution, where there is no power of arrest or prosecution for non-compliance. That is why Clause 86(4) is needed. Without the necessary PACE provisions as modified, the powers for police to deal with breaches of a diversionary caution would be limited and that would undermine the effect of non-compliance with the conditions.
I do not know whether what I have said has reassured the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, that the clause is properly focused. I hope that I have explained what it is trying to do. I am not being flippant and I do appreciate that legislation needs to be as clear as possible and that it is important that people understand what it encompasses. However, when one is legislating against the background of other legislation, it can be quite difficult to do it other than by cross-references back. If there is a better way to achieve the same result without adding pages and pages, I should be very happy to hear it, but I hope that I have explained what the clause is focused on and why it is drafted in the way it is. I therefore invite the noble Lord to withdraw the amendment. However, I am happy to discuss this matter between us if there is another way of doing it.
I am very grateful to the Minister. Perhaps I may gently suggest that if something akin to what the noble Lord said was contained even in the Explanatory Notes explaining that part of the Bill, we would not have to spend time in Committee trying to understand what it was about. I know that my noble friend Lady Hamwee and I have looked everywhere possible to try and decipher what that meant—to no avail. It may be that to parliamentary draftspeople it is as clear as day—but for us lesser mortals it is not. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
My Lords, before my noble friend withdraws his amendment, I should say that he is quite right. There are a number of different points at which it is important for people to understand what legislation means. For us looking back at legislation, we can do so online and it is important that the changes go up online as soon as possible, including in the previous legislation. This is quite a serious point that is, of course, much broader than the Bill—but I am going to infuriate the Committee by getting it off my chest. One can spend an awful lot of time trying to understand what a piece of legislation, passed 20 years ago and amended five times, actually amounts to unless what is put online is completely up to date. It wastes an awful lot of noble Lords’ time and must waste Ministers’ time trying to get their heads around it if the Explanatory Notes do not set out those things intelligibly.
Amendment 178 withdrawn.
Clause 86 agreed.
Clause 87 agreed.
Clause 88: Deciding on the conditions
Amendments 179 and 180 not moved.
181: Clause 88, page 79, line 36, at end insert—
“(c) make reasonable efforts, or ensure that reasonable efforts are or have been made, to ensure conditions include interventions to support the offender to desist from offending.”
My Lords, I am moving the amendment in the name of my friend the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Gloucester, with her permission, as she is, sadly, unable to be here. I declare her interest as Anglican Bishop for Prisons in England and Wales, and we are very grateful for the support of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, and the noble Lord, Lord Beith.
I should say first that, while there are many parts of the Bill with which I take some issue, I do by and large consider it a welcome feature of the Bill that it places a new emphasis and focus on diversionary and community cautions, and on simplifying the previous regime. Done well, these out-of-court disposals, with helpful conditions attached, can be an effective solution that strikes a balance between punishment, the protection of communities and supporting the offender to successfully seek restoration in their community.
However, it is an issue that the conditions attached to these cautions can be poorly conceived and become either unnecessarily restrictive or, indeed, not sufficiently rehabilitative in order to help people to avoid reoffending. This amendment is intended to improve and clarify what is already presented in the Bill by providing assurance that conditions attached to community cautions will
“make reasonable efforts, or ensure that reasonable efforts are or have been made, to ensure conditions include interventions to support the offender to desist from offending.”
That closely matches the wording in Clause 79(3), which insists on efforts to obtain the views of any victim or victims of the offence. Seeking the views of victims is a sensible objective, but it leaves this clause, “Deciding on the conditions”, rather lopsided. Attention is paid to who can set conditions and to the views of victims, but not to the most fundamental point, which is surely what impact these conditions have on the offender.
The critical point here is that community cautions are likely to be useful only if the conditions are effectively tailored to help offenders desist from offending. Key drivers of crime are poverty, mental ill-health, trauma and substance misuse. If conditions of cautions do not take steps to address those drivers, how can we reasonably expect to reduce reoffending? The alternative is simply to see the revolving door continue to spin, with the same offenders being trapped in cycles of offending, without the help they need to escape and rebuild their lives. Apart from being bad for the offender, this is obviously bad for victims and communities, who will continue to be impacted by reoffending. Only by restoring relationships and communities and providing the right support to prevent reoffending can we begin to really break this cycle.
I am very grateful to the Revolving Doors Agency for its briefings and support, and for its work with its new-generation campaigners. These are young adults with experience of the revolving door of crisis and crime, and discussions with them were around how they viewed conditions attached to cautions, what they found useful and what they did not find useful. Revolving Doors established that among the useful conditions were: attendance at drug and alcohol treatment to help break addiction cycles; meaningful, ideally accredited, unpaid work to build up skills and provide career options; family counselling sessions; and signposting to services to help with financial issues and poverty. All these conditions, critically, are designed to work with offenders to address underlying causes of their offending and provide them with meaningful alternatives that do not simply keep people trapped in the same cycles of criminal activity and the criminal justice system.
I hope that we might hear from the Minister of plans to extend and increase funding and support for such interventions, as I was rather disappointed not to see Dame Carol Black’s full recommendations for funding for drug treatment in the Chancellor’s Budget. You might also expect me to say that in the case of women’s offending we know that when a number of these things are provided through a holistic approach through a women’s centre, there are encouraging outcomes regarding reoffending.
I turn to the other aspect of conditions, which is about them sometimes being unnecessarily punitive without having any benefit. That is also highlighted by research from the Revolving Doors Agency and its work with its young new-generation campaigners in highlighting that not all conditions are useful or helpful. One campaigner told Revolving Doors of a condition where they were banned from public transport despite relying on it to get to school:
“I used to have get two buses to school, and then I was banned from public transport. How else was I meant to get to school? I was taken to court for still being on public transport.”
Other highlighted examples were conditions that were not tailored to the needs of the offender but seemed arbitrary or overly restrictive—almost as though they were being set up to fail.
One danger of the Bill as drafted is that since it is mandatory to impose conditions on these cautions, there is a risk of up-tariffing, with conditions attached that are more restrictive than necessary and actually undermine the ability of an offender to desist from crime. Indeed, the Centre for Justice Innovation noted that the Ministry of Justice’s two-tier out-of-court disposal pilot evaluation highlighted the dangers of up-tariffing within out-of-court disposals. It showed that, contrary to the principle of de-escalation, people who would have received simple cautions were given conditional cautions instead. Conditional cautions involved people having to complete more interventions than they otherwise would have done and came with the threat of enforcement in the case of non-compliance. That threat of enforcement is critical. There is little point to community cautions if the conditions are so onerous that many people end up breaching them and find themselves receiving a custodial sentence.
I stress again that the amendment looks to improve on the Bill. This clause already provides for several criteria for deciding on conditions—notably, the views of victims. It is a small and easy fix to ensure that a further criterion is to ensure that conditions make reasonable efforts to support the offender to desist from offending. I beg to move.
It was a privilege to add my name to this amendment, which has been so ably moved by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham, speaking the words of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Gloucester. I associate myself with everything that has been said and particularly with the work being done by Revolving Doors and the Centre for Justice Innovation.
This particular amendment raises a problem with this part of the Bill. One can understand why putting in a condition or requirement in relation to the victims might appeal to a certain type of politician, but they forget that, if you are legislating, you need balance. Why put something in about victims without putting something in about the whole point of this, which is to try to deal with offending?
The reason that I put my name to this amendment goes to the way that the Bill has been structured. I apologise again for not being in my place last Wednesday. I am extremely grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, for moving the amendment that I put in. This point raises exactly the same problem: we have a framework Bill. We do not have the draft regulations or, more importantly, the draft code of practice.
I entirely support this reform, but I do not think that many people realise what a critical role cautions play in the operation of the criminal justice system and, as the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, has said in relation to an earlier amendment—I did not rise then because I thought that I could make the point now—the incredibly important constitutional and rule-of-law issues, which I underline. These relate to the relationship between the legislature, and how much detail it should go into on this, and the Executive—because the police are part of the Executive branch of government—and to what extent they should be allowed to punish, which has generally been the province of the courts.
I welcome these reforms because this is an important part of the sentencing regime—and it is part of it, whatever epithet one wishes to apply. But it seems to me that a much better approach to the Bill would be if this was brought together as a whole, so that we could say, “This bit ought to go into the Bill. That is dealt with in regulations. This should be dealt with in the code of practice”. We should have it all before us, so that we can make a sensible decision. I do not understand why this has not been done, but I hope that, before the Bill comes back on Report, we see draft regulations and a draft code of practice. Otherwise, we will all be plagued on Report with this type of really serious concern.
There are many more issues—the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, has raised some of them this morning—such as the point that the Minister made very eloquently this morning about being able to alter levels of fines. Of course, in an age where we are perhaps going to see a lot of inflation, that is important, but why alter the number of hours? The gravity of the sentence with which a particular person should deal ought to be fixed.
Therefore, I hope that the Minister will look at, first, putting this amendment into the Bill and, much more seriously and importantly, at bringing the draft code of practice and the draft regulations, so that we could review the whole thing and do a proper job, as Parliament, consistent with the rule of law.
My Lords, I am very glad to support the right reverend Prelate and the noble and learned Lord who has just spoken. The right reverend Prelate gave us a very careful analysis of the reasons that such an amendment would improve Clause 88 of the Bill, and the noble and learned Lord, the former Lord Chief Justice, reminded us of the constitutional context and the fact that the way that the Bill is structured, and the sheer complexity of it, are not really very satisfactory, especially when so much related material is not available to us at this stage. I hope that note will be taken of what he said on that latter point.
My feeling was that, as drafted, Clause 88 does not cover the ground properly, and that the inclusion of the requirement in this amendment—that consideration should be given to what provisions can be made for the “offender to desist” from crime in the future—would give the clause a necessary balance; a phrase that the noble and learned Lord used. The clause’s emphasis is very much on finding the victim’s views, which is entirely appropriate but limited in scope.
It is of course relevant to remember that, very often, one of the strongest views that victims have is that no one else should have to suffer what they have and that something should be done to make sure that the person who has done it does not do anything like that again and cause that sort of harm in the future. So these two things are not in opposition to each other: it is a complementary requirement for the clause to include a direct reference to measures to try to make it possible for the individual to desist from crime. There is a wide range of measures, but, in the context of this clause, the right reverend Prelate mentioned drugs and drug treatment. Of course, alcohol is also a very significant factor in many of the sorts of crimes that we are talking about.
This brings back memories of an incident that occurred during my time in the House of Commons, when some teenagers pulled down and stole the union flag from outside my office. They then made the mistake of exhibiting it around the pubs of the town, which led to the police catching them pretty quickly. The sergeant rang me up and said, “I do not really want to issue a formal caution because one of them wants to go into the Army, and that may prevent him doing so. I suggest that they club together, pay for its replacement and all write to you to apologise”. That was the kind of practical policing that, nowadays, is so surrounded by rules and requirements that it is often more difficult to do. But it was the right solution. I had some delightful letters, most of them insisting that their families had always voted for me. But it made a sufficient impact on the individuals—it was just a minor thing—making them less likely to commit crimes in the future. That is the emphasis that we need to add into this clause—an emphasis on trying to ensure that that individual commits no further crimes in the future.
My Lords, we support this amendment, but, as I have already said, we have our doubts about the whole regime. For the benefit of noble Lords who missed the midnight debate on Monday, I bring you the edited highlights, which are relevant to this group.
I quoted from the House of Commons briefing paper 9165. On the Government’s proposals on diversionary and community cautions, it says:
“the available evidence suggests the system: … may result in a further decline in … OOCDs; … is likely to cost more … is unlikely to have a major impact on the reoffending rates of offenders; and … may improve victim satisfaction but is unlikely to have a major impact.”
I have to say that the high point for me on Monday night—or was it Tuesday morning?—was the Minister’s answer to my question about how effective conditional cautions, which are the existing system of cautions with conditions attached, were, compared with simple cautions that do not have conditions attached. The noble Lord announced with glee, if I may say that in a very respectful way, that:
“As the Committee will know from previous exchanges, I am quite a fan of data.”—[Official Report, 8/11/10; col. 1577.]
The Minister then looked at his phone and a message from his WhatsApp group—it is good to see members of the WhatsApp group in the Box today—saying that, in effect, there was no data. The Government not only keep no record of how many conditional versus simple cautions are administered, just the total number of all cautions, but have no record of what kind of conditions are attached to conditional cautions. On the basis of that data void, they plan to implement a system where all police cautions will need to have conditions attached.
I also quoted from a 2018 paper by Dr Peter Neyroud, former chief constable of Thames Valley Police and now a distinguished academic, published by the University of Cambridge and commissioned by the National Police Chiefs’ Council, entitled Out of Court Disposals Managed by the Police: A Review of the Evidence. On the police attaching conditions to cautions, he said:
“The result … was a significant degree of inconsistency and a substantial number of inappropriate and un-evidenced conditions.”
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham gave us an example of, presumably, a youth who was banned from public transport, which meant he could not get to school. I continue to quote from Dr Peter Neyroud:
“Whilst the provision of further training and more guidance improved the situation somewhat, the cost of such an investment within a more general implementation of OOCD’s with conditions”—
exactly what the Government are proposing—
“would be prohibitive and, in any case, did not completely resolve the problems.”
Never mind—the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, came up with a better idea: the inspectorates of the constabulary and of the CPS could ensure consistency, so that somebody in a similar situation, committing a similar offence, would have the same conditions attached, no matter where they were in the country. I am afraid not, said the Minister:
“Those two inspectorates are not regulators; they do not have power to enforce compliance.”—[Official Report, 8/11/21; col. 1576.]
Inconsistent, inappropriate and unevidenced conditions will be attached to cautions all over the country, bringing no benefit to offenders, little benefit to victims and increased costs to the criminal justice system. That is what this part of the Bill does.
We support this amendment, which should also apply to diversionary cautions, but the omens are not good that the police will know what they are doing when it comes to applying conditions to support the offender to desist from offending. There is serious doubt that, even when they do, the conditions will have any effect on reducing reoffending.
My Lords, this has been a wide-ranging debate. When the right reverend Prelate introduced it, he made a general plea in favour of cautions and on why his amendment was appropriate. He spoke of the benefits of cautions and what they need to be effective, and of the revolving door of crisis and crime and of a holistic approach. He particularly gave the example of women offenders, for whom a holistic approach is appropriate to reduce reoffending. Then he went on to give examples of why quite a lot of cautions fail—by giving too many conditions. My experience, through following both cautions and sentences through court, is that the more conditions you put in place, even if they are in place for the best of reasons, the more likely you are to have a breach and to re-enter that cycle, coming back to court or to the police when conditions are breached.
My central point is that out-of-court disposals are a difficult area. The Government and previous Governments have a lot of experience in trying to come up with an appropriate regime for out-of-court disposals. As we have heard on the Bill—I agree with pretty much all the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick—we have another cautions regime, which we hope will work in some way. I particularly noted the point made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, about the need to see draft regulations or a draft code of practice to ensure consistency across the country.
I close by drawing an analogy between the youth regime and the adult regime we are talking about here. We have seen far more extensive introductions of cautions in the youth regime over the last few years, which has seen far fewer youths being brought to court. That is possibly a good thing, but the consequence is that the youths who come to court are often charged with far more serious offences. That may be right in some sense, but we see repeated interventions for youths with conditional cautions, simple cautions or other out-of-court disposals, a multitude of times, until eventually the youths end up in youth court.
I support the overall objective of having an effective caution regime, but I share the scepticism of the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, about the reasons for putting this regime in place. One should not be misled into thinking that any particular regime would immediately have better results than previous regimes or the current regime.
My Lords, I hope it is in order to pick up one point that was put to me at the end of the last group and say a word on it. I hope the Committee will forgive me. It goes to all groups, in some ways, because it is about how legislation is put online. Legislation.gov.uk has a facility to look at the original texts and unscramble the later amendments, so to speak. A point that occurred as the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, was speaking was whether one could put in hyperlinks to take you through different pieces of legislation. I am happy to look into that, but I now turn to this amendment.
My noble friend Lord Framlingham asked what a diversionary caution is. To try to sum up a large part of the Bill in about three sentences, I say that there is going to be a lower-tier disposal called a community caution and an upper-tier disposal called a diversionary caution. Conditions must be attached to both, aimed at one of three objectives—rehabilitation, reparation or punishment. Restrictive conditions can be set, where they contribute to reparation or rehabilitation. In that regard, there is a similarity to the existing conditional caution regime. I hope that answers the question.
I now turn to the substance of the amendment in the name of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Gloucester—moved by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham—alongside the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, and the noble Lord, Lord Beith. It goes to the primary objective of the new two-tier statutory framework, which I have just explained, to provide, as a requirement of the community caution, meaningful court conditions to help an offender stop offending.
I am grateful for the broad support, as a matter of principle, of the right reverend Prelate for the aims of the Bill on out-of-court disposals. I respectfully agree with the point made by the noble and learned Lord on the importance of the caution regime in the criminal justice system. I also agree with the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, that cautions must be carefully considered to avoid the syndrome of repeated interventions.
While the amendment is obviously well intentioned, the Bill already makes provision for the purpose that underpins it in Clause 80 on diversionary cautions and Clause 89 on community cautions. The Bill asks the relevant person to focus on the position of the offender. Of course we all agree that one has to look at the position of the victim, but I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Beith, that one must also look at the offender. The Bill already does that.
While I agree with the broad thrust of the purpose of the amendment, I suggest that it is unnecessary. That is because, aside from the punitive option of a financial penalty, the conditions of both the diversionary and the community caution must be aimed at rehabilitation or reparation, thereby addressing the underlying causes of the offending. Importantly, the cautions enable referrals to support services where relevant as conditions of the disposal. Referrals at this pretty early stage of the criminal justice system could include referrals to relevant intervention services such as substance misuse services, mental health treatment providers or gambling addiction, or restorative justice referrals. All those help to address the underlying causes of offending behaviour and so help to reduce reoffending or the escalation of offending behaviour.
As I have said, a code of practice will accompany the legislation. It will be drawn up in collaboration with stakeholders and subject to a formal public consultation and to an affirmative statutory instrument. I respectfully agree with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, as he would no doubt expect me to, as to the fundamental importance of the rule of law in this and, indeed, other areas. I wonder whether actually the police are best viewed as being seen as part of the Executive; we could probably have an interesting debate on that. The answer might be that it depends on the purpose for which you are using the principle of the rule of law as to what exactly it would encompass.
To give the noble and learned Lord a bit more information, the way that the code of practice will be put together is that there will be an informal stakeholder engagement exercise with police forces, the National Police Chiefs Council, police and crime commissioners, the CPS and relevant third-sector organisations, which will help with drafting. We will then have a formal public consultation, which will take place next year. Importantly, the power to issue the code and the regulations is contained in the clauses of the Bill, so we will not have the power to do that until the Bill receives Royal Assent and is commenced.
I want to pick up the underlying points made by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick. I hope he will not take it amiss if I do not respond to those. There is a clear conceptual gulf between us, if I may put it that way, as to the purpose of the regime and whether it is soundly based. I set out the Government’s position on that earlier. I am not sure it is helpful if I just repeat those words each time because there is that gulf between us and I am not sure it is going to be bridged. I hope the noble Lord will therefore not take it amiss if I do not respond in detail.
It is not a conceptual gulf. It is a question of where the evidence is that cautions with conditions attached are more beneficial than cautions without conditions attached. I can answer that question for the Minister: there is no evidence, because the Government do not collect any. That is coupled with the fact that this House will be asked—this Committee is debating it now—to sign a blank cheque for all this when the detail has not been worked out. There will be public consultation and consultation with stakeholders, but we have no idea what this is going to look like in the end. That is no way for this House to proceed with this legislation.
Well, we did have that exchange. I went through the way that it has been piloted in various police forces, and we had an interesting exchange. I am happy to look again at the record and see whether there is anything else that I can add, but I am not sure that will necessarily persuade the noble Lord in any event. Again, I am not sure it is helpful to go through those fundamental points each and every time we come to one of these amendments.
I hope I have responded substantively—and, I hope, substantially—to the amendments tabled by the right reverend Prelate. For the reasons that I have set out, I ask him to withdraw them.
Before the noble Lord sits down, and to go back to the fundamental point about the code of practice and the regulations, is there not even a framework or some outline that we can look at so we could work out what is necessary in primary legislation and what is necessary in a code of practice? I must say that it is wholly contrary to the rule of law for a democratically elected body—I include the whole of Parliament in that—to pass legislation that has not been properly gone into.
Here we are dealing with the liberty of the subject. I think that most people do not appreciate the seriousness of a caution. When I was Lord Chief Justice, we had a number of cases where people found out years later the problem with having accepted a caution. In one case, for example, a person who was young and had no convictions of any kind could not go to America. There are other cases where a caution for a minor offence makes you into a “person of bad character”. These are matters that go to the liberty of the subject and they are of fundamental importance.
It is quite contrary to the rule of law to ask us to pass legislation for which there is no urgency. As the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby said, this is a long-standing problem. Could the Minister not reconsider? I entirely sympathise with the civil servants at the MoJ because they are hard-working. Of course, they have to work hard because of all the Government’s cuts to the Ministry of Justice; they are not responsible for that and nor is the Minister, who I am sure would like as much money as possible. Could we not, in this vital area of the liberty of the subject, do some proper work on it rather than wasting a lot of time debating principles? It would be so much more efficient, on an issue that is not urgent, if we could have a draft, a framework or something to look at.
My Lords, of course I understand the point made by the noble and learned Lord. We could have an interesting debate about whether that is properly encompassed in the phrase “rule of law”, but I take the underlying point that he makes. I have sought to set out where the code of practice would be relevant, where the Act ends and the code of practice begins. I am happy to have a further discussion with him on that point.
I agree that cautions are an important part of the criminal justice system. They can have consequences, as the noble and learned Lord set out, and not being able to go to America is just one of them. That is why in a later part of the Bill, which we will come to, the question of when a caution is spent is so important. We have sought to build that into the Bill, which I hope meets, at least in part, the point that he makes. I am happy to discuss this point with him further.
I thank the Minister for his substantive and indeed substantial reply. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Gloucester will certainly read Hansard carefully and decide whether this is a subject that we will come back to. My observation would be that part of the purpose of the clause was to recognise that the offender needs to be involved in considering whether the conditions will help them not to reoffend, and I am not sure that is covered in the rest of the Bill. That would be the reason for coming back.
I note the involvement of the third sector in the production of a code of practice. I agree that I wish that we at least had a draft. I hope that the Centre for Justice Innovation, along with Revolving Doors, would be two of the organisations involved in that process, because the work they do is really good. At this stage, though, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 181 withdrawn.
Clause 88 agreed.
Clause 89: Rehabilitation and reparation conditions
Amendment 182 not moved.
Clause 89 agreed.
Clause 90: Financial penalty conditions
Amendments 183 to 186 not moved.
Clause 90 agreed.
Clauses 91 to 94 agreed.
Clause 95: Code of practice
Amendment 186A not moved.
Clause 95 agreed.
House resumed. Committee to begin again not before 3 pm.