Report (4th Day) (Continued)
97ZB: After Clause 165, insert the following new Clause—
“PART 11ADISREGARDS AND PARDONS FOR CERTAIN HISTORICAL OFFENCESDisregard of certain convictions or cautions
(1) The Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 is amended in accordance with subsections (2) to (10).(2) Section 92 (power of Secretary of State to disregard convictions or cautions) is amended in accordance with subsections (3) to (5).(3) In subsection (1) for the words from “under” to the end of paragraph (c) substitute “in circumstances where the conduct constituting the offence was sexual activity between persons of the same sex”.(4) In subsection (3)—(a) in paragraph (a)—(i) for the first “the” substitute “any”,(ii) for “conduct constituting the offence consented to it and” substitute “sexual activity”, and(iii) omit the second “and”, and(b) for paragraph (b) substitute—“(b) the offence has been repealed or, in the case of an offence at common law, abolished by enactment (whether or not it has been re-enacted or replaced), and(c) the sexual activity would not, if occurring in the same circumstances at the point of decision, constitute an offence.”(5) After subsection (6) insert—“(7) In this section “sexual activity” includes—(a) any physical or affectionate activity which is of a type characteristic of people involved in an intimate personal relationship, and(b) conduct intended to lead to sexual activity.”(6) In section 93(3) (applications to the Secretary of State), for the words from “the matters” to the end substitute “— (a) whether a conviction or caution is of a kind mentioned in section 92(1);(b) the matters mentioned in condition A in that section.”(7) In section 94 (procedure for decisions by the Secretary of State)—(a) in subsection (1)—(i) after “considering” insert “whether a conviction or caution is of a kind mentioned in section 92(1) or”, and(ii) for “section 92” substitute “that section”,(b) in subsection (2)—(i) after “deciding” insert “whether a conviction or caution is of a kind mentioned in section 92(1) or”, and(ii) for “section 92” substitute “that section”,(c) after subsection (2) insert—“(2A) If the Secretary of State refuses an application on the basis that the caution or conviction is not of a kind mentioned in section 92(1), the Secretary of State must—(a) record the decision in writing, and(b) give notice of it to the applicant.”(8) In section 99 (appeal against refusal to disregard convictions or cautions)—(a) in subsection (1)(a) after “Secretary of State” insert “refuses an application on the basis mentioned in section 94(2A) or”,(b) in subsection (3), for the words from “that it” to the end substitute “—(a) that the conviction or caution is of a kind mentioned in section 92(1), it must make an order to that effect;(b) that it appears as mentioned in condition A of that section, it must make an order to that effect.”, and(c) in subsection (5), after “subsection (3)” insert “(b)”.(9) In section 100(1) (advisers)—(a) for the second “Secretary of State” substitute “Secretary of State—(a) the caution or conviction is of a kind mentioned in section 92(1), or”,(b) the remaining text becomes paragraph (b), and(c) in that paragraph for “section 92” substitute “that section”.(10) In section 101—(a) in subsection (1)—(i) in paragraph (a) of the definition of “conviction”, after “proceedings” insert “(including anything that under section 376(1) and (2) of the Armed Forces Act 2006 is to be treated as a conviction for the purposes of that Act)”,(ii) at the end of the definition of “sentence” insert “(including anything that under section 376(1) and (3) of the Armed Forces Act 2006 is to be treated as a sentence for the purposes of that Act),”,(iii) at the end of paragraph (a) of the definition of “service disciplinary proceedings” omit “or”,(iv) after paragraph (b) of the definition of “service disciplinary proceedings” insert “, or(c) in respect of a service offence (whether or not before a court but excepting proceedings before a civilian court within the meaning of the Armed Forces Act 2006);and for the purposes of paragraph (c) “service offence” means a service offence within the meaning of the Armed Forces Act 2006, or an SDA offence within the meaning of the Armed Forces Act 2006 (Transitional Provisions etc) Order 2009 (SI 2009/1059).”, and(v) in the appropriate place insert—““enactment” includes an enactment contained in subordinate legislation (within the meaning of the Interpretation Act 1978),”,(b) omit subsections (3) and (4),(c) in subsection (5) for paragraphs (a) and (b) substitute “a reference to an inchoate or ancillary offence relating to the offence.”,(d) in subsection (6)—(i) for the first “or incitement” substitute “, incitement, encouraging or assisting”, and(ii) for the second “or incitement” substitute “, incitement, encouraging or assisting”,(e) after subsection (6) insert—“(6A) For the purposes of section 92, an inchoate or ancillary offence is to be treated as repealed or abolished to the extent that the offence to which it relates is repealed or abolished.(6B) A reference to an inchoate or ancillary offence in relation to an offence is a reference to an offence of—(a) attempting, conspiracy or incitement to commit the offence,(b) encouraging or assisting the commission of the offence, or(c) aiding, abetting, counselling or procuring the commission of the offence.(6C) For the purposes of section 92, an offence under an enactment mentioned in subsection (6D) is to be treated as repealed to the extent that the conduct constituting the offence under the enactment—(a) was punishable by reference to an offence under the law of England and Wales which has been repealed or abolished, or(b) if the conduct was not punishable by the law of England and Wales, was punishable by reference to equivalent conduct constituting an offence under the law of England and Wales which has been repealed or abolished.(6D) The enactments are—(a) section 45 of the Naval Discipline Act 1866,(b) section 41 of the Army Act 1881,(c) section 41 of the Air Force Act 1917,(d) section 70 of the Army Act 1955,(e) section 70 of the Air Force Act 1955,(f) section 42 of the Naval Discipline Act 1957, and(g) section 42 of the Armed Forces Act 2006.”, and(f) in subsection (7) for “(5) and (6)” substitute “(5), (6) and (6B)”.(11) Nothing in this section affects the disregard of a conviction or caution that was disregarded before this section comes into force.”Member’s explanatory statement
This new Clause would extend the scheme for disregarding convictions and cautions for historical offences that regulated sexual activity between people of the same sex.
My Lords, it really is a pleasure to introduce these government amendments to the House. In Committee, I gave a commitment that the Government would consider carefully the amendment tabled by my noble friend Lord Lexden and the noble Lord, Lord Cashman, on the extension of the disregards and pardons scheme for individuals convicted of same-sex sexual activity. They withdrew their amendment then, and I am delighted today to be able to bring forward these government amendments which, I am pleased to say, have their support. It has only taken six years, but we got here.
Amendments 97ZB and 97ZC draw heavily on the earlier amendments to this Bill and the Armed Forces Bill. I am very confident that they reflect the aim of the noble Lords’ proposals. The removal of cautions and convictions from official records is a serious matter, and Amendment 97ZB will ensure that any disregards will meet the established legal criteria to ensure that the Home Office does not inadvertently disregard cautions or convictions for activity that is still illegal today or that involved other still illegal activity. The purpose of the disregards and pardons scheme is to put right the wrongs of the past in which the actions of those attracted to the same sex were unjustly criminalised and lives were severely and negatively affected by having these cautions and convictions on their criminal records.
The current scheme is too narrow: it is largely focused on convictions for the now repealed offences of buggery and gross indecency between men. We recognise that there were a wider range of now repealed and abolished offences, both civilian and military, that were also used to unfairly caution or convict those attracted to the same sex specifically because of their sexuality. To ensure full coverage, Amendment 97ZB will provide for the extension of the scope of the scheme to cover all repealed statutory offences and all abolished common-law offences of this nature. The scheme is also being extended to all service offences, so general disciplinary offences that were used to prosecute those individuals attracted to the same sex will now be covered.
Amendment 97ZC separately extends the existing arrangements for pardons. Those who are granted a disregard will automatically be pardoned. We recognise that many people have now died, or sadly will die, without the opportunity to seek a disregard. The amendment therefore makes provision for posthumous pardons for those who die before 12 months have elapsed after the provisions come into force. Where an offence is repealed or abolished after the provision comes into force, it will also fall within the scope of the scheme. In those cases, provision is made for posthumous pardons for those who die before 12 months have elapsed after the repeal or abolishment.
I take this opportunity to thank my noble friend Lord Lexden and the noble Lord, Lord Cashman, for their continued hard work on this issue. It has taken, as I have said, six years. I also pay special tribute to Professor Paul Johnson of the University of Leeds, who, in addition to advising their Lordships, has also been unfailingly generous in sharing his expertise with officials. I hope these amendments will be the legislative answer that we have been working towards together. It is only by working together that we can achieve this type of change. I beg to move.
My Lords, it is a great pleasure to speak in support of these two amendments and to follow the Minister, who has, throughout the six years, made it seem a bit like fun, and so time flew past. Joking aside, her commitment from the very beginning has never been in question.
To put these amendments into context, for nearly 500 years this House routinely passed hateful legislation that damaged, and in many cases destroyed, the lives of gay people. Many of the measures that this House passed, century after century, are well known. The Acts of 1533 and 1855 are now infamous, but a battery of lesser-known laws ensured that gay people were systematically fettered within a vile and oppressive regime of regulation that prevented them living full lives.
It was only very recently, in 2003, when Parliament undertook a comprehensive reform of sexual offences law. Two very important steps have been taken, in the form of the disregard scheme introduced in 2012 and the pardon scheme introduced in 2017. These schemes are important. They address individual suffering, and they send a clear message to our society and to the world beyond it that we have confronted our shameful history and said “Never again”.
However, the schemes have hitherto been significantly flawed, because they encompass only a small fraction of the criminal offences in England and Wales and the offences covering the British Armed Forces that, over the decades and centuries, have immiserated the lives of gay people. As the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, said, for five years I have worked closely and consistently with my noble friend Lord Lexden and with Professor Paul Johnson at the University of Leeds, who has advised us wisely and without any hesitation. We have worked together to address the limitations of the schemes to bring justice to all those who need and deserve it. We have collaborated on a number of interventions leading to provisions being included in the Policing and Crime Act 2017 and the Armed Forces Act 2021 which have partially resolved problems with the schemes.
As the Minister said, under Amendments 97ZB and 97ZC, which we have worked closely with the Government to create and to which I have proudly added my name alongside that of my noble ally Lord Lexden, the Government are now bringing within the scope of the disregard and pardon schemes all the historical offences that regulated sexual activity between persons of the same sex that would be lawful today. The expanded schemes as outlined in the amendments will now cover repealed criminal offences such as the offence of importuning that was used to entrap gay and bisexual men for sometimes doing nothing more than chatting up another adult man. They will also cover offences in the now repealed service discipline Acts such as that of disgraceful conduct that were once used to prosecute or punish Armed Forces personnel who engaged in consensual same-sex relationships.
As has been said, those living with cautions or convictions for these and other relevant offences will be able to apply for a disregard and, if successful, be pardoned. Those who have, sadly, died will be posthumously pardoned.
No one who was cautioned or convicted in respect of conduct that would be an offence today will be able to obtain a disregard or receive a pardon. The expanded schemes will address solely conduct that today would be entirely lawful.
We are in this matter servants of history. We are the servants of the generations past who suffered under cruel laws and who rightly deserve justice. These amendments will once and for all ensure that every person, alive or dead, who was mistreated by English law solely because of their sexual orientation will have a mechanism through which justice can be delivered. The amendments will wipe away a terrible stain from our history and, crucially, tender our deepest and profound apologies to those who have suffered.
I finish as I began by thanking the Minister and the entire Bill team for their hard work and collaboration. I commend these amendments to your Lordships.
My Lords, it is immensely gratifying to reach the end of a long, six-year campaign. At last, more gay people who in the past suffered cruel wrong under unjust military and civilian offences are about to be given the means of securing the redress they so greatly deserve. It has been extremely encouraging to receive so much support from all parts of the House, particularly from the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, on the Labour Front Bench and the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, on the Liberal Democrat Front Bench.
May I add briefly to the comments made by my fellow campaigner, the noble Lord, Lord Cashman? It was through amendments to earlier legislation, which I moved in December 2016, that the disregards and pardons scheme, in its existing, incomplete form, was brought into force in Northern Ireland with the consent of its devolved Executive and Assembly. The then Justice Minister in Northern Ireland, Claire Sugden, said at the time it was important to ensure that the criminal law in Northern Ireland offers equality of treatment to gay and bisexual men in Northern Ireland with England and Wales.
There can be no doubt that widespread support exists in Northern Ireland for the redress of past gay injustices, particularly among younger people, on whom the future of that wonderful part of our country depends. I am confident it will be strongly felt in Northern Ireland that its devolved Department of Justice should use the powers it possesses under existing legislation to bring today’s amendments fully into force in the Province when they become law here very shortly. That would be particularly appropriate this year, which marks the 40th anniversary of the initial decriminalisation of homosexuality in Northern Ireland, following the triumph of my friend Jeffrey Dudgeon in the European Court of Human Rights, which forced the Thatcher Government to take action in 1982.
The Minister signed my amendments back in 2016. I hope she will endorse my comments today. It cannot be right to have a border down the Irish Sea in respect of human rights.
My Lords, I rise as I did in Committee to speak briefly and humbly on behalf of my noble friend Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, who signed the matching amendments in Committee. I can only pay very strong tributes to the noble Lords, Lord Cashman and Lord Lexden, for all their long work on these issues. The Green group, of course, welcomes these amendments. I would like to thank the Minister for her helpful letter that addressed the questions I raised in Committee about why it is not possible to automatically get rid of these offences to clear people of them.
In the light of that, I would simply like to prompt the Minister—though I realise it is early—for whatever information she might be able to give us both about what plans there are to publicise this legal change to make sure people are able to easily and simply apply and about what kind of timeframe for the process she sees going forwards. As has been said, many people affected by this may be of an older age group, and it is really important this is available to people as soon as possible.
My Lords, at last, much credit must go to the noble Lords, Lord Lexden and Lord Cashman, and to Professor Paul Johnson, but also to the Minister, who accepted the challenge from the noble Lords and ran with it. I understand the right honourable Priti Patel took little persuasion. Whether that is the Minister being modest or not, I have nothing but thanks and praise for all those involved.
My Lords, I feel privileged to come in at the tail-end of this six-year campaign. I have to say I found it very moving listening to my noble friend Lord Cashman and the noble Lord, Lord Lexden, who does me the privilege of taking an interest in my family history. I have followed his campaign on this matter as well. I also note the points he made about the position in Northern Ireland. It has been a six-year campaign—to use the words of my noble friend—to wipe away the stain on history. It seems to me these amendments are doing this. I also join in the praises from the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, of the Minister, who appears to me, as a latecomer to this, to have been with the campaigners every step of the way.
My Lords, I thank all noble Lords for their kind comments. It is lovely when unity breaks out in this House, particularly when that unity has been hard fought. On the union—I take my noble friend’s points about Northern Ireland—I will certainly relay those comments to the Minister for Justice. I would imagine that the publicity will start on commencement of the Bill and be published on GOV.UK. There has already been some great publicity on social media and elsewhere, so publicity is already under way.
Amendment 97ZB agreed.
97ZC: After Clause 165, insert the following new Clause—
“Pardons for certain convictions or cautions
(1) The Policing and Crime Act 2017 is amended in accordance with subsections (2) to (13).(2) Section 164 (posthumous pardons for convictions etc. of certain abolished offences) is amended in accordance with subsections (3) to (10). (3) Before subsection (1) insert—“(A1) Subsection (1) applies in relation to a person—(a) who was convicted of, or cautioned for, an offence in circumstances where the conduct constituting the offence was sexual activity between persons of the same sex, and(b) who died before the end of the period of twelve months beginning with—(i) the day on which section (Disregard of certain convictions or cautions) of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 comes into force, or(ii) if later, the day on which the offence referred to in paragraph (a) became an abolished offence (see subsection (1A)).”(4) For subsection (1) substitute—“(1) The person is pardoned for the offence if—(a) any other person involved in the sexual activity was aged 16 or over, and(b) the offence has become an abolished offence.(1A) An offence becomes an abolished offence at the point at which conditions A and B are first met.(1B) Condition A is that the offence has been repealed or, in the case of an offence at common law, abolished by enactment (whether or not it was re-enacted or replaced).(1C) Condition B is that the sexual activity referred to in subsection (A1)(a) would not, if occurring in the same circumstances, constitute an offence.”(5) Omit subsections (2) to (6).(6) In subsection (7)—(a) for “subsection (8)” substitute “subsections (8) and (8A)”, and(b) at the end of paragraph (b) insert “(but as if the reference in subsections (6A) and (6C) to section 92 were a reference to this section)”.(7) In subsection (8) (as amended by section 19 of the Armed Forces Act 2021)—(a) omit paragraph (ba),(b) at the end of paragraph (c) omit “or”,(c) after paragraph (c) (but before paragraph (d) inserted by section 19(3)(d) of the Armed Forces Act 2021) insert—“(ca) the Mutiny Act 1878, the Marine Mutiny Act 1878, any Act previously in force corresponding to either of those Acts or any relevant Articles of War, or”.(8) After subsection (8) insert—“(8A) Section 101(6D) of the 2012 Act is to be read, in its application to this section by virtue of subsection (7) of this section, as if the enactments listed in that subsection included—(a) Article 2 of Section 20 of the Articles of War of 1749 (offences triable by courts martial outside Great Britain),(b) section 38 of the Naval Discipline Act 1860,(c) section 38 of the Naval Discipline Act 1861,(d) section 41 of the Naval Discipline Act 1864,(e) Article 93 of Section 2 of the Articles of War of 1876 (offences not specified in Marine Mutiny Act or Articles of War),(f) section 41 of the Army Discipline and Regulation Act 1879, and(g) any provision corresponding to the provision mentioned in paragraphs (a) or (e), contained in other relevant Articles of War.” (9) In subsection (10) (inserted by section 19 of the Armed Forces Act 2021) insert in the appropriate place—““sexual activity” includes—(a) any physical or affectionate activity which is of a type characteristic of people involved in an intimate personal relationship, and(b) conduct intended to lead to sexual activity.”(10) After subsection (10) insert—“(11) Subsection (1) does not apply in relation to an offence for which the person has previously been pardoned under this section or section 165.”(11) In section 165(1) (other pardons for convictions etc. of certain abolished offences) after “offence” insert “in the circumstances”.(12) Omit section 166 (power to provide disregards and pardons for additional abolished offences).(13) In section 167 (sections 164 to 166: supplementary)—(a) in the opening words of subsection (1) omit “, or under regulations under 166,”, and(b) in subsection (2)—(i) for “sections 164 to 166” substitute “section 164 or 165”, and(ii) omit “or regulations under section 166”.(14) Nothing in this section affects a pardon for a conviction or caution which took effect before this section comes into force.(15) In section 19 of the Armed Forces Act 2021 (posthumous pardons in relation to certain abolished offences), omit subsection (2) and paragraphs (b) and (c) of subsection (3).”Member’s explanatory statement
This new Clause would extend the scheme for posthumously pardoning people convicted of or cautioned for historical offences that regulated sexual activity between people of the same sex.
Amendment 97ZC agreed.
Clause 168: Remote observation and recording of court and tribunal proceedings
97A: Clause 168, page 189, line 36, after “in any court” insert “subject to subsection (1A)”
My Lords, in moving Amendment 97A, I will speak briefly to Amendment 97B. These amendments seek to remove children from the application of Clause 168, providing that remote observation and recording of court proceedings may not occur in cases where a party to the proceedings is a child under the age of 18. Amendment 97C, also in the group, provides that the court may not give directions for live links in criminal proceedings where a party to the proceedings is a child under the age of 18.
I take on board the comments made in Committee that these are blanket amendments which may not necessarily be appropriate in all cases. What has given rise to these amendments is concern about the drift to greater use of video hearings without adequate safeguards. Amendment 97CA in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, would prevent a criminal trial proceeding with the jury or members of the jury in a different physical location from the judge, witness or counsel. We would support this amendment should the noble Lord decide to move it to a vote, but I will leave him to advocate for his own amendment.
Amendment 97D seeks to require that all defendants who might appear on a video or audio link from a location outside court should be subject to a health needs screening. Screening information must be made available to the judge responsible for listing before the listing is finalised; it is this amendment that I want to concentrate on. As I have said, it seeks to require that all defendants who might appear on video or audio link are subject to health needs screening. I have a quite extensive briefing from various advocacy groups, including Fair Trials, Transform Justice and Just for Kids Law, which are concerned about the greater use of video links that we have all experienced. Certainly, anyone who works in the criminal justice system has experienced this in the last couple of years. The concern is that some of the changes we have seen are not necessarily positive, and there should be a resistance to permanently moving to a greater use of video links.
The central point is that the judiciary should make an informed decision about whether a case should go ahead via some form of video link. The decision should be informed by a mental or physical health assessment of the young or vulnerable person. It seems to me that that is an unanswerable point. I have been in the position of making these decisions in circumstances that were very far from adequate. I have done so because of the expediency of the situation and the urgency of dealing with the cases that have come before me—but this must not be allowed to become the norm.
Video links have a purpose. They can in some cases help to get a case moving forward so that a just decision can be reached, but in most cases they are not appropriate. A judge or magistrate needs to be able to make an informed decision about whether to proceed with video links for whatever bit of process they are dealing with within the court system.
In summing up in Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson, said that
“although the intention behind the amendment”—
requiring a health needs screening—
“is understandable, perhaps even laudable, in practice, it could prevent or deter some people from using a facility that could help them to participate in hearings with as little distress, inconvenience and delay as possible.”—[Official Report, 17/11/21; col. 366.]
I am not arguing that point; I think that videos can, in some circumstances, be suitable. However, I am arguing that when judges or magistrates make that decision, they do it on an informed basis, through a health or a mental health screening. That is the purpose of Amendment 97D. Nevertheless, I will not be pressing my amendment to a vote.
My Lords, Amendment 97CA is in my name and those of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, and the noble Lord, Lord Marks. Unfortunately, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, cannot be in his place this evening because he has been attending a funeral.
Amendment 97CA would remove from the Bill the power in Clause 170 for a court to give a direction that the jury can participate in a criminal trial remotely; that is, in a different location to the judge, counsel and witnesses so long as all members of the jury are in the same place. Jury trial is, of course, one of the cornerstones of our criminal justice system—whether you approve or disapprove of the Bristol jury’s decision to acquit the defendants of criminal damage to the statue of Edward Colston. We need to consider very carefully indeed proposals to amend the way in which the jury performs its functions.
I share the concerns about this proposal that have been expressed by the Bar Council and the Law Society. They say that the success of a jury trial depends in large part on a good working relationship of trust and confidence between judge and jury. The jury needs to be attentive and mindful of its onerous responsibilities; the judge needs to watch the jury to ensure that its interests are protected and it is properly performing its responsibilities. Counsel—both prosecution and defence counsel—need to engage with the jury during the trial. All this is so much harder to achieve through a video screen—indeed, noble Lords will be aware of that from when they have participated in parliamentary proceedings through a video screen over the last two years.
This proposed power requires a strong justification. I listened carefully—I always listen carefully—to what the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson, said in support of this power in Committee and indeed in discussions that I have had with him since, for which I am very grateful. The Minister concedes—indeed, he positively asserts—that this Government have no plan to encourage the use of remote juries. Indeed, they have had no such plans in the nearly two years since Covid-19 began to blight our lives. What the Minister says is that it will be good for Ministers to have this power, just in case it proves useful at some stage in the future. I suggest to noble Lords that it is a very bad legislative practice to confer broad powers on Ministers, particularly powers as controversial as these, just in case they might prove useful at some stage in the future.
The Minister will no doubt give assurances to the House about whether and when these powers might be used. The insuperable difficulty with legislating on such a basis is that the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson, cannot bind his successors in office, who may well have different principles and different policies.
I say to the House that these proposed powers, if ever used, would pose a real threat to the effective administration of justice. There is no current need for them.
My Lords, I strongly support the submissions made by the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, in relation to Amendment 97C. In doing so, perhaps I can give a small insight as someone who has conducted hundreds of jury trials, some of them involving young people—often very naive young people who are in an enormous amount of trouble.
I feel it necessary to say something to the House about the interaction between counsel and the young client. Typically during the course of such a trial, and in my experience this happens more with children on trial than with adults on trial, either, if one is lucky enough to have one there, one asks one’s instructing solicitor to have a word with the client in the dock on some evidence that has just been given, or—if, as is common now, there is no instructing solicitor there—counsel just walks a couple of rows behind to the front of the dock, takes instructions from his or her client about a factual proposition that has just been made and then continues or commences a cross-examination based on the instructions that have just been taken. In other words, there is a dynamic, living, ongoing 24/7 interaction between the advocate and the advocate’s client.
In the last nearly two years we have all been through the process of conducting virtual meetings. In most respects that has worked very well, but, since we have had the experience of going back into real meetings—on and off, admittedly—we have rediscovered the importance of interaction on the details that occur during a discourse. In my view, it could prove very damaging and delaying in trials to have to have that sort of discourse with a client by asking the judge to turn off the devices so that a private consultation can take place. That could look very odd to a jury, as compared to a quick word two rows behind. I therefore ask the Minister to reflect upon the dynamics of a real trial. I should add that not only have I conducted a lot of trials but for 28 years I was a part-time judge. As a judge I have conducted a lot of jury trials, and the same points arise from the judge’s position.
So far as the amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, is concerned, I agree with him for a similar but different reason. It is based on a relationship, the relationship between the judge and the jury. It is absolutely commonplace—it happens every hour of every day—for the judge to make some kind of contact with the jury. It may be eye contact; it may be an aside; it may be a little joke. You would not believe how much juries laugh at judges’ jokes; judges make jokes and get far greater laughs than any comedian I have ever seen. All this is part of the process of creating a living instrument through a trial that really works on a human basis. If there are to be any jury trials conducted with the jury in a different place from the judge, that must be most exceptional. If the judge and jury were in the same place, it may be that—and this would still have to be exceptional—the judge might come to a factual decision that a fair trial could be held, but it would be a very rare instance where that would work.
If I may put it as high as this, I advise the Government not to go down this road. In my view, it has the danger of disruption, increasing appeals and actually destroying the very essence of the holy grail, as it were, that is part of our criminal justice system: the jury trial. Part of that essence is the relationship between the judge and the jury, and that really cannot be conducted remotely.
My Lords, this group, particularly Amendment 97A, has become pertinent in light of the apparent situation whereby the Attorney-General has displayed something less than a full commitment to the principle of the right to a jury trial. Many commentators are sadly leaping on the Colston four verdict to question the jury system and apparently seek to undermine public confidence in the principle that every person has the right to be tried by their peers. This would be an ideal opportunity for the Minister to reassure your Lordships’ House—I hope he will—that, no matter how politically inconvenient it might be for the Government, trial by jury is fundamental to our justice system and the Government remain committed to it. As the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, said, Amendment 97CA is an important practical step to ensure that that remains a proper, full jury trial, with the kind of interactions that we have heard about.
Briefly, the other amendments in this group are important to protect children and other vulnerable court users. It seems like a basic issue of justice and common sense that the court should ensure that the people who appear by video link are still able to participate fully in the proceedings. I hope that the judiciary would never allow anything contrary to this, although I take the point from the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, that the practical sometimes has to override the ideal. None the less, it seems right that the legislation should offer these protections.
My Lords, I strongly support both of these amendments but will focus on that tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Pannick. Something was said about the judge’s interaction with the jury and, of course, that is true. Judges have a close interaction with juries in the sense described; it is part of the process of building up their confidence to make what is going to be a very important decision at some stage towards the end of the trial.
I would like to say something about the position of a jury which finds itself in a separate place observing the proceedings on a screen. The point of the jury is to make determinations about fact in the case—to decide who is or is not telling the truth and who the jury is or is not persuaded by. Judges often say that one of the things juries should do is judge the demeanour of witnesses and defendants, looking at them giving their evidence, watching closely as they are asked questions, making allowances for inarticulacy, intelligence and so on, but making a judgment about them as human beings in the very human environment of a trial. That would be an impossibly difficult task to discharge adequately over what is, in effect, a Zoom meeting.
Some of us have had the experience during the pandemic of trying to chair meetings over Zoom, sometimes with relatively large numbers of people in the so-called virtual room. It is very difficult to read people over Zoom, judge the feel or mood of the meeting, read what people are thinking and see who is paying attention and who is not. In a criminal trial, these things become dangerous and render a deficiency at the heart of the trial which is to be avoided at all costs.
If there is no need for the power now, it is not a power which Ministers should be given. If it becomes necessary at some future date, then your Lordships’ House can debate it, but I agree very strongly with my noble friend Lord Pannick that such an extensive, broad power as this should not be gifted to Ministers in the absence of absolute need—and perhaps not even then.
My Lords, I too support the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Pannick. Strongly though I support it and absurd though I too think it is to allow for some possibility of a jury trial with the jury sitting otherwise than in the actual courtroom, I had no intention of speaking tonight until I learned that my noble and learned friend Lord Judge could not. As I seem to be the last judge standing this evening and feel so strongly about this, it seems that I should say a word. But I urge all of your Lordships to recognise that if my noble and learned friend had been speaking, he would have said the little I propose to say so much more tellingly and convincingly that the House really ought to add enormous weight to it.
All I say is that the whole value of a jury, sacrosanct in our law of course, is that they are there and part of the atmosphere. They watch the whole thing unfolding, see the witnesses and sense the entire development of the arguments as they emerge. My noble friend Lord Carlile made a number of these points, as the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald, has just done. The whole aura of the process and the fact that the jury recognise in the courtroom that they are, for the first time, having to apply themselves to this critical question—is this man or woman guilty or not guilty?—is lost and dissipated if they are not there. I urge your Lordships not to provide for this suggested possibility, for who knows in what circumstances it would be? They can be only circumstances that do not justify having a separate jury.
My Lords, we agree with the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, on the amendments he moved or spoke to on proceedings involving children and health screening, and with the noble Lord, Lord Carlile. We support those amendments, but I will speak to Amendment 97CA from the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, on the use of live links in jury trials, to which I have put my name.
This amendment raises two important questions about the nature of juries and of jury trial. First, how important is it to the trial process that juries see and hear witnesses give their evidence live? Secondly, how important is it to the trial process that the relationship and balance between judge and jury is live rather than remote? On the first issue, the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brown, made the point that jury trials depend, more than anything else, upon the ability of jurors to weigh up the evidence of witnesses. They have to assess two things: veracity, or whether the witness is trying to tell the truth, and accuracy, or whether he or she has got it right.
As others, including the noble Lords, Lord Pannick and Lord Carlile, have said, after nearly two years of the pandemic we have all become completely familiar with the process of remote discussion and meetings. None of us, I feel, would now argue that remoteness makes no difference. In this vital area of our national life, as the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, pointed out, we entrust decisions about the guilt or innocence of those charged with serious crimes to juries of 12 who listen to and weigh up the evidence of witnesses, and make decisions about truth or falsehood, reliability or inaccuracy, honesty or dishonesty, and intent, accident or misadventure. Those jurors will certainly consider objective evidence that has the same effect when seen or heard remotely as it has when seen or heard directly. But much of the evidence they will hear, and usually the most critical evidence in jury trial cases, has to be subjectively judged, as the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald, said. That is done by references to the witnesses’ demeanour, body language, response to cross-examination and emotional responses.
These are matters on which juries might initially and quite legitimately disagree. Their assessment—the different assessments of all 12 of them—will be the subject of detailed discussion during their deliberations and depend upon impressions. We would be undermining our jury system by depriving jurors of the opportunity, in the case that they decide, to share their experiences of the witnesses and the experiences that they have had live. I do not believe that undermining the jury trial in this way can possibly be justified.
On the second point about the presence of the judge, counsel and jury in the same place, the role of the judge and jury and the relationship between them is a delicate one. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, that the judge’s position is to ensure that trials are conducted in a responsible and serious way. I also think there is considerable importance in that relationship that the independence of juries is maintained. A stock sentence that judges quite properly use when summing up is when they tell the jury, “It is a matter for you, members of the jury,” and it is.
However, for juries to make the decisions they are charged with making, they must not feel to be, seem to be or, still less, actually be at a disadvantage compared to the judge who has seen and heard and assessed the witnesses live. When the judge recounts a particular piece of evidence in summing up, juries must not be cowed or persuaded into accepting what they may perceive to be the judge’s view of the evidence. They must be able to say to each other: “He or she may have said that, but I did not believe that witness—did you see how scared they looked?” That is what jury independence means. Jury independence is fundamental to our system and why it is so important. For that reason, I completely support the amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Pannick.
My Lords, this group contains amendments covering the application of live links to children and vulnerable people as well as to remote juries. I will come to the remote juries point separately later.
First, to make sure that we are all on the same page, I remind the House that Clauses 168 and 169 do not mandate remote or video hearings. How a hearing is to be conducted is a matter for judicial decision on a case-by-case basis. These clauses ensure that, if appropriate, observers can watch a hearing taking place to ensure that the principle of open justice can be maintained.
Amendments 97A and 97B seek to prohibit remote observers from being present in all cases in which a child is among the parties. Amendment 97C similarly seeks to remove children from the application of Clause 170. I suggest both these amendments are unnecessary and would inhibit both the principle of open justice—which is a fundamental principle in this jurisdiction—and the principle of judicial discretion. It would inhibit the ability of courts to use audio and video technology where the court sees fit and when it is in the interests of justice to do so.
I turn first to Amendments 97A and 97B. The effect of these amendments would be that all such remote hearings would effectively have to be held in private, including, for example, any multiparty litigation in our civil courts or tribunals in which a single claimant—perhaps one of a number of claimants—is under 18. That would unnecessarily constrain the transparency of our justice system and impede the principle of open justice.
While I accept the sentiment that underpins the amendments, they are unnecessary because we have sufficient tried-and-tested legislation in place to safeguard the privacy of children in these proceedings. That is set out in Section 47(2) of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933. We also have existing procedure rules under which the court can hold any hearing in private in order
“to protect the interests of any child or protected party”.
Therefore, I suggest to the House that that statutory provision and the procedure rules provide sufficient protection to safeguard the privacy and well-being of young people in the justice system, whether the hearing takes place in-person or remotely.
Amendment 97C would prevent the court making a direction to enable any participant in a hearing to attend by live link where a child is party to proceedings. Again, it is important to protect the interests of children, but we have clear support and guidance in place which mandates the court to consider and have regard to the welfare of the child, to make sure that each child is fairly assessed and represented, is sufficiently supported, can understand what is happening, and is able to engage and participate in proceedings and be kept safe. That is set out in the Criminal Procedure Rules and criminal practice directions.
I recognise, as the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew, said, that, in the majority of cases, it may well be more appropriate for children to attend a hearing in person, and the Criminal Procedure Rules recognise this. But one must recognise that there may be situations where it is more beneficial for a child, whether as a witness or a defendant, to participate by live link; for example, to protect a child witness from having to be in court with the defendant. Clause 170, as drafted, gives the court that inherent flexibility.
I will come to Amendment 97D in a moment but let me first turn to Amendment 97CA, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, which seeks to exclude juries from the provisions in Clause 170 that would otherwise allow a jury assembled together to take part in a trial through a live video link, where appropriate and where the court has decided that it would be in the interests of justice to do so. I will come to the detail of the amendment in a moment, but let us not lose sight of one important point. This amendment is designed to strengthen and support the jury system. It is designed to ensure that we can continue to hold jury trials in circumstances where it might otherwise be impossible, as we experienced for a certain time in this jurisdiction during the pandemic. I am pleased that we were one of the first jurisdictions in the world to get jury trials back up and running, but we could not do as many as we would normally because of the social distancing constraints.
Why are we so keen to maintain jury trials? The answer is simple and perhaps a little topical. The jury is a fundamental part of our criminal justice system. To adopt the words of the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, it is a cornerstone of our liberty. True it is that the cornerstone gets a little defaced with some graffiti from time to time, but it is, none the less, a cornerstone of which we should be proud.
The noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, threw something of a gauntlet down to me. I am very happy to pick it up, briefly. Juries sometimes return verdicts that raise an eyebrow, but I know from bitter experience that it is not unknown for judicial decisions to trouble the eyebrows too. In a proper case, there is a procedure, once the jury has brought in its verdict, to ask the Court of Appeal to consider and determine specific points of law to assist in future cases without disturbing the actual jury verdict in the instant case.
If the noble Baroness wants to have a crack at my right honourable friend the Attorney-General, she can, but she cannot, I am afraid, stand up and have a crack at her while betraying fundamental ignorance of the underlying legal principles. Counsel in the case himself said that his arguments were “new and complex”. Those are precisely the points which would be suitable for reference under Section 36 of the Criminal Justice Act 1972, a provision with which I am sure the noble Baroness is very familiar. I am also sure that she has read the recent case in the ECHR of Handzhiyski v Bulgaria, decided on 6 April 2021, which discussed in terms whether the provisions of Article 10 of the ECHR did or did not apply to a charge of criminal damage.
I am very happy to respond on the glories of the jury system, but I respectfully suggest that, if the noble Baroness is going to make a point about the conduct of the Attorney-General, she looks at the underlying legal position first. There are certainly points in the Colston case which an Attorney-General might properly decide to, or not to, refer to the Court of Appeal. That is a matter for the Attorney-General.
Let me turn to the detail of the amendment and repeat what I said at Committee: there is currently no intention to put this provision into practice and have a jury attend a criminal trial by way of a live link. More than that, this is not a decision we could take alone; we would first need to undertake significant consultation with the Lord Chief Justice, the independent Criminal Procedure Rule Committee and other criminal justice partners. If the Lord Chief Justice and the Criminal Procedure Rule Committee, which is a judicially led body, decided to put this measure into practice, they would decide how it would be done. The terms and conditions of its use would be dictated by guidance from the Lord Chief Justice and the Criminal Procedure Rules. As with all live links, individual judges—who are ultimately the masters of their own court—would make the final decision on whether its use was appropriate and in the interests of justice on a case-by-case basis. While I do not want to gloss the clause, I suspect it would be used only in cases where it was absolutely necessary.
This provision is a future-proofing measure. It is about being open to the potential benefits of using tried and tested technology which can ensure that the justice system continues to function, at an even better rate than we did, if there is another pandemic in this country or if, in fact, there is another variant—God forbid—in the existing pandemic. It is about keeping the jury system running and the wheels of justice turning.
I respectfully disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, in so far as he rests his case on the proposition—I think this was picked up by some other noble Lords as well—that it is simply not possible to have a jury in one room and the judge and witnesses in another room. There will be trials where you could and there will be trials where you could not. I say that with some confidence, because a jurisdiction not a million miles away from here did precisely that during the pandemic: Scotland held jury trials with the juries attending remotely in another room. Sometimes the juries were in a cinema, and saw the court on the big screen. Despite the fact that my noble and learned friend the Advocate-General is not in his place, I would be very slow to suggest that anything they do in Scotland is incapable of being replicated in England.
I hear very clearly the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of River Glaven, about the demeanour of witnesses. I would, however, make two points. First of all, in international arbitration, arbitrators often have to decide truth or falsity when the whole thing is done on a screen. Secondly, the demeanour of a witness can sometimes actually put people off; for example, more credence may be given to the way someone says something, rather than to what is being said—there is a lot of interesting academic literature on this. So it is not as simple as saying that the jury has to see the person give evidence because that will enable them to decide whether or not they are telling the truth. I know a similar point was made by the noble Lord, Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames.
Let me also briefly pick up the point made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood, who I think was speaking for two judges when he spoke. Again, of course I accept, with respect, the points he made, but point out that, in Scotland, they did this and they managed, and the sky did not fall through—if I can adopt the traditional judicial metaphor. For those reasons, I respectfully invite the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, not to press his amendment.
Let me finally say a quick word about Amendment 97D. This would require any person taking part in any kind of criminal online hearing to have a physical and mental health assessment before live links were introduced. Of course we accept what the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede, says about the importance of making sure that people can participate and be properly assessed. But live links do offer a way for vulnerable court users to participate in proceedings which might otherwise feel overwhelming for them. We are concerned that if we adopted a blanket approach of time-consuming and possibly intrusive physical and mental health examinations, those benefits for some vulnerable court users might be undermined.
For those reasons, I invite the noble Lord to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 97A withdrawn.
Amendment 97B not moved.
Clause 170: Expansion of use of video and audio links in criminal proceedings
Amendment 97C not moved.
97CA: Clause 170, page 193, leave out lines 16 to 18 and insert—
“(2) Subsection (1) does not apply to a jury or to members of a jury.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would prevent a criminal trial proceeding with the jury (or members of the jury) in a different physical location to the judge, witnesses or counsel.
My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have contributed to this important debate, not least the Minister. In the debate your Lordships have heard that there is, at least, a very substantial risk that the jury being remote from the rest of the trial would damage its ability to perform its functions. The question, then, is whether there is a compelling need for this proposed new power. The Minister very fairly confirmed that there is no current intention to implement the proposed power. I suggest that if and when there is any such intention, that will be the time to determine whether it is appropriate, in such circumstances, to confer such a sensitive and controversial power. Ministers should not be given such powers on a so-called future-proofing basis—to use the Minister’s term. I wish to test the opinion of the House.
Amendments 97D and 98 not moved.
99: After Clause 172, insert the following new Clause—
“Facilitation of potting
(1) A person commits an offence of facilitation of potting if the person—(a) is in custody and causes or permits their own urine or excrement to be intercepted without lawful reason or excuse, or(b) is in custody and causes or permits their own ejaculate to be intercepted without lawful reason or excuse.(2) For the purposes of subsection (1)(a), only in exceptional circumstances may the court accept a defence of “lawful reason or excuse” in the absence of evidence of a prior direction by a clinically qualified person.(3) A person guilty of an offence to which this section applies is liable—(a) on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months;(b) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment aims to establish a specific offence of “facilitating potting”, potting being the practice of throwing urine, excrement or ejaculate at prison staff.
My Lords, Amendment 99, is in my name and those of the noble Lords, Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede and Lord Paddick: I am grateful for their support. We return to the issue of potting—that is to say, a disgusting assault using materials mentioned in subparagraph (1) of the new clause and which usually occurs in a custodial setting. In the light of a constructive meeting I had with the Minister last week, I do not propose to detain the House very long on this matter, and I do not believe the House or, indeed, my Chief Whip, is keen to do so either.
Since we debated the matter in Committee, the Government have published a White Paper on the prison system which, inter alia, proposes zero tolerance for bad behaviour in prisons. I have taken on board some of the defects of my original amendment, identified in Committee: the amendment now deals only with the preparatory act of intercepting the relevant substance. It is not necessary to have a new offence for the actual potting, since that is covered by existing offences, and it is not good practice to place a duty to provide spit kits in a clause that seeks to create a new offence.
In Committee, I thought the Minister was a bit optimistic when he said he was not aware of any problems with the issuing of spit kits to prison officers. A subsequent Written Answer revealed that none of the several prisons that I asked about appeared to be issuing spit kits. I accept that spit kits are particularly useful when the offender is not known to the victim—say, a ticket inspector—and when the offender may abscond but probably has a record. However, my underlying concern is to ensure that these disgusting offences do not go unpunished and, as a result, become more frequent and insidious. I hope my noble friend will take this opportunity to flesh out the proposals in the Prisons Strategy White Paper to have zero tolerance of bad behaviour within prison.
We all owe a great debt of gratitude to prison officers and prison governors, who we charge with looking after and protecting us from some of the most dangerous, wicked and obnoxious members of our society. We owe it to them to make sure that, if they are assaulted doing their duty, we will back them up and ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice. If we fail to do so, there will be at least two serious consequences: first, we will experience difficulties in retaining the best possible prison officers; secondly, the remaining prison officers will be demotivated, less willing to ensure full compliance and less willing to ensure that prisons are the safe and humane establishments that we all want them to be. I am pleased to say that I have detected that Ministers have taken all this on board.
Finally, I remind the House that I am not a founder member of the “hang ‘em, flog ‘em and throw away the key brigade”; the House will recall my proposals outlined in my Committee stage Amendment 241, which proposed drastic reform in respect of prolific minor offenders, and I am grateful for the positive response that I received. I beg to move.
My Lords, I am very pleased to support the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, in his amendment, to the extent that I have added my name. We had discussions between Committee and Report; we agreed that the actual assault was covered by existing legislation, but the preparatory acts in preparing these disgusting attacks on prison staff needed to be addressed. That is how we arrived at the revised amendment, and I am very happy to support it.
My Lords, I pay tribute to the noble Earl: he has been dogged in his pursuance of this and I understand he has had constructive discussions with the Minister. I look forward to what the Minister is going to say to, in the noble’s Earl words, flesh out the proposals in the White Paper, and how these may lead to greater support for prison officers. One specific question for the Minister is how they propose to monitor potting and whether it is done by somebody acting in extreme distress or whether it is part of a planned tactic, if you like, within the prison.
In conclusion, I repeat my tribute to the noble Earl—it appears to me that his time in the TA may have led to his having some empathy with prison officers. I do not know, but nevertheless I support his amendment.
My Lords, I also thank my noble friend Lord Attlee for tabling this further amendment on potting, which is vile behaviour and undoubtedly a horrific experience for those who become victims of this practice. I say unambiguously that it is therefore right that such incidents are prosecuted where there is sufficient evidence or that they are otherwise dealt with through prison adjudication.
My noble friend was particularly concerned about the availability of spit kits to collect evidence where crimes are committed. I hope that I can reassure him by saying that some prisons already purchase spit kits locally as a matter of course, but we will consider further whether there is a need to make them available to prisons nationally, as part of our focus on reducing crime in prisons.
Earlier discussions with the police and CPS confirmed that the use of body-worn cameras, rather than spit kits, would offer the greatest means of providing evidence to enable prosecution of crimes in prisons. That is why we have concentrated on providing these. Indeed, we are introducing a new generation of body-worn video cameras during this year, with newer, more technologically advanced cameras that will be available to every prison officer who needs one. They include a pre-record facility that effectively records and overwrites footage—so the pre-record footage is saved when you press a button. They are similar to cameras that are available to other people in the criminal justice system and mean that it will be easier to provide evidence of potting and therefore to support a prosecution.
The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, correctly identified that, in the amendment, this is a preparatory offence and tries to capture behaviour even where the act of potting itself may not yet have occurred or have occurred at all. The offence would apply where an individual possesses, provides or allows others to use their bodily fluids, intending them to be used for malicious purpose—and where an individual has assisted, aided or encouraged a crime. Of course, doing those preparatory acts is already a crime under Sections 44 to 46 of the Serious Crime Act 2007 or possibly under the Criminal Attempts Act 1981. The penalties for those preparatory offences are the same as those for the substantive offence.
We are also concerned about a practical difficulty: collecting urine samples may be impeded by the wording of this amendment. We are also concerned that it does not offer, in terms, a defence for those who do not intentionally facilitate this but whose bodily fluids are used by someone else for a malicious purpose. However, I will not say any more about that because my noble friend has recognised that the Government have listened to him on this and are taking the matter seriously. We recognise that more can be done to improve the effective prosecution of crimes in prison. It is a priority, and we will continue to work to ensure that those agencies and organisations prioritise serious crimes, enabling clear criminal consequences when they occur. HMPPS works with the police and CPS to improve rates of prosecutions for crimes committed within prisons.
I know that my noble friend is motivated by his admiration of the work of prison officers—I will not speculate about the genesis of that. But the fact is that they have to deal with some of the most difficult and dangerous members of our society. We in the Ministry of Justice share that view. In the prisons White Paper, published in December last year, we set out a zero-tolerance approach to crime in prisons. We will set up a crime in prisons task force, which will identify and expose any systemic failings that allow continued criminality in prisons, enhancing our capabilities to disrupt crime and ensuring that evidence and investigations lead to more criminal justice outcomes. We will commission the taskforce to look specifically at potting offences.
The White Paper also sets out our commitment to refer the most serious crimes, such as assaults on prison officers, to the police, in accordance with the crime in prisons referral agreement, which exists between Prison Service, the CPS and the National Police Chiefs’ Council. I appreciate that I have dealt with that fairly quickly, but I hope that I have reassured my noble friend that the Government have listened very carefully to what he has said.
I will respond to the point put to me by the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby. Offences of potting are captured in published statistics—specifically the quarterly Safety in Custody Statistics. But if I can add anything to what I have just said, I will write to him. I hope that, for those reasons, my noble friend will feel able to withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, I am grateful to all three noble Lords who have spoken on this issue and the two who have supported me. I believe my noble friend the Minister has taken this issue on board, and I thank him for that. We know perfectly well that we are limited as to how many presents we can load on the Christmas tree for the Minister to take back to the Commons, and I accept that there are bigger fish to fry. What I cannot accept is that we allow this type of assault to go unpunished. Prosecution and conviction need to be inevitable. That means necessary evidence must be collected, and the police and the CPS must devote sufficient resources to the problem.
It is clear to me that the amendment is not defective and there is a gap to fill, although I accept that there may be minor drafting issues. The issue is whether we want to create a new offence. The White Paper proposes zero tolerance for bad behaviour, and if potting is not bad behaviour, I do not know what is. Ministers and officials should be aware that I will be working very closely with the Prison Officers’ Association to monitor progress and, if necessary, we can bring this amendment, or a similar one, back at a suitable legislative opportunity. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment 99 withdrawn.
Amendments 100 and 101 not moved.
102: After Clause 172, insert the following new Clause—
“Duty to establish statutory inquiry into lessons to be learned from the death of Sarah Everard
(1) The inquiry into matters arising from the death of Sarah Everard, announced by the Secretary of State for the Home Department on 22 November 2021, is to be held as an inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005. (2) The Secretary of State must ensure that the terms of reference of the inquiry include the wider lessons to be learned for the professional culture, funding, vetting and organisation of policing, the prevention of violence against women and the investigation and prosecution of misogynistic crimes.(3) If on the commencement of any provision of this Act, the inquiry does not have a panel of members which includes at least one member with experience in the area of violence against women, the Secretary of State must ensure that such a member is appointed.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment converts the existing Home Office inquiry into the matters arising from the death of Sarah Everard into a statutory inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005. It also ensures that the Inquiry panel includes at least one member with experience in the area of violence against women and girls.
My Lords, here we are, quite late into the evening, to discuss the group of amendments refined from amendments tabled in Committee in response to the horrific rape and murder of Sarah Everard and, I am afraid to say, a wholly inadequate response from some of the most senior police leaders in our country.
I do not want to dwell too much on this, but I do not think that it reflects incredibly well on the way we do business in your Lordships’ House that this group has miraculously come to be debated at this particularly late hour, not least given the fact that I have been around all day and have heard some very lengthy, florid, colourful, relaxed speeches on all sorts of subjects all afternoon and evening from all sorts of delightful Members of your Lordships’ House who have been infrequent engagers with this Bill and most of whom, for all sorts of reasons, are no longer here. I do not think that this self-regulating House has done justice to women and girls in this country, nor, indeed, have those who effectively control the agenda and have allowed this group to be opened at approaching 10.50 pm.
I feel the need to put that on the record for Hansard so that the various women’s groups and victims’ groups who have been waiting for this group to come up will be able to understand exactly what has gone on. I was particularly concerned about some of the debates that went on just before the dinner break with no concern for time—and sometimes not much concern for kindness or the dignity of our fellow human beings, but enough of that—no intention of a vote and no real intention of changing the law. I have also noticed the way in which some of us are censored for our length at strategic moments and others are not in this so-called self-regulating House.
This group deals not just with the Sarah Everard outrage but with the public concern about it and the way that women and girls have been treated in our criminal justice system more generally, and what that means for a crisis of confidence, potentially, in our police service, which is so essential to the rule of law.
I am grateful to noble Lords from parties and groups from all across your Lordships’ House for their consistent support for the calls for a full statutory inquiry, particularly into the broader matters arising from the Sarah Everard scandal. It makes the earlier remarks necessary. Of course, for all sorts of completely legitimate reasons—not least that people come from all over the country, have different health conditions and are of different ages—it is not possible for everyone who wanted to be here to be here right now.
Amendments 108 and 109 are in my name. Amendment 108 is supported by the noble Lords, Lord Carlile of Berriew and Lord Paddick, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Garnier, while Amendment 109 is supported once more by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Garnier. These two amendments deal with the specific issue of it being lawful at present for arrested people—that is, people who are suspects but have not been charged and are therefore not defendants, or at least believe themselves to be suspects when they are stopped by a police officer, as poor Sarah Everard was—to be taken away in a vehicle by a lone police officer. Noble Lords, particularly those who have engaged with this issue and were here in Committee and at earlier stages of the Bill, will appreciate that that possibility has understandably caused a great deal of concern, in particular since last autumn when Wayne Couzens’s sentencing hearing revealed some of the truly horrific details of that case.
Amendment 108 would prevent a single officer ever lawfully taking suspects away in a vehicle. Amendment 109 takes a slightly gentler approach—helpfully suggested to me by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, I might add; I am grateful to him—to the same problem. It does not create an absolute legal bar to a lone officer taking a suspect away in a vehicle, with all the dangers that that one on one creates for both the officer and the suspect; instead, Amendment’s 109 approach is to amend PACE—the Police and Criminal Evidence Act—so that the Secretary of State would be required to issue a full-blown PACE code of conduct to deal with the transportation of suspects.
Given who is left at this time of night, I know that the noble Lords here are engaged with these issues and understand the importance of PACE codes in particular. They are required in relation to things like detention and the questioning of suspects in a police station. Since 1984, they have been a really important protection for citizens in the police system. Amendment 109 is a new amendment—I did not table it in Committee—and I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Carlile. I really want to hear any conceivable argument against this mild amendment, which would add “transportation” to the list of activities in relation to suspects for which the Secretary of State should issue full-blown statutory PACE codes of conduct.
When one considers Amendment 108—my previous amendment, unenlightened by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile—with its absolute bar on single officers taking suspects away, or the amendment to PACE, it is worth noble Lords remembering some of the quite bizarre and hubristic public comments that were made. They included, I am afraid to say, comments made by a police and crime commissioner who is no more, as well as by certain retired and serving police leaders, about women being naive in going along with a police officer who stops them late at night. They said that there is something wrong with them—that it is the woman’s fault. Some ridiculous public comments were made.
Equally, however, there were other comments suggesting that this practice should be changed and things should be done. If things can be done by way of police administration, why can they not be somehow reflected in this Bill? This would give greater confidence to the young women and girls in particular—wholly law-abiding people—who have been feeling such anxiety and such a crisis of confidence not just since Sarah Everard’s murder during a lockdown, at a very difficult time for our country, but since the Wayne Couzens sentencing hearing. I hope that I can persuade the Minister to reflect on that particular issue and on how to grapple with what I am proposing in Amendments 108 and 109.
Then, of course, we return to Amendment 102, which calls for a statutory inquiry. It is not only my repeated call: it has been a call from so many people. I am so grateful to my noble friends in the leadership of the Opposition, to the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, and his noble friends and to the noble Baroness, Lady Newlove. She and my noble friend Lady Lawrence are, in my view, two of the greatest champions of victims’ rights, cutting across all vested interests, all party interests and all bureaucracy. The noble Baroness, Lady Newlove, has been with me in relation to this amendment from the very start; it is nearly 11 pm, and she is still sitting there and is with me now. I thank her so much.
This is a call for a full-blown statutory inquiry, not an administrative inquiry, under the Inquiries Act 2005. It follows resistance and hubris, I am sorry to say, from senior police leaders who, as we obviously know by this time, do not want an inquiry of this kind. To put it in context once more—I know that I am taking time, but I feel the need at least to do this argument justice—I mention the relatively recent inquiry and damning report of the noble Baroness, Lady O’Loan. Not much longer than six months ago, she spoke about the obstruction that she faced from the Metropolitan Police—including from the commissioner, I am sorry to say—in reporting on the Daniel Morgan scandal. I need not paraphrase, because noble Lords have heard from the noble Baroness in the past and her report, including the shortened press summary, is there for all to read, along with her speeches in Hansard. She faced obstruction, and said specifically in her findings that she knew that she had been hampered by not having the statutory powers that would have been available under the 2005 Act. I give that as a piece of evidence in my call for a statutory inquiry into the matters arising from Sarah Everard’s murder.
I also give the tin-eared and insensitive—to say the least—policing of the Clapham Common vigil. We know in your Lordships’ House that this was contrary to the original working and decisions of the borough command and the police service on the ground, who were working with women’s and victims’ groups to facilitate a peaceful vigil. Senior leadership and senior officers in the Met decided that was not to be. We can now trace back the timeline, because it is all in the public domain if one takes the time to look at the newspaper reporting. We can tell that those decisions about the disproportionate, tin-eared and counterproductive policing of the Clapham Common vigil would have been made at a time when the senior police leadership knew things that we only now know about Wayne Couzens, what he had done—because he had interviewed at this point—his policing career, and various things that obviously went wrong. I know that that is embarrassing, but that is why we must have a statutory inquiry. All institutions made up of humans feel the need to close ranks when things terribly wrong. That is precisely the moment when outside forces, including your Lordships’ House, need to prevent that closing of ranks.
Weeks and months have gone by since then and there have been further scandals involving abuses of police power, in particular in relation to women, living and dead. We do not need to go into all the horrific details, but this is not helping to rebuild the trust and confidence of women in the police service, which I know that every single Member of your Lordships’ House would want. That is particularly in the light of the terrible attrition rates in relation to violent and sexual offences going back years, which are stopping young women in particular and women in general coming forward. Stories appearing in the newspapers, day after week after month, about the attrition rate between the number of reported rapes or sex offences and how many come to trial are not helping.
I am grateful to the Minister for our discussions about these issues. I know that she personally takes them incredibly seriously, so I hope that she will understand that nothing that I have said is intended in the slightest to be a criticism of her. I am delighted that just today, late this morning, her department published the terms of reference for phase 1 of the non-statutory inquiry that the Government have announced. I have said before in your Lordships’ House that I am equally delighted that Dame Elish Angiolini has been appointed to chair that inquiry. She is a lawyer and a person of great reputation, but you could not come with greater credentials than the noble Baroness, Lady O’Loan. I repeat my point: it is no criticism of Ministers or of lawyers or chairs of inquiries to say that I have residual concern that all the evidence, going back years and perhaps decades—I shall not even cite the Hillsborough programme that people have been watching on Channel 4 —suggests that without powers to compel co-operation from witnesses, from police officers serving and long retired, and retired at convenient moments in the disciplinary process, we will not get the kind of inquiry that is required.
To develop that point further, the inquiry that has been announced to date is phase 1, which even on the basis of the very welcome terms announced today, is really quite specific to Sarah Everard’s demise, Wayne Couzens and how that came to be. It is understandably fairly narrowly drawn. I still have questions, and so do people all over the country, about the wider issues of culture, professionalism and practices in our police service in relation to crimes against women and girls, as well as in relation to women police officers, their treatment and what they have to face. We have not had our Lawrence moment.
All sorts of stories have appeared about how that is how people see the world and about the obstruction that was faced when my noble friend Lady Lawrence sought her inquiry all those years ago, not just for her family or herself, but for the treatment of black people by the police service. If she had gone quietly, that inquiry would never have happened. I believe that our country and our police service would have been poorer for that, and it is high time for a broader statutory inquiry into not just matters arising from the Sarah Everard case but from the culture in the police service in relation to the treatment of women and girls and crimes relating to women and girls in particular, because none of the data is positive. Only last year, the Home Secretary and the former Justice Secretary had to apologise to women because of the attrition rates to which I referred.
What are the arguments against me? In recent months I have read carefully various statements from the Home Department. One argument repeatedly made is about speed. There is the suggestion that a statutory inquiry is inevitably more cumbersome and longer than an administrative inquiry. That is not always the case. I contrast the inquiry chaired by the noble Baroness, Lady O’Loan, into Daniel Morgan—I think the original plan was that it would be dealt within a year or two, but it took eight years—with the Lawrence inquiry, with all its ground-breaking success, which took two years.
Another potential argument is that a statutory inquiry is inevitably some kind of huge media circus that is very painful for those closest to it. I am of the view that that need not be the case. It is all down to the person trusted to chair it. In any event, the Government have already taken the decision to have a phase 1 and a phase 2 inquiry. Therefore, it is perfectly possible to shield, for example, Sarah Everard’s family from a wider inquiry into the culture in the police service. That begs the question of why there is no statutory inquiry, at least for phase 2. Now that the Minister has done so much and got us to phase 1, with the terms of reference which were announced today, I would like her at least to consider what it would take to broaden it. My Amendment 102 is not just about giving statutory power to the chair, but broadening the terms of reference and insisting on a panel including at least one person with expertise and experience at the grass-roots level in dealing with violence against women, which is what women’s and victim’s groups need. It would comfort them in participating, as they should be invited to do, in this process.
I cannot think of any credible argument against phase 2, at least, being a full-blown statutory inquiry. I cannot help but feel that the Government are dealing with intransigence from the most senior echelons in the police, and they are wrong. In my view, the police service in our country was improved by the Lawrence inquiry and it would be improved further, all these years later, by a proper Everard inquiry into the wider issues for women and girls in the criminal justice system and the police’s part in that. If the police cannot see that, if institutions are going to close ranks, it is an issue for other institutions, including your Lordships’ House. What is the point of an unelected, independent Chamber if not this? I am sorry that I have taken a few minutes so late at night, but I hope noble Lords will agree that this is vital to public confidence in the police service, which is vital to the rule of law.
My Lords, I am pleased to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, in support of her amendments. I want to start by paying tribute to the Minister of State, the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, who has been extremely accessible and helpful. In an attempt to resolve these issues there have been several discussions, some of them initiated by her, and I am sure that those of us involved would like to place our gratitude on the record. I thank her very warmly.
I reassure your Lordships that I do not wish to repeat what I said in Committee. Indeed, the amendment I put down in Committee has not been tabled on this occasion because of things that have occurred since then. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, I regret very much that we are dealing with this important debate at such a late hour. Speaking at 11.10 pm takes me back to my days in the House of Commons in the 1980s when, routinely, we had debates at this time of night on matters of importance and principle—something that is now avoided because it is known to be poor practice. Furthermore, I must say to the usual channels, particularly the Government Whips, that there must be oblique reasons behind holding this debate at this time of night. If we look at the result of the last Division, which took place a few moments ago, it is clear circumstantial evidence that if you want to get out of the way something you think you would lose a vote on if it took place mid-afternoon, hold that vote—if it is to take place—somewhere around midnight and you will be quite safe. Those tactics do absolutely no credit to the reputation of this House and I regret very much that my representations were rejected a little time ago by the Government Chief Whip.
This is not just about Sarah Everard or Wayne Couzens. Without commenting on any pending case, there are proceedings pending in which it is alleged—it may not be proved, of course, and I do not wish to comment on any individual case—that other police officers have acted in every bit as outrageous a way as Wayne Couzens. I am in the lucky position of being in a family with five daughters. It may well be that our daughters, who would generally, I hope, defer to instructions given to them by police officers, will now feel unsafe on the streets of London, where they live, unless further protection is given.
This is about a broad principle. We know, because it has been proved in other cases—the noble Baroness, Lady O’Loan, for whom I have the greatest admiration, has demonstrated this in a major inquiry that she undertook—that the police will sometimes strain every sinew to avoid being held fully accountable. Unfortunately, the reaction to the Sarah Everard vigil was outrageous, as the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, said, and it never received the sort of apology it should have from the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, whose position in this leaves one very concerned. Where, in the end, does ultimate accountability for the police lie when people from the diplomatic and parliamentary division are the culprits in the most serious cases, as Wayne Couzens was?
That is a particular reason why I think it pretty outrageous to be asked to debate these important issues at this time of night. That is not a repetition of a Second Reading point; it is a discourse upon the way in which procedure in this House is, in my view, being abused on this Monday evening.
I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, for her kind remarks, which were not wholly merited, about Amendment 109. I urge the Minister to reflect on Amendment 108 or Amendment 109. If young people, especially young women, are to have confidence in the safety of talking to police officers when they are walking home at night, as they are perfectly entitled to, across Clapham Common, Victoria Park or wherever it happens to be, they need more protection. At the very least, the use of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act codes of practice would cause no operational difficulties for the police. It would give some level of reassurance, and it would enable us at least to test whether the right action had been taken. I simply urge the Minister to reconsider the resistance to Amendment 108 or Amendment 109.
I turn to Amendment 102. One of the things that has happened since Committee is that we have seen the terms of reference of the Angiolini inquiry. We saw them this morning, and we are grateful for the opportunity to see them before this debate took place. I have a suspicion that that was done to help us, under the urgings of the Minister of State who will reply to this debate. If so, I am personally very grateful for that. They were accompanied by a statement from Dame Elish Angiolini about her approach to her inquiry.
I am delighted that Dame Elish has been appointed to this inquiry. She is very good and she has the right experience: she has, in effect, been the chief prosecutor of Scotland—she has been the Lord Advocate; she has run, sometimes in difficult circumstances, a college in which inquiries had to be undertaken that made life uncomfortable for her and for the college; and she is a very good analyst. She knows how the criminal process works and she is concise, as she has proved in reports that she has written in the past. I absolutely support her appointment. I am sure that Dame Elish will want to complete her inquiry in good time and with great thoroughness.
I agree with the Minister, and, I believe, with Dame Elish—I understand that this is her view—that the first part of the inquiry can be completed satisfactorily without it being made statutory. There is no difference between me and the Government on that. The question is what happens after that. Again, I do not have much difference with the Government about the terms of reference; the terms of reference are what they are. Having done many independent reviews, I know that terms of reference are only the first line of the first movement of the concerto, which is varied an enormous amount while it is developed in the concert—forgive that rather clumsy metaphor, but it is very late at night. I am sure that Dame Elish, like all of us who have done these kinds of inquiries, will extend the terms of reference to whatever extent is necessary, so the terms of reference do not cause me much concern.
But what happens if she is obstructed by the police, the Home Secretary or the Government? When I was the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, I saw Home Secretaries—some of them very distinguished, some less so—come and go through the revolving door of the Home Office, with undue regularity on occasions. And who knows? We may have a different Government and a totally different Home Secretary in every way by the time that Dame Elish comes to complete the second part of her inquiry. So whatever the intentions of this Government in 2022, we cannot assume that they will be the intentions of the Government or the Home Secretary in place when the report is produced. What will happen if Dame Elish finds that she is not getting the co-operation that she needs and therefore could do with a statutory inquiry to be able to complete her job? I have drawn this to the attention of the Minister.
Sky News, which is normally very careful about what it writes on political issues, and usually accurate, published something today which contained the following:
“But Dame Elish will be able to convert it to a statutory inquiry if she needs to fulfil the terms of reference set out on Monday.”
If that was the position offered by the Government, I would say amen and sit down, because that would be entirely satisfactory. She would have been assured that, if she were not able to complete her inquiry, she would be able to have it converted to a statutory inquiry. If that was said by the Minister from the Dispatch Box, I would not vote against the Government if a Division were called.
My understanding of the situation at the moment is that the Home Secretary is saying that it would be possible to convert it to a statutory inquiry in certain circumstances. That is one of the most meaningless statements in this context that I have ever heard. Of course it is possible to convert it to a public inquiry; we could have a public inquiry on the knowledge of Ministers about the price of milk, or almost anything for that matter, if the Government chose to do it—it was rather better done, of course, by the “Today” programme, but there we are.
In this serious context, the vagueness of what has been said by the Home Secretary and the Home Office is wholly unacceptable. It gives no reassurance to your Lordships, and it gives no reassurance to those many intelligent young women who are judging the reaction of the Government to what happened to Sarah Everard and other young women who have been attacked by police officers. It is just not good enough. Something has to be done about this, and I regret very much that I have to express these views to a pretty empty Parliament at just after 11.20 pm on a Monday evening.
My Lords, I have listened to everybody speak, and I appreciate that it is late at night, but I ask my colleagues around this Chamber to remember that we are talking about a human life that was horrifically and brutally taken. We have a family broken to bits. I have to say that, as somebody who has been through the criminal justice system, and as a mother of three daughters, my emotions are running high, because it was at this time of night that Sarah went missing and the searches began. Yet here in this Chamber we are arguing over having a statutory inquiry for the soul of Sarah Everard. We have colleagues here waiting to see whether we are going to divide, and saying that we are going on too long and are going round in circles. I feel ashamed to listen to these conversations, when we in this Chamber should be thinking of Sarah Everard and her family.
Let me tell you that it is not easy for the family; every day is hard. We are talking about a family that is traumatised. Any information that has come from any Minister or any government department will not be absorbed, because they are trying to get through every minute of every day. I am not saying this to be emotional—“Oh, calm down, my dear”—and I am not a legal eagle, as my fellow colleagues are who have just spoken articulately, but what I can say is that it is absolutely shameful that this Government are putting this inquiry into two parts.
That is not to say I cannot thank the Minister for taking the time to discuss this. The shame of it is that we are going to go through part 1, which deals with all the things that we already know, and that is why it is quite quick, and then, following advice to the Home Secretary, she or he—I have worked with several Justice Ministers as Victims’ Commissioner, and it is quite right that there is a carousel—will make a decision. It is unfortunate to think that an adequate and eloquent lady will give advice to the Home Secretary only for that person to yet again make a decision with no timeline.
It could be one of your daughters who they find. You could have to go through these media perceptions, asking what she was doing out late at night. Yet we protected an ex-police officer by saying that we do not know what has gone on and will have to find out. We are fighting here to discuss the place of a statutory inquiry. Given the public interest and all the window dressing from politicians across the House—because this Bill does go back to the Commons to be debated once again—I think that is shameful.
This House works best when we work together but tonight, at half past 11, I have been on my feet and travelling for 14 hours. I have health issues; I have taken my painkillers to be here to speak up for Sarah Everard. To walk a mile in the shoes of this family, in this horrific case shows that they are now relying on people giving messages, with no legal intervention. Yet we, as the unelected Chamber, can fight for this important inquiry. It is disgraceful that it is in two parts.
At this time of night, we are playing politics. Maybe the Government will win this Division and maybe we will, but it is shameful. Everyone in this Chamber needs to be aware that this could happen to them and they would go through the same system. It does not matter who you are—at the end of the day, we owe it to the public to make demands. We have asked the Government to order a statutory inquiry. Only then will the police be held accountable, only then will we stop police forces and officers marking their own homework and only then, speaking from my former role as Victims’ Commissioner, will they be truly accountable. In any other role, we would be sacked. We would be going through a civil investigation, a duty of care, vicarious liability—whatever it may be.
We are talking about a human life, a young woman who committed to go into a car with a police officer. For absolute assurance, for the public interest, for public safety, for our young and future generations, for our daughters and our sons, we owe it to help the public gain confidence in a system that is supposed to be there to protect us. Most importantly, what we see as the ethos of the police officers who put that uniform on has disintegrated.
We must have a statutory inquiry for the soul of Sarah Everard and, indeed, for the sake of humanity. If we do not, this will be a shameful decision that we will always regret having made.
My Lords, I am pleased to support this amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, as well as those of the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, and the noble Baroness, Lady Newlove, who has spoken so eloquently and passionately on this subject. The Government claimed that the inquiry that was established would be quicker as a non-statutory inquiry; from my experience, that is not necessarily the case. The reality is that in phase 2 of this inquiry, if not in phase 1, we need an inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005, which is not limited to the activities of one officer but embraces the very important issues of recruitment, vetting, funding and resourcing of anti-corruption activity, and the fact that the IPCC is so underfunded for the anti-corruption work that it has to do.
My inquiry and others before it have pointed out the serious deficiencies in the management and funding of those elements of police responsibility that are dedicated to identifying criminals within police ranks and dealing effectively with them. I reported in June last year. Given my experience of investigating matters involving the MPS, the IPCC and the Crown Prosecution Service over some six years, I do not believe that a non-statutory inquiry can act as effectively as one armed with the power to compel witnesses and the discovery of documentation. My panel was to report within 12 months of receiving documentation. We received our first documents in January 2015 and our last in March 2021. We reported three months later, saying:
“It is very important that lessons are learned about planning and preparation before the appointment of panels and similar public scrutiny bodies to avoid unnecessary distress to the families of those affected and unnecessary delays and costs to the public purse.”
I am sure that everybody’s thoughts tonight are with the family of Sarah Everard and with all those women who are listening, as the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, has said, and who will be affected by the outcome of this inquiry. Earlier, as we sat waiting for this amendment to be called, a number of Members—noble Baronesses—were discussing what it feels like as a sole woman to walk out of your Lordships’ House at this time of night and later, and try to find our way safely to the places that we stay in.
Security clearance processes and vetting for police officers and police staff are fundamental to any anti-corruption strategy. Regular updating of the security status of each individual is essential to identify any concerns and to enable action to be taken in respect of such concerns. We said that the Metropolitan Police should remain vigilant at all times to ensure not only that it vets its employees in accordance with its new measures but also that it has adequate and effective processes to establish whether its officers are engaged in crime. This is what happened in the case of Sarah Everard. The failure to deal with her murderer may have left him free to kill.
We received evidence from officers who sought to bring wrongdoing to the attention of their managers but the matters they raised were not effectively dealt with. We recommended that HMIC should do a thematic investigation of the operation of the practices and procedures introduced following the adoption of the code of ethics in 2014 to determine whether there are sufficient resources to protect police officers, police staff and whistleblowers who wished to draw wrongdoing to the attention of their organisations.
We identified the fact that the Metropolitan Police placed the reputation of the organisation above the need for accountability and transparency. That lack of candour and the repeated failure to take a fresh, thorough and critical look at past failings are symptoms of institutional corruption, which prioritises institutional reputation over public accountability.
Most people become police officers to serve the public, not to engage in wrongdoing and acts of crime. They do very difficult and, at times, dangerous work, most of them without compromising their integrity. I accept that the management of policing is a very complex process, but there has been a failure over decades to tackle police corruption in all its forms and to resource anti-corruption work properly. We know that Wayne Couzens abused his position as a police officer.
There is evidence that, despite efforts over many years, a culture still exists that inhibits both organisational and individual accountability. The response to corruption and wrongdoing in all its forms must comply with the law and demonstrate candour and adherence to the police code of ethics. The internal and external structures designed to ensure integrity and ethical conduct must be properly resourced in order for policing to be truly accountable, for corrupt officers to be confronted and for honest officers to be affirmed.
That is why the inquiry should be a statutory one, capable of investigating much more than matters relating only to Wayne Couzens. That is why this amendment, which comes so late tonight, is so important for the future of British policing. I thank the noble Baronesses and the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, for this amendment. It has my full support.
My Lords, I started off with a set of notes that said, “The Green group fully backs all these amendments”, and that we would have attached one of our names, had there been space. However, that is not really where we are now, is it? This is now a question of procedure. The noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, was clear but extremely restrained in her tone when addressing how we come to be at this point tonight—it is now 11.34 pm. The noble Lord, Lord Carlile, was very blunt and clear, and we have heard passionately from the noble Baronesses, Lady Newlove and Lady O’Loan, about how inappropriate this is.
This is the service that your Lordships’ House is providing to Sarah Everard’s family, to women’s and girls’ groups, to the people who have campaigned and worked so hard on this amendment: to be here at 11.34 pm. A vast amount of work has gone into this and it is, at our current point, a travesty of democracy. Oddly enough, your Lordships’ House often manages to be quite democratic, but what we are doing at this moment is no way to run a country.
I have a whole lot more notes along those lines but will not deliver them, given the hour. I am simply going to move to the point of my speech: to move a Motion now that debate on Amendment 102 be adjourned to a subsequent day. I am told that this is unusual but possible.
Now, I can count; I can look around and see what your Lordships’ House looks like. But I believe there is a crucial matter of principle here that has to be asked. We are supposed to be the self-governing House. Noble Lords on the other side of the House have, I hope, listened closely to the noble Baroness, Lady Newlove. I am giving them an opportunity to provide a full, democratic chance for the entire House to make a judgment on this group of amendments, rather than doing it tonight at this hour.
Debate on Amendment 102 resumed.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, and the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew, for very effectively introducing the amendments. I also thank the noble Baronesses, Lady Newlove and Lady O’Loan, for their powerful contributions, in their different ways. I will have much more to say about the College of Policing code of ethics and the culture in the police service when we debate the amendments on the duty of candour.
I agree with other noble Lords that debating this issue at this time of night is not appropriate. I do not believe there was a conspiracy to make this debate happen late in the evening, but it was open to the Government Chief Whip not to begin this group at this time of night, but to debate it the next day—and I believe he should have done that.
On the substance of the amendment, the last non-statutory inquiry into the police—by the Daniel Morgan independent panel—took, as the noble Baroness, Lady O’Loan, said, more than eight years to complete, because it did not have the powers of a statutory inquiry under the Inquiries Act, and because, as we have heard, it faced obstruction by the police, leaving important questions still unanswered. The Macpherson report—the inquiry into the tragic death of Stephen Lawrence—took less than two years, and had a fundamental impact on policing. If the Government do not accept Amendment 102, we must assume that they want an inquiry that drags on for years and does not answer the fundamental questions. It is as simple as that.
For the protection of police officers and members of the public, those arrested should not be placed into a vehicle or taken into premises unless there are at least two officers present. Not only would Amendment 108 reassure women and girls, but it is also basic common sense. Similarly, Amendment 109, requiring the Secretary of State to issue codes of practice in relation to the transportation, as well as the detention, of people by the police under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, is necessary. What could the Government’s objections possibly be? Perhaps we are about to find out.
My Lords, I congratulate all noble Lords and noble Baronesses who have spoken so far in the debate. I shall focus on Amendment 102, which is incredibly important. The speeches by my noble friend Lady Chakrabarti, the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, the noble Baronesses, Lady Newlove, Lady O’Loan and Lady Bennett, and the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, have all, in their own ways, made important points to the Government.
The question for the Government is whether they will listen and respond to that, or whether they will just say, “This is the decision we have made, and whatever arguments are put to us, we’re not going to change”. This is one of those moments when they do need to respond. They need to change, and to listen to the arguments that have been made right across this Chamber and beyond—and, no doubt, by many of the people who will be listening. The reason I say that is that the statutory inquiry called for in Amendment 102, moved by my noble friend Lady Chakrabarti, has at its heart the need for the restoration of public confidence and trust.
There are seismic moments in our country: events that demand a response that goes beyond normal politics, beyond the normal debate between parties—events that demand a response from this country’s Parliament, its representatives both in this Chamber and in the other place, that meets the significance of what has happened. It cannot be that we simply say that we will have a Home Office-led inquiry, and that is okay. How will the public see that? How will individuals see that? How will the people who have responded to the horror, as we all have, of what happened to Sarah Everard, see it? This touched the nation’s conscience, the nation’s inner being. It wants us to respond to that and surely, at the very least, we should say that we will undertake a statutory inquiry, because that is the way the confidence of the public can be restored. It is the way we can ensure that, as we move forward, the public can be reassured that that confidence and trust can be restored in the state, in its broadest sense—not just Parliament but the organs of the state: the justice system, the police, and all those who have responsibility because of what we legislate for here.
The noble Lord, Lord Carlile, made what I thought was the crucial point—the one that an ordinary member of the public, frankly, from whatever part of the country, whatever their occupation, would make. What happens to that inquiry if a witness says, “I am not coming” and that inquiry is obstructed? What happens if the Home Secretary says, “It is a very important document but we cannot release it because it is sensitive”? What would the Government’s Home Office-led review be able to do if a witness refuses to attend, if the release of a document is refused, if the police, for example, refuse to co-operate? Answer from the Government there is none, other than a vague platitude: “We expect that co-operation to happen; we expect that to take place; we expect all the documents to be released.” A statutory inquiry, however, would have no such problem. There could be no obstruction, no documents withheld, because that is the point of a statutory inquiry. In the court of public opinion, let alone any other court, people will say, “Why are they not doing that? What possible reason is there for the Government not to respond in that way?” I do not understand it.
I am a Labour Peer, a Labour politician. That does not mean that I think everything the Conservative Government do is terrible; but sometimes, it does not matter where you are on the political spectrum—you have this sense of incredulity, of disbelief. Why is the system refusing to do the obvious? Why is the system not responding in the way that anybody would expect it to, in the face of the horror of what happened to Sarah Everard? We cannot undo the past, but we can make the future. I think that people would expect nothing less from us, nothing less from this Chamber, than that we say in response to the horror of what happened that the public demand a statutory inquiry that compels co-operation, documents and witnesses. There are all the other arguments that go round and round, all the other arguments that can be made, but that is the nub of it.
I say to my noble friend Lady Chakrabarti that this is one of the most fundamentally important amendments we have discussed on this Bill. Of course, there will be women—daughters, young women, girls—who want this, but there will also be a lot of men, if not the vast majority, who will be demanding that statutory inquiry for the women and the girls of this country. We all want it.
I want the noble Baroness, Lady O’Loan, and any woman in here to feel safe leaving this Parliament and walking the streets.
Walking home tonight.
I think the public would expect a statutory inquiry. I expect a statutory inquiry and I believe the vast majority of Peers would as well. The Government may set their face against it, but I hope my noble friend will put it to a vote. We can test the opinion of the House and see where that takes us if the other place is caused to think about it again. The women and girls of this country, as well as the country itself, deserve a statutory inquiry, and we should vote for it tonight.
My Lords, I share noble Lords’ frustration that at a minute past midnight I am standing up to respond. I do not think anyone could accuse me of filibustering or frustrating any processes today. It was very unfortunate that we did not start this Report stage until nearly 4 pm because Members were discussing procedure. It is very frustrating that we are discussing such an important topic so late at night.
That said, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, for raising this incredibly important issue, and the noble Lord, Lord Carlile. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady O’Loan, for sharing the experiences of her time as chair of the Daniel Morgan inquiry. I again thank the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, my noble friend Lady Newlove, and the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, for the opportunity that I have had to discuss this issue with them. It is so important that Sarah’s family and the public understand how a serving police officer was able to commit such a senseless crime so that we can stop it ever happening again and restore confidence in our police forces. I think all noble Lords want that.
On 5 October, the Home Secretary announced her intention to launch a two-part inquiry 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 and discipline, and workforce behaviour.
This is the opportunity to look at any systemic flaws in vetting or issues around policing culture that were highlighted in the 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 Home Office-established inquiry.
On the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, about witnesses giving evidence, the police forces for which Sarah’s murderer worked will be witnesses to this inquiry, and we expect them all to comply with it. Since February 2020, when we amended the law, police officers have been under a duty to co-operate as witnesses with investigations, inquiries and formal proceedings under the revised standards of professional behaviour. Failure to do so could amount to misconduct and lead to disciplinary action—something which, during the Daniel Morgan inquiry, was unfortunately not available.
On 22 November, the Home Secretary announced that the chair of the inquiry would be the former Lord Advocate, the right honourable Dame Elish Angiolini QC. Following her appointment, the terms of reference of part 1 of the inquiry have been agreed with her, and they were published on GOV.UK this morning, as noble Lords have said.
The form of part 1 of the inquiry has been discussed with Dame Elish at length, and she agrees that a non-statutory inquiry is the best option to enable her to operate swiftly, allowing greater flexibility to gather evidence relating to Sarah’s killer’s policing career, without formal set-piece hearings. It is imperative for Sarah’s family and the public that we get answers as quickly as possible—I do not think that anyone demurs from that. This will enable Dame Elish to start part 2, looking at policing more broadly, in short order after the conclusion of part 1, which I know the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, seeks to achieve.
Also agreed with Dame Elish is that, should she feel that she cannot fulfil the terms of reference operating on a non-statutory basis, and should official advice concur, it can be converted. I am not sure that the Sky News quote entirely reflects the Home Secretary’s words. That point about the conversion is set out in the terms of reference, and it is not only that: I can advise the House that, in coming to a decision on whether to convert the inquiry into a statutory inquiry under the Inquiries Act, the Home Secretary will be strongly guided by the views of Dame Elish. So, to quote the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, we are not saying, “No, we have already decided”. We have not. Under the Inquiries Act, the Home Secretary is required to consult the chair on any decision to convert the inquiry, and the chair’s views would be expected to hold considerable weight. I hope I have been able to satisfy noble Lords on that point.
I understand the noble Baroness’s point that confidence in the police among women, particularly younger women, has been rocked by Sarah’s murder and other cases that are coming to light—I share those views. This is analogous to the impact that the failings in relation to Stephen Lawrence’s tragic murder had on black communities. I understand how powerful it was for Sir William Macpherson to hold the Metropolitan Police to account in public over 20 years ago and I agree entirely that women deserve answers and, moreover, assurance that they are safe in the hands of the police.
I do not think, however, that we should be tying the hands of Dame Elish and the Home Secretary on the scope or nature of part 2 before part 1 has even started in earnest. It is important that these considerations can be informed by Dame Elish’s emerging findings from part 1; the work of the noble Baroness, Lady Casey; and the policing inspectorate’s thematic inspection of vetting and countercorruption. Only then can we ensure that part 2 looks at the critical issues for policing and does so in a way that allows those affected, including victims, to have their voices heard.
I reassure this House that the Home Secretary will consult Dame Elish on the scope of part 2 and the form that it should take to proceed efficiently, effectively and with the confidence of those whose trust in policing has been eroded. Specifically, Dame Elish’s view and official advice will form the basis of whether the Home Secretary will put part 2 on a statutory footing.
The noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, has prayed in aid the experience of the noble Baroness, Lady O’Loan, with the Daniel Morgan inquiry but, since the evidence-gathering phase of that inquiry, we have—as I said earlier—introduced a duty of co-operation on police officers, which means that failure to co-operate with an inquiry or similar could now be a disciplinary matter, with dismissal being the ultimate sanction possible. There are now sanctions that were not available before.
Amendment 108 seeks to address legitimate concerns that individuals, particularly women and girls, may have at the prospect of being arrested or transported in a police vehicle by a lone officer. The noble Baroness is absolutely right to highlight how important it is that police officers use their powers of arrest legitimately and in line with statutory guidance, and to recognise how public confidence in the police has been shaken by the appalling circumstances of Sarah Everard’s murder. I understand the concerns raised by this case, and the Government have been very clear that they intend to take action as a result. However, the law does not take a detailed view on the way officers use their powers, as long as they are doing so lawfully and legitimately. I do not want to see officers’ discretion over the legitimate use of their powers restrained in ways that could lead to individuals escaping justice or evidence being lost, as could be the case if officers were legally prohibited from transporting arrested individuals alone.
As for Amendment 109 and the noble Baroness’s proposed addition to the PACE codes—which she now attributes to the noble Lord, Lord Carlile—to cover transportation of arrested persons, I will commit to keep this suggestion under consideration when we next undertake amendments to the code. I am aware that some forces, including the Met, have issued guidance to their officers for situations where they may need to approach a member of the public while operating alone. This is only the beginning of this conversation, and there will be more for all forces to do to ensure that the public, and women and girls in particular, have confidence in the way officers use their powers as they carry out their vital—
I apologise for interrupting the noble Baroness, and I am grateful for what she has just said, but I want to go back to a previous point, if I may, because I think we would like an answer to the question I am going to pose at some point in her speech.
During the course of her comments earlier, the Minister said—and I think this was a little bit of movement—that the Home Secretary would be “strongly guided” by the views of Dame Elish Angiolini on whether the second part should be converted to a statutory inquiry. My question, and it is really a legal question for which I apologise, is this: if Dame Elish makes a reasonable request for conversion to a statutory inquiry and unreasonably the Home Secretary refuses that reasonable request, would that refusal then be subject to judicial review, and do the Government recognise that to be the case? I am sure that the question I have posed is a typical barrister’s question, in that I know the answer to it, but it would be nice to hear from the Minister that that answer is recognised because it may make a difference to the attitude of some noble Lords, as to how they view this issue, if it comes to a Division of the House.
In my limited legal knowledge, a judicial review questions the process rather than the decision, so I am sure a judicial review could be sought on the process by which the Home Secretary refused, despite the advice of the inquiry chair. I think it is important to bear in mind that the Home Secretary has chosen Dame Elish because she has confidence in her, and the way in which they work together through this inquiry process will be absolutely crucial, not only to its outcome but to the confidence of both women and the public in general. That is, I think, the answer that I could give at this point. The noble Lord is looking a little bit doubtful.
I apologise for intervening again. I have got my second wind; it is now tomorrow, which is not commendable. It is a simple question: is it recognised by the Government—and it may be that the Minister would have to take advice on this, which I recognise she might get from the noble Lord sitting next to her—that an unreasonable refusal by the Home Secretary would be, potentially at least, judicially reviewable?
The noble Lord is talking in theory. Anything is possible. I cannot say whether, in the circumstances of the Home Secretary’s refusal and Dame Elish’s advice, the outcome would be reasonable or unreasonable, but it is important that we go into this with the Home Secretary very clear that she will be guided by Dame Elish. That is the thing to take away from this.
I hope that the noble Baroness will withdraw her amendment. Should she wish to test the opinion of the House, I would invite noble Lords to reject the amendment.
My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who stayed, even those who may have stayed under sufferance—I hope they will forgive me and understand how important this issue is to so many people beyond SW1.
Of course I have been in two, three and 15 minds about how to handle this, not least in the light of the previous vote on the adjournment, but I have to go back to the substance. I have to pay due respect to the speeches of the noble Baronesses, Lady Newlove and Lady O’Loan. I am not sure, in the light of their testimony, that I could suddenly pretend to be the grand old Duke of York—it is one thing to take your Whip on an adjournment vote. I believe in my heart that there will one day be a full-blown statutory inquiry into the wider issues that have just been highlighted by this horrific case. Noble Lords will have to tell their colleagues, friends and family how they voted when they first had the opportunity to do this. I have seen this time and again in my adult lifetime, with Governments and politicians resisting and resisting, and eventually, maybe years later, the argument for justice and the rule of law becomes irresistible.
On two points that the Minister made by way of reassurance, I am glad that there is now the new ethical duty for police officers to co-operate, but it is a disciplinary matter that would ultimately be in the hands of the police to deal with. If the police officer who does not want to co-operate, as is often the case, decides to retire, the ultimate sanction of dismissal will hardly give comfort. What if they are at the senior-most levels of policing in their non-co-operation? That cannot be equated with the power that statutory inquiries and judges have to compel witnesses or they are committed for contempt.
As for being “strongly guided” and “taking into account”, it is not the Minister’s fault, but there was an opportunity for the Home Secretary to announce that Dame Elish would have the final word on this, and we have not even gone that far. We are “strongly guided”, but we are not going to give this decision to Dame Elish, for whatever reason.
With respect, I do not think that we have gone far enough. I know that I may go down in flames, but I have to speak clearly to people outside this House. I have to do this out of respect for the noble Baronesses, Lady Newlove and Lady O’Loan. I want people to know that we stood for them, for the rights of women and girls in this country, and indeed for the reputation of the many decent police officers, including those whom we see here every morning and night when we come and go. We owe it to their honour. The right thing to do is to have a statutory inquiry, and I would like to test the opinion of the House.
Consideration on Report adjourned.
House adjourned at 12.31 am.