6 April 2022

Police, crime, sentencing and courts bill

The police, crime, sentencing and courts bill is in the last stages of becoming law. Adam Wadding gives us his views on what it contains.

On 28 February, the Police, crime, sentencing and courts bill returned to the House of Commons. The bill suffered a series of defeats in the Lords, but they were never going to be enough to kill the bill.

The Lords voted against the provision for criminalising protests that are too noisy. The Lords also voted against locking on where protestors chain or glue themselves to trees or buildings. But as this was in the original bill, it can just be added back in by the Home Office.

Peers also voted against new powers that would allow police to stop and search those who they suspect of taking part in illegal protests.

The Lords did nothing to address the watering-down of the threshold for prosecution for breaching conditions imposed on a protest. The new laws would mean you could be convicted of breaching a condition, even if you didn’t know they had been imposed.

Lots of other proposed law changes such as 10-year sentences for damaging a statue or 10 years in jail for actions that cause “serious annoyance”, were also left unchanged.

Some of the new measures are to be welcomed, including extending the time limit for prosecution of common assault or battery in domestic abuse cases, and “Harper’s law”, which will extend mandatory life sentences for those convicted of the unlawful manslaughter of on-duty emergency workers.

The bill will change the minimum age of receiving a life sentence in prison from 21 to 18.

The bill will introduce secure schools, which the government describes as a “planned new form of youth custody”. Secure schools will, essentially, be prisons for children aged from 12 to 18, and they will be run by charities: yet more money being funnelled into the private sector.

The upper chamber can delay, though not entirely block, legislation, but its actions can often embarrass and stall government plans. With current headlines filled with worse news, the bill may not get the attention it deserves.

When the bill was first introduced, it led to a wave of protests across the country, including the uprisings in Bristol. Perhaps it is time to ramp up that pressure again.