This government was elected on a clear manifesto commitment to make our country safer. This means toughening sentences for the worst crimes and bringing offenders to justice swiftly through an efficient court system.
The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, introduced today, will do this by: introducing tougher sentencing for the worst offenders and ending automatic halfway release from prison for serious crimes; creating robust and effective community sentences; enabling the trialling of secure schools; increasing the use of technology in courts; and improving employment opportunities for ex-offenders. This joint Bill also contains a number of Home Office-led measures, set out in a written statement by the Home Secretary.
The Ministry of Justice-led measures in the Bill will:
- Deliver on commitments made in the Sentencing White Paper, ‘A Smarter Approach to Sentencing’, announced to the House on 16 September 2020, which will reform the sentencing and release framework, so that we have a system that takes account of the true nature of crimes and protects the public from harm.
- Ensure serious criminals spend longer in custody, including: ending the automatic halfway release point from prison for an additional cohort of serious sexual and violent offenders; making a Whole Life Order the starting point for the premeditated murder of a child; instead of a life sentence with the possibility of Parole Board release after the minimum term is served; and preventing the automatic early release of prisoners who become of significant public protection concern while in custody.
- Make community sentences more effective so that they offer an appropriate level of punishment and address the underlying drivers of offending, including: piloting a problem-solving court approach for certain community and suspended sentence orders; improving national consistency for adult Out Of Court Disposals; and extending the use of Electronic Monitoring.
- Reduce the time periods after which some criminal sentences become spent, aiding rehabilitation by helping offenders to move on with their lives.
- Deliver on the government’s longstanding commitment to increase the maximum penalties for causing death by dangerous driving and for causing death by careless driving when under the influence of drinks or drugs. It will also introduce a new offence of causing serious injury by careless driving.
- Double the maximum penalty for assaulting an emergency worker from 12 months to two years to ensure that the courts have the necessary powers to deal effectively with offenders who use violence against emergency workers.
- Strengthen alternatives to custody for children who have offended which promote rehabilitation, and raise the threshold for custodial remand, while at the same time ensuring that children who commit serious offences and pose a risk to the public receive sentences that reflect the seriousness of their offending.
- Empower future providers of Secure Schools, which represent our vision for the future of youth custody— schools with security, rather than prisons with education: with education, healthcare and purposeful activity at their heart.
- Enable Prisoner Escort and Custody Service officers to manage Video Remand Hearings in police stations to continue to make the best use of technology and improve future efficiency.
- Replace the current emergency provisions in the Coronavirus Act 2020, which extend the use of video and audio hearings to enable more participants to attend criminal hearings remotely. We will always ensure a full hearing in court will be available when needed in the interests of justice.
- Introduce measures to facilitate the remote observation of proceedings across the courts and tribunals using video and audio links underpinning the principle of open justice. These measures will also provide the necessary safeguards against the recording or broadcasting of proceedings by participants and observers.
- Enable British Sign Language interpreters to be present in the jury deliberation room, meaning that profoundly deaf individuals are not prevented from participating in jury service.
- Extend the scope of positions of trust legislation, which currently covers a number of statutory roles such as teachers and social workers, to include those who knowingly carry out certain activities within religious and sports settings, such as faith leaders or sports coaches.
- Toughen the law where criminal damage of less than £5,000 is caused to a memorial by increasing the maximum sentence from three months to 10 years imprisonment. This brings it in line with criminal damage of £5,000 or more and ensures our courts have sufficient sentencing powers to punish the emotional harm caused by this type of offending even when the financial impact may be low.
To support the parliamentary scrutiny of the Bill, we are publishing on GOV.UK the following documents:
- Impact assessments covering sentencing, courts and criminal law;
- Delegated Powers memorandum;
- ECHR memorandum; and
- Fact sheets.
This statement has also been made in the House of Lords