The reasons the Commons have given for rejecting our amendments are absolutely pathetic. I just do not see how the Government can persist in their blindness towards what is happening in society and not at least try to make it a bit better. I fully realise that the Bill is a very valuable one and we absolutely need it, but why not make it as good as we possibly can?
I had a few calm sentences worked out in response to this Motion, and completely scrapped them once I read the Commons disagreement amendments in lieu and reasons, because the reasons that the Commons have given for rejecting our amendments are absolutely pathetic.
I disagree strongly with Lord Randall of Uxbridge, of whom I am very fond, when he says that non-lawyers should not get involved in lawyerly debates. Here in your Lordships’ House I see lawyers arguing ferociously about tiny issues on opposite sides of the Chamber. Lawyers often do not agree, and therefore at times we have to have some common sense.
It is no secret, or at least it might not be, that I am extremely intolerant of this Government. Quite honestly, the Minister referring to a “substantial majority” in the other place cuts no ice here when the Government have an 80-plus majority as well as some quite unsavoury little people from other parties.
I am sorry, but I now just have scribbled notes on these sheets of paper because of my fury at what I have heard. One of the points about lawyers in the other place is that they have given up their practices to become MPs. That means they are relatively inexperienced, whereas here we have experienced lawyers who do their best to give the Government good advice, but somehow that is very rarely enough.
The Commons reason for disagreeing with Amendment 37 is: “Because it is inappropriate to extend the so called ‘householder defence’ to victims of domestic abuse who use disproportionate force against their abusers in self-defence.”
I would argue that inherent in that phrase is the deep misogyny that we see all through society, because a householder who uses force against an intruder is almost invariably going to be a man while the person who attacks their abuser is almost invariably going to be a woman. Misogyny is written into that wording.
The Commons disagree with Lords Amendment 38: “Because it is inappropriate to provide a new defence for victims of domestic abuse who are compelled to commit an offence as a result of such abuse, as the existing common law defence of duress is sufficient.”
That is clearly not true because women are still being sent to prison for, in many cases, quite justified aggression against their abusers. The same claim is repeated later in rejecting other amendments of ours. I just do not see how the Government can persist in their blindness towards what is happening in society and not at least try to make it a bit better. I fully realise that the Bill is a very valuable one and we absolutely need it, but why not make it as good as we possibly can?
I very much support the new amendment by the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws. I am very glad that she has persisted on this issue. I hope the Minister will actually listen to what we are saying now and take back to—I was going to say “his masters”, but your Lordships know what I mean—his department the fact that this would be a good addition to the Government’s review of sentencing. I cannot say that forcefully enough.
I just have one question—well, I have lots of questions, including “Why won’t the Government see sense?”—but this particular question is: when will the Government’s review of sentencing actually report?
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