Police, Crime and Sentencing Bill arrives in Lords

Every time I have worked on a Bill since I arrived in the House of Lords nearly eight years ago, I have thought, “This is the worst Bill I have ever seen”, and every one is, but this is a stinker and it is quite obviously not going to help the police. If you produce a policing Bill and you cannot get former police chiefs, UN special rapporteurs, the Joint Committee on Human Rights and the European Center for Not-for-Profit Law on your side, something is wrong with it.

Surprisingly—or interestingly, or however you want to see it—I, like Lord Falconer of Thoroton, have 11 issues that I am concerned about in the Bill. I think there will probably be more by Committee and  Lady Bennett has her own issues as well, which are equally serious and disturbing. I will try to gallop, in the very limited time we have to speak at Second Reading, through these issues.

The first is Part 2. Unprotected data gathering and sharing is a very disturbing part of the Bill. For example, it mimics what has happened with the Prevent programme. That programme has disproportionately targeted Muslims and minority ethnic communities, and it is likely that human rights infringements will be felt most acutely by those already overpoliced and overrepresented in the criminal justice system. These measures could have a disproportionate impact on marginalised communities and groups advocating for social change, with Black Lives Matter, Muslim people, women and climate change activists—among whom I am, I hope, a guerrilla fighter—being particularly affected. This Bill makes it more difficult for those oppressed groups to have a voice in our society at a time when it is so desperately needed.

I agree very strongly with Lord Paddick, that we should not be adding to the Bill. We should be removing things. In fact, if we could remove the whole Bill, that would give me a few nights of good sleep. In the meantime, we can fight on all these things.

Part 3 on public order undermines democracy by limiting freedom of speech. It poses a threat to the core purpose of a protest: to allow people who feel unheard by decision-makers to speak and be heard. This part silences them. When we talk about disturbance and unease from noise, I would like to complain about the noise we hear from the other end of this Palace. The way the House of Commons carries on often upsets and displeases me, so perhaps we could apply the Bill to it.

The Bill allows future Home Secretaries to determine what constitutes a disruption. Do the Government really think we trust Secretaries of State to do that? Throughout the Bill the vague language means that it leaves too much up to officers at the scene, and we have seen this year that the police misinterpret laws, partly because they are not given good, clear instructions by the Government, but that is another issue. For example, the policing of the Sarah Everard vigil at Clapham Common was terrible. To allow through such broadly defined legislation leaves the door open to more poor policing, which the police themselves do not want. There is nothing in the Bill to protect women and girls. That is a tragic oversight.

Finally, Part 5 is on road traffic. I would like to insist on the full review of road traffic offences and penalties that was promised in 2014. We have waited seven years, so perhaps it could happen. We also need to strengthen the penalties for serious hit-and-run offences, those where the driver knew or reasonably ought to have known that the collision was likely to involve fatal or serious injury, and tackle the exceptional hardship loophole whereby convicted drivers routinely evade driving bans by pleading that they would cause exceptional hardship. There was a classic case of somebody who claimed it would be exceptional hardship if he could not use his Bentley to drive one mile to the park to walk his dog.

Read the whole debate on Hansard