Bishop of Derby calls for strong partnerships between government and society to tackle serious crime

“This modern crime is not just about technical ingenuity; it is about people choosing the freedom to abuse others and society” – Bishop of Derby, 16/6/14

On 16th June 2014, the Bishop of Derby, the Rt Revd Alastair Redfern, took part in the Second Reading debate on the Government’s Serious Crime Bill. In his speech, he addressed the Bill’s provisions to tackle modern slavery and human trafficking – having served on the Joint Committee which provided the pre-legislative scrutiny to the Modern Slavery Bill – and also the need for joined-up work across government and civil society to challenge the sub-culture of exploitation and greed that drives organised crime and criminality.

DerbyThe Lord Bishop of Derby: My Lords, I very much welcome this Bill and think it is timely and appropriate. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, and his colleagues at the Home Office on pointing us in this direction. Noble Lords will have seen in the briefing that it is based on a strategy described as the four Ps: Pursue, Prevent, Protect and Prepare. For somebody like me, such laboured alliteration might indicate an overambitious sermon and I want to check the level of the ambition and what might be appropriate.

This Bill, timely and appropriate as it is, is really about Pursue—the pursuit of justice and criminals, and I fully support the proposals. I am especially pleased to see proposals that were endorsed by the Joint Committee on the draft Modern Slavery Bill—on which I had the privilege to serve—about longer sentences for those who default on confiscation orders and lowering the standard of proof for restraint orders freezing defendants’ assets. These measures will not just attack criminals but help victims, which is a crucial part of this legislation. Of course, I support the tougher pursuit of those who inflict FGM and child cruelty, targeting of manuals for grooming and abusing children, and measures against cybercrime and gangs. However, the question is how we are going to deliver that kind of agenda in a realistic way, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, said.

This Bill is a first step but we have to remember that organised crime is a huge and expanding industry and flourishes by targeting the most vulnerable people. We are dealing not just with highly sophisticated corrupt systems, but with the brutal abuse of vulnerable people. I have experienced that in my work with modern slavery and drug addicts. As we pursue the crime and the criminal we have to ask how we are going to have an effective response when this criminality is an expanding industry. What does that say about the world we live in and the world we are trying to legislate for? It is very topical at the moment to talk about values and the buzzwords, I understand, are freedom, tolerance and democracy. In 1861, the Bishop of Oxford, who sat on these Benches, gave a famous speech in Salisbury where he recognised the welcome advance of values such as freedom, tolerance and democracy but said there would be a danger that such freedom and spaciousness would give more room for what he called “sin and selfishness” and what the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, called “evil”.

This modern crime is not just about technical ingenuity; it is about people choosing the freedom to abuse others and society. We are already aware of cynicism about politics but I think what we are looking at here is an energetic alternative set of values being pursued vigorously in our midst with alternative ways of valuing people and society and doing economics. The alternatives are all based on putting the self first and abusing vulnerable people. That is a very dangerous state of affairs for a nation. The Government have a key role, not just to pursue criminals but to challenge this abusive, expanding lifestyle that reaps such rewards for so many people across all sectors of society. St Paul called it living according to the flesh—that is, according to the most immediate desires and not having a wider hinterland about other people and their needs and especially the vulnerable. This industry is expanding at a time when many of us are preparing to commemorate the First World War. As we collect stories and witness to that war I am struck by the heroic self-sacrifice for others that was involved—something people recognise and value and want to appreciate today.

We have these two streams in our society. The Government have a role not just in pursuing the crime but in looking at the culture and, therefore, at how we can manage pursuing the crime and supporting the victims. I therefore invite the Minister to say something not just about the pursuit but about Prevent, Protect and Prepare; we may come up with different alliteration by the end of the debate. The Home Secretary makes a strong and proper appeal for what she calls “strong partnerships” to deal with this complex culture and this deep challenge. Can the Minister say something about the partnerships that he sees needing to be developed, by working not just through the Home Office but with the Department for Education, the Department for Communities and Local Government and the faith and voluntary sector? Unless we work at that part of the agenda too, we can make all the laws we like but the detection, pursuit and support of victims will still depend on so many other factors. We need to take those into account to make our law-making as effective as possible.

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: …The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby wanted to hear more about other strands of the serious and organised crime strategy, namely the three Ps of Prevent, Protect and Prepare. I agree that they are just as important as the Pursue strand. The measures in the Bill to improve the operation of serious crime prevention orders and gang injunctions are designed to prevent people from engaging in serious and organised crime. However, here, as elsewhere, prevention is better than cure. I noted very much the right reverend Prelate’s comments about involving the police, local government, education and faith groups, in the last of which he has shown what can be done, particularly in local circumstances…