On 30th June 2015 the House of Lords considered amendments to the Government’s Psychoactive Substances Bill. The Bishop of Peterborough, Rt Revd Donald Allister, spoke in support of amendments designed to strengthen measures to tackle supply of drugs in prison and to children. Further information and the other speech, by the Bishop of St Albans, can be seen here.
The Lord Bishop of Peterborough: My Lords, I support the aggravated category for prisons and the particularly vulnerable children who are, in one way or another, in care. I am very grateful for what the Minister said about having a meeting on children in care. That is good and I am happy to accept it, but from my fairly regular visiting of prisons in my diocese—I have visited the four that were there but two of them are now closed—I know that the great majority of prisoners are themselves highly vulnerable and need to be treated as such. It seems that so many young men and young women find themselves in prison having started off with drugs in one way or another. They have been used and abused, often as vulnerable young people, and end up in prison still as relatively young people. They are extremely vulnerable to exploitation through drugs, so this really should be another aggravated category.
Lord Bates: In response to those two points, I think I am right in saying that where we came from on this was to try to get consistency with the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, where “children” is stated as an aggravating factor. We are therefore continuing that into the present. There will come a point where if you then add in certain types of locations and places, where do you stop? Will the courts then be unsure as to what the Government were trying to tackle in introducing the legislation? There is a duty on sentencing judges to follow sentencing guidelines, so the point can be dealt with through that route. We have certainly tightened up the laws with regard to drug use in prison through the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 and the Serious Crime Act 2015. As I say, I certainly understand the comments that have been made and I will reflect particularly on the point about children between now and Report, with the assistance of that meeting.