On 3rd December 2020 the House of Lords considered the Government’s Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill 2020 at its Committee Stage. The Bishop of Durham had co-sponsored two amendments aimed at restricting or regulating the use of children as covert agents. The Bishop of Carlisle spoke in his place, in support of the amendments. As is usual practice they were withdrawn after debate and may be returned to at a later stage:
The Lord Bishop of Carlisle: My Lords, I speak in support of Amendment 43, in the names of my right reverend friend the Bishop of Durham, the noble Lord, Lord Young, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Chakrabarti and Lady Bull, and Amendment 60, in the names of the noble Baronesses, Lady Young and Lady Hamwee, and the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy of Southwark. As we have heard, both concern the treatment of children.
We should not for a moment underestimate some of the evils in our society that the Government and the forces of law and order are tasked with confronting. Some of those evils involve the abuse of children and vulnerable people, including, as we know, the scourge of county lines drug gangs, sexual predators and traffickers. It does not take much imagination to see how, as a result of this, there is a periodic temptation to use children as covert assets. We must clearly guard against that temptation; as we have already been reminded, our first duty must be to the care and well-being of children. This applies all the more to children who find themselves in vulnerable and harmful situations, such as those used and abused by criminal gangs.
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On 11th November the House of Lords debated the Government’s Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill at its Second Reading. The Bishop of Durham spoke in the debate, raising concerns about the risks to the safety of children:
The Lord Bishop of Durham [V]: My Lords, I too would like to welcome the noble and learned Minister to the House and to his new role. Not many find their maiden speech to be that of introducing a Bill to the House, and I congratulate him on the necessarily blended speech.
I welcome the Government’s move to provide a statutory basis for covert human intelligence sources to participate in criminal conduct, where it is necessary and proportionate to do so for a limited set of specified purposes. We recognise the heavy duty placed on government to protect its citizens, and this Bill is a necessary step so that those undertaking these activities with a view to protecting the public can be clear in their status and duties.
However, while welcoming the intent behind this Bill, I am concerned that safeguards should be properly scrutinised, in particular when they concern the treatment of children. Continue reading “Covert Human Intelligence Sources Bill – Bishop of Durham raises child safety fears”
On 10th November Lord Ramsbotham asked the Government “when they plan to announce (1) the chair, (2) the timeframe, and (3) the terms of reference, for the Royal Commission on criminal justice.” The Bishop of Durham asked a further question:
The Lord Bishop of Durham [V]: My Lords, prisoners serving short sentences for non-violent crimes often get stuck in a so-called revolving door, with serious consequences to their family relationships, housing and rehabilitation. Will the commission be considering reports into the issues around short sentences and consider alternatives to custodial sentences, to enable rehabilitation in the community? Continue reading “Bishop of Durham asks if criminal justice Royal Commission will examine short sentences”
On 3rd August the Rt Revd Alan Smith, Bishop of St Albans, received a written answer to a question from Lord Keen of Elie on prosecutions in relation to forced marriages.
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: HL7247 To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many prosecutions were initiated in relation to forced marriage in (1) 2014, (2) 2015, (3) 2016, (4) 2017, (5) 2018, and (5) 2019; and how many such prosecutions were successful in each year.
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On 23rd June 20202 the Rt Revd Alan Smith, Bishop of St Albans, asked a question following a statement from the Government on the terrorist attacks in Reading on 20th June.
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: The Minister has referred to the extra £90 million for counterterrorism. Is this ring-fenced and will it be continued in future years? Secondly, what reassurances and protections are being given to minority communities, which will be feeling very vulnerable at this point?
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On 3rd February 2020 the House of Lords debated a motion from Lord Harris of Haringey, “to ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to improve the safety and security of public venues, and whether they intend to introduce a Protect duty under the CONTEST strategy for countering terrorism.” The Bishop of Southwark, Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, spoke in the debate:
The Lord Bishop of Southwark: My Lords, I too am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, for securing this debate and for making the points he made.
I live but a few minutes’ walk from the location of yesterday’s incident in Streatham, and my prayers go to those affected by yet another attack born of hate and callous disregard of God’s image reflected in the other. I too pay tribute to the rapid response of our emergency services, not least the police, who were tracking the individual, and to the ambulance service. Continue reading “Bishop of Southwark asks questions about aim and intent of new counterterrorism laws”
On 3rd February 2020 the House of Lords heard the repeat of a statement made in the House of Commons by the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, on the terror attack in Streatham the previous afternoon. The Bishop of Southwark, Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, responded to the statement:
The Lord Bishop of Southwark: My Lords, I have nothing but admiration for the response of the emergency services and the police in this incident, in the recent one at Fishmongers’ Hall, and in the one two and a half years ago at London Bridge, very near my cathedral. It is incumbent on me to try to correct what might be a mishearing of an earlier contribution. The response of the community in each of these cases has been remarkable and resilient. A major part of that response has come from the Muslim community, which has shown its conviction and commitment to peace-desiring and law-abiding ways of living and supporting the wider nation. The Statement said nothing about this because it did not have to, but I feel incumbent as a Bishop to do so. Continue reading “Bishop of Southwark hails “remarkable and resilient” community response to Streatham attack”
On 9th January 2020 the Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, Bishop of Southwark, spoke during the fourth day of debate in the House on the Queen’s Speech, about serious youth violence:
Lord Bishop of Southwark: My Lords, I wish to raise the issue of local services that are likely to have a positive impact on serious youth violence, in particular knife crime. I appreciate that the criminal justice system was key to yesterday’s debate on the gracious Speech, and indeed the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester touched briefly on knife crime in that context. However, I wish to concentrate not on policing per se, nor on the actions of the courts, prison or probation services, but on those of other local agencies. Continue reading “Bishop of Southwark responds to Queen’s Speech – serious youth violence”
On 29th October 2019 Lord Lee of Trafford asked the Government “what plans they have to replace Victorian-era prisons with more modern facilities.” The Bishop of Winchester, Rt Revd Tim Dakin, asked a follow up question:
The Lord Bishop of Winchester: I am sure that many of us will have watched some of the programmes in the “Crime and Punishment” series, which featured Her Majesty’s Prison Winchester, a Victorian prison. The programmes highlighted problems of building maintenance, staff shortages and a large number of attacks on staff—441 in the year 2018-19. Can the Minister confirm what action Her Majesty’s Government will take to address the staff shortages and training needs among prison officers generally, in addition to the prison improvements announced in recent days?
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On 8th October 2019 Lord Naseby (Con) asked the Government “what action they are taking to ensure that retailers selling kitchen knives adhere to regulations on the sale of knives”. The Bishop of London, Rt Revd Sarah Mullally, then asked a follow-up question:
The Lord Bishop of London: My Lords, as the Bishop of London, knife crime is of huge concern to me and a source of great sorrow. I thank the noble Baroness for her response regarding the “No Points” campaign. However, research undertaken by the Home Office Scientific Development Branch showed that round knives had significantly less penetration capability than pointed knives and are therefore less likely to be life-threatening. Will the noble Baroness comment on how the Government are responding to the advice given by the Scientific Development Branch?
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