On 25th May 2023, the Bishop of St Albans spoke in a debate on the government’s Imprisonment for Public Protection Action Plan, pointing out a high rate of suicide among prisoners serving IPP sentences and urging reform of the system:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, I too thank the noble Lord, Lord Moylan, for his tenacity and for keeping this terrible situation before us. I rise with a certain reluctance because I do not have the expertise that many other noble Lords in this debate have, though like all bishops I have a right to visit the prisons in my diocese, which I do, and I am regularly in touch with people working in the legal and penal systems. My colleague the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Gloucester, the lead bishop on prisons, has raised this matter on numerous occasions and sadly cannot be here today.
It is now seven months since the House of Commons Justice Select Committee issued its report on IPP sentences. There were some alarming conclusions in it, such as noting:
“The indefinite nature of the sentence has contributed to feelings of hopelessness and despair”,
leading to some suicides within the IPP population. There are reports that perhaps as many as 81 people have taken their own life when serving an IPP sentence. If we could identify in any other area of life that 81 lives had been taken, we would be calling for inquiries and wanting answers. Many of us are concerned to hear of further, more recent suicides.
The Bishop of Derby received the following written answer on 17th May 2023:
The Lord Bishop of Leeds asked His Majesty’s Government how many children are being held on remand in the most recent period for which data is available; and whether they are taking steps to reduce this.
Lord Bellamy (Con, Ministry of Justice): As at 31 March 2023, there were 244 children and young people remanded to custody in the Youth Secure Estate (this figure includes 18-year-olds). Remanding a child to custody must always be a last resort, however that option must remain open to the courts where it is necessary to protect the public.
The Bishop of Gloucester asked a question on the rhetoric used emphasising arrest and imprisonment, rather than rehabilitation, during a debate on the promised uplift in numbers of police on 2nd May 2023:
The Lord Bishop of Gloucester: My Lords, it is very good to hear the Minister speak about police uplift. I am certainly not asking for more and more but I am asking for more join-up. I am really concerned about the “we are coming for you” rhetoric being part of the solution, and the sense that if we simply arrest more people and send more people to prison, we will reduce reoffending. There was nothing in the data about the high rate of reoffending. Unless we look at what is going on in our prisons, at how we rehabilitate people and address some of the systemic issues relating to why people offend in the first place, we will not be doing that join-up across the criminal justice system. I am really concerned about the rhetoric whereby, if you arrest more people and lock them up for longer, our streets will be safer; the data simply does not reflect that. Will the Minister say more about the join-up across the whole of the criminal justice system?
On 21st April 2023, the Bishop of Leeds spoke in support of the Offenders (Day of Release from Detention) Bill, which would ensure that people are not released from prison on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday in order to ensure proper access to services and support:
The Lord Bishop of Leeds: My Lords, I am grateful for the opportunity to rise in the gap to sing from the same hymn sheet and welcome this Bill. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Bird, on his inspirational work and commitment to these matters. We need an urgent change in practice for those who leave prison. I know that my friend the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Gloucester, who is not able to be here today but leads for the Church of England on prisons, also welcomes this Bill.
The Bishop of Derby asked a question on the issue of criminalisation of children during a debate on the government’s anti-social behaviour plan on 29th March 2023:
The Lord Bishop of Derby: My Lords, I declare my interest as vice-chair of the Children’s Society. I read the Anti-Social Behaviour Action Plan with real interest. Criminalising young people through tackling anti-social behaviour is counterproductive, not least given the pressures on the criminal justice system. I am therefore pleased to see a focus on preventive work with at-risk and vulnerable children with expanded funding for youth offending teams, for example. Can the Minister commit to look again at a definition of child criminal exploitation that recognises the abuse and manipulation of vulnerable children, which catches them up into what can become quite horrific spirals of crime? Such a definition would offer them greater protection.
The Bishop of St Albans received the following written answer on 29th March 2023:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans asked His Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Sharpe of Epsom on 14 March (HL6096), what assessment they have made of why there have only been two prosecutions for female genital mutilation out of the 229 offences recorded.
The Bishop of Derby asked a question on the treatment of children in the criminal justice system on 27th March 2023, following a Children’s Commissioners report on the strip searching of children, many from black and minority ethnic backgrounds, by police:
The Lord Bishop of Derby: My Lords, I declare an interest as vice-chair of the Children’s Society. I join other noble Lords in expressing horror at the findings of the Children’s Commissioner’s report. It is vital that children are treated as children at all times. Can the Minister reassure the House that children are treated and recognised as children within every aspect of the criminal justice system?
The Bishop of St Albans received the following written answer on 6th February 2023:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans asked His Majesty’s Government how many reported instances of stop-and-search occurred in Hertfordshire in (1) 2022, (2) 2021, (3) 2020, and (4) 2019.
Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con): The Home Office collects and publishes stop and search data on a financial year basis. The table below shows the number of stop and searches recorded by Hertfordshire Constabulary in the last four financial years. This includes searches under section 1 of the Policing and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (and associated legislation) and section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.
The Bishop of Gloucester received the following written answer on 13th December 2022:
The Lord Bishop of Gloucester asked His Majesty’s Government, further to the remarks by Lord Bellamy on 28 November (HL Deb col 1561), what plans they have to announce (1) the timeframe, and (2) the terms of reference, for the Royal Commission on the criminal justice process, as announced in the Queen’s Speech on 19 December 2019.
On 28th November 2022, the Bishop of Gloucester asked what progress the government had made towards implementing the recommendations of the 2017 Lammy Review:
The Lord Bishop of Gloucester: To ask His Majesty’s Government what progress they have made towards implementing the Lammy Review, published on 8 September 2017.
Lord Bellamy (Con, Ministry of Justice): My Lords, the Lammy Review, which the Government warmly welcomed, made 35 recommendations and the Government undertook actions in respect of 33 of them; only two others relating to the judiciary were left on one side. We have now completed 29 out of the 33, and outstanding actions continue in respect of the remaining four. Since the Lammy Review in 2017, our work has evolved considerably and the Government’s Inclusive Britain strategy, published in March this year, is central to this work.
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