“I praise the emergency services and the police for their sensitivity in the way they have addressed this, but they are doing so within a culture that often treats religion as a private matter.”
The House of Lords considered the Government’s Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill in Committee on 22nd November 2021. The Bishop of Leeds spoke in the debate on an amendment to the Bill from Baroness Stowell of Beeston about police procedure on religious rituals or prayer at crime scenes:
The Lord Bishop of Leeds: My Lords, this is very sensitive territory. Dying is sacred and is part of our living. I think I am the only minister of religion here, and I have accompanied many people, including my own father, to and through their death. If you have been party to that, you will know that it is holy territory
One could say that violent death is even more holy because of how that dying has been brought about. It seems that there needs to be religious literacy on the part of the emergency services and the police, and that the religious bodies need also to improve their literacy in relation to the nature of these events and how they are dealt with.
On 22nd November 2021 in the House of Lords Lord Moylan asked the Government “what plans they have to establish a multi-professional strategy for the emergency services concerning the attendance of ministers of religion at the scene of situations involving serious injury”. The Bishop of Coventry asked a further question:
The Lord Bishop of Coventry: My Lords, I greatly welcome the joint study group announced by the cardinal archbishop. Does the Minister agree that good outcomes from that study would include both further training and education to ensure that police officers understand the significance of spiritual comfort at the point of death, for the dying of whatever faith, and an increased role for police chaplaincy?
On 18th May the Bishop of Manchester spoke in the fourth day of debate on the Queen’s Speech, focusing on proposals for policing, building safety and conversion therapy.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Fullbrook, whose wisdom I look forward to hearing more often, for an excellent maiden speech. I also refer to my interests, stated in the register, in policing and housing.
A number of Bills mentioned in the gracious Speech will require our police to enforce new laws and regulations. We have already seen considerable disquiet expressed regarding what might amount to a very significant reduction in the ability of the public to engage in peaceful political protest, particularly where such protests directly or indirectly impact on others. I will reserve more detailed comments on this Bill for when it reaches your Lordships’ House, although I note the wise comments made earlier by the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti. For now, I want briefly to lay it alongside my experience of 12 months of rapidly changing coronavirus regulations.
On many occasions, the precise boundaries between regulations—matters that police can enforce—and guidance, to which they can only direct our attention, have been seriously blurred. Meanwhile, ministerial statements have put pressure on our police to issue fixed penalty notices, but the Crown Prosecution Service is quite clear that an adequate chain of evidence will be almost impossible to achieve.
On 18th May 2021 the Bishop of Gloucester took part in the fourth day of debate in the House of Lords on the Queen’s Speech. She focused on criminal justice, violence against women and girls, and online safety:
My Lords, I too look forward to the maiden speeches of the noble Baroness, Lady Fullbrook and Lady Fleet. In my few minutes, I shall briefly mention women in the criminal justice system, the Police, Crime Sentencing and Courts Bill, violence against women and girls and the online safety Bill. I refer to my interests in the register, as Anglican bishop to prisons.
I begin by asking: when will we see a renewed timetable for the 2018 female offender strategy? While I welcome the implementation of some of the deliverables, analysis by the Prison Reform Trust shows that the Government have met less than half the commitments. The concordat published last year does not appear to have been progressed. Then there was that shocking announcement of 500 new prison places for women, totally at odds with the strategy’s direction to reduce the number of women in prison. What evidence is it based on, and why is the designated £150 million not being spent on women’s centres and implementing the concordat?
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.
On 4th March 2020 Lord Campbell-Savours asked the Government “what assessment they have made of the management of investigations into historic sexual offences.” The Bishop of Salisbury, Rt Revd Nicholas Holtam, asked a follow up question:
The Lord Bishop of Salisbury: My Lords, can the Minister explain how we will learn from the sorts of examples that we have had—for instance, the case of Sir Edward Heath in Salisbury—unless there is an independent review? In the past, we have been told that the Home Office cannot do that and that it is the responsibility of the police and crime commissioner. The police and crime commissioner for Wiltshire says that the police force there was acting as a lead authority on behalf of others. We need to accept that more than 40 allegations had to be investigated. How will we learn unless there is a review, and what can the Home Office do that will help to restore the reputation of both Sir Edward and, I have to say, Wiltshire Police? Continue reading “Bishop of Salisbury calls for independent review into Wiltshire Police handling of allegations against Sir Edward Heath”
On 3rd September 2019 Baroness Neville-Rolfe asked the Government “what steps they plan to take to support the Crown Prosecution Service in prosecuting, and the courts in sentencing, those involved in gang-related offences, illegal migration and petty offences”. The Bishop of St Albans asked a follow-up question:
Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, I share with many others gratitude for what the Government are doing to have an integrated approach to serious violence and youth violence in particular, and I welcome having more police because we need to have safer streets. But by the time we get to prosecuting and sentencing it is all too late. Very often people have been left injured and dead. How much are we investing way before that, particularly at school level?
Will the noble and learned Lord say a little more about what support is being given to our schools? In particular, when, for example, children are found with knives, does this trigger a safeguarding response so that we are trying to deal with the causes, rather than just the results?
On 1st May the Bishop of St Albans, Rt Revd Alan Smith, received a written answer to a question on guidance to police about street preachers, and religious literacy training:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: HL15288 To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Williams of Trafford on 3 April (HL14707), whether the Home Office provides any particular guidance to police officers in relation to freedom of speech and street preachers; whether police officers receive training on religious literacy; and if so, whether any such training is mandatory.
On 6th February 2019 Rt Revd Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham, received a written answer to a question about Police widows pension entitlements.
The Lord Bishop of Durham: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by the Minister of State for Policing and the Fire Service on 24 January 2018 (123402), what plans they have, if any, to amend the Police Pensions Regulations 1987 and the Police (Injury Benefit) Regulations 2006 to equalise the support given to the widows of police officers. [HL13065]