The controversial Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill has been introduced to the House of Lords and awaits a second reading. The proposed legislative changes sparked outrage across the nation earlier in the year, with protesters calling upon the government to “kill the bill”.
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What’s it all about?
The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill proposes legislative changes across a range of areas, from road traffic measures to the youth justice system. The government says it delivers on its commitment “to crack down on crime and build safer communities”.
Yet critics say it curbs individual human rights, particularly in relation to the controls on demonstrations. If the Bill is passed in its current form, it would enable police to increase the number of circumstances in which conditions can be imposed on protests.
It would also significantly increase sentences in certain areas. For example, the maximum penalty for causing death by dangerous driving, careless driving or driving under the influence of drink/drugs would increase to life imprisonment. Certain prisoners would be required to serve two-thirds of their sentence rather than half. Also, whole life orders could be imposed on 18 to 20–year–olds in exceptionally serious circumstances.
Progress through Parliament
When new legislation is proposed, it must first make it through the House of Commons. It then goes to the House of Lords where there are three readings.
The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill made it through the House of Commons on 6 July 2021. Various amendments were suggested, but the Commons did not approve any of them. Members of Parliament were asked to vote on the matter and the Bill was approved by 365 votes to 265.
The Bill was subsequently introduced to the House of Lords and awaits a second reading. However, peers can spend as much time as they like scrutinising legislation. They may propose amendments before the legislation returns to the Commons for consideration.
It remains to be seen whether the Bill will be enacted into law, and if so, whether any changes will be made.
What does the Bill currently propose?
The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill is formed of thirteen parts. In its current guise, the Bill includes provisions to:
- Introduce measures for the protection of the police
- Introduce legislation for the prevention, investigation and prosecution of crime
- Make changes to the policing of protests
- Create new offences for unauthorised encampments as well as amending existing legislation
- Introduce road traffic measures
- Replace the existing out of court disposal framework
- Amend custodial and community sentences
- Amend the youth justice system
- Legislate for secure schools and children’s homes
- Update court and tribunal procedures
- Introduce measures for managing and rehabilitating offenders
We have outlined some of the specifics below.
With regard to protests, the proposed changes include:
- The Public Order Act 1986 increase the number of circumstances in which the
- police can impose conditions on protests
- The Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 to expand the controlled area around Parliament where protests are banned
- Getting rid of the offence of public nuisance and replacing it with one of “intentionally or recklessly causing a public nuisance”
With regard to unauthorised encampments, the proposed changes include:
- Making it an offence to “reside or intend to reside on land without consent in or with a vehicle”
- Lower the threshold at which the powers in the 1994 Act could be used and allow the police to remove unauthorised encampments
Road traffic measures
With regard to road traffic measures, the proposed changes include:
- Increase the maximum penalty to life for causing death by dangerous driving, careless driving or while under the influence of drugs or drink
- Introducing a new offence of causing serious injury by careless or inconsiderate driving
- Creating a statutory basis for a charging regime for courses that are offered as an alternative to prosecution for certain road traffic offences
- Providing a statutory basis to charge for vehicle removal, storage and disposal fees where the police have removed it
- Remove the need for a physical licence to be produced when a fixed penalty notice is issued, or at court
- Strengthening the rules about surrendering a licence when disqualified
With regard to custodial sentences, the proposed changes include:
- Introduce a statutory minimum to be introduced for certain specified offences
- Introduce a starting point of a whole life order for premeditated offences of child murder
- Allow judges to impose whole life orders on 18 to 20–year–olds in exceptionally serious circumstances
- Make changes to the minimum review process
- Change how minimum terms are calculated
- Require certain prisoners to serve two-thirds of their sentence rather than half
(specified violence and sexual offence)
- Refer certain prisoners to the Parole Board for release rather than release automatically
(if the prisoner is deemed a terrorist threat or a significant threat to the public)
- Give the secretary of state the power to change the release test where prisoners are recalled for a fixed term
- Change the law so that the length of driving disqualifications is extended in line with the new release points for custodial sentences
With regard to community sentences, the proposed changes include:
- Create a power to allow for attendance at appointments to be required at any stage of a community sentence
- Increase the allowable number of daily curfew hours, and the total length of a curfew
- Allow probation to amend the start or end time of a curfew, or the residence of the offender without prior approval from the court
- Provide for pilots of problem–solving courts to take place
- Create a new duty for probation to consult local and regional stakeholders on the design and delivery of unpaid work
With regard to youth justice, the proposed changes include:
- Amending the test for a custodial remand so that it is more difficult to remand a child
- Introducing a statutory duty for courts to consider the welfare and best interests of a child when making a decision on a remand
- Changing detention and training orders to remove fixed lengths, provide that time on remand or subject to certain bail conditions is a time served, and ensure offender benefits from the same amount of early release for all sentences served consecutively
- Changing youth rehabilitation orders to include a standalone tracking requirement, increasing curfew hours and raising the age limit for the education requirement
- Allowing pilots of a tracking requirement as a standalone order and to monitor offenders on high-intensity orders
- Abolish reparation orders
The Bill does make further proposals, but those described above are most relevant to our clients. We promise to remain up–to–date on any legislative changes, ensuring we can advise you accordingly.
If you need a criminal defence solicitor to represent you, contact us today for a free initial enquiry.
Call us on 0333 009 6275. We are available to take your call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.