Legislative Scrutiny: Coroners and Justice Bill - Human Rights Joint Committee Contents


Summary

In this report, the Committee raises the following concerns about the Coroners and Justice Bill.

Coroners reform

The Committee considers that clauses 11 to 13, which provide for the Secretary of State to certify certain inquests so that they can go ahead without a jury and without the participation of the bereaved family, should be dropped from the Bill. The Committee does not consider that the Government has made the case for this provision; the proposal is too broad; and the safeguards against infringement of Article 2 of the European Convention are inadequate.

Whilst welcoming the implementation of numerous detailed reforms of the coroners system, which together enhance the protection and promotion of human rights, the Committee raises a number of detailed points about the scope of the provisions, the proposed reduction in the size of juries in inquests, and legal aid.

Data protection

The Committee also supports the omission from the Bill of clause 154, which provides for the creation of broad Information Sharing Orders. It has numerous concerns about how these new Orders would work in practice which it will report on in more detail if the clause is not withdrawn by the Government, as has been widely reported in the press. It also proposes that the new power, in clause 153, for the Information Commissioner to undertake mandatory assessments of compliance with the Data Protection Act should be extended to the private sector. The Committee supports the Information Commissioner's request for the power to seek sanctions against public authorities who fail to comply with an assessment notice.

Other issues

The report also deals with:

  • witness anonymity orders;
  • reform of partial defences to murder;
  • encouraging or assisting suicide;
  • possession of a prohibited image of a child;
  • public order offences;
  • release of long term prisoners;
  • bail in murder cases;
  • vulnerable and intimidated witnesses;
  • live links; and
  • criminal memoirs

The Committee is critical of the breadth of the Bill and the legal complexity and diversity of the topics it covers, given the limited time provided for scrutiny. The Government should have introduced two or three separate bills, each of which would have been substantial pieces of legislation in their own right.






 
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