1.In 2019, the Joint Committee on Human Rights held an inquiry and reported on the right to a family life of children whose mothers are in prison. In 2020, we published our report into Human Rights and the Government’s response to COVID-19: children whose mothers are in prison.
2.During these evidence sessions, and the subsequent reports, we have highlighted the plight of children whose parents are in prison. We heard from grandparents who had stepped in to care for their grandchildren when their daughters were imprisoned and heard from the children themselves about the effect that having a parent, especially a mother who is usually the main care-giver, in prison has on their own lives, and their own human rights. For the purposes of this report, we have drawn on earlier inquiries and evidence, to inform our proposed amendments to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.
3.This issue engages the right to family life, which is protected under Article 8 European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) is also important: Articles 2 (non-discrimination), 3 (best interests of the child), 12 (respect for the views of the child) and 20 (children deprived of family environment) are engaged by this issue.
4.While the pandemic shone a spotlight on the impact of the separation of children from their mothers in prison, these problems were not new. The 2019 inquiry and report called for fundamental changes in four areas:
As our country seeks to recover from the pandemic, we must now address the injustices it has so starkly highlighted. The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill is an opportunity for some of these areas to be addressed. We are in the process of undertaking legislative scrutiny of the Bill, and we will publish our views on the Bill in due course. In the following chapter we set out the problems relating to sentencing of mothers that should be addressed through amendments to the Bill, and our proposals to address these issues are contained in the annex to this report.
1 The Joint Committee on Human Rights, Twenty-Second Report of Session 2017–19, , HC 1610 / HL Paper 411
2 The Joint Committee on Human Rights, Sixth Report of Session 2019–21, , HC 518 / HL Paper 90
3 Throughout this report we refer to children whose mothers are in prison. However, sometimes the primary carer is the child’s father or indeed another person, and we have drafted our amendments to ensure that they apply to all children and their primary carers.
4 The Joint Committee on Human Rights, Twenty-Second Report of Session 2017–19, , HC 1610 / HL Paper 411