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I accept that we have a problem with gangs and some of them involve violence. Just the fear of violence that some gangs engender in local communities is a serious issue that damages the lives of law-abiding people. I understand that the Government are obliged to address the matter seriously. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich was right in suggesting that we should address the cause rather than the effect. This is a social problem. I believe that these measures go beyond what is appropriate for an injunction and are, in effect, an attempt to bypass the due process of the criminal justice system by using the civil courts. In doing so, they replicate some of the problems of other existing control orders and ASBOs. It is worth considering the purpose of an injunction. It is to restrain specified unlawful behaviour where the court is satisfied that it is ongoing or threatened and there is no alternative. It is entirely inappropriate to use an injunction to create an individual code of behaviour for a person to restrict their liberties and force them to behave in a certain way, particularly if they have not committed a crime.
These clauses are very widely drawn. The description of a gang in these clauses might apply to any neighbourhood football team or even something as innocent as a youth choir. Perhaps those of us who are sceptical about this part of the Bill should gang together under that very dangerous gang leader, the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, and call ourselves the Bamboo Tendency. Seriously, I fear that these orders will be used disproportionately against young men, particularly black and ethnic-minority young men, as my noble friend Lady Harris of Richmond has pointed out. The police need to be very careful that these powers are used only where there is genuine violence or a serious provable threat.
There are serious doubts that Part 4 would be found to be compatible with the ECHR in domestic proceedings. In the case of McCann in relation to an ASBO, the House of Lords held that, given the seriousness of the matters involved, at least some reference to the heightened civil standard of proof should apply. It was decided that it was pragmatic that the criminal standard of proof should be indistinguishable from the heightened civil standard and that this should be
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I have little problem with the powers of the new Independent Safeguarding Authority, other than those we rehearsed many times during the proceedings of the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act. We still have misgivings that matters such as unsubstantiated allegations can be revealed to prospective employers and that there is no right of appeal in certain cases. I have no doubt that we will discuss them again in detail in Committee. The Government are already familiar with those arguments from these Benches. In the mean time, I hope that the Government will heed the many voices raised in concern about the inappropriate criminalisation of children in this Bill.
Baroness Finlay of Llandaff: My Lords, like many other noble Lords who have spoken, I shall repeat much of the same ground because I want to comment on the provisions for alcohol. I support the notion of a mandatory code of practice because we need to do something about binge drinking. However, like so many who have already spoken, I have grave concerns about criminalising, in particular, those aged under 18. I fear that it might be counterproductive and could rebound quite badly. Between 2007 and 2008, there were almost 900,000 hospital admissions attributable to alcohol. About 87,000 incidents related to glasses and bottles, and about 70 per cent of accident and emergency attendances between midnight and 5 am were attributable to alcohol. Although there has been a report of a fall in violent crime between 2001 and 2008, the proportion of alcohol-related violent crime sadly remains static.
We have heard many facts today. I will not repeat them all because there is no point. They will all be in Hansard for everyone to read. But we cannot get away from the fact that alcohol impacts on our health and behaviour in a very adverse way. It is alcohol misuse, not its appropriate use, which is the problem. In opening this Second Reading, the Minister outlined the proposed mandatory code of practice for licensed retailers, which includes pubs, clubs, supermarkets and off-licences. Particularly at a time of economic crisis, it is plausible to anticipate a lethal cocktail of increased alcohol consumption among consumers, combined with a stronger
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I feel for the landlord of a well run pub or licensed premises because he has a vested interest in ensuring that his customers are not completely intoxicated and do not impact adversely on others there. That incentive does not exist for the person on the supermarket check-out. The most vulnerable in our societyour childrenare far more conspicuous in a local pub than they are in a supermarket check-out queue, where they can easily look older than they are and present fake identification. I welcome the Governments extension of the mandatory code beyond pubs and clubs, as do bodies such as the BMA, the Royal College of Physicians and other organisations.
I am concerned that well run establishments, many of which are finding it difficult to survive in the current economic climate when they are locked into already financially crippling franchise agreements, will find it potentially punitive and feel that they are further stigmatised within society, rather than being built on as a way of helping people understand how to drink socially and responsibly.
We need to ban irresponsible promotions such as All you can drink for £10 or speed-drinking competitions. I do not know how many noble Lords have been at student events where the students spend a lot of money on their tickets, get dressed up, and then sit around the table having speed-drinking competitions, knocking back glass after glass until one of them finally falls over on the floor. They are then banned from the hotel, or wherever they have been, and they almost take a pride in the number of hotels and establishments that they have been banned from. Some of them, of course, end up in A&E and occasionally some of them die. Some of them fall under tube trains if they are in London, or fall out into the road and under vehicles if they are in other parts of the UK.
The mandatory code must tackle some of the socially embedded behaviours that encourage binge drinking. It must ensure that tap water is freely available everywhere people are drinking, that online and mail order outlets have robust age verification systems in place, and that smaller measures are available when people are buying their drinks.
The noble Earl, Lord Rosslyn, dealt comprehensively and superbly with the issues for children and I commend him on his speech. The real problem is that many of the children who are out there drinking come from chaotic home environments of low socio-economic status. If we drive them away from public places, we drive them into dangerous and secretive areasperhaps along the sides of railway lines, behind high-rise blocks or in car parksto drink in isolation where they are even more vulnerable. I worry that we are not changing the culture of youth drinking but driving young people into a criminalised fraternity, rather than rescuing them from a social environment that has promoted their drinking in the first place.
Children are sometimes under enormous peer pressure to drink and can develop a pride in having some kind of police record. We should empower the police to develop the escort to home policy, which they implement, humanely and brilliantly, on many occasions. They are then able to see what the childs home is like and possibly become the first point of alert that the child is in an emotionally and psychologically dangerous environment.
I welcome the Bills attempt to tackle the culture of binge drinking, which is devastating not only to the individual but to our society at large. When we talk of cost, the price of alcohol misuse extends far beyond economic arguments to our most invaluable commodities: our health, our children and the very fabric of our society. We need to support the fabric for the future generation and not risk a situation arising where the police are faced with charging the younger brothers and sisters of those they have already charged for drinking in a public place.
Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, I intend to concentrate on Part 2, but first I welcome Clauses 104 to 108 relating to the football banning orders. I do not think that anyone has mentioned them so far, apart from my noble friend the Minister in opening the debate. They will ensure that those people who are banned from attending matches in England and Wales will also be banned from attending all regulated football matches in Scotland and Northern Ireland. This puts right an anomaly that has existed since the banning orders were first introduced in England and Wales in 2000. I commend the Government for including the proposal in this Bill. It is a most desirable change and will mean that the police will no longer have to obtain a banning order in more than one jurisdiction against any one individual.
I give notice that I intend to speak in Committee about Part 7, which deals with airport security. I shall argue in CommitteeI shall not do so todaythat the Bill provides an opportunity to extend the jurisdiction of the British Transport Police to operate within airports. The BTP is our only national police force which deals exclusively with the transport industry and I plan to table amendments which will allow your Lordships to consider this. I am pleased that the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, is vigorously nodding his head in approval.
Turning to Part 2, there has been no shortage of attempts over the years to reform the law on prostitution and sexual offences. I have raised these issues in the House on a number of occasions over the past eight years. I first did so during the passage of the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001, which imposed new restrictions on carding, the practice of placing cards advertising sexual services in phone boxes. That Act, I am afraid, had the effect of making it harder for women working in the relative safety of their own flats to receive clients safely, with the consequence that many were tempted to resume soliciting on the streets where the risk of serious assault is 10 times greater. I shall come back to that theme in a moment as I develop my argument.
That Act was followed in 2004 by the publication of the Governments consultation paper, Paying the Price, which, on looking back, is probably the most thoughtful contribution we have had as an attempt to look at the law on prostitution and to reform it sensibly. That consultation paper gave serious consideration to the possibility that local authorities would be allowed to sanction red light toleration zones, with sex workers licensed and regular health checks introduced. This approach is followed in a number of other countries, including Australia and Holland.
Paying the Price was followed by a White Paper in January 2006 and then, in 2008, by the criminal justice Bill which, in its original form, would have introduced compulsory rehabilitation under threat of imprisonment. On the surface, this appeared as a well-meaning effort to try to get people out of the sex industry. It was, however, opposed vigorously by a body called the Safety First coalition, which came into being after the dreadful murders in Ipswich. It is a remarkable collection of individuals and organisations, including religious groups such as Zacchaeus 2000, the Royal College of Nursing, the National Association of Probation Officers, Women Against Rape and the English Collective of Prostitutes.
The purpose of the coalition was to win support for the view that everyone deserves to be safe, regardless of gender, race, occupation or lifestyle. There was general agreement that tackling rape and violent crime are the real priorities and that decriminalising prostitution will assist with that. I spoke against the inclusion of the supervision orders at the Second Reading of the Bill in 2008, as did the noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer, and happily, after a number of meetings with my noble friends who were then Ministers in the Home Office, it was decided to remove those clauses from that Bill and we saw no more of the proposal.
However, I am baffled that that provision is now back in this Bill. It means that anyone arrested for loitering or soliciting would have to attend three meetings with a supervisor approved by the court. It is not an alternative to a fine as failure to comply may result in a summons back to court and 72 hours in jail. So you can envisage a situation where women could end up on a treadmill of broken supervision meetings, court orders and imprisonment. We must bear in mind that the sort of women who are working on the streets and are likely to be picked up are leading dysfunctional and disorganised lives. We are talking not about a regulated sex industry but about a very dysfunctional group of people.
Imprisoning women for this sort of offence goes totally against the recommendations contained in the report written by my noble friend Lady Corston in March 2007. I am sorry that she has not stayed for the debate; she made an interesting intervention early on and I want to answer the point that she made about Ipswich. If she reads this report, she will have the opportunity to see what I said, which is that the Safety First coalition was an Ipswich-based initiative and its approach is widely supported by the people of that town.
Clause 16 is being introduced with Clause 15, which widens the definition of soliciting. It will make it easier for the police to arrest street workers and at the same timethis is the one welcome aspect of the clausewill abolish the definition common prostitute. The other aspects of these two clauses, however, are undesirable. I do not see how the Government can justify defining soliciting as persistent when it takes place twice in three months, which is the provision in the Bill. Occasional would be a more accurate definition.
The question that we should always be asking ourselves, when looking at any legislative proposals on this subject, is: do they increase or diminish the safety of the women who are involved in the sex industry? To say that we want sex workers to be safe is not to condone their way of life, still less to express approval of it. But who are we to cast the first stone? What do we know of the considerations that make a mother or a young woman take such a step, especially during a recession? Is it not better to acknowledge that, whatever these considerations may be, sex workers are entitled, like the rest of us, to receive the security that the law can give them?
It is in that context that I ask my noble friend to look again at the controlled for gain provisions in Clauses 13 and 14 and the penalties contained within them. These clauses were significantly amended by the Government just prior to Report in the other place. Originally, it was to be an absolute criminal offence for a man to have sex with a person controlled for gain whether he knew it or not. This was based on a wholly misguided attempt to criminalise the clients of prostitutes, and drew heavily on the experience of Sweden, which has attempted something similar and where the results are far less successful than some people have claimed. Many commentators and academics, as well as police officers, take the view, and I agree with them, that criminalising clients drives prostitution underground and increases the dangers that women sex workers face.
In the new versions of these clauses, controlled for gain is replaced with force, deception or threats, which is certainly an improvement. That is intended to help women who are trafficked or coerced into prostitution. I support what the Government are attempting to achieve here, because tackling the exploitation and trafficking of women and children is extremely important. I am concerned, however, that the offence will not help to tackle the problem of trafficking, and that it may diminish the responsibility of those who knowingly have sex with a trafficked woman. One of the main priorities in tackling human trafficking is targeting those people who orchestrate, control and coerce and, in doing so, profit from what is modern-day slavery.
The clauses as they stand provide for a person guilty of the proposed new offence only to be fined up to £1,000. Knowingly having sex with a woman who has been trafficked, and who is acting under coercion and not truly consenting, is akin to rape. The difficulty isthis was very much the view in debates in the other placethat a prosecution for rape in the circumstances where a prostitute is the victim, whether she is trafficked or coerced or not, would be most unlikely to succeed.
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What is indisputable, though, is that a £1,000 fine is a wholly inadequate penalty for an offence where a third person is forcing a prostitute to have sex with a client. It is not a minor offence. I support the view that has been expressed to a number of your Lordships by Liberty: that Clauses 13 and 14 should be withdrawn and the Government should consult on whether a new offence is necessary, which would have a more appropriate and proportionate penalty attached to it, and look at what is needed to enable successful prosecutions for rape, kidnapping, false imprisonment or any other relevant charges to be brought in against those who take advantage of vulnerable women. There is a huge difference between consensual situations where sex workers are working voluntarily and situations where women are being coerced and suffer violence.
Clause 20 and Schedule 2 amend the Sexual Offences Act 2003 to give police the power to issue a temporary closure notice in respect of any premises if the officer reasonably believes that within the previous three months the premises had been used for activities related to particular offences and the closure is believed to be necessary. I am concerned that here the Bill is strengthening the proceeds of crime powers without any consideration for the vested interest it promotes, since the police get to keep 25 per cent of any money seized during raids and prosecutions. This establishes the possibility of conflicts of interest that will be very difficult to resolve.
Safe premises are already being targeted. In December police raided premises in Soho, threatening receptionists with being charged with controlling prostitution for gain. Receptionists are sex workers first line of defence against violent attacks and exploitation, and if they are prosecuted, women will be left to work alone. This is something that the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, and I saw together when we visited premises in Soho earlier this year. That would take us into the opposite direction to that where we should be heading. I would much prefer us to follow New Zealands example and decriminalise all prostitution, both indoors and on the street. In the six years that their law has been in operation, women are safer and there is little evidence that I have seen which suggests that there has been an increase in prostitution.
I conclude on the question of premises with some words sent to me by a branch secretary from the Royal College of Nursing. She is called Carol Watts and is from Cambridgeshire, and she has given me permission to quote from the e-mail she sent to me and to a number of your Lordships last week:
I am writing to you following our meeting of RCN Congress last week at Harrogate. During Congress I proposed a motion on behalf of Cambridgeshire branch that this meeting of RCN Congress would urge RCN council to lobby local government to allow up to 4 sex workers to work together legally before requiring a licence. The proposal was for members to consider the impact that de-criminalising prostitution would have on these workers access to healthcare and personal safety. The resolution was passed by 93.46 per cent to 6.54 per cent of all voting members, representing the whole of the UK.
Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate: My Lords, I welcome the Policing and Crime Bill and fully support its important provisions. Given my background of 35 years in the police service, your Lordships will not be surprised to hear that I shall concentrate first on those provisions concerned with the management of our police service.
Policing, like politics, is rarely out of the headlines. It is one of those community activities which while quietly getting on with the job of keeping us safe and secure can easily be taken for granted. It is when things go wrong that the police, for whatever reason, are perceived to be wanting. Critical headlines and columns of newsprint are then written. That is why it is so important for police officers, like politicians, to be accountable to the public whom they serve.
Policing is very important to the security and well-being of everyone in this country. However, the police service must operate within the rule of law. As we know, officers who overstep the mark could well find themselves, quite rightly, before the courts. The police are accountable to the law.
The job of policing has become far more difficult since I was policing demonstrations and interrogating suspects. The advance of science has made policing far more effective in many ways, with 17,500 crimes being detected by matching DNA in 2007-08, including no fewer than 83 homicides and 184 rapes. However, intrusive cameras can also be used to film the police at demonstrations, watching for every hint of overstepping the mark and being used, quite rightly, to call the police to account. Similarly, interrogations are now routinely recorded and filmed, thereby eliminating allegations that police officers have verballed suspects to get a conviction. But still there are demands for more accountability.
In this country, we police with the consent of the public. We do so as civilians in uniform, generally unarmed, with very few greater powers than has the average citizen in the street. But do we really know what the public want? In my experience, the expectations and demands differ from area to area. Noisy youths congregating and making noise and threats may be a problem in one community, whereas a spate of house burglaries and sneak-in thefts are causing a problem in another. Similarly, traffic congestion or road accidents at a local black spot may excite a village, whereas youths riding bicycles on pavements or jumping traffic lights can cause annoyance in a town centre.
There are now more than 14,000 more police officers and 16,000 community support officers than in 1997. This is money well spent, but we need to do more. Police can be made still more accountable and effective by getting them out of offices and reducing the volume of paperwork that they have to deal with. I welcome the work that is going on in this area.
I also welcome the provisions in the Bill that place a duty on police authorities to have regard to the views of the public on the execution of all their functions in
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