Eighth Report Contents

Instruments of interest

Draft Drug Dealing Telecommunications Restriction Orders Regulations 2017

1.Following a report by the Police and National Crime Agency (NCA) in 2016,1 these Regulations provide the police with a mechanism to tackle the issue of urban drug gangs expanding into rural areas by shutting down the phone lines that they use to sell their product. ‘County lines’ is the police term used to describe the approach taken by gangs originating in large urban areas, who travel to locations elsewhere, such as suburban, county or coastal towns, to establish new or take over existing drug markets and sell predominately Class A drugs. County lines gangs actively seek out, recruit and criminally exploit children, vulnerable young people and adults through deception, intimidation, violence, debt bondage and grooming. The phone lines that they use for dealing often cannot be linked to an individual to facilitate prosecution but the ability to disrupt the activity by disconnecting the phone is seen as a practical alternative. These Regulations allow the police or the NCA to apply directly to the civil courts for an order which can then be used to require a communications provider to close down particular phone lines or other communication devices in connection with drug dealing offences. Provision is made for the swift correction of any mistakes and any disabled phones will still be capable of calling emergency services. The NCA report indicates that the majority of these court orders will originate from five police force areas in the urban hubs of London and the North West of England.

Adoption and Children Act Register (Search and Inspection) Regulations 2017 (SI 2017/978)

2.The Department for Education (DfE) has laid these Regulations with an Explanatory Memorandum. DfE explains that the Adoption and Children Act Register (“the Register”) is a database that includes details of children waiting to be adopted and approved prospective adopters. DfE says that, rather than leaving adopters in a position where they might potentially wait for months to be matched with a child, the Government want to give adopters a more active role in identifying children for whom they might be suitable as adoptive parents. From July 2016 to spring 2017 DfE piloted adopter access to the Register with 29 specified adoption agencies, in an approach known as “adopter-led matching”. DfE says that the adopter access pilot was evaluated in 2017 and shown to be successful, with an increase in both the number and speed of matches.2 These Regulations enable prospective adopters approved by any adoption agency to search and inspect the Register.

3.DfE says that adopters will only be able to access specified information about children, which will not enable them to identify or make any direct approaches to the child or their birth family. Adopters will continue to need to work closely with the Register staff, their own social worker, and subsequently the child’s social worker, to follow up any links generated by their search. The final decision on whether the adopter is suitable to adopt the particular child will remain the responsibility of the adoption agency.

Criminal Justice (Sentencing) (Licence Conditions) (Amendment) Order 2017 (SI 2017/985)

4.When preparing for the release of a determinate sentenced offender, supervising officers will consider, on a case by case basis, whether to recommend any additional licence conditions. In order to be lawful, any licence condition, standard or additional, has to be necessary and proportionate to manage the offender’s risk of reoffending and risk of harm. This instrument adds a new category of licence condition, concerning “the restriction of specified conduct or specified acts”. This will be reflected in the Instructions to the Prison and Probation Services.3 Initially, the new licence conditions introduced will prohibit gambling, drinking alcohol, and visiting certain social media websites, each with the objective of giving offender managers an additional tool to try to reintegrate a prisoner safely back into the community and prevent further offending. To be legally enforceable the specific conditions set out in a prisoner’s release plan must be approved by the Governor of the releasing prison, on behalf of the Secretary of State. Should the supervising officer require a condition which falls under the categories but is not included in the Instructions, it will be individually reviewed by the Public Protection Casework Section within Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service.

Social Security and Child Support (Care Payments and Tenant Incentive Scheme) (Amendment) Regulations 2017 (SI 2017/995)

5.These Regulations mirror for Housing Benefits provision made for Universal Credit in an instrument referred to in our 31st Report of last session.4 They undertake not to claw back from state benefits any discounts offered by landlords to tenants who avoid rent arrears as part of an approved scheme. There is only one such scheme at present run by the East Lothian Housing Association. This instrument is intended to accommodate that scheme initially and any subsequent social housing incentive schemes approved by the Secretary of State. This instrument makes similar provision for monies paid by local authorities to people who are providing kinship care to children to be disregarded for the purposes of calculating their social security benefits. Additionally this instrument makes amendments in respect of “continuing care” payments in Scotland which were overlooked last year.

1 NCA, County Lines Gang Violence, Exploitation & Drug Supply 2016: http://www.nationalcrimeagency.gov.uk/publications/753-county-lines-gang-violence-exploitation-and-drug-supply-2016/file [accessed 25 October 2017]

2 The independent evaluation of the pilot was published on 23 October 2017 – see: http://www.adoptionmatch.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/Summary-of-Evaluation-Adopter-Access-Pilot.pdf [accessed 25 October 2017]

3 See Probation Instructions and Prison Service Instructions (shortly to be replaced by Prison Frameworks) at: http://www.justice.gov.uk/offenders/probation-instructions and http://www.justice.gov.uk/offenders/psis [accessed 25 October 2017]

4 See paragraph on Universal Credit (Tenant Incentive Scheme) Amendment Regulations 2017 (SI 2017/427) in our 31st Report, Session 2016–17 (HL Paper 154).

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