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Call for Evidence

Call for evidence


On 30 August, shortly after the nurse Lucy Letby refused to appear in court to hear her sentence for murdering 7 babies handed down, the Government announced that it would “create a new power for judges to order an offender to attend their hearings and make it clear – in law – that force can be used to make sure this happens.”1

On 3 October 2023, against a background of concerns about the capacity of the prison estate, the Secretary of State for Justice announced “new measures that will allow the government to rent prison cells overseas to ensure dangerous offenders can be locked up for longer.”

In the King’s Speech on 7 November 2023 the Government announced that it would “act to keep communities safe from crime [and] anti-social behaviour” and pass legislation “to empower police forces and the criminal justice system to prevent new or complex crimes.”[1] A Government press release added that it would be “giv[ing] the police powers to drive crime and anti-social behaviour off our streets, tackling everyday crime that can cause misery to families across the country.”[2]


Government proposals

The Bill contains a wide range of measures, including the introduction of new criminal offences and the extension of police and court powers. Those that are of particular interest to the Joint Committee on Human Rights include:

  • Powers for courts to compel offenders to attend their sentencing hearings and for prison officers to use reasonable force for this purpose (clause 22);
  • A power for the Secretary of State to issue warrants for the transfer of prisoners to prisons in foreign countries; together with a requirement that the Secretary of State appoints a person to report on the running of the prison and the prisoner’s return (clauses 27 and 28);
  • An expansion of police powers to carry out drug testing on persons after they have been arrested or charged (clauses 15-17);
  • New police powers to enter and search premises without a warrant where there is a reasonable belief that stolen goods are present (clause 19);
  • The extension of the use of polygraph testing (clause 31);
  • Extending electronic monitoring requirements for those on serious crime prevention orders (clause 34);
  • Provisions to tackle “nuisance begging” and “nuisance rough sleeping” to coincide with repeal of the Vagrancy Act 1824, including civil measures and new offences criminalising begging in certain locations and refusing to provide personal details to the police (clauses 38 to 63);
  • Provisions to tackle antisocial behaviour, including reducing the lower age for issuing Community Protection Notices, backed by criminal sanctions, from 16 to 10 and extending the power to make Public Space Protection Orders to the police (clauses 67 and 68);
  • Imposing a duty on to the College of Policing to introduce a code of practice about ethical policing, which must include a duty on chief officers to take actions to secure that their officers act ethically and, in particular, “in an open a transparent way” (clause 73).

Human rights engaged

The Joint Committee on Human Rights carries out scrutiny on legislation that engages human rights.

Measures designed to enhance the state’s ability to fight crime and disorder obviously have the potential to protect against human rights violations and to enhance the rights of victims. However, criminal justice measures may also have the potential to interfere with the rights of witnesses, suspects and offenders.

The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), which has been incorporated into domestic law through the Human Rights Act 1998, includes a number of rights that may be engaged by the measures proposed in the Criminal Justice Bill. For example:

  • The right to respect for private and family life and the home is guaranteed under Article 8 ECHR and will be engaged by powers that allow for interference with personal privacy or bodily integrity, potentially including powers to search premises, to impose drug testing, electronic monitoring or polygraph testing and powers affecting prisoners’ contact with family.
  • The right to liberty under Article 5 ECHR may be engaged by measures that hinder prisoner’s rehabilitation and by powers to compel offenders to attend their sentencing hearings (backed by sanctions of imprisonment).
  • Article 2 ECHR imposes an obligation to carry out an effective investigation where people have died or suffered life-threatening injuries. Investigations in which the conduct of public authorities is in question, in particular, may be assisted by the imposition of a duty of candour on police officers.

Other international human rights instruments may also be engaged by the proposals in the Bill. In respect of the proposed measures concerning begging, rough sleeping and antisocial behaviour, for example, we note that the UN Human Rights Council has called for the elimination of legislation that criminalises homelessness[3] and that the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has repeatedly called for the minimum age of criminal responsibility in the UK to be raised.[4]

Get involved

To help inform our legislative scrutiny we would welcome evidence from interested groups and individuals. The Joint Committee on Human Rights invites submissions of no more than 2,000 words.

The deadline for submissions is 14 January 2024

In particular, the Committee is interested in receiving views on the following:

1. Do the clauses of the Bill that would allow for the transfer of prisoners to foreign prisons give rise to any human rights concerns, including under Article 5 ECHR (the right to liberty) and Article 8 ECHR (the right to respect for private and family life)?

2. Do the proposed changes in the law to ensure that offenders attend their sentencing hearings, including permitting the use of force, meet human rights standards?

3. Would increased police powers to impose drug testing and/or to search premises without a warrant proposed in the Bill contain adequate safeguards to prevent breaches of human rights, including the right to respect for private life and the home under Article 8 ECHR?

4. Does the proposed expansion of the use of polygraph testing comply with human rights including the right to respect for private life under Article 8 ECHR and the right not to self-incriminate under Article 6 ECHR (the right to fair trial)?

5. Are the new measures proposed to deal with “nuisance begging” and “nuisance rough sleeping”, including the criminal offence of “engaging in nuisance begging”, compliant with human rights standards, including Article 8 ECHR (the right to respect for private and family life)?

6. Do proposed changes to powers to tackle antisocial behaviour, including reducing the lower age for issuing Community Protection Notices and extending the power to make Public Space Protection Orders, include sufficient safeguards to comply with human rights, including under the ECHR and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child?

7. The Bill would require the College of Policing to introduce a code of practice on ethical policing, which must include a “duty of candour”. What impact would this have on the protection of human rights, particularly the investigative obligations under Article 2 ECHR (the right to life)?

8. Does the Bill give rise to any other significant human rights concerns?

Important information about making a submission

 Written evidence must address the questions as set out above, but please note that submissions do not have to address every point. Guidance on giving evidence to a select committee of the House of Commons is available here.

In line with the general practice of select committees the Joint Committee on Human Rights is not able to take up individual cases. If you would like political support or advice you may wish to contact your local Member of Parliament.

The Committee will decide whether to accept a submission and whether to publish it on its website. All written evidence will be considered by the Committee, whether or not it is published. If your submission is accepted by the Committee, it will usually be published online and will be available permanently for anyone to view. It can’t be changed or removed. If you have included your name or any personal information in your submission, that will normally be published too. Please consider carefully how much personal information you need to share. If you include personal information about other people in your submission, the Committee may decide not to publish it. Your contact details will never be published.

If you would like to ask the Committee to accept your submission confidentially (meaning it won't be published), please say so the start of your evidence, and tell us why. This lets the Committee know what you would like but the final decision will be taken by the Committee.

If your evidence raises any safeguarding concerns about you or other people, then the Committee has a responsibility to raise these with the appropriate safeguarding authority. If you have immediate safeguarding concerns about yourself or someone else or specific allegations of illegal practices, you should contact the Police on 999.

We can’t publish submissions that mention ongoing legal cases – contact us if you are not sure what this means for you.

[1] The King’s Speech 2023

[2] Press Release from Prime Minister’s Office, “Criminal Justice at the heart of the King’s Speech”, 6 November


[3] Human Rights Council Resolution 43/14 (2020)

[4] UNCRC, Concluding observations on the combined sixth and seventh periodic reports of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, 22 June 2023

This call for written evidence has now closed.

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