Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
15 March 2021
The Joint Committee on Human Rights is calling for evidence on the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.
This extremely wide-ranging Bill, launched into the House of Commons on March 9, will be debated in Parliament today and tomorrow. There are particular concerns that it will grant greater powers to police to limit the right to protest, brought into focus by recent events.
Lots of diverse matters are included in the Bill, from criminal damage to memorials to homicide reviews and from unauthorised encampments to court and tribunal procedures. The Joint Committee notes that some elements, such as the proposal to tighten the criteria for custodial remands of children and the proposal to extend the sexual offence of abusing trust to cover sports and religious settings, would enhance the protection of human rights.
However, the Committee has concerns about the human rights implications of other elements of the Bill.
In particular, the Committee is concerned that a number of the Bill’s proposals may involve interference with rights guaranteed through the Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA) and Articles of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), including Article 5 (the right to liberty); Article 7 (no punishment without law); Article 8 (the right to respect for private and family life, the home and correspondence); Article 10 (the right to free expression); Article 11 (the right to free assembly) and Article 14 (the right not to be discriminated against in the application of the other rights). Sentencing measures that concern children also give rise to concerns regarding compliance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).
- The Bill contains enhanced police powers to deal with public order and wider offences and increased sentences for breaching conditions imposed on assemblies and processions by the police. These proposals have significant implications for the right to protest, an aspect of the rights to free speech and free assembly.
- The Bill contains a new offence targeted at persons residing on land without permission, coupled with powers to seize property. These have implications for the right to respect for the home and the right to peaceful enjoyment of possessions, of both the landowner and the resident, and may have a disproportionate impact on particular ethnic groups.
- The right to respect for private life is engaged by the Bill’s proposed power to extract information from electronic devices.
- The Bill also proposes a number of changes to sentencing, including extending the use of ‘whole life orders’ and altering sentencing for children and young people, with ramifications for the right to liberty and the rights of victims. Changes to community sentences also give rise to concerns about respect for private life and the home.
Terms of reference
The Joint Committee has released a call for evidence on this Bill and is interested in submissions from the public that address the following:
- Does the power to extract information from electronic devices set out in Chapter 3 of Part 2 of the Bill comply with the right to respect for private life (Article 8 ECHR)?
- Are the proposed changes to the law governing public assemblies, processions and one-person protests necessary to protect those adversely affected by such activities? Do the proposals in Part 3 of the Bill adequately protect the right to peaceful assembly (Article 11 ECHR) and the right to free expression (Article 10 ECHR)?
- Are the new powers in Part 4 of the Bill targeting unauthorised encampments justified by the need to protect the rights of landowners and other users of the land?
- Do they contain adequate safeguards against abuse?
- Do these proposals adequately respect the rights of the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities?
- Are they discriminatory?
- Do the changes to custodial sentences in Chapter 1 of Part 7 of the Bill represent proportionate interferences with the right to liberty? In particular:
- Should the application of whole life orders be extended, including to 18-20 year olds?
- Do the proposed changes to mandatory life sentences for children adequately respect their human rights, including their rights under Article 37 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC)?
- Is the restriction on reviews of the minimum term for sentences of detention during Her Majesty’s pleasure justified?
- Would the referral of high-risk offenders to the Parole Board rather than automatic release raise concerns under Article 5 and/or Article 7 ECHR?
- Do the proposed changes to the power to impose curfews in community sentences, set out in Chapter 2 of Part 7 of the Bill, have implications for human rights – particularly under Article 5 ECHR?
- Would the introduction of ‘electronic whereabouts monitoring requirements’ into youth rehabilitation orders adequately protect the right to respect for privacy under Article 8 ECHR and Article 16 UNCRC?
- Does the Bill overall correctly balance the rights of victims and the rights of the accused and convicted?
- Does the Bill give rise to any other human rights concerns?
Please note that the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill contains clauses which appear to cover ground that the Committee anticipated would be covered by the Police Powers and Protections Bill; the Serious Violence Bill; and the Counter Terrorism (Sentencing and Release) Bill. Interested groups and individuals who have already submitted evidence to the Committee on any of these Bills are asked not to resubmit their evidence. Evidence already received in respect of these Bills will be treated as evidence submitted in respect of relevant provisions of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
Please send submissions of no more than 1,500 words through the online portal by Friday 14 May.