I used Justice Questions today to ask the Lord Chancellor if he was confident that the law was on the side of the police and the law-abiding public in light of the disruptive Extinction Rebellion protests last year and the criminal damage and violence we saw over the weekend. Here’s what I said:
“Following the immensely disruptive Extinction Rebellion protests last year and the violence and criminal damage we saw committed over the weekend by a small minority of thugs, is my Right Honourable Friend confident that the law as it stands is on the side of the law-abiding majority and our brave police officers who have really stood up and been counted over the last couple of months?”
Today I was able to ask the Home Secretary about the atrocious violence towards police officers and the criminal damage we have seen over the weekend, including the defacement of the statue of Winston Churchill in Parliament Square on the 76th Anniversary of D-Day.
The minority of thugs and vandals behind this must be brought to justice and face robust repercussions for their ignorant actions.
After the Extinction Rebellion protests last year and the disorderly scenes this weekend, it’s vital that the right balance is struck between upholding people’s right to peaceful protest and ensuring police have the powers to come down hard and fast on criminal damage and mass disruption.
The law-abiding public expect us to get this balance right and I’ll work to ensure the police have everything they need to maintain public order on our streets.
Thank you to everyone who wrote in about with their latest views on the Government’s plans to introduce a quarantine for international arrivals from next week. On Wednesday, I got the chance to share them in a question to the Home Secretary in the Chamber.
It is disappointing that the quarantine was not introduced earlier when there were deep concerns during the peak of Covid-19 that 15,000 people were still flying into the country every day and the impact this could have on public health. I called on the Government at the time to introduce much stricter controls at the border.
Now on balance I think it’s right that this quarantine still goes ahead because preventing a second wave of the virus must be the top priority. But we also have to factor in that we aren’t where we were a number of weeks ago and other considerations are becoming increasingly important. In the Chamber I mentioned the particular contact I’ve had with people who have loved ones, including spouses, in other countries who are now hoping to make plans to visit them after months apart.
That’s why I called on the Home Secretary to take a flexible approach towards the quarantine moving forwards. We need robust health measures at the border but we must also be prepared to strike a balance where it is safe to do so.
Yesterday (05/06/20), Tom Hunt, MP for Ipswich, made a speech during the third reading of the Sentencing Bill in which he called for criminal sentencing to be tougher, clearer, and more honest to build public confidence in the justice system.
Hunt welcomed this particular Sentencing Bill which will pave the way for complex sentencing law to be simplified. Currently the complexity of the law often leads to the justice process being drawn out and more successful appeals due to errors made by judges in sentencing. Hunt was clear that the greatest beneficiaries of this will be victims who are the ones who suffer the most from protracted court cases and confusion about what the law really says.
While Hunt welcomed this Bill as a step in the right direction, he was also clear that there is more work needed to be done to build up the public’s confidence in our sentencing regime.
Hunt said sentencing must be clearer across the board. He specifically raised the Court of Appeal’s decision to reduce the sentence of Kyreis Davies, one of the men convicted for the murder of Tavis Spencer-Aitkens in 2018, from a minimum of 21 years to just 16 years. In an emotional moment in the chamber, Hunt described how the opaque appeals process and the lenient result the judge had come to had left him and Tavis’s family confused and frustrated, and without a clear explanation of what had happened. Hunt said that while this Bill would make sentences easier to understand, a more comprehensive approach is needed across the whole justice system to make justice clearer to victims and the public.
In his speech, Hunt also emphasised the importance that sentences are honest and ‘do what they say on the tin’. Currently, many petty criminals are still let out automatically half-way through their sentences, undermining transparency in sentencing and the public’s faith in the justice system’s ability to deter crime. Hunt’s focus on more honest sentencing yesterday follows his readiness in the past to fight against any early release of prisoners. Last month, Hunt had indicated his readiness to rebel over Government plans which would have seen some prisoners released even earlier than the half-way point in their sentences. The plans were cancelled at the last minute.
Hunt’s third call in the Chamber for tougher and firmer sentences has been one of his focuses since his election. Just this week, Hunt was also at the heart of the campaign for tougher sentencing for pet theft, as he chaired a Zoom conference with the figures behind the campaign who launched a petition which is now before Parliament with well over 100,000 signatures.
Following his speech Hunt said:
“This Sentencing Bill is quite a technical piece of legislation but ultimately it will make sentences clearer for the public to understand and reduce the number of appeals and drawn out court cases which are so difficult for victims and their families.”
“This is undoubtedly welcome but it was important to make the point yesterday that we still have a long way to go in building up public confidence in our sentencing regime. I raised the appalling decision to reduce Kyreis Davies’s sentence for the murder of Tavis Spencer-Aitkens. For Tavis’s family this process has never been clear or accessible and they weren’t able to participate in it. I’ve written to Government about this but we are still no closer to understanding why this regrettable decision was made. Going forwards a more comprehensive look needs to be taken at transparency in our courts and putting the law back on the side of victims.
“It’s also crucial that sentences are honest and it’s no longer the norm that prisoners are let out before they have served their full sentence. The majority of the public can’t understand why sentences just don’t do what they say on the tin and prisoners walk free before serving their full debt to society. And there is of course I made the point that there is no substitute for tougher sentences. The sad reality is that when sentences are handed down now there is almost an expectation they will be too lenient and not represent an appropriate punishment nor an effective deterrent against further crime.
“Since my time as a candidate, I promised Ipswich residents I would push for more robust action on law and order, and I will continue to fight for tougher, clearer and more honest sentences in Parliament over the coming weeks.”
Disappointed to hear reports that the Government won’t be extending the free school meal voucher scheme over the summer holidays and I’ve written to the Minister for Children to raise my concerns.
These vouchers have been a real lifeline for families facing great hardship as schools have been closed during the Covid-19 pandemic. A decision to end this scheme too soon will hit Ipswich’s most vulnerable children the hardest and no child must go hungry because of Covid-19.
Hopefully the Government will reconsider this decision over the coming days and of course I’ll be raising this issue on the Education Committee and elsewhere to try to persuade the Government to change course.