Earlier this week, the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill returned to the House of Commons for debate.
I could not countenance voting for this Bill as it threatens to impose draconian restrictions on our freedoms and right to protest and fails to take any steps to address the Conservatives’ failure to tackle the epidemic of violence against women and girls. Far from being tough on crime, the Government’s Bill is tough on the freedoms, rights and civil liberties that all of us enjoy.
I voted to remove those parts of the Bill clamping down on the legitimate right to protest and introducing a new criminal offence for “unauthorised encampments”. Unfortunately, this effort was blocked by Government MPs.
I believe the Bill was a missed opportunity for meaningful change and sentencing reform.
This was a missed opportunity to introduce measures to protect our pandemic heroes from shop workers to frontline workers. I voted for an amendment to the Bill to introduce a specific criminal offence of assaulting a retail worker. Disappointingly, the amendment was voted down by Government MPs.
The Bill was also a missed opportunity to address violence against women and girls. I called on the Government to work with Labour to legislate to properly tackle this epidemic by delivering on sentencing for rape, stalking and domestic homicide as well as addressing street harassment and properly resourcing domestic abuse services. With this in mind, I voted for amendments to the Bill which would have increased the statutory minimum sentence for rape and allowed for the cross-examination of vulnerable witnesses to be recorded rather than live in court. However, Government MPs also voted against and defeated these amendments.
I will continue to press the Government on all these issues and support further efforts to amend the Bill in the House of Lords.