The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill: Fair Trials' Committee Stage Briefing
The fairness and equality of criminal justice in England and Wales, and its ability and capacity to deliver such justice in line with national and international human rights standards, is already seriously under threat. Criminal courts are under severe strain due to the growing backlog of criminal cases, the UK has one of the highest prison populations in Europe, and thousands of people are being held in prison waiting for a trial beyond legal limits, with many being held in cells for more than 23 hours a day, and discriminatory policing and criminal justice outcomes are rife.
However, the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill (‘the Bill’) fails to address these urgent challenges. Instead, the Bill threatens yet more headline-grabbing “tough on crime” measures to distract from the real crisis in our justice system. Numerous provisions in the Bill also threaten to infringe established human rights standards including the right to a fair trial, and threaten to exacerbate the already widespread discrimination in policing and criminal justice. While Fair Trials understands the need to tackle serious violence and offending, the solutions proposed by the Bill – centred on more policing, more arrests, more offences, and more imprisonment – are unlikely to deliver the desired results.
Significant concerns have already been raised regarding the impact of the Bill on the right to protest and disproportionate increases in maximum sentences for crimes deemed politically-sensitive. Fair Trials shares these concerns and supports the movement to remove these provisions from the Bill. However, in this submission we wish to draw the Committee’s attention to other aspects of the Bill which we believe should be subject to equally intense scrutiny.
The Bill is incredibly lengthy, containing a significant number of provisions that have long-lasting, serious implications on human rights. It is essential its provisions are carefully scrutinised, and that the Bill is not rushed through Parliament.
This submission considers:
- The serious violence data-sharing duty and concerns about the impact of police involvement, the sensitivity of the data shared, and use of the data by police;
- Serious Violence Reduction Orders, which will extend criminalisation and give further discriminatory stop and search powers to police;
- Excessive extraction of data from mobile devices without safeguards;
- The criminalisation of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people via provisions on ‘unauthorised encampments’;
- Plans to expand the use of remote hearings via video and audio links in criminal proceedings raise significant concerns regarding equality and the right to a fair trial; and
- The removal of the presumption against pre-charge bail which undermines the presumption of innocence.