Amendment 167A (to Amendment 167)

Part of Victims and Prisoners Bill - Committee (7th Day) (Continued) – in the House of Lords am 9:15 pm ar 12 Mawrth 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Lord Bellamy Lord Bellamy The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice 9:15, 12 Mawrth 2024

My Lords, I compliment the noble Baroness, Lady Fox of Buckley, for the force and sincerity with which she put forward her views, as indeed have other noble Lords who have supported Amendment 167, which would go down the road of the resentencing exercise that we have been discussing.

In setting out the Government’s position, I find it hard to improve on the remarks that the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, just made. This is a situation where we are dealing with the potential release of IPP offenders, who have committed mostly very serious sexual or violent offences. One would be overriding the decisions that the Parole Board has already taken, in most cases on multiple occasions, and would be putting the judge in the most difficult position.

Indeed, it is not a resentencing exercise in any normal sense of the word because, in most cases, the tariff has already expired. It is essentially a question of trying to do something different, dressed up as a resentencing exercise, to release persons who have already been held, on many occasions, to be unsafe to release. It is very difficult for the Government to go down that road. Again, there is a real risk, if one does go on that road, of wrongly raising the hopes of those who have put their faith in what is, in the Government’s view, not an appropriate way forward.

I want to add just one or two points. First, as the Committee is aware, I have on previous occasions—and I will do so on future occasions—emphasised the pressures we have at the moment on the prison population. The Government would be only too pleased to create further space in the prison population, or to relieve those pressures by releasing certain prisoners, but we have to consider the interests of public protection. It is not a question of being frightened of the media or of cowering in fear of the Daily Mail; it is a question of the protection of the public.

Any responsible Government would have to think very hard before a process that would allow the release, or that was envisaged to achieve the release—perhaps even unlicensed, without supervision—of large numbers of people in this position. I fully accept that the situation is regrettable. I accept the comments made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, that it is very regrettable that the whole thing arose in the first place. Terrible things may well have been happening back in 2005, but we are where we are. I do not know whether the noble and learned Lord wants to intervene.