Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee am 10:30 am ar 15 Tachwedd 2016.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Kevin Brennan Kevin Brennan Shadow Minister (Culture, Media and Sport) (Arts and Heritage)

The clause refers to the penalties that could be handed out to someone guilty of an offence under section 3, or, as discussed earlier, an offence ancillary to such an offence, or indeed an offence ancillary to an offence that is ancillary to the offence under section 3, although that is not specifically mentioned in this clause.

Photo of Kevin Brennan Kevin Brennan Shadow Minister (Culture, Media and Sport) (Arts and Heritage)

And so on, ad infinitum—and perhaps reductio ad absurdum. The penalty envisaged in clause 6 includes

“imprisonment for a term not exceeding 30 years.”

That is a lengthy term of imprisonment. We know that we are talking about some potentially serious offences, but it would be helpful to the Committee and to those observing our proceedings if the Minister clarified the severity of offence that would be likely to attract a sentence of that length. Clearly, that would not apply to all offences that might be committed under the Bill, although these are offences that, as we heard earlier, relate to cultural property of importance to all people, so an offence committed under the Bill would be a serious offence against all peoples of the world.

If the Minister clarified the thinking on the term of imprisonment and on the kinds of offence that might attract that length of sentence, I am sure the Committee would be enlightened.

Photo of Tracey Crouch Tracey Crouch The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

The clause sets the maximum penalty for section 3 offences and the associated ancillary offences. The second protocol obliges parties to make the criminal offences established in their domestic law to meet the obligations of paragraph 1 of article 15 “punishable by appropriate penalties”. A person found guilty of an offence under section 3, or a related ancillary offence, is liable on conviction on indictment to a prison term not exceeding 30 years. The maximum penalty introduced by the clause aligns with related provisions in both the International Criminal Court Act 2001 and its Scottish equivalent, and the Geneva Conventions Act 1957.

At first sight, it may seem surprising that offences of that nature, and ancillary offences, attract the same maximum penalty as war crimes covered by the relevant provisions of the 2001 Act, but that flows naturally from the seriousness with which those offences are considered under international law. It is worth noting and stressing that that is a maximum penalty. In practice, the sentence may be much shorter, or even a fine. The maximum sentence is likely to be reserved for only the most heinous crimes against cultural property. Each sentence must be considered case by case, and the Government believe that it should be left to the courts to determine the appropriate penalty based on the facts of the individual case.

The offence in clause 3 could be committed in a wide range of scenarios, with an equally wide variety of possible ancillary offences. I do not think it would be right for us to attempt to address that variety of scenarios by setting different penalties in the Bill. If an individual was responsible for deliberately destroying one of our national cultural landmarks during an armed conflict, I am sure we would wish to see the severest punishment. Likewise, we would want a similar sentence to be available for an individual who masterminded such destruction, or an army commander who ordered it as part of a campaign in full knowledge that the object in question was protected cultural property. That should also apply to UK nationals taking part in cultural destruction of a similar nature during an armed conflict overseas. Accordingly, the maximum penalty is considered appropriate for ancillary offences, as well as for the principal offence.

The clause reflects the seriousness with which the UK views serious violations of the second protocol. It is consistent with existing UK legislation and allows the UK successfully to meet its obligations under that protocol.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 6 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 7