Category: Crime

Crime: Sexual Violence

My Lords, rape and other forms of sexual violence have been used as weapons against women in conflicts all over the world. The militias in eastern Congo are violating women as a means of exerting control, humiliation and submission. The abuses in the region are said to account for the majority of the work carried out by international aid organisations. The level of brutality is alarming and leaves victims with physical and psychological wounds. There is a stigma attached to rape which results in many victims being ostracised from mainstream society. The majority of victims are therefore reluctant to report their abuse for fear of rejection by their communities.

Some of the most brutal sexual violence occurred in Srebrenica, which was the worst atrocity on European soil since the end of the Second World War. It is asorry state of affairs that so far only 30 people have been convicted for the 50,000 rapes committed during the Bosnian war.

There are also reports of rape being used as a weapon in Syria. In this regard, I would like to say that the Prophet Muhammad-peace be upon him-instructed his followers not to lay hands on women, children and elderly people in any form of warfare.

Ending sexual violence is central to conflict prevention and peace-building worldwide. It is important that the perpetrators of these heinous crimes are brought to justice. I am pleased that the Government have formed a UK team of 73 experts devoted to combating and preventing sexual violence in armed conflict. The experts will be able to be deployed overseas to gather evidence and testimony that can be used to support investigations and prosecutions.

I wholeheartedly support the plans to deploy UK experts to Libya, Bosnia, South Sudan and eastern Congo. I also support the Government’s decision to provide £1 million in funding to the office of the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict. The Government deserve praise for ensuring that victims of these abhorrent crimes will be given access to the support and justice that they deserve.


Crime: Fraud

Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to address the rise in fraudulent insurance claims.

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what measures they will put in place to tackle fraudulent insurance claims.

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what mechanisms they will put in place to give companies additional support in detecting cases of insurance fraud.

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action they are taking to prevent insurance fraud.

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action they will take to address the rising cost of undetected fraudulent general insurance claims.

The Advocate-General for Scotland (Lord Wallace of Tankerness): Due to improved measurement, prevention/detection capability and consistently raising the profile of insurance fraud both within the industry and in the public domain, the insurance industry has reported an increase in the number of fraudulent insurance claims that are being detected by insurers and through reports from the public who are increasingly playing a role in helping to identify insurance fraud.

The use of specialised software by the Insurance Fraud Bureau (IFB) since 2006 has helped to identify more fraudulent activity in particular areas of the industry, particularly in relation to crash for cash frauds and the involvement of professional enablers, which remains a core focus of attention for the IFB and industry in general.

The insurance industry is an important partner of the National Fraud Authority (NFA) which co-ordinates the implementation of the National Fraud Strategy with partners in Government, law enforcement, the third sector and industry.

As part of this, the NFA works with partners to develop improved information sharing to enable the prevention and disruption of fraudulent activity. The insurance industry is represented by the IFB on a NFA Taskforce to prevent fraud by improving the sharing of information about incidences of fraud across sectors of the economy.

The IFB also shares intelligence and data with, for example, the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau-operated by the City of London Police-the Solicitors Regulation Authority and the Ministry of Justice. Since its formation, the IFB has helped the police make over 426 arrests in connection with organised insurance fraud, resulting in almost 100 convictions to date.

Working with its membership and with the police in joint investigations, the bureau has successfully disrupted actions of criminal gangs concerning crash for cash frauds.

Action Fraud, the national fraud reporting centre run by the NFA, refers individuals and businesses with concerns about insurance fraud directly to the insurance industry’s confidential Cheatline, managed by the IFB.

As part of the insurance industry’s continued commitment to reduce fraud, the operational capacity of the Cheatline was increased in September 2010 and the improvements provide a more enhanced facility to deal with the increase in reports being made, which are complemented by online Cheatline reporting.

Crime and Security Bill: Second Reading

My Lords, this Bill covers many areas of importance that have a significant impact on our civil liberties and our fundamental human rights. These are the very principles on which our democracy was founded. I hope that this legislation will make a contribution to tackling the injustices in our society that it highlights.

Clause 1 relates to the amount of information that officers would be required to record under stop and search powers. I commend the Government for proposing that a number of recording requirements should now be either removed or significantly reduced. Some officers have made reference to a target culture that is prevalent in their everyday duties, so I am grateful that this has been given due consideration. I support measures to reduce bureaucracy and therefore hope that this section significantly reduces the length of the stop and search documentation.

Staffordshire Police successfully reduced the length of administrative time spent on recording information. There is no reason why this good practice cannot be implemented in other police authorities. I am concerned at the stop and search activities undertaken by the police for purposes that are not related to terrorism. I have previously spoken about this issue in your Lordships’ House. Since 1997-8, black people have been almost eight times more likely to be stopped and Asian people are twice as likely to be stopped by the police in comparison with their white counterparts. This situation must be addressed as a matter of urgency.

It is important for the police to retain the respect and confidence of minority groups, which can prove vital in solving crimes and gathering intelligence. Sections 44 and 45 of the Terrorism Act 2000 authorise police to stop and search individuals in the absence of reasonable suspicion. I fear that this situation could have disastrous consequences in all our communities. In fact, only 0.6 per cent of the people stopped under Section 44 powers in the second quarter of 2008 were subsequently arrested. The European Court of Human Rights has also raised concerns about the use of stop and search powers under Sections 44 and 45, stating that they should be used in a proportionate manner.

Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 also does not require police officers to have reasonable suspicion about an individual before they carry out a stop and search operation. The latest figures suggest that 25,294 searches under current legislation were carried out last year in the London Borough of Newham. I was in the area last Saturday and addressed a gathering where there were people of Sri Lankan and Bangladeshi extraction and I spoke to some of them individually. Newham also happens to have one of the largest percentages of ethnic minorities in the country. The activities of the police may send a poor message and possibly breed resentment among the ethnic minorities. Therefore, powers under Sections 44 and 45 of the Terrorism Act and Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 need further examination and reappraisal.

Clause 14 concerns the retention and use of DNA samples. DNA technology is of high importance in detecting and preventing crime. Making use of this system is a question of finding the right balance between applying the law and not compromising the dignity and rights of individuals. I do not dispute the retention of the DNA of guilty individuals. However, I am concerned about the DNA of innocent people. A transparent and consistent approach to the removal of innocent people’s DNA from the database would be most welcome. The current system may cause concern among certain members of our society. For example, 77 per cent of people on the DNA database are black youths, which is disproportionate to the number of convictions brought against this group.

Some police forces refuse to remove DNA samples even when a person is declared innocent once a case has been closed. Research has revealed that only 22 per cent of requests for the removal of DNA samples are granted. Certain police forces agree with the majority of requests, but a large proportion do not. There needs to be consistency and clarity among the processes undertaken in all 43 forces, as the current figures give rise to a postcode lottery. By October 2009, over 5 million DNA samples were on the database. This situation is unnecessary and has rightly drawn criticism from many circles. There is evidence to suggest that less than 1 per cent of crimes are solved due to the DNA database. I would be grateful if the Minister could explain to your Lordships’ House why the DNA database has continued to increase while the number of crimes for which a DNA match is available has continued to decline.

The Bill requires all DNA samples to be destroyed after six years. I would like to see the Scottish system adopted, whereby the DNA of innocent people is not retained at all. I am encouraged by the ruling by the European Court of Human Rights that it is illegal to store one’s DNA indefinitely. The court stated that our DNA database has,

“a blanket and indiscriminate nature”.

That is a criticism of the present system by an institution of great stature. The court also ruled in 2008 that the retention of DNA samples belonging to individuals who had not been convicted of any crime was unlawful and unnecessary in a democratic society.

I welcome Clause 24 and subsequent clauses, as they introduce measures to tackle domestic violence and reinforce the protection of victims after a suspected offence. The subject of domestic violence is something on which I feel strongly and about which I have previously spoken in your Lordships’ House. The intentions of the Government are highly admirable on this issue, but I am concerned as to how domestic violence protection notices and orders will work in practice. It is important that they are not used as substitutes for pursuing proper sanctions in the courts against perpetrators of domestic violence. More police officers should be encouraged to prosecute perpetrators of domestic violence, even in the absence of the victims’ testimony, by reasonable use of circumstantial or medical evidence relating to the offence. Research suggests that approximately 3 million British women are victims of domestic abuse each year. Some 14 per cent of violent offences involve domestic violence. The unfortunate reality is that the actual figure is inevitably higher, as a number of victims do not come forward to report such abuses.

The physical and psychological trauma suffered as a result of domestic violence should be assessed immediately after victims are identified. May I ask the Minister what extra assistance will be given to children who have witnessed domestic abuse? Domestic violence is prevalent in all communities and all classes of people. It is an abhorrent practice, which causes untold harm to the victims and their families.

At this juncture I should like to declare an interest. I am the chairman of an insurance broking organisation that has provided specialist insurance to the security industry over many years. My company has acted as insurance brokers to the British Security Industry Association, as well as to the International Professional Security Association. The security industry performs a valuable service and is now very much part of the extended police family.

I have always believed in maintaining and strengthening standards in the security industry and have applied strict criteria to the acceptance of security companies and personnel under our insurance scheme. We welcomed the enactment of the Private Security Industry Act 2001 and the formation of the Security Industry Authority. I welcome Clauses 42 and 43, which amend and extend the Private Security Industry Act 2001 and will introduce a licence requirement for businesses carrying out vehicle immobilisation or restriction and removal of vehicles.

Clause 43 proposes that the approved contractors scheme under Section 15 of the 2001 Act be extended to those persons who carry out in-house security activities. Certain organisations have in-house security arrangements and this proposal will ensure parity with companies providing security under contract. I welcome the establishment of an independent tribunal, or adjudication system, for release fees applied by wheel-clamping companies, as some motorists may feel that they have been badly treated in this regard. At present, the approved contractors scheme, which is supervised and managed by the Security Industry Authority, is voluntary, but I would like to see this scheme become mandatory for all security companies, as that will further regulate the security industry.

I support Clause 47 and subsequent clauses relating to compensation for victims of overseas terrorism. I spoke in your Lordships’ House when the noble Lord, Lord Brennan, introduced his Bill. I see that he is not in his place, but I appreciate his perseverance.

We must defend the civil liberties and values that are vital to our society. I am particularly concerned about the collection of DNA samples and the use of stop and search powers in relation to ethnic minorities. The current state of affairs does not bode well for community cohesion. The situation in Newham shows that the facts speak for themselves. It is important to ensure that no group feels as though it is the constant target of discrimination.

Although I welcome any provisions to address domestic violence, I feel that the Bill must gain more clarity. I fear that the Bill is not adequately far-reaching in its present state to have a pivotal impact. I sincerely hope that it will be strengthened in Committee.


Crime: Domestic Violence

Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to reduce waiting lists for rehabilitation programmes for the perpetrators of domestic violence.

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action they are taking to ensure that all perpetrators of domestic violence engage in mandatory rehabilitation programmes irrespective of the length of time they spend in prison.

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what extra funding and resources they are making available to agencies that provide rehabilitation programmes for perpetrators of domestic violence.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Bach): The National Offender Management Service is working to reduce waiting times by ensuring all staff are familiar with the referral criteria for perpetrators of domestic violence, and by improved liaison between the offender manager, the programme delivery team, and the court.

Probation areas are delivering more domestic violence programmes than ever before. Also, a further three domestic abuse programmes, which are currently being piloted, will extend the range of interventions available.

Directors of offender management have been appointed to commission services that meet the needs of offenders and sentencers in their area, and to further co-ordinate services across community and custody. To support commissioning a specification, benchmarking and costing exercise is under way which will help directors to maximise the effective use of resources in each of their regions. There are no additional resources being provided.

The National Offender Management Service is also working to further improve value for money by reducing administration and overheads, whilst protecting front-line services wherever possible.

There are currently no plans to make programmes mandatory for all perpetrators of domestic violence. Domestic abuse offenders have diverse needs, some of which can be met by other interventions. As such, not all perpetrators of domestic violence will be suitable for or benefit from the range of programmes that are available. However, there are a number of requirements which can be attached to community sentences or custodial licences, in addition to a supervision requirement, which may be effective for domestic abuse offenders.

Domestic abuse issues can also be addressed on a structured individual basis as well as within a domestic abuse programme. Any intervention with an offender should be completed within a framework of inter-agency collaboration and protection of known victims.

During the waiting period offenders are being supervised by offender managers, where applicable (under MAPPA arrangements), and may be subject to other requirements and are usually engaged in preparation work for the programme they are required to undertake.


Crime: Domestic Violence


Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will assist other local authorities to introduce domestic violence schemes similar to the Living without Violence programme provided by Brighton & Hove City Council.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): We support the introduction of community-based perpetrator programmes. However, it is local partners who have the main responsibility for the services in their area. In our recently published strategy, Together We Can End Violence Against Women and Girls, we set out our commitments over the coming year to assist local areas to ensure that they have the appropriate service provision in place. This includes developing tools to assist areas to assess need and clear guidance for commissioners.

Crime: Domestic Violence


Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action they are taking to increase the amount of community services for victims of domestic violence.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): On 25 November, the Government launched Together We Can End Violence Against Women and Girls: A Strategy. In relation to service provision, the Government have committed to ensuring that violence against women and girls, including domestic violence, is mainstreamed into the joint strategic needs assessment process, enabling the identification of joint or aligned commissioning strategies in response to local needs.

While central government have a role in the provision of some services, the main responsibility for local services rests with local statutory partners who administer the bulk of budgets and the now devolved commissioning responsibilities.

We will continue to invest in specific domestic violence services such as national helplines, multi-agency risk assessment conferences (MARACs) and independent domestic violence advisers (IDVAs).


Crime: Domestic Violence


Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to address domestic violence, in light of its correlation with alcohol consumption.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): There are a number of alcohol arrest referral schemes in operation which aim to reduce reoffending among people arrested for alcohol-related offences. People who are arrested on suspicion of alcohol-related domestic violence in AAR pilot areas may be referred to a domestic violence specialist adviser and encouraged to address their behaviour and the consequences of their unsafe drinking. We will continue to work with our stakeholders to better understand the role that both alcohol and drugs play in contributing to incidents of domestic violence.


Crime: Domestic Violence


Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they will take to ensure that more people who are responsible for inflicting domestic abuse are dealt with by the criminal justice system.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): The Government’s national domestic violence delivery plan sets out our framework for tackling domestic violence. One of our objectives is to improve the justice system’s response to domestic violence by supporting victims and managing perpetrators. Activities which support the delivery of this objective include:

updating domestic violence training for the police and Crown Prosecution Service to ensure a consistent and appropriate response to victims;rolling out to all police forces the new risk assessment checklist which covers domestic violence, stalking and harassment and “honour”-based violence; andincreasing the number of the specialist domestic violence court systems to provide a multi-agency approach to supporting victims thereby bringing more offenders to justice.

We also recently published our government strategy Together We Can End Violence Against Women and Girls, which includes a section on the response of the criminal justice system. One of the priorities is to bring more offenders to justice by improving reporting and conviction rates. We are also currently considering a number of proposals submitted by Chief Constable Brian Moore which address perpetrators of violence towards women and girls and will provide a full response in the new year.

Crime: Domestic Violence


Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to reduce the level of domestic violence nationwide.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): My Lords, the Government are committed to reducing the impact of domestic violence on victims and their families. The Government’s programme for tackling domestic violence can be found in the National Domestic Violence Delivery Plan, which was published as part of the fourth national domestic violence annual report on 21 August 2009. I have arranged for a copy to be placed in the House Library.

Lord Sheikh: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that response. Does he support the view that a greater focus on educating perpetrators of domestic violence is necessary to reduce the domestic violence problem? Can the Government provide additional help for setting up and supporting such initiatives?

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, we take this matter extremely seriously. One of the biggest studies of violence against women and girls, following the violence against women and girls consultation, was published earlier this year. As a result, we are working with private groups, local councils and the police in a raft of areas to make progress with what is a most horrible crime. Some of the statistics in this area are quite awful.

Policing and Crime Bill: Second Reading

My Lords, I welcome the Bill, as there is a general consensus that crime and policing legislation is in need of greater development. The Bill has the potential to introduce reforms that will not only result in the betterment of British society but may extend beyond our shores.

I acknowledge the measures taken since 1997 to provide greater policing accountability at community level. I had hoped that they would result in more officers out on the beat patrolling our streets. However, the statistics reveal that the majority of police officers spend only 14 per cent of their time on patrol, whereas paperwork accounts for approximately 20 per cent of their time. The Bill does not appear to make provision for a reduction in the time that the police spend on office administration. A real opportunity has been missed to address this issue. Very few police officers will testify to having entered the force because they were drawn by the prospect of being stuck in an office with paperwork. Evidence submitted to Sir Ronnie Flanagan’s review of policing stated that in 2006 officers produced in excess of 79,000 stop-and-account forms, which took an estimated 25 minutes each to complete. I hope that the Bill will be strengthened during its passage through this Chamber to ensure that police officers are relieved of the bureaucratic burden so that they can carry out their many laudable duties.

I have previously spoken in your Lordships’ House on the problem of human trafficking and I welcome measures to combat this evil practice. I think that we all agree that human trafficking is equivalent to modern-day slavery. The United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime not only prohibits human trafficking but actively requires countries to strive towards addressing the demand for sexual exploitation.

I support Clause 13, as it will ensure that those who engage in sexual activities with trafficked individuals receive tougher sentences. This is crucial and we hope that it will work as a deterrent to those who are tempted to engage in undesirable relations or in the exploitation of vulnerable people. It is safe to say that a large proportion of society views forced prostitution and human trafficking as wholly abhorrent practices.

With regard to strict liability, this may create some difficulties in enforcement. I would have thought that a serious crime of this nature required the mens rea element of criminal law. The absence of this condition may not sit well with some individuals. My concern is how a man establishes whether a woman has been forced into prostitution. He may not know the owner of the establishment or have met the woman before. We therefore need to look at these provisions fully in Committee.

I support the provision in Clause 20 that will enable courts to issue closure orders where there is evidence that premises are being used for activities relating to certain prostitution and pornography offences. This will help to eliminate undesirable activities and perhaps act as a deterrent to others. I also welcome Clause 18, which creates a new offence of soliciting to replace the existing offence of kerb-crawling. These provisions will, we hope, make our streets safe and stop decent women being accosted.

It is important that we take an holistic view of the problems of human trafficking and look at ways of protecting and rehabilitating women and children who have been subjected to trickery, intimidation and force. I would like to see more provision in this Bill for women who want to leave the sex industry generally. The average age of those who enter prostitution in Europe is frightfully low, at 14 years. Narcotic abuse is also a recurrent theme in the lives of most prostitutes, with a high proportion addicted to class A drugs. A vocal minority extols the virtues of prostitution and feels that it should be legalised, but I disagree with this contention.

I welcome Clause 25, as it increases the penalty for the encryption of indecent images of children from two years’ to five years’ imprisonment in cases of indecency in relation to children or of child exploitation. The abuse of minors in any shape or form is truly heinous; I am pleased that those who engage in this practice will be subject to tougher penalties. I express my gratitude to the Conservative Member for Mole Valley in the other place for his prudent stewardship of this item.

I also welcome Clause 28, which strives to lower the threshold of punishment for vendors who supply alcohol to minors. The provision will mean that an offence is committed if alcohol is sold to an individual under the age of 18 on two or more occasions within three months rather than on three or more occasions. However, this proposal is not far-reaching enough. Shopkeepers who persistently sell alcohol to children should be made aware that this behaviour may result in the permanent closure of their premises. Further measures must be put in place to encourage sensible drinking, as alcohol abuse has a direct impact on crime.

Approximately 1 million people were subjected to alcohol-related violence in 2007 and 2008, according to the British Crime Survey. This figure is compounded by the 26 per cent increase in alcohol-related admissions to A&E between 2005 and 2007. I strongly welcome the stance taken by Her Majesty’s Official Opposition that local authorities should be given the power to apply 24-hour drinking laws at their own discretion. I have previously spoken in your Lordships’ House on binge drinking. Binge drinking is a blight on our society, as it not only damages health and results in accidents and violence but breaks families and makes our streets unsafe in the evenings.

Clauses 96 and 97 relate to the provisions on the retention and destruction of DNA samples. I am aware that instances may arise when the retention of DNA samples contributes to protecting the public from danger, as identified by the Metropolitan Police. I acknowledge that the Government have made attempts to amend this provision in accordance with the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights, but it is probable that the proposed retention periods will cause disquiet in certain quarters. To hold the DNA of individuals who have been arrested without charge on the presumption that they may commit an offence in the future could have undesirable implications, particularly for ethnic minorities.

I asked a Question in this Chamber exactly one month ago about the disproportionate number of black people who are stopped and searched compared with white citizens. Unfortunately, this trend is reflected in the DNA database, which contains information on approximately 40 per cent of black males in Britain compared with 9 per cent of their white counterparts. I therefore urge the police to exercise their powers with care and caution and ensure that there are reasonable grounds for arrest before taking anyone’s DNA.

The retention of DNA generally needs to be scrutinised fully at later stages of the Bill. The powers that the police have under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act have already been criticised, as it is felt that a high proportion of people from the ethnic minorities have been stopped and searched under those provisions. We need to re-examine these powers when we consider the Bill’s provisions to ensure that they are fair and equitable.

The Labour Party manifesto of 1997 famously espoused the maxim:

“Tough on crime and … the causes of crime”.

Twelve years have elapsed and there is very little evidence that this promise has been honoured. Violent crime has increased by almost 80 per cent since 1998, with an average of 400 knife crimes committed per week. I gain no pleasure from describing the disturbing situation in which we find ourselves. Crime and policing should not be party-political issues; it is in the best interests of society as a whole that we propose amendments and scrutinise this Bill, as that will produce tangible results.