Criminal Justice Bill

JUSTICE briefed MPs on the Criminal Justice Bill ahead of its second reading in the House of Commons.

JUSTICE is concerned that the Bill, introduced on 14 November 2023, seeks to inappropriately treat legislation as a panacea for a range of socio-economic issues, rather than address their underlying causes. We consider that if enacted, the provisions of the Bill would be both ineffective and contrary to the rule of law.

JUSTICE’s briefing sets out the following significant concerns with the Bill:

  • The new offences relating to things used in the commission of crime created by clause 1-3 are overly broad and challenge the rule of law by reversing the burden of proof.
  • The new offences for knife crime in clause 9 will create confusion for enforcement bodies, without offering sustainable solutions.
  • The introduction of a statutory power to require individuals facing a life sentence to attend sentencing hearings, at provided by clause 41, is at best unnecessary and at worst dangerous.
  • The proposals to send individuals to foreign prisons in clauses 25-29 represent an abdication of the Government’s responsibilities, and risk undermining the rights to due process for those in UK prisons.
  • The changes to the Serious Crime Prevention Order regime proposed in clauses 34-37 of the Bill are not supported by evidence and will lead to inconsistency in enforcement.
  • The provisions concerning “nuisance begging” and “nuisance rough sleeping” in clauses 38-36 are discriminatory and dehumanising and will fail to address anti-social behaviour.
  • The expansions of Community Protection Notice and Public Space Protection Orders under clauses 65-71 of the Bill will disproportionately impact vulnerable people and impose greater burdens on local authorities. We are concerned that this may lead to criminalisation creep whereby individuals will be criminalised for innocuous, unharmful behaviour.
  • The introduction, in Schedule 2,  of a “reasonable excuse”  defence where a police officer takes or records an intimate photo of a person without their consent will further undermine the confidence of the public, and in particular women, in the police.
  • The purported “duty of candour” on the police in clause 73 is unlikely to combat institutional defensiveness and falls far short of the proposals called for by bereaved families and survivors of tragedies such as Hillsborough.

December 2023
House of Commons – Second Reading