The Police, Crime, Sentencing & Courts (PCSC) Act contains some important measures to tackle some of the most pernicious crimes and create a more efficient criminal justice system. Some of the key measures the Act contains are:
- Whole Life Order for child killers
- Giving judges the power to award whole life sentences to those aged 18 to 20 in exceptional cases - such as terrorist acts causing mass loss of life
- Preventing the automatic early release for those convicted of serious sexual and violent offences
- Doubling the maximum sentence for assaulting workers in emergency services
- Creating a criminal offence for drivers who kill when under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Protecting children and young people in vulnerable positions from sexual abuse and exploitation by extending the scope of positions of trust legislation
- Cracking down on knife crime making it easier for the police to stop and search known knife carriers who are suspected of carrying a blade
- Tackling unauthorised traveller encampments
- Establishing Secure Schools – a new type of custodial setting for young people with education, health and purposeful activity at its heart.
- Requiring schools, police, councils and health authorities to work together through Violence Reduction Units to prevent serious crime.
- Improving employment opportunities for ex-offenders.
I am, of course, aware of specific concerns surrounding the right to protest and I want to assure you that this Act does not restrict these rights. The provisions in this Act which relate to protests stem from proposals made by the Law Commission, an independent group of legal academics, practitioners and members of the judiciary. They recommended in 2015 that the definition of ‘annoyance’ – a word used frequently in English law – be clarified in relation to public nuisances and order and Clause 59 of the PCSC Act simply reiterates this. Events such as Sarah Everard’s vigil and peaceful protests and demonstrations will remain unimpacted by the provisions in this Act. It establishes a framework to ensure that protests can be managed safely and avoid repeating the scenes of entire public transport networks brought to a standstill and the prevention of ambulances from quickly reaching hospitals and patients seen last year.
Finally, during the Act's passage through Parliament, I spoke about the importance this Act has for many people, particularly survivors of child sexual abuse (you can find out more about this here). Given the gravity and importance this Act represents in improving the criminal justice system and protecting our community effective, I had no doubt that this Act should continue its passage through Parliament and close examination by MPs and Lords. In addition, much of it reflects core commitments that were made in the Conservative Party Manifesto at the last election.