Human Rights Committee: mandatory 12 month supervision period restricts proper discretion of courts
Sixth Report: Legislative Scrutiny: Offender Rehabilitation Bill
The Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) today publishes its Report on the Offender Rehabilitation Bill. It welcomes the Bill’s potentially human rights enhancing objectives of taking measures to protect the public from crime, at the same time as focusing on rehabilitation and extending positive support to those vulnerable people who receive short-term prison sentences. However, it remains concerned that insufficient information was provided by the Government (i) to demonstrate the compatibility of the provisions of the Bill with relevant international standards other than the ECHR and (ii) to support its assertion that the proposals have been considered fully in line with the requirements of the Equality Act 2010. The Committee calls on the Government to publish the information which demonstrates this without delay.
The Committee welcomes the Government’s assurance that private providers of probation services are obliged to act compatibly with human rights law but recommends that there should be statutory provision in the Bill setting out the providers’ duties. The Committee calls on the Government to develop clear guidance on the human rights obligations of private probation providers, and to set out how it will monitor the performance of the contracted providers in this regard.
The Committee also:
- expresses concern that the new supervision regime proposed by the Bill imposes a mandatory 12-month period in all cases where the offender is sentenced to a term of imprisonment of more than one day, restricting the discretion of the court;
- expresses concern that custody as a sanction for breach might not be used only as a last resort;
- welcomes, in principle, the particular benefit that may result for the majority of women offenders from the Bill’s extension of supervision and rehabilitation support in the community to all offenders sentenced to under 12 months imprisonment but notes that the terms of the supervision and support should take into account any particular need or vulnerability of the offender; and
- welcomes the Government’s assurance that guidance will be issued to the new providers of probation services on working with women offenders, and asks the Department to report to Parliament on the impact on women offenders of the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms after 2 years have elapsed.
Dr Hywel Francis MP, the Chair of the Committee, said:
- "We welcome those measures in this Bill which should not only help to protect the public from crime but which will also assist in the rehabilitation and support of those who receive short-term prison sentences. We do however have some concerns about the mandatory nature of the new supervision regime.
- Given the proposed changes to the availability of legal aid, and proposed changes to judicial review which will also restrict its availability, we welcome the Government’s assurance that there are no proposals that would restrict the right of offenders to challenge the new supervision requirements by way of judicial review. However, we are currently conducting inquiries into the implications for access to justice of the proposed changes to both legal aid and judicial review, and we will be keeping under review the Government’s assurance."