JCHR Press Notice 07-08 No 14


Report Published: 11am Friday 25 January 2008

JCHR sets out concerns about serious rights and freedoms implications of criminal justice and immigration bill

The Joint Select Committee on Human Rights today warns about measures in the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill which would infringe human rights in the UK and which should be amended or dropped.

The Bill was described by Government as an exercise in “rebalancing the criminal justice system in favour of the law abiding majority” but lays out proposals across policy areas as diverse as blasphemy laws, dealing with prostitution, youth offending and the proposed ban on prison workers striking, with many serious implications for the rights and freedoms of UK citizens.

Andrew Dismore MP, Chair of the Committee said: “This is yet another criminal justice bill with potentially enormous implications for human rights in this country. Many of the most controversial parts of the Bill were added late in the day and there has been little or no chance for them to be debated in the Commons. We have serious questions about the Government’s justification for some of these proposals, in particular whether the Government is seeking to protect public safety in the face of genuine threats or using legislation to deal with exaggerated public perceptions about crime levels.

“We look to the House of Lords to ensure that the proposals in this Bill are appropriate and proportionate to the ends being sought.”

The Committee expresses a series of concerns about the Bill’s provisions including;

- the Bill lacks adequate safeguards around the detention or imprisonment of children, and fails to ensure that children will get publicly funded legal representation. The Committee also has concerns about the legal framework for the new “community sentence for youth”, the Youth Rehabilitation Orders

- the Committee calls for the proposed limit on compensation to the victims of miscarriages of justice - for example, someone who had been wrongly convicted of a criminal offence and spent time in prison - to be scrapped

- the new crime of possessing “extreme” pornography is too vague and the criteria too subjective

- whether the Government has got the balance right on people’s right to defend themselves and their homes

- the new “Violent Offender Orders”, designed along similar lines to ASBOs and intended to “prevent future harm” by someone already convicted of a criminal offence, are not well defined and represent another resort to methods of control outside the proper criminal process, which the Committee says is not sustainable

The Committee also questioned the independence of the proposed new Commissioner for Offender Management and Prisons. This proposal has now been dropped by the Government. Committee Chair, Andrew Dismore MP, said “I am pleased the Government has seen sense and dropped the plan to replace the independent Prisons and Probation Ombudsman with a new Commissioner, who would have been a creature of Government”.  / ENDS

Notes to editors:

1. For all media inquiries and bids please contact Jessica Bridges-Palmer 020 7219 0724

2. The Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) publishes its Fifth Report of Session 2007-08, Legislative Scrutiny: Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill, on Friday 25 January 2008 at 11.00a.m. as House of Lords Paper HL 37 and House of Commons Paper HC 269.

The reports will be available from The Stationery Office (tel: 0870 600 5522), Parliamentary Hotline Lo-call 0845 7 023474, Email: book.orders@tso.co.uk, Internet: http://www.tso.co.uk/bookshop, TSO shops, The Parliamentary Bookshop, 12 Bridge Street, London SW1A 2JX (tel 020 7219 3890) and through good booksellers.  They will also be on the Committee's website at the address below on the day of publication.