Offender Rehabilitation Bill receives royal assent

20 March 2014

The Offender Rehabilitation Bill returned to the House of Lords on Tuesday 11 March for consideration of Commons' amendments.

Former Chief Inspector of Prisons, Lord Ramsbotham (Crossbench), suggested an amendment that would require parliamentary approval before any reforms to the structure or provision of probation services take place. Members voted 243 in favour and 263 against the proposal, so the change was not made.

The Offender Rehabilitation Bill has now completed its passage through Parliament. It received royal assent and become law on Thursday 20 March.

Lords third reading: Tuesday 9 July 2013

Members began by discussing an amendment to ensure the needs of female offenders were recognised within the bill. The government spokesperson confirmed this commitment would apply to both private providers as well as the public sector probation service. The amendment was agreed without a vote.

Peers then focused on proposals for a pilot scheme of veterans' courts for ex-service personnel, following the precedent set in the United States. A further amendment, suggested by Lord Beecham (Labour), called for the pilot and, if successful, the creation of a permanent scheme. The amendment went to a vote, which resulted in a government win with 186 for and 205 against, so the change was not made.

Lords report stage: Tuesday 25 June

Members discussed an amendment, suggested by Lord Ramsbotham (Crossbench), calling for parliamentary approval ahead of any probation service reforms. The proposal went to a vote, resulting in a government defeat with 215 for and 186 against.

A further amendment, proposing that changes to supervision services for short-sentence offenders should be subject to an initial pilot, was put forward by Lord Beecham (Labour). The issue went to a vote, resulting in a government win with 188 for and 209 against.

Lords committee stage day two: Tuesday 11 June

Members of the Lords considered whether the bill provided a workable strategy for gender-specific services, especially the needs of female offenders. The government reported back on the first meeting of a new advisory board on women offenders and confirmed its commitment to address the issue as part of its broader rehabilitation reforms.

Proposals for a pilot scheme of veterans' courts for ex-service personnel, following the precedent set by the United States, were also examined.

Lords committee stage day one: Wednesday 5 June

As proceedings began, an amendment to the motion that the bill should enter committee stage was proposed, but withdrawn without going to a vote. The amendment looked to delay committee stage in the Lords until the government has produced a revised impact assessment of the bill.

Members of the Lords discussed giving courts greater flexibility on supervision orders and the move to include rehabilitative support in the community for offenders who have served short sentences. The need to recognise the needs of female offenders within the criminal justice system was also considered.

Lords second reading: Monday 20 May

Lord McNally (Liberal Democrat), the minister of state for justice began the debate, speaking of the need for better rehabilitation for prisoners and summarising the main features of the bill. Key points he covered included post-release rehabilitation and supervision in the community, the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms and a prisoner resettlement service. He described the bill as a ‘piece of genuinely radical reform’.

Lord Beecham (Labour), the shadow spokesperson for justice, welcomed the efforts to reduce reoffending, but warned that ‘changes should be evidence-based, practical and cost-effective. A rehabilitation revolution is unlikely to be achieved on the cheap or by an ideological obsession with the market.’

Lord Ramsbotham (Conservative), expressed his support for the bill, but suggested that there could be more of a focus on education, in particular literacy, numeracy and IT skills, saying: ‘we should recognise that education must be at the centre of reform and rehabilitation, particularly of the young.’

Offender Rehabilitation Bill summary

The bill increases support and supervision upon release for those serving a sentence of less than two years and would make a number of changes to the arrangements for community orders and suspended sentence orders. The bill also expands the potential use of post-release conditions to combat drug misuse.

Further information

Image: iStockphoto

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