Penalties for environment protests to be strengthened, promises Patel – conference speech in full

5 Oct

Conference, it is good to be back.

Meeting old friends and coming together as a Conservative family to reinforce our common values.

These have been tough times for our country.

But despite the unprecedented challenges we have faced, this Government has remained grounded and guided by Conservative values and the good sense of the British People.

It has brought out the very best of our nation.

From the carers to the volunteers, the scientists to the doctors and nurse

to the brave men and women of our police and fire service who have risen to the challenges presented by Covid with great professionalism and commitment.

Let our thanks to them go out from this hall today.

Two years ago in Manchester, I said the British people would always be my compass.

That I would deliver on their priorities.

And I make that commitment to you again today.

The British people want a government on their side, keeping them safe.

All our thoughts remain with Sarah Everard’s family and friends.

Her murderer, whose name I will not repeat, was a monster.

His explicit intention was to instil fear and terror in women and girls.

I say this as Home Secretary, but also as a woman.

Such unconscionable crimes and acts of violence against women and girls have no place in our society.

And that is why I have redoubled my efforts to ensure women and girls feel safer.

Since I became Home Secretary, cross-government funding to tackle these abhorrent crimes has trebled in relation to any other two-year period.

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill extends Whole Life Orders to child murderers and ends automatic halfway release for serious sexual and violent offenders.

And nearly a year ago, I launched the first ever survey of women and girls on tackling the crimes disproportionately affecting them.

In the wake of Sarah’s tragic murder, I re-opened that survey.

One hundred and eighty thousand women and girls were brave enough to share their stories with me, some for the first time.

Their experiences informed my Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy, which I launched earlier this year.

I have wasted no time in putting that plan into action.

I want to thank Nimco Ali – here with us today – for her pioneering work in tackling these abhorrent crimes.

This month, our country’s first ever dedicated national police officer
for reducing and preventing crimes against women and girls will get to work, providing national direction to the police.

Deputy Chief Constable Maggie Blyth.

Accountable to you, through me.

This Government will always back the brave men and women of our police.

And it is because of our strong relationship with the police, that I can ask the difficult questions and support them to do better.

Recent tragic events have exposed unimaginable failures in policing.
It is abhorrent that a serving police officer was able to abuse his position of power, authority and trust to commit such a horrific crime.
The public have a right to know what systematic failures enabled his continued employment as a police officer.
We need answers as to why this was allowed to happen.
I can confirm today, there will be an inquiry, to give the independent oversight needed, to ensure something like this can never happen again.

Later this year I will launch the first ever standalone Domestic Abuse Strategy

I am undertaking a review of the police management of registered sex offenders to stop paedophiles and rapists, including members of grooming gangs, from returning to the very communities they tore apart.

I am outlawing the sickening practice of virginity testing.

A barbaric, medieval, and invasive practice exclusively performed on women.

Often to control them. Often without their consent.

Well not under this Home Secretary.

Women and girls have said enough is enough.

And the Conservative Party agrees.

Crime and policing

The safety and security of our citizens is paramount.

Without safety and security, there can be no freedom.

Our approach to crime will always be based on seeking justice for victims and survivors, ensuring perpetrators feel the full force of the law.

We have delivered more powers to the police so that they can do so, including stop and search.

We are toughening sentences for the worst and most serious offenders, including terrorists, rapists and child abusers.

We are nearly halfway to recruiting twenty-thousand additional police officers.

This summer we launched a new Beating Crime Plan to cut murder, serious violence and neighbourhood crime – including anti-social behaviour.

Under my watch we have seen some of the biggest law enforcement raids in our country’s history, with our crackdown on county lines drugs gangs resulting in…

Over 1,000 county lines – shut down.

Millions of pounds in cash – seized.

And over 6,000 criminals – arrested.

We are cutting the head off the snake and taking down the kingpins behind these deadly supply lines.

Thanks to my brilliant Ministerial team we are delivering for the British people.

Drug abuse and addiction ruins communities, devastates lives and tears families apart.

Drugs are also responsible for the crimes I am committed to cutting.

Today I am announcing the expansion of drug testing on arrest across all 43 police forces in England and Wales.

Those who test positive as confirmed drug users will be supported to tackle their drug abuse and regain their independence…

but for those unwilling to address their drug misuse, there will be the harshest possible legal sanctions and consequences.

While Sir Keir Starmer backs calls to decriminalise drugs, we will take the tough decisions needed to build back safer…

And continue to put the best interests of our country first.

Our values embody service before self.

This can be neatly defined by the Hindu word Seva.

which can mean service, commitment and dedication to others.
Ensuring the best interests of our country come first is what drives me each and every day.

That is my responsibility.

That is my service.

That is our Party.

And it is because of our commitment to putting the needs of the hardworking, often silent, majority first, that I will not tolerate so called ecowarriors, trampling over our way of life and draining police resources.

Their actions over recent weeks have amounted to some of the most self-defeating ‘environmental’ protests this country has ever seen.

Freedom to protest is a fundamental right our Party will forever fight to uphold.

But it must be within the law.

Measures already going through Parliament will ensure these criminals can be brought to justice for the disruption they are causing.

But we are going further to close down the legal loopholes exploited by these offenders.

So today I can announce I will also

increase the maximum penalties for disrupting a motorway

criminalise interference with key infrastructure such as roads, railways and our free press

and give the police and courts new powers to deal with the small minority of offenders intent on travelling around the country, causing disruption and misery across our communities.

This Conservative Government is taking the tough decisions needed to cut crime and make our streets safer.

And that is not all.

We have finally ended free movement.

Delivered our new points-based immigration system, welcoming people to our country based on the skills they have to offer, not the colour of their passport.

Our new routes are attracting the best and brightest talent from around the world…

Welcoming brilliant scientists, the finest academics, and leading people in their fields…

All helping to drive our economy forwards as we Build Back Better from the pandemic.

And at long last.

The British immigration system is under the control of the British Government.

But despite what we have already delivered, we must be honest with ourselves about the long-standing problems we still face.

We owe it to our country to continue confronting difficult issues, no matter how controversial, or complex.

Taking action on the difficult decisions that have stumped politicians for too long.

All states have a responsibility to control their borders.

For where there is a door, there must be a door keeper.

What is happening in the Channel with small boats is unsafe, unfair, and unacceptable.

From the vast camps outside Calais of mainly male, economic migrants

To the shocking images of people crammed onto flimsy boats crossing the Channel, exploited by people smugglers.

Vile criminals characterised by ruthlessness and greed, who even threaten to drown small children to line their pockets.

This cannot continue. Which is why we are going after the criminals behind this perilous trade in people smuggling.

And then there is the legal process.

If an asylum claim is rejected, there is nearly always an automatic right to appeal.

No surprise that nearly everybody appeals.

Even if the decision to refuse asylum is upheld, there can be yet another appeal.

Right up until the possibility of further appeals at the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court.

If that fails, the claimant and their lawyers can start a fresh claim.

And then, even when seated on the plane, their lawyers can still block their removal.

Britain’s asylum system might have worked twenty years ago, but not now.

The system is collapsing under the pressures created by these parallel illegal routes to asylum, facilitated by criminal smuggling gangs.

Labour would have you believe the capacity of our asylum system is unlimited.

But the presence of economic migrants – through these illegal routes – is undermining our ability to support those in genuine need of protection.

To that I say, NO. Our system must uphold our reputation as a country where criminality is not rewarded, but where playing by our rules is.

My New Plan for Immigration is already making its way through Parliament.

At the heart of this Plan is a simple principle.

Control.

That is not unreasonable.

Through our New Plan for Immigration, Britain will be fair but firm.

We will continue to be outward facing and provide sanctuary to those in need through safe and legal resettlement routes.

From Uganda to Syria, Hong Kong to Afghanistan, under Conservative leadership, the United Kingdom will always hold out the hand of friendship to those most in need…

Which is why I established a new resettlement route for Afghans fleeing persecution, prioritising women and girls.

And we will always support the brave men and women of our armed forces who served in Afghanistan and continue to keep us safe around the world.

We are smashing the economic model of the people-smugglers so that they can no longer profit from human misery.

The current maximum penalty for entering the country illegally is six months. We are increasing that to four years.

The current maximum sentence for people smugglers is fourteen years. We are changing that to life.

In standing by the world’s most vulnerable, we will prioritise those who play by our rules, over those who seek to take our country for a ride.

For the first time, how somebody arrives in the United Kingdom will impact on how their asylum claim is processed.

Our new “one stop” shop will tackle the multiple claims and appeals which frequently frustrate removal.

And our new laws will speed up the removal of those with no legal right to be in our country.

I know from the briefings I receive from the intelligence and security agencies that there are people who attempt to come to our country to do us harm. Plotting to strike at our way of life.

AND, I shall continue to fight with every ounce of my being to protect and uphold the safety and security of our nation.

WITH all of this, we will continue to pursue joint solutions to joint problems.

France is a safe country, one not riven by war or conflict.

There is no reason why any asylum seeker should come to the United Kingdom directly from France.

We make no apology for securing our borders and exploring all possible options to save lives by ending these horrific journeys.

Which is why, right from the start, Boris and I have worked intensively with every institution with a responsibility to protect our borders…

Border Force, The police, The National Crime Agency…
Maritime experts, And yes, the military…

To deliver operational solutions

Including new sea tactics, which we are working to implement, to turn back the boats.

Whilst this represents progress, this single measure alone cannot solve this problem.

We must stay the course and see this whole New Plan for Immigration through.

It will take time.

But I will continue to take the difficult action needed to address this long-standing issue.

And what do our opponents say about our plans?

Of course, they attack them, because they want open borders…

They do not care about intolerable pressures on public services and local authorities.

They do not care about damage to our labour market and driving down the wages of the hardworking majority.

They do not care about the British people who will have to foot this bill.

And what is worse…

…They do not care about ensuring victims of crimes, committed by foreign national offenders, can rebuild their lives safe in the knowledge their attackers are no longer here.

Labour MPs, some of whom even sit with the Leader of the Opposition at his Shadow Cabinet table, shamefully campaign to halt the removal of these murderers, rapists and child abusers.

Criminals who have caused untold harm and devastation on our soil, including to women and girls.

Whilst they busy themselves writing letters defending these convicts, this Home Secretary will always put the rights of victims first…

We have removed nearly eight and a half thousand foreign national offenders from our country.

Conference, I will never flinch from taking the difficult decisions needed to keep our country safe and secure.

Where criminals attempt to incite fear, harm and terror in our communities, I will act.

Where lights are being switched off on other people’s liberties, I will act.

Where our borders and our laws need strengthening, I will act.

Our party owes it to our country to continue confronting difficult issues, no matter how controversial, or complex.

There will be new challenges and new tests.

And we will meet them, strengthened by our belief in this country.

That is my promise to you, that is my service to the people of Britain.

Thank you.

 

Richard Gibbs: The headline criticisms thrown at the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill are simply wrong

21 Apr

Richard Gibbs is a barrister practising in criminal and regulatory law. He is a published author and also a visiting lecturer in law and criminal justice matters.

It is hardly a surprise that the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill has come in for criticism; any flagship piece of government legislation which stems from a manifesto pledge and which enjoys no support from the Opposition is always going to come in for flak.

Of course, we know that there has also been a degree of hijacking of legitimate opposition to the Bill by those who have chosen to express their views by torching police vans, attacking police property and doing so under the title of “#Kill the Bill.”

In my practice as a barrister, I spend a lot of time looking at legislation and how it is applied, enforced and interpreted, and it is usually the case that reasonable people can disagree about what certain provisions may or may not mean in practice. However, what is noticeable about this particular Bill is not the fact of criticism, that is predictable, but rather the nature of it and the way in which it is expressed. Reason appears to have taken a backseat to rhetoric.

To be clear, this Bill is certainly not perfect – perhaps no Bill ever is – and there are some real concerns about the repeated use of overly broad definitions and vague terminology, especially in Part 3 which addresses public order. But the headline criticisms which many commentators have thrown at it are simply wrong. More than that, they are wrong both in fact and in effect.

Given that the Bill runs to just under 300 pages, it is a considerable tome of proposed legislation. For anyone who wants to embark on a rational analysis of the Bill, the arrival of a thumping great wedge of proposed new law of this size is perhaps a little off-putting and maybe that is one explanation as to why so much of the criticism seems rooted in grandiose rhetoric rather than granular analysis. The effect of that is that the critiques being mounted tend to feel overblown and lose sight of the issues of detail which are actually more important.

As an example, when the Bill had its second reading in the Commons, it was criticised by one Labour MP as being “the tip of an authoritarian iceberg” – one that he went on to characterise as being “on a collision course with public defiance.” Apparently elements of the Bill “would make a dictator blush”. Well that’s all very eye catching and no doubt it plays well to those predisposed to view any Conservative legislation aimed at criminal justice issues as being draconian. But what does it actually mean and what does this criticism amount to?

The reality is that most criticism has been animated by the belief that the rights of protesters are being unduly restricted. This is depicted as an inalienable right that the Bill is seeking to remove. Let’s be clear however, the right to protest and our right to express ourselves is not – and never has been – absolute.

There have always been limitations which the state has placed upon us when it has come to those rights and as society has evolved, become more complex and the issues which affect public order have shifted and altered, the state has been required to adapt too. Our right to protest has never been absolute but it has never been absolutely removed either and this Bill does not change that. To listen to the critics, it would appear that the right to protest is being removed, or largely removed but that is quite simply not the case.

Second, there is a wider and more fundamental point that the current criticism seems to completely misunderstand. That is for many members of the general public, the criminal justice system is viewed with some suspicion. As a lawyer who has worked in that system for a decade it pains me to say it, but the public perception is that our justice system too often fails to achieve justice in many cases, that our laws are not enforced as the public would like and that sentencing is opaque and, again, fails to serve the public effectively.

Issue could be taken with many of these on the basis of reality being different to perception, but that perception is there and it is real. Again, the apocalyptic terms of much of the Bill’s criticism will fall on deaf ears when this fact is considered and among the very many members of the public that take a sceptical view of our criminal justice system.

Where this Bill does need attention is in the wording. I accept that is a far less exciting task than rhetorical flourishes but it is crucial because it is in the details of that wording that the application, enforcement and adjudication of this Bill will take form.

For example the application of clauses 54-60 broadly allow the police to place restrictions on protests as a result of noise generated by those taking part. There are penalties on those breaching conditions if a defendant “ought to have known” those restrictions were in place. “Ought to have known” is a vague term, hard to define, harder to enforce and possibly impossible to effectively convict. We should not forget that the burden of proving something to the criminal standard is, rightly, a high threshold and proving someone “ought to have known” is no easy task.

It is on these often semantic sounding points that the Bill needs to be scrutinised. Those who want this Bill to become an effective piece of legislation should ignore the grandiose rhetoric deployed by those who oppose it on principle, recognise the democratic imperative in passing it and make the changes in detail needed.