Caroline Johnson – 2021 Speech on the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

The speech made by Caroline Johnson, the Conservative MP for Sleaford and North Hykeham, in the House of Commons on 16 March 2021.

The first duty of any Government is to protect members of the public from harm, and I welcome the swift progress that the Government have made on that. Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, the Government have beaten the target of recruiting 6,000 extra officers by March 2021 and are ahead of schedule to recruit, as promised, 20,000 more police officers by 2023. With a new cohort of police officers protecting our communities, we should give them the protection that they need to do the job to the best of their ability.

At a time when we are battling an invisible enemy—the coronavirus—our exceptional frontline workers should not be at risk of violence from the very people they are trying to protect. I am glad that the Government have shown that they will not tolerate such attacks and are legislating to double the maximum penalty for assaults on emergency workers from 12 months to two years in prison—the penalty that fits such an abhorrent and selfish crime.

At a time when we have been tragically reminded of the senseless violence perpetrated against women and girls, it is important that our communities are protected from the most serious offenders. A previous Labour Government introduced automatic early release at the halfway point; we are legislating to ensure that that stops and that those convicted of the most serious violent and sexual offences must serve at least two thirds of their sentence before parole is considered.

I welcome the fact that more robust sentences for the worst offenders will be combined with greater efforts to rehabilitate. For offenders stuck in the revolving door of crime there will be things such as electronic monitoring tags to ensure that long and restrictive curfews are adhered to. Sobriety tags, which were first piloted here in Lincolnshire, will ensure that individuals comply with alcohol abstinence orders. Such measures will ensure that once criminals have left custody, robust monitoring is still in place both to stop further harm and to break the cycle of reoffending.

I am pleased to see that those who use their car as a weapon will receive longer sentences, but as we increase sentences for careless driving I look to the Minister for reassurance that we will not criminalise those who have a momentary lapse in concentration—something most of us experience at some point.

Burglary is a particularly invasive crime that many of my constituents fear, and it leaves people feeling unsafe in their home. Will the Minister consider increasing sentences for those who commit this particularly invasive crime?

The Bill represents a significant strengthening of our judicial system, with the flexibility to tackle both serious crime and the causes of crime. I am proud to see this Government delivering on their manifesto commitment to empower our judicial system and make our country safer, and I will support the Bill today.