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Offender Rehabilitation Bill 2013-14
The Bill was announced in the Queen's Speech on 8 May 2013 and was introduced in the House of Lords by Lord McNally on 9 May 2013.
Prior to the Bill's publication, the government ran a consultation 'Breaking the cycle: effective, punishment, rehabilitation and sentencing of offenders' in 2010, which introduced a review of sentencing policy. A government response to the consultation was published in June 2011.
The government implemented a number of reforms to sentencing in the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, which received Royal Assent on 1 May 2012.
In July 2012, the home affairs select committee took evidence from Richard Bradshaw, director of offender health, National Offender Management Service and, Digby Griffith, director of national operational services, National Offender Management Service, on drug use amongst prisoners.
In February 2013, a consultation entitled 'Transforming Rehabilitation' was closed. The consultation set out the government's proposals to reform the delivery of offender services in the community, to reduce reoffending rates.
The Crime and Courts Act, which included reforms to community sentences, received Royal Assent on April 25 2013.
The Bill aims to:
- Create supervision after release for offenders serving custodial sentences of less than 12 months
- Extend supervision after release for offenders serving custodial sentences of 1-2 years
- Provide for drug-abusing offenders to be required to attend treatment appointments, and to expand the drugs that can be required to be tested for from class A to class B.
- Create a new rehabilitation activity requirement that can be imposed as part of sentences served in the community.
- Require offenders serving sentences in the community to seek permission before moving out of their local area.
Should the Bill become an Act, it will extend to the United Kingdom.
The Bill received its second reading in the House of Lords on 20 May 2013. Justice minister Lord McNally declared that the purpose of the Bill was "to improve the support we give to offenders in order to break the cycle of reoffending". Opposition spokesperson for justice, Lord Beecham said that although he broadly welcomed the Bill, it was important to address the issues that led to offending in the first place and to look at failings in the justice system. The Bill was read a second time and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.
During the first day of committee stage debate (5 June 2013), a range of amendments were discussed, including provisions to allow for greater flexibility in sentencing, changes to rehabilitation arrangements for prisoners serving shorter sentences, the inclusion of mental health assessments as part of rehabilitation, and the position of private and public sector rehabilitation and probation providers under the new proposals. An amendment that would ensure all the top supervision of offenders would be carried out by public sector providers was withdrawn after discussion, as was an amendment to prevent the government's plan for competitive tendering to move ahead. A clause was agreed to that would ensure that in every case, offenders released from custody would serve 12 months under supervision.
In the second day of committee (11 June 2013), peers agreed to a range of clauses, including a clause to limit the circumstances in which a court or responsible officer could refuse permission to an offender on probation to change residence. Although a wide range of amendments were discussed, covering elements of the Bill including the status of community sentence orders under the new provisions, private sector probation providers and special provisions for female offenders, the Bill was finally reported without amendment.
The Offender Rehabilitation Bill was debated at third reading stage in the House of Lords on 9 July 2013. After a brief discussion, peers agreed to amend the Bill to take greater note of the particular needs of female offenders. A second amendment that called for an assessment report on the case for a veterans' courts was defeated by slim majority. On the same day, the Bill would pass to the Commons where it would be read for the first time and ordered to be printed.
The second reading of the Bill in the House of Commons took place on 11 November 2013. After a short debate, the Bill was read for the second time and passed to a Public Bill Committee.
The first day of committee stage took place on 26 November 2013. The committee considered clause 1 of the Bill. Clause 1 was disagreed to. The second day of committee was held on 3 December 2013. The committee considered clauses 9-24 and schedules 4-7 of the Bill. Clauses 9, 11, 14-22 and schedules 4-6 were agreed to. Clauses 10, 12, 13, 23, 24 and schedule 7 were agreed to, as amended. New Clause 7 was added to the Bill. The Bill was reported with amendments.
The remaining stages of the Bill were held in the Commons on 14 January 2014. Despite pushing new clauses to a vote, opposition clauses on issues around probation were defeated. Minor government amendments on probation were agreed. In addition, the government also gave more details of a review being undertaken by Rory Stewart (Con, Penrith and the Borders) on veterans in prison. The Bill passed its Commons stages, and now awaits the ping-pong stage.