Parliament has just passed the Coronavirus Act 2020 which grants an enormous increase in state power. There have already been complaints that the police are exceeding their new powers. This new age of emergency laws has renewed debate around the need to protect our ever-fragile human rights. In the uniquely coercive environment of a prison, it is all the more important that people’s rights are respected.
The justice secretary is to announce plans to change the law so that men (almost all of them will be men) who are serving long sentences for serious sex and violent crimes will have to serve at least two thirds of their sentence, instead of half.
David Gauke has indicated he will resign as Justice Secretary when we have a new Prime Minister. He was hoping to have abolished short prison sentences but we now learn that the consultation on how to enact this has been delayed. Last week he published research showing that short prison sentences are counter-productive, so now the challenge will be fairly placed on whoever takes over as to whether evidence or cheap politics is the primary purpose of his or her decisions.
I am going to Geneva to give oral evidence to the Committee against Torture on how the UK government fails to uphold its obligations. The Howard League submitted written evidence to the committee to inform its questioning of the government on Tuesday.
Despite Brexit, there has been a flurry of reports and statements indicating that government is moving towards abolishing short prison sentences and intends to try to sort out community sentences. My concern is that, because of Brexit (sorry to mention it twice in the first paragraph), there will be no reforming legislation to make these changes.