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Concerns Over Criminal Justice Bill Raised by Law Society

Concerns Over Criminal Justice Bill Raised by Law Society

The Law Society has expressed serious concerns regarding the new Criminal Justice Bill, which has been under discussion in Parliament. On May 15th, the bill entered its first day of the report stage in the Commons. The bill aims to address issues related to the transfer of overseas prisoners and other criminal justice matters.

During the discussions, the government acknowledged existing problems with the overseas prisoner transfer provisions. Despite attempts by the minister to address compatibility with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and ensuring access to legal advice for prisoners abroad, MPs from both parties noted the bill’s lack of detail and clear planning.

Minister Laura Farris highlighted that not all prisoners would be suitable for transfer to overseas prisons, projecting that about 600 prisoners, or 0.5% of the prison population, might be transferred. She emphasized that any use of these powers would require a valid international agreement, which would be presented to Parliament as a treaty.

However, Sir Bob Neill (Conservative) criticized the bill as potentially gimmicky and insufficient in addressing real prison pressures. He pointed out concerns about prisoners’ access to legal advice and clarity regarding family visits. Shadow minister Alex Cunningham echoed these concerns, stressing the bill’s lack of specifics on how the overseas transfer scheme would function and the responsibilities of partner countries.

On the compatibility of the transfer provisions with ECHR rights, the minister reassured that the government is aware of these obligations, although detailed assurances were lacking.

Other Legislative Updates

Post Office Bill

The Post Office (Horizon System) Offences Bill faced its first debate in the House of Lords on May 13th. While the bill received cross-party support, concerns about its constitutional implications were raised, particularly regarding Parliament’s role in overturning convictions.

Renters Reform Bill

The Renters Reform Bill had its second reading in the Lords on May 15th, focusing on housing supply, fixed-term renting, and section 21 evictions. The need for appropriate funding to accompany reforms was emphasized, with peers expressing disappointment over delays in abolishing section 21 evictions.

Justice Questions

On May 14th, the lord chancellor answered questions on various topics, including legal aid and court backlogs. Issues such as the impact of the Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Act on criminal law and the need for investment in legal aid were discussed.

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