More questions than answers from the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

By Laura Griffiths

The Second Reading of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts (PCSC) Bill is continuing in the House of Commons today (16 March). Unlike the average piece of legislation, the PCSC Bill has been subject to an overwhelming level of criticism and media coverage. So what is actually contained in the Bill that has caused such controversy? 

According to Government, the PCSC Bill has been written to protect the police and enhance their wellbeing in addition to tackling crime and disorder. However, Labour have said that the 296 page bill is a missed opportunity to tackle violence against women and girls. 

This Bill has a large remit, covering issues from unauthorised encampment and community sentencing, to stronger legislation relating to protests and life-long sentencing for the murdering of children. 

You’d expect most debate to happen around tougher sentencing for the most serious offences, but by placing road traffic legislation in the same Bill as addressing sexual offences, it gives the impression that the UK Government’s approach to law and order is a 300-page solution with little focus.

A significant amount of this intended legislation appears to focus on retrospectively trying to remedy issues that have occurred in recent years. Would better monitoring of offenders released from prison have stopped horrific incidents like Fishmongers Hall from taking place? I couldn’t say. If an increased sentence for the vandalising of statues had already been implemented, would it have deterred people from defacing Churchill and throwing Edward Coulson in the river? We cannot be sure. 

If the government genuinely want to reform the criminal justice sector, whether that be increased sentencing or improved rehabilitation options for offenders, a one size fits all approach will not work. You would not teach the same literacy and mathematics lessons to both a 5 year old and 16 year old, so why would you examine terrorism and road obstructions through the same lens?