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Background to the Bill

The Criminal Justice Bill 2023-24 was introduced to the House of Commons on 14 November 2023. Second reading took place on 28 November 2023.

The Bill contains various measures on criminal offences, police powers, sentencing and offender management, proceeds of crime, serious crime prevention orders, nuisance begging and rough sleeping, anti-social behaviour, and police ethics and misconduct. Full background on the Bill as introduced is set out in the Commons Library briefing Criminal Justice Bill 2023-24.

The Bill, together with its Explanatory Notes and an overview of its parliamentary progress, is available on the Parliamentary website. Government documents relating to the Bill, including factsheets, impact assessments, ministerial correspondence, and human rights and delegated powers memoranda, are available on GOV.UK.

Committee stage

The Bill was considered by a Public Bill Committee over 16 sittings between 12 December 2023 and 30 January 2024. A compilation of the debates for all sittings (PDF) is available online, as is a consolidated list of committee decisions (PDF).

Areas that attracted notable disagreement at committee included criminal offences, the transfer of prisoners abroad, and nuisance begging and rough sleeping.

Criminal offences

There was significant debate on the following issues, prompted by non-government amendments and new clauses:

  • ‘deepfake’ intimate images (Opposition amendment withdrawn after debate)
  • assaults on retail workers (Opposition new clause defeated on division)
  • removal of parental responsibility from offenders convicted of serious child sex offences (new clause tabled by Harriet Harman withdrawn after debate)
  • sexual interference with a corpse (backbench Conservative new clause withdrawn after debate)

Although the Government resisted these new clauses at committee stage, it has now introduced its own new clause on ‘deepfake’ images, committed to amending the Bill in relation to assaults on retail workers, confirmed its support for a new clause on sexual interference with a corpse tabled by Greg Hands and Tracey Crouch, and, in the case of parental responsibility, reportedly accepted a new clause tabled by Harriet Harman.

There was also significant debate at committee stage on abortion, cuckooing and hate crime, although this did not result in any changes to the Bill. Non-government new clauses on these issues (and several others) have been tabled for report stage.

Transfer of prisoners abroad

The Bill includes proposals to enable the transfer of prisoners from England and Wales to prison places rented in a third country (clauses 32 to 36, originally clauses 25 to 29).

Shadow justice minister Alex Cunningham pushed two Opposition amendments to a division: the first to limit the range of prisoners who would be eligible to be transferred abroad; the second to mandate HM Inspector of Prisons to conduct the same duties in foreign prisons as in England and Wales. Both amendments were defeated on division. Alex Cunningham has re-tabled them for consideration on report.

Nuisance begging and rough sleeping

Clauses 46-72 (originally 38-64) of the Bill would introduce a framework of directions, prevention notices and prevention orders to deal with nuisance begging and rough sleeping.

The shadow policing minister Alex Norris described the clauses on nuisance rough sleeping as “certainly the most contentious part” of the Bill. There were divisions on several Opposition amendments to restrict the scope of the nuisance begging clauses, and on whether several of the nuisance rough sleeping clauses should stand part of the Bill. The Government won all of these votes.

As of 10 May 2024, the list of amendments tabled for report stage (PDF) includes several tabled by Bob Blackman (Con) to remove all clauses related to nuisance begging and rough sleeping from the Bill (except for clause 70, concerning an offence of trespassing with intent). These amendments have received support from other Conservative Members, and Members from Labour, the Liberal Democrats, and Plaid Cymru.

Post-committee developments

A large number of amendments and new clauses have been tabled for consideration on report, including a wide range of Government amendments. Many of these relate to issues that were scrutinised during committee stage (such as abortion, ‘deepfake’ intimate images, assaults on retail workers, and hate crime). Others, including several of the Government amendments, will be debated for the first time on report (such as the duty to report child sex abuse and the restrictions on registered sex offenders changing names).

The full list of tabled amendments as at 10 May 2024 is available on the Parliamentary Bills website (PDF). A letter from ministers Laura Farris and Chris Philp (PDF) to shadow ministers Alex Norris and Alex Cunningham provides an overview of the amendments and new clauses tabled by the Government. The Government has also published a supplementary human rights memorandum (PDF) and delegated powers memorandum (PDF).

The Government has also indicated that it intends to table amendments to the Bill relating to protest and public order. At the time of writing these amendments had not been tabled.

The first day of report stage is scheduled for 15 May 2024.

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