Sheffield’s Conservative MP explains why she voted for controversial crime bill

The city’s Conservative MP has explained why she voted for a controversial bill that critics say undermines civil liberties.

Thursday, 18th March 2021, 9:39 am

The 307-page police, crime, sentencing and courts bill had its second reading – the first chance MPs get to vote on a proposed law – in Parliament on Tuesday, March 16.

It was passed with 358 votes to 263, with Conservatives voting for and all other parties voting against.

Miriam Cates, Conservative MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge, was one of those who voted for the bill.

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Miriam Cates, MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge

She said: “The police, crime, sentencing and courts bill is an incredibly important piece of legislation that will bring in tougher sentencing for a number of serious offences, including the murder of children, and put an end to automatic early release for most dangerous criminals. It will make our streets safer for everyone and ensure that our criminal justice system works properly to protect us from those who wish to do us harm.

“Part of the bill involves putting established case law into legislation – something that has long been called for by the independent Law Commission. This includes provisions around public order, and the bill uses established legal language on annoyance and nuisance which is already clearly defined by the courts. It does not relate to causing minor nuisance or offence, and there is no proposal at all to remove the right to protest which is a cornerstone of our democracy.

“Several existing public order offences are currently eligible under common law for life sentences. This is an unreasonable situation, and this bill will actually restrict the possible sentence to a more sensible maximum of 10 years for the very worst examples.

“It’s important we have this serious debate in a calm and measured way. Recent tragic events have highlighted that we must do more to protect women and girls from violence, and this bill will work alongside similar new measures to make our streets safer and keep dangerous criminals in prison. There will be many opportunities to debate it further in Parliament over the coming months, but I am fully supportive of the principles we voted for.”

The wide-ranging legislation which includes giving police more powers to restrict protests was criticised by opposition, human rights charities, unions and faith communities who called it draconian and said it raised profound concern.

Labour was due to abstain but changed its stance following outrage at the Metropolitan Police for using physical force against peaceful protesters at a vigil for Sarah Everard last weekend which highlighted concerns about police overreaching powers.

Labour MPs also said proposals to make defacing statues and monuments punishable by up to 10 years in jail could theoretically mean someone could be more harshly punished for this than rape.

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts bill will now go into a committee stage where MPs will try to pick away at the most controversial elements of the proposed law before it is passed in full, and handed over to the Lords.

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