Monday, 17 March 2014

Criminal Justice & Courts Bill Committee will dominate my next 3 weeks in the Commons

We have committee sessions morning and afternoon March 18,20,25,27 and April 1, starting at 8.55 and usually ending at 5. When people ask why parliament is often empty on parliament channel tv this is the reason. At any given time members will be sitting on a bill committee scrutinising it line by line, or on a select committee whether it is health, transport or treasury - every department has a select committee, or in Westminster Hall, the second chamber of the House of Commons where we have lesser but often more local debates. So if you want to know where I am on these days it will be in committee not in the main chamber. The Bill looks to reform prisons, sentences, juries, the courts, and tidies up a number of different areas in the justice department. As always with all Bills the first draft is not the final draft as we go through multiple assessments of the Bill, as does the House of Lords, until hopefully we take a piece of legislation that is 80% right and turn it into something that is watertight, reforming, and makes sense. The process takes many months. This committee is merely one stage of that, and the committee is cross party.  It is televised but I confess I am not totally clear where you can find this, but it will be available. There are daily transcripts. If you want to read my cross examination of witnesses in the first evidence sessions [or any part of proceedings] go here for the first session, which was concerning Magistrates, IPPs, and Prison Reform, with the Howard League and the Criminal Justice Alliance:
And here for my questioning of the representatives of the Bar Council and Law Society on issues of judicial review, protective costs orders, judicial discretion and costs:
It is not for me to judge the evidence of the people who gave up their time to appear before members of the committee. The majority are unpaid or are appearing as representatives of their part of an affected business or third sector organisation. Some are more helpful and assisting than others. Some changed my mind with their evidence. Others, particularly on the second session, I am afraid changed my mind against the witness. However, one thing is clear: as a committee we are grateful to all for attending.