Johnson unveils Speech to ‘restore confidence’ in the justice system

Boris Johnson is putting a series of law and order measures at the centre of the first Queen’s Speech of his premiership in bid to “restore confidence” in the justice system.

The package of 22 bills will include legislation to keep serious criminals in prison for longer, impose tougher sentences on foreign offenders who return to the UK and provide better protection for victims of domestic abuse.

They will sit alongside measures intended to invest in the NHS, strengthen environmental protections and raise living standards through increasing the national living wage to £10.50 an hour.

At the same time ministers are preparing to rush through a bill to ratify any Brexit deal Mr Johnson is able to agree this week in Brussels in time for Britain to leave on the EU on October 31.

However, with no Commons majority, it is questionable how much, if any, of the proposed legislation ministers can get through Parliament before a general election.

Labour has dismissed the decision to hold a Queen’s Speech before the Government goes to the country as a “cynical stunt” intended to lay the ground for an election.

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said:  “This Queen’s Speech is farcical.

“It is just an uncosted wish list which the Government has no intention and no means to deliver, and nothing more than a pre-election party political broadcast.”

The law and order package includes a bill to “drastically” increase the sentences for foreign criminals who return to the UK in breach of a deportation order, a move ministers say will help disrupt the activities of international crime gangs.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “We have been a soft touch on foreign criminals for too long.

“The sentence for breaching a deportation order is far too low at the moment and many criminals conclude that it’s worth trying to get back in the country when all you get is a slap on the wrist.

Speech
Home Secretary Priti Patel said Britain has been a ‘soft touch’ for foreign criminals (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

“Deterring foreign criminals from re-entering the country and putting those that do behind bars for longer will make our country safer.”

There will be legislation making it easier for police to arrest internationally wanted fugitives who are the subject of an Interpol Red notice without the need to apply for a UK arrest warrant, a process that can take a minimum of six to eight hours.

Initially it will only apply to those issued by a limited number of countries with trusted justice systems, the other members of the Five Eyes intelligence group, the US, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, and two non-EU European states, Switzerland and Liechtenstein.

However the Government will be able to add other countries by statutory instrument.

On sentencing there will be a bill to enact plans to abolish the automatic half-way release for the most serious offenders who currently receive standard-fixed term sentences including those jailed for rape, manslaughter and grievous bodily harm.

There will be a “Helen’s Law” bill, named after 22-year-old Helen McCourt who was murdered in 1988, to deny parole to murderers who withhold information about their victims.

The Government will also bring back the Domestic Abuse Bill which fell as a result of Mr Johnson’s unlawful suspension of Parliament last month.

A Government source said they were committed to ensuring the public had confidence in the criminal justice system.

“We’ve listened to the public’s priorities and concerns,” the source said. “Restoring that confidence is central to this Government’s domestic agenda.”

Other measures in the speech include:

– Environment Bill setting legally binding targets to reduce plastics, restore biodiversity, improve water quality and cut air pollution.

– Immigration and Social Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill to end freedom of movement and introduce a points-based immigration system from 2021.

– Railway reform with a white paper setting out proposals to overhaul the current system of franchising and creating a new commercial model.

– Action on building standards in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire with the establishment of a new regulator with powers to impose criminal sanctions for breaches of building regulations.

– NHS Health Investigations Bill will create a new independent body with legal powers to ensure patient safety.

– Mental health reform to reduce the number of detentions under the Mental Health Act by ensuring more people get the treatment they need.

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