In the House of Commons, James spoke in support of the Police, Crime, Sentencing, and Courts Bill which deliver on manifesto pledges to protect emergency workers, tackle crime, toughen sentences for the worst offences, and improve rehabilitation. He also called for tougher sentences for dog theft.
During the debate James welcomed the new Police Covenant to support officers on the front line as well as their families. Following increased attacks on emergency workers, he supported the measures to double the sentences for such assaults.James also welcomed minimum terms for repeat offenders including burglary, drug, and knife crimes unless exceptional circumstances apply.
James highlighted the role Facebook played in securing a recent sentence for an offender from King’s Lynn who a judge called a “serial paedophile” and called on the company to rethink its encryption plans which the National Crime Agency has warned could mean that similar offenders would likely go undetected.
James acknowledged concerns that some people have about public order measures in the Bill. However, he highlighted that these are to update laws to deal with deliberate tactics that have led to disproportionate disruption such as the blocking of ambulances, closing of bridges, and people gluing themselves to trains. These actions undermine the careful balance between the rights of protesters and the rights of people to go about their daily lives.
He also called for the government to bring forward measures to toughen sentences for pet theft following increased concern about dog theft in North West Norfolk.
"The Bill delivers on our manifesto commitments to tackle crime. Let me start with protection for those on the frontline. The new police covenant will bring increased focus to the issues of physical protection, help and support for the families of officers. I know from my time in the Ministry of Defence the galvanising effect that the reporting duty in the Bill will have, just as the duty introduced for the armed forces covenant had.
There has been an unacceptable increase in assaults on emergency workers. In Norfolk alone, 659 police officers were assaulted last year. Doubling the sentence for such attacks will better reflect the risk that the police, firefighters, paramedics, prison workers and others face.
Protecting young people is an important part of the Bill. I support including faith leaders and sports coaches in the provisions relating to sexual activity and positions of trust. Extending the offence of arranging a child sex crime will close a gap in criminal law. I take this opportunity to acknowledge the role that Facebook played in providing information that was crucial to securing a 25-year sentence for a serial paedophile in my constituency. However, with the National Crime Agency and senior police officers warning that Facebook’s plans for encryption risk serious child abuse offenders going undetected, I urge Facebook to rethink.
If we are to increase confidence in the justice system, it is important that sentencing reflects the severity of crimes, and I welcome minimum terms for repeat offences, including burglary, drug and knife crimes, unless exceptional circumstances apply. Very serious violent and sexual offenders should rightly serve longer sentences.
There has been much focus on the clauses relating to public order, and rightly so; the right to protest is an essential part of our democracy. I share concerns about the policing in Clapham, and I welcome the independent review. However, the powers in the Bill are not about that; nor are they about the temporary covid restrictions. They are there to deal with deliberate tactics that have led to disproportionate disruption - blocking of ambulances, closing of bridges and people gluing themselves to trains.
Some call that legitimate protest. My view is that those actions undermine the careful balance between the rights of protesters and the rights of people to go about their daily lives. I recognise that there are concerns, and those provisions will be considered further in Committee.
Finally, there is strong concern about dog theft in North West Norfolk, as elsewhere. Pets are part of our families, and the emotional hurt that the loss of a pet can cause is immense. I hope that during the passage of the Bill, the Government will bring forward measures to increase penalties for that crime.
Tonight, I will back these measures in the Bill, and others to support rehabilitation and more effective community sentences to tackle serious violence. Anyone who votes against this Bill is voting against measures to make our streets safer."