A debate was held in the House of Commons yesterday, in which members of parliament discussed sex offenders, the grooming and sexual exploitation of children and two new sex offender training programmes.

The two programmes, which were originally named Horizon and Kaizen, will be delivered to sex offenders inside prisons, and have been developed for different groups, though there is currently no evidence suggesting that these programmes reduce re-offending.

Asked whether the government could confirm the effectiveness of the programmes, Chris Philp, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice, side-stepped the question entirely, and did not offer a response.

As part of a group of programmes the Ministry of Justice is calling the New Delivery Model (NDM), Horizon and Kaizen aim only to “strengthen the intention of participants to desist by supporting the development of both human and social capital in a manner that is personally meaningful.”

Members of parliament also talked about the length of sentences given to sex offenders, including child sex offenders, and concerns around the appropriateness of the lengths of some of these sentences.

One abuse survivor was quoted as saying, “What’s two years? My sentence has been 46 years and counting,” while another survivor of sexual abuse said, ““It is a slap in the face for the victim. What message does that send to people thinking of reporting a crime? Why put the victims through years of mental anguish when a lenient sentence is the outcome?”

Another concern raised was that often, victims of sexual violence do not find out that their abusers have been released until they see information about that release on social media.

The debate itself was held to discuss the Release of Prisoners (Alteration of Relevant Proportion of Sentence) Order 2019, which will come into force on 1st April, 2020.

You can read the debate in full here. 

Another interesting item in the House of Commons yesterday, was a question about legal aid for women who were unable to afford legal representation during divorce proceedings. 

Jim Shannon, the Shadow DUP Spokesperson for Human Rights and Shadow DUP Spokesperson for Health, asked the following question:

“To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, if his Department will include women unable to afford a divorce without access to legal aid as part of his Department’s review of the financial eligibility thresholds for people seeking legal aid.”

Wendy Morton, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice, replied:

“The Legal Support Action Plan (published in February 2019) announced a review of the legal aid means tests for England and Wales, which is currently underway and expected to conclude in Summer 2020 with a public consultation on potential policy changes to follow.

The Means Test Review is considering the thresholds for legal aid entitlement and their interaction with the wider eligibility criteria and is assessing the effectiveness with which the civil and criminal means tests protect access to justice, particularly for those who are vulnerable, such as victims of domestic abuse.

Divorce proceedings are not usually in scope for legal aid, other than when there is evidence of domestic abuse or child abuse. The Means Test Review is not considering changes to what is in scope for legal aid, however some divorce cases may qualify for legal aid under the existing Exceptional Funding Scheme, where there is a breach (or a risk of breach) of the individual’s human rights.

In addition, The Family Legal Team at Royal Courts of Justice Advice provide free and confidential legal advice to anyone in England and Wales who is not able to afford a solicitor. Litigants who feel they cannot afford the tribunal fee for their divorce proceeding may apply to the Ministry of Justice fee remissions scheme: Help with Fees.”