The controversial Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill 2021, awaiting a date to go into the committee stage after passing its first two readings in the House of Commons, puts the residency status of non-UK nationals in greater jeopardy and perpetuates existing racial inequalities in the criminal justice system.
The Bill allows police to issue “foreign offenders” with diversionary cautions for minor offences that can require them to leave the UK “for a period of time”, with failure to comply potentially resulting in prosecution. These cautions would be a wider-ranging replacement for existing conditional cautions and may lead to people agreeing to departure terms without immigration advice or legal representation.
Where diversionary cautions aren’t issued, the PCSC Bill – especially when read in conjunction with the forthcoming Sovereign Borders Bill - will make it much easier to deport migrant activists. Currently, the automatic deportation threshold for foreign nationals is a prison sentence of 12 months, and the SB Bill is expected to reduce this to six months. At present conviction rates, this could subject an additional 1,000 people per year to automatic deportation.
Under the PCSC Bill, anyone convicted of, for example, recklessly causing public nuisance faces a sentence of up to 10 years, or 12 months on summary conviction. This means that any foreign national (including people who may have been born and raised in the UK) who participates in a non-violent protest could be convicted by a magistrate, sentenced to up to a year in prison and automatically deported without a jury trial.
More generally, the Bill creates new offences and inflates sentencing, both of which are likely to have a disparate impact on people of colour who are disproportionately policed and incarcerated, as the government has itself acknowledged.
The Bill will come back to the Commons floor for amendments and debate after the committee stage.