It was an honour this week to represent Cheltenham as Lord Chancellor at the State Opening of Parliament.
When I was appointed to the role, somewhat surprisingly the first question many journalists asked was whether I planned to walk backwards at the State Opening of Parliament.
This week they found out.
With King Charles III making his first speech as King, I decided to bring back the traditional courtesy. So after handing him his speech, instead of turning my back on the sovereign, I gingerly made my way backwards down the steps to the throne. Thankfully I just about kept my footing.
Now, in my role I want to do everything possible to keep the British people safe, particular women and girls. So there were a number of measures to drive down reoffending.
First, we’re reforming sentencing in England and Wales so that judges can hand down tougher punishment to the most serious offenders. Those who murder with sexual or sadistic conduct, like the killers of Sarah Everard or Zara Aleena, can expect to spend the rest of their days in prison. That’s because there are some crimes which are so appalling, that offenders should never walk free.
Second, judges will have new powers to require criminals to enter the dock to hear their sentence. It’s right that they should have to face up to the shattering consequences of their crimes.
But preventing re-offending also means introducing a system which rehabilitates those who are capable of being reformed. So with the latest technology, we will empower courts to impose suspended prison sentences with tough unpaid work conditions and long curfews. Sophisticated tags will track offenders’ movements, banning them from entering certain areas or contacting certain people. Those who fail to comply can expect to be sent to prison.
And we’re taking the necessary steps to protect our national security by bringing in new laws to ensure our security and intelligence services, like GCHQ here in Cheltenham, have the powers they need.
Keeping the British people safe is our most important responsibility, today and for the long term. Behind the pomp and circumstance, that’s what matters most of all.
[Column published in the Cheltenham Post and Echo]