Labour Women's Declaration Logo
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.

Alicia Kearns’ conversion practices ban amendment NC90 to the Criminal Justice Bill

Alicia Kearns' conversion practices ban amendment NC90 to the Criminal Justice Bill

*Latest update as of 21st May. Amendment NC90 has now been replaced with NC117.

“Private religious prayer” has been removed, and “presumed” has the same meaning as in the Sentencing Act 2020. We are glad that Ms Kearns has heeded our advice and removed this absurd element. Our call to the Labour Party remains the same. Please do not support this chaotic series of amendments. Read KC Sarah Vine’s legal advice below.

Criminal Justice Bill amendments see P65

A Plea to Labour MPs prior to the Criminal Justice Bill’s return to the Commons on Monday 4th June

 

Alicia Kearns’ amendment NC90 to the Criminal Justice Bill would bring in a ban on conversion practices. This side-steps the safeguarding and scrutiny that a freestanding Bill could offer. We urge Labour to oppose it. 

Please contact Labour MPs today to explain that banning conversion practices is not as simple as it seems, and is not supported by many lesbians and gay men as set out below. 

Above all, ask them to do all they can to explain to Anneliese Dodds, Shadow Equalities Secretary, Shabana Mahmood, Shadow Justice Secretary and Yvette Cooper, Shadow Home Secretary, who are variously involved in Labour’s response to the Criminal Justice Bill, why support for this amendment would not be wise. You can send them a link to this web page. 

In summary


Labour should not support  amendment NC90  because:

  • It is badly written and does not offer the scrutiny and consultation which a Bill could offer
  • ⁠Following the Cass Review it should re-examine its previous commitment to a CP Ban
  • There’s no robust evidence that conversion practices are currently taking place in the UK, and most are covered already under existing legislation 
  • ⁠⁠Cass has warned that a ban would have a detrimental effect on clinicians providing exploratory therapy for people with gender-related distress, making it less likely for them to take on patients.  
  • ⁠⁠Legal opinion from a KC has demonstrated that the amendment has not resolved the complex problems of definition in this area, and therefore is unprosecutable without infringing upon people’s human rights. 

Alicia Kearns’ Amendments

Conservative MP Alicia Kearns MP, backed by Labour MP Lloyd Russell Moyle and LibDem MP Daisy Cooper, has proposed Amendment NC90 to add a conversion practices ban to the Criminal Justice Bill which is due back in the Commons on 4th June. Kearns’ current amendment is the latest iteration of a series of previous similar amendments (NC30, NC37, NC58) which she has submitted since March.

Following Dr Cass’ clear warnings of the potential negative consequences and difficulty in getting such legislation right, it is unlikely to be supported by the government or, therefore, to be called by the Speaker unless Labour indicates its support. 

 

Nearly a year ago, in July 2023, Labour agreed proposals at its National Policy Forum Conference, including a call for a Conversion Practices Ban (CP Ban) Bill. However, it has since proposed a range of carve-outs and safeguards which would be developed during the process of drafting a free standing bill. And in April 2024 Dr Cass published her final report, welcomed by Wes Streeting as a “watershed change for the NHS”. We believe that, following this turning point, the party must  review its now outdated policies in this area, including its CP Ban commitment.

However, even if the party is not prepared to review it,  we believe that it should at the bare minimum acknowledge that such a controversial piece of legislation should have the scrutiny of a freestanding bill, and not be enacted via this poorly written amendment.

We believe that it would be a grave mistake for Labour to make a purely performative move to support NC90 just because of its previous commitment to a bill.  It would fly in the face of Dr Cass’ clear warnings, and undermine the Shadow Health Secretary’s welcome of her report.

Opinions from Sarah Vine KC on NC90 on Alicia Kearns’ amendments

These legal opinions have all been sent to the relevant shadow ministers and their teams, in the hope that they will indicate in advance of 4th June that Labour will not be recommending support for amendment NC90. As it’s unlikely the government will be supporting it, the Speaker is only likely to call the amendment for debate if Labour is planning to support it.

Legal opinion Amendment NC90

Legal opinion Amendment NC58

Legal opinion Amendment NC30 (short form)

Legal opinion Comparative analysis between the Lloyd Russell Moyles MOU private members Bill and Alicia Kearns Amendment

It is clear that despite minor changes each time from previous versions, the overarching concerns remain, and so Ms Vine’s observations stand.

Other lawyers including the Gay Men’s Network have analysed amendment NC90.

In her final report Dr Cass said of exploratory therapy for young people that it was “harmful to equate this approach to conversion therapy as it may prevent young people from getting the emotional support they deserve”. Amendment NC90 to the Criminal Justice Bill is a dangerous and possibly homophobic piece of legislation which does exactly this because it makes it a crime for parents or doctors to do anything that could later be framed as an attempt to “change, replace or negate” cross sex ideation”

Gay Men’s Network

Amendment NC90

Since her previous version NC58, Ms Kearns has made two changes to the definition of the offence:
premeditated intent” has been replaced with “predetermined intent” and “perceived sexual orientation or transgender identity” has been replaced with “presumed sexual orientation or transgender identity”. 

In addition, she has added “including private religious prayer” to 6(a)(i). And in 6(c)(ii) “predetermined” has been added and “perceived” has been replaced with “presumed”.

The addition of a reference to private prayer is incendiary, even though it’s framed as an exclusion:

6) No offence is committed—
(a) where a person expresses—
(i) a religious or other belief, including private religious prayer, provided that it is not directed to an individual as part of a conversion practice”.

It is not an exclusion if private prayer includes the wish that another person would desist from a planned course of action.

In her legal opinion on NC90 Ms Vine KC states 

‘The addition of the words, including ‘private religious prayer’, provided that it is not directed to an individual as part of a conversion practice” to 6(a)(i) has a foreseeable and, I presume, unintended effect of making explicit the criminalisation of private prayer. The earlier wording of this sub-clause was highly unlikely to have been interpreted by police and the courts to criminalise private prayer. The application of the new wording would result in criminal liability of, for example, grandparents who disclose to their grandchild that they pray privately every night for her/him to desist from cross-sex ideation, or from homosexuality… The conflict with Articles 9 and 10 (freedom of belief and expression) could not be clearer.”

Sarah Vine KC

All the original legal problems with the amendment remain. In particular the circular definition of “transgender identity” is entirely unsatisfactory. We quote:

Any definition makes clear the scope of what a word or term refers to and, axiomatically, what lies outside that scope. The wording of this amendment fails to achieve this in any workable way. It invites confusion, serious inconsistency, misuse, arbitrary decisions to prosecute and convict/acquit, and fails in every measure to meet the requirement of “quality of law” for the purposes of Article 7.

Sarah Vine KC

In the view of LWD, the changes made in NC90 render this an even more incoherent and unsupportable amendment. As Ms Vine has observed, the definition of transgender identity is entirely circular. And, as with all other CP Ban Bill drafts, it creates a new offence without offering any recent evidence of the existence of the activities proposed for criminalisation, nor of need for new legislation.  Nor does the requirement of sign-off from the DPP suddenly invalidate the risky nature of the legislation proposed.

Fundamental problems with all Conversion Practices (CP) Ban Bills – why Labour needs to review its commitment in the light of the Cass Review and Scotland’s Gender Recognition Reform Bill debacle

1 Any attempt to provide evidence that CP is actually happening in modern Britain has failed – the 2017 “LGBT survey”, for example, failed to define key terms, and gathered data by handing out surveys at Pride marches to members of campaign groups pressing for a ban. Indiscriminate use of ECT and even lobotomies to cure depression used to be common in the UK, but are not any more. A Bill to ban “such abhorrent practices” would no doubt garner wide sentimental support, like the CP Ban Bill. But would it be a sensible use of parliamentary time?

2 This is an issue that is easier to pronounce in favour of  than to implement. Hence even a willing government with civil service legal resources is still not managing to create a set of definitions that work in practice without harm to existing services and young people. The lack of recent evidence of need for this legislation also makes it a “solution in search of a problem”. Conversion Practice Ban Bills are uniquely difficult to draft. They have to create a new offence when there is no recent evidence of the existence of the activities proposed for criminalisation, nor of need for new legislation and without any workable definitions of ‘transgender identity’ which would stand up in law.

3 The problems of creating a legal framework that recognises both what is being banned and who is being criminalised is complex. Labour accepts that there need to be carve-outs to enable access to psychological therapies, particularly for children with comorbidities. However, the potential for chilling effects on clinicians, inappropriate criminalisation of legitimate therapies and amplification of homophobia makes this difficult, if not impossible, to solve within any proposed new legislation. Debates in the Lords and Commons on the Burt and Russell Moyle “Private Members Bills” have surfaced these contradictions.

4 Many Labour MPs are still not aware that the very same campaigners who Dr Cass discovered had encouraged the ideology-driven malpractice at GIDs, were  behind the conversion practices ban campaign. However, some of the participants in the Coalition Against Conversion Therapy are now waking up to the harms of such a bill. UKCP, for example, have withdrawn, making this statement. An Observer editorial  recommended against such legislation and leading KCs, including Jason Coppel, Aidan O’Neill and Sarah Vine, have offered opinions explaining that a ban would breach human rights and, in effect, be “unprosecutable”. 

5 The problems of creating a legal framework that recognises both what is being banned and who is being criminalised is complex. Labour accepts that there need to be carve-outs to enable access to psychological therapies, particularly for children with comorbidities. However, the potential for chilling effects on clinicians, inappropriate criminalisation of legitimate therapies and amplification of homophobia makes this difficult, if not impossible, to solve within any proposed new legislation. Debates in the Lords and Commons on the Burt and Russell Moyle Private Members Bills have surfaced these contradictions.

DONATE TO SUPPORT LABOUR WOMEN’S DECLARATION

READ & SIGN OUR DECLARATION

FOLLOW US ON X

READ THE LWD SUBMISSION TO GOVERNMENT CONVERSION THERAPY CONSULTATION

Scroll to Top
Search
Close this search box.