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Alun Michael: What is not clear from what my hon. Friend has just said, and which was extremely helpful, is whether the commissioner’s report will be laid—or is she saying that it will only be assimilated within the panel’s report?
Maria Eagle: It seems sensible to have one report instead of two, given that the commissioner will be chairing the victims advisory panel. The victims advisory panel’s report will be subsumed within the one that the commissioner will be producing. It is sensible to have one report, not two. That is my central point.
Although I have been a Minister for many years, I do not quite have the confidence of my right hon. Friend and others that dealing with complaints from any victim in the country would not be resource-intensive. Even a one-stop shop can have a lot of bits of paper coming in and out of it. My right hon. Friend said that such a system would not be very costly, resource-intensive or people-intensive, but I am not convinced that that would end up being accurate. While it is absolutely true that there is a much increased level of victim satisfaction, partly as a result of the work in respect of the developments in support of witnesses, that is not to say that a new portal for complaints will not be inundated with complaints from various people who think that it is another way to get their point across. Many of us in Committee will realise from our constituency work that we are often seen ourselves as appeals against court cases that went wrong. Whether or not there is anything that we can do about such matters, we end up hearing from constituents who wish us to agree that something ought to be done.
Mr. Boswell: I am sure that the Minister will be relieved to know that I describe myself as either a one-stop shop or even, possibly in dramatic terms, as a bit of joined-up government. We have an integrating function. Will she at least concede in respect of the comments by the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth that, while there may be some abuse, there is nevertheless the need for some facility—either at local or national level—so that people who are distressed about their handling and are confused by the circumstances such as someone who has been falsely accused, which has happened to one of my constituents recently, know and have reassurance that they will receive proper advice and get the thing dealt with?
Maria Eagle: I understand the hon. Gentleman’s point. There are complaints procedures in all public authorities, and I accept the argument by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth that there are many different agencies in the criminal justice system, but we have done a lot more locally and nationally to join up the agencies and make them talk to each other.
6.45 pm
We have a nationwide victim support body that is funded generously by central Government to give advice. There are citizens advice bureaux and, I hesitate to say, local Members, although we do end up being one place where people seek advice. At the end of the day, however, the criminal justice agencies have to, and ought to, deal with complaints properly. There is a series of ombudsmen thereafter. Of course, one cannot take judicial decisions to them, but criminal justice agencies do certain things that one might. We do not want to impose or create some other portal that may or may not help, however.
Mr. Boswell: Will the Minister at least consider encouraging the various agencies to pick up and run with the so-called “no wrong door” concept that the Government developed a few years ago, although we have not heard about it recently, so that, if somebody makes an application to the wrong people, they—that agency—will refer them to the right people?
Maria Eagle: It sounds so simple, but administratively these things often end up being much more complicated than such simple, sensible-sounding ideas that we all can and do come up with, and which my right hon. Friend has come up with in his new clause. Although I understand his points, I am not convinced that we would envisage such a role for the commissioner. There is no doubt that the commissioner will be in receipt of complaints, but I am not convinced that they should become a clearing house for them. I hope that my right hon. Friend will not press his new clause, because we do not envisage conferring on the commissioner’s role a statutory complaints function. However, the criminal justice agencies need to improve their performance, and we would seek to make them do so, as would the other victim support infrastructure, which did not exist in 2004 when the original legislation was passed.
I hope that I have been able to deal with my right hon. Friend’s amendment. He may not be quite so happy with what I have said about his new clause, but I hope that he will withdraw his amendment and not press to a Division his new clause.
Alun Michael: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for her response, as far as it goes. On the report to Parliament, she has gone some way to providing reassurance, and if, in effect, the commissioner’s report will incorporate the panel’s report, that is satisfactory. However, I urge my hon. Friend to consider whether that point ought to be clarified in some formal embodiment of what she has told us today, because it is reassuring.
I am less happy about what my hon. Friend said on complaints, because she missed the point that I underlined: at the beginning of the Committee, we took evidence on the existence of 10 different ways of dealing with complaints from the 10 different agencies that operate in the criminal justice system. Indeed, the 10 agencies may be the tip of the iceberg, because when we sub-divide things, the issue may be more complex. I accept my hon. Friend’s point that it is complicated for Ministers to find a way through the undergrowth of improving the performance of different parts of the criminal justice system to make it more receptive to the interests of the individuals. However, we should think what it is like, therefore, for a victim who has to decide which door to knock at. We should think also about the complexity of making complaints to the ombudsmen, some of which have to be made directly to the people who will have administered the problem, even if the complainant can work out which agency is responsible.
I urge my hon. Friend to consider the matter further, and whether there should be a capacity not to undertake the investigation of complaints but, where necessary, to knock heads together. The success of the commissioner will be judged on their saying, “I no longer have to do this, because it is clear where people should go with their complaints and that the ‘no wrong door’ principle”—to which the hon. Member for Daventry referred and I know Ministers aspire—“happens in practice.” That is my hope, and I ask my hon. Friend as gently as I can to reconsider her rejection of the new clause. I appreciate that it is not a totally worked through suggestion, but it could be. I urge her to give it further thought and I hope that we will see Government amendments coming forward, or perhaps it would be appropriate to make further suggestions on Report. I do not wish to detain the Committee any further and I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 122 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clauses 123 and 124 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 15

Treatment of convictions in other member States etc
Maria Eagle: I beg to move amendment 300, in schedule 15, page 160, line 38, at end insert—
‘(9) For the purposes of subsection (10) “foreign service offence” means an offence which—
(a) was the subject of proceedings under the service law of a country outside the United Kingdom, and
(b) would constitute an offence under the law of England and Wales or a service offence (“the corresponding domestic offence”) if it were done in England and Wales by a member of Her Majesty’s forces at the time of the trial for the offence with which the defendant is now charged (“the current offence”).
(10) Where a defendant has been found guilty of a foreign service offence (“the previous service offence”), for the purposes of subsection (2)—
(a) the previous service offence is an offence of the same description as the current offence if the corresponding domestic offence is of that same description, as set out in subsection (4)(a);
(b) the previous service offence is an offence of the same category as the current offence if the current offence and the corresponding domestic offence belong to the same category of offences prescribed as mentioned in subsection (4)(b).
(11) In this section—
“Her Majesty’s forces” has the same meaning as in the Armed Forces Act 2006;
“service law”, in relation to a country outside the United Kingdom, means the law governing all or any of the naval, military or air forces of that country.”’.
The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to discuss Government amendments 301, 302, 303, 304, 305, 306, 307, 308, 309, 310, 311, 312, 313, 314, 315, 316, 317, 318, 319, 320 and 354.
Maria Eagle: All the amendments are minor and technical. Amendments 301 to 304, 313 and 314 are minor and technical in that they change the tenses used but not the meaning or application of the provisions. Amendment 315 is a minor amendment that clarifies that an offence is relevant if it was an offence under UK law
“at the time of the conviction”.
The previous formulation of
“at the time of the trial”
may not have covered those circumstances where the offender pleaded guilty.
Amendment 318 is a minor amendment that corrects the statutory reference to section 110 of the Powers of the Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000. Amendment 310 is a minor, technical amendment that does not change the meaning or application of the provision.
Amendments 300, 305 to 309, 311 to 312, 316 to 317, and 319 to 320 add service offences committed under the law of other member states to the previous convictions covered by these provisions. In respect of section 103 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003, which deals with bad character evidence, the amendments include all foreign service offences. This is in line with both the current position in case law and the changes being introduced in the Bill. All these amendments are consistent with how previous UK service offences are used in domestic criminal proceedings.
Mr. Garnier: I do not quarrel with the Government amendments. I just want to be sure that when a defendant has been convicted of an offence under the law of any country outside England and Wales, a provision will enable the English courts to inquire into the process by which the overseas conviction was arrived at. Obviously, within the European Union and other countries in which we are confident about their criminal justice system, we can be reasonably sure that a conviction has been arrived at fairly. There may be other jurisdictions where we are not so sure, and I want us to be clear that the Government have taken that into account before the amendments become part of the Bill.
Maria Eagle: I hope to convince the hon. and learned Gentleman that we have taken that into account. The schedule implements the Council framework decision of 24 July 2008 on taking account of convictions in EU member states in the course of new criminal proceedings. It will require the courts to give the same weight to previous convictions whether the offence occurred in the UK or elsewhere in the EU and will strengthen public protection.
Such convictions would only be taken into account by the courts subject to the same safeguards as apply to taking into account domestic convictions. This would include the need for the courts to be satisfied that such convictions are proved. In addition, such convictions could only be taken into account if they concern offences having equivalent domestic offences.
In response to the hon. and learned Gentleman’s question, it is ultimately a matter for the courts to decide whether they are satisfied that any criteria for admissibility are met. We will consider what measures might be necessary to assist courts in that task before we implement the provisions. However, to a degree, member states already share information on a regular basis, and previous convictions from other member states are already adduced in evidence. On that basis, I hope that he is convinced that there will be appropriate safeguards.
Mr. Garnier: Is the Minister telling me that the schedule applies only to convention countries, or does it apply across the world?
Maria Eagle: It is implementing an EU directive—
Mr. Garnier: I do not want to confuse the Minister now. Will she write to me about it? If there is any doubt, which I do not suppose there will be, it can be cleared up in correspondence.
Maria Eagle: Indeed it can be.
Amendment 300 agreed to.
Amendments made: 301, in schedule 15, page 163, line 6, leave out ‘have constituted’ and insert ‘constitute’.
Amendment 302, in schedule 15, page 163, line 7, leave out ‘had been’ and insert ‘were’.
Amendment 303, in schedule 15, page 163, line 18, leave out ‘have constituted’ and insert ‘constitute’.
Amendment 304, in schedule 15, page 163, line 19, leave out ‘had been’ and insert ‘were’.
Amendment 305, in schedule 15, page 163, line 26, leave out ‘or’.
Amendment 306, in schedule 15, page 163, line 26, at end insert—
‘(b) after paragraph (b) insert “or
(c) a finding of guilt in respect of a member State service offence.”’.
Amendment 307, in schedule 15, page 163, leave out lines 36 to 39 and insert—
‘(6) For the purposes of this section—
(a) an offence is “relevant” if the offence would constitute an offence under the law of any part of the United Kingdom if it were done in that part at the time of the conviction of the defendant for the current offence,
(b) “member State service offence” means an offence which—
(i) was the subject of proceedings under the service law of a member State other than the United Kingdom, and
(ii) would constitute an offence under the law of any part of the United Kingdom, or a service offence (within the meaning of the Armed Forces Act 2006), if it were done in any part of the United Kingdom, by a member of Her Majesty’s forces, at the time of the conviction of the defendant for the current offence,
(c) “Her Majesty’s forces” has the same meaning as in the Armed Forces Act 2006, and
(d) “service law”, in relation to a member State other than the United Kingdom, means the law governing all or any of the naval, military or air forces of that State.”’.
Amendment 308, in schedule 15, page 164, line 1, leave out ‘“, or’.
Amendment 309, in schedule 15, page 164, line 4, at end insert ‘, or
(d) a finding of guilt in respect of a member State service offence.”’.
Amendment 310, in schedule 15, page 164, line 7, leave out ‘Isles or’ and insert ‘Islands and’.
Amendment 311, in schedule 15, page 164, line 11, at end insert ‘or a member State service offence’.
Amendment 312, in schedule 15, page 164, leave out lines 14 to 17 and insert—
‘(5) For the purposes of this section—
(a) an offence is “relevant” if the offence would constitute an offence under the law of any part of the United Kingdom if it were done in that part at the time of the conviction in respect of the current offence,
(b) “member State service offence” means an offence which—
(i) was the subject of proceedings under the service law of a member State other than the United Kingdom, and
Amendment 313, in schedule 15, page 165, line 3, leave out ‘have constituted’ and insert ‘constitute’.
Amendment 314, in schedule 15, page 165, line 4, leave out ‘had been’ and insert ‘were’.
Amendment 315, in schedule 15, page 165, line 5, leave out ‘trial’ and insert ‘conviction’.
Amendment 316, in schedule 15, page 165, line 5, at end insert—
‘() In subsection (8) (as inserted by Schedule 16 to the Armed Forces Act 2006 (c. 52))—
(a) in paragraph (a) for the words “within the meaning of the Armed Forces Act 2006; and”, substitute “or a member State service offence;”,
(b) in paragraph (b) for “service disciplinary proceedings” substitute “proceedings in respect of a service offence”, and
(c) after that paragraph insert—
“(c) “member State service offence” means an offence which—
(i) was the subject of proceedings under the service law of a member State other than the United Kingdom,
(ii) would constitute an offence under the law of any part of the United Kingdom, or a service offence, if it were done in any part of the United Kingdom, by a member of Her Majesty’s forces, at the time of the conviction of the defendant for the current offence;
(d) “Her Majesty’s forces” has the same meaning as in the Armed Forces Act 2006;
(e) “service law”, in relation to a member State other than the United Kingdom, means the law governing all or any of the naval, military or air forces of that State;
(f) “service offence” has the same meaning as in the Armed Forces Act 2006.”’.
Amendment 317, in schedule 15, page 165, line 5, at end insert—
‘8A (1) Section 270B of the Armed Forces Act 2006 (c. 52) (community punishment for offender previously fined) is amended as follows.
(2) In subsection (6) omit “or” at the end of paragraph (a) and insert—
“(aa) a conviction by a court in any member State other than the United Kingdom of a relevant offence; or”.
(3) In subsection (10)—
(a) in paragraph (a) after “offence” insert “or a member State service offence”;
(b) in paragraph (b) for “such proceedings” substitute “proceedings in respect of a service offence”;
(c) after that paragraph insert—
“(c) “relevant offence” means an offence that would constitute an offence under the law of any part of the United Kingdom if it were done in that part at the time of the conviction of the defendant for the current offence;
(d) “member State service offence” means an offence which—
Amendment 318, in schedule 15, page 167, leave out lines 12 and 13 and insert—
‘“corresponding drug trafficking offence” means an offence within section 110(2A)(a)(ii);”.
Amendment 319, in schedule 15, page 167, line 15, at end insert—
‘() In section 114 (offences under service law) (as substituted by Schedule 16 to the Armed Forces Act 2006 (c. 52))—
(a) after subsection (1) insert—
“(1A) Where—
(a) a person has at any time been found guilty of a member State service offence, and
(b) the corresponding UK offence was a class A drug trafficking offence or a domestic burglary,
the relevant section of this Chapter and subsection (1) above shall have effect as if the person had at that time been convicted in England and Wales of that corresponding UK offence.
(1B) For the purposes of subsection (1A)—
(a) “member State service offence” means an offence which—
(i) was the subject of proceedings under the service law of a member State other than the United Kingdom,
(ii) at the time it was done would have constituted an offence under the law of any part of the United Kingdom, or an offence under section 42 of the Armed Forces Act 2006, if it had been done in any part of the United Kingdom by a member of Her Majesty’s forces (“the corresponding UK offence”);
(b) “Her Majesty’s forces” has the same meaning as in the Armed Forces Act 2006;
(c) “service law”, in relation to a member State other than the United Kingdom, means the law governing all or any of the naval, military or air forces of that State.”, and
(b) after subsection (3) insert—
“(4) Where—
(a) the corresponding UK offence is an offence under section 42 of the Armed Forces Act 2006 by reason of section 43, 45, 46 or 47 of that Act (attempting, conspiring to commit, inciting, aiding, abetting, counselling or procuring criminal conduct); and
(b) the act to which it relates (“the contemplated act”) is not an act that is (or that if done would have been) punishable by the law of England and Wales;
for the purposes of subsections (1A) and (1B) it must be assumed that the contemplated act amounted to the offence under the law of England and Wales that it would have amounted to if it had been the equivalent act in England or Wales.”’.
Amendment 320, in schedule 15, page 167, leave out lines 17 to 20 and insert—
‘10 In section 263 of the Armed Forces Act 2006 (c. 52) (restriction on imposing custodial sentence or service detention on unrepresented offender)—
(a) at the end of subsection (2)(b) insert “, or sentenced to detention by a court in any other member State or for a member State service offence”, and
Schedule 15, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 125 to 127 ordered stand part of the Bill.
 
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