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Lord McCluskey: Before the amendment is withdrawn, I should like to save time in coming back to these matters by dealing with the remaining matters in the associated amendments, Amendments Nos. 84 and 86.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Earl of Mar and Kellie moved Amendment No. 82:

Before Clause 27, insert the following new clause:

("Sentence to include compensation order

. After each of sections 217 and 430 of the 1975 Act there shall be inserted the following section as, respectively, section 217A and section 430A—
"Sentence to include compensation order.

.—(1) The court shall, in passing a sentence on an offender for any offence, consider the effect of the offence on the victim; and where the victims, or any of the victims, is a private individual and has suffered personal injury (including psychological injury) or financial loss or damage the court shall, subject to subsections (2) and (3) below, include in the sentence an order against the offender compensating the victim or victims against the injury, loss or damage.
(2) The court may decline to make a compensation order under subsection (1) above; and if so the court shall give its reasons for declining.

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(3) The court may not make a compensation order under subsection (1) above in respect of loss or damage against which the victim is insured or is capable of being insured.".").

The noble Earl said: I spoke to this amendment on Thursday last, though it was not discussed at that time. Suffice to say that the amendment would have the desirable effect of bringing a new priority to the sentencing process. The compensation order would become automatic unless there was good reason for one not being made; for example, where the offence was committed by rivals rather than against unknown and innocent victims.

Amendment No. 82 is grouped with Amendment No. 146. In a way it deals with victims and with money and for that reason I should like to speak to it at this time while the Committee has victims in mind. The purpose of Amendment No. 146 is to arrange a statutory basis for funding voluntary organisations which seek to support the victims of crime and to enable them to put the experience behind them. At present such organisations are eligible for grant aid from central and local government sources. But that is subject to the changing priorities and whims of political decision-makers. Such changes of political emphasis are not a bad thing. However, that is no way to fund a victim support service.

Discretionary funding is a sound way of funding projects to allow them to prove that they can make a significant contribution to society. I regret that I can see no end to the need for a victim support service. It should remain in the voluntary sector, for it will be staffed by a few full-timers and many volunteers. But the funding of the service should be put on a permanent basis. I believe that the method advocated in the amendment—taking a percentage of the proceeds of compensation—will be supported by the people of Scotland, who are fed up with the effects of offending behaviour on individuals and property both private and public. I beg to move.

5.45 p.m.

Lord McCluskey: As the Committee will recognise, the amendment proposes also to deal with a requirement upon the court to consider the effect of the offence upon the victim. On that technicality I shall endeavour to make the points that I should have made on the previous matter, had I been on my feet before the noble Earl withdrew the amendment.

I simply want to say that I am satisfied that the amendments being considered today in relation to the impact upon the victim provoked a worthwhile debate. I am particularly grateful to the noble Earl for introducing in his reply the word "revenge". That is something we must take elaborate steps to avoid. If I were to conclude that the introduction of victim impact statements were to make revenge a factor in the sentencing of persons convicted of crime, then I should certainly not support the amendment.

In relation to certain matters of detail, in my amendment, which we have not yet reached and to which I shall not speak separately, I proposed that there should be an intimation to the accused person of the

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victim impact statement. One reason for that is to allow the details to be challenged, and we would need procedure for that. Another reason is that it is extremely important that we bring home to accused persons, in the calmness of the dock or the cell to which they go after leaving the dock, what was the impact on the victim. Too many crimes are committed by people who dismiss them as having nothing to do with them; they do not care about the consequences. There is much to be said for the view that the victim impact statement should go directly to the accused person and he can have it on the wall of his cell for the period of time that he spends there.

I shall not reply to the matters of detail raised by the noble Earl. I used the words "if possible" because the victim may survive and be a vegetable and therefore be unable to co-operate in any sense required by the statement; he may be a person of low intelligence; he may have disappeared or refuse to co-operate. There are many reasons why I inserted the words, "if possible".

At this stage it is the principle that matters. I acknowledge, as in all these matters, that the devil lies in the detail. It may be that, when one examines all the details and all the matters discussed today and raised elsewhere, it is impossible to find solutions to some of the problems. However, I invite the Government to consider putting the matter to the Scottish Law Commission. Though I support the noble Lord, Lord Macaulay, who made a proposal for a study group, I should prefer that it be done by sending the matter to the Scottish Law Commission and I am sure that the Government will consider that proposal.

In relation to details such as the timing of the preparation of the report, that could be done before conviction and might need to be amended if the conviction did not reflect the charge. It is not easy to obtain access to published material on this matter in this country. I have access to a large volume of material from the United States. Members of the Committee may be interested to watch a television programme next month—"The Heart of the Matter"—on a Sunday evening, when some light may be shed upon this matter by those who accompanied me to the United States to look at the Californian system.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: The noble and learned Lord made a suggestion in relation to the Scottish Law Commission. I do not think he will expect me to make an immediate response; but I shall certainly bear in mind what was said both by him and by the noble Lord, Lord Macaulay, on this matter.

Since the implementation of the Criminal Justice Act 1988, courts on this side of the Border have been required to explain decisions not to make a compensation order in specific cases. That requirement seems to have had some success in concentrating judicial minds on the issue of compensation and in increasing the use of such orders. We must take due notice of that apparent success when deciding whether to impose a similar duty on Scottish courts. However, a number of other considerations need to be taken into

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account. For example, we need to consider whether such a provision would prove equally successful in Scotland in increasing usage.

In order to facilitate comprehensive consideration of the issues involved, the Scottish Office last year commissioned further research into the usage of compensation orders. That research, which is now being conducted by a team from Stirling University, involves statistical analysis and interviews with victims and offenders. Unfortunately, its results will not be available for some months. We take the view that it is reasonable to wait for that research and consider all the issues before introducing a provision of the type now proposed by the noble Earl. I am instinctively sympathetic to the notion that measures should be taken to increase the usage of compensation orders. I shall be grateful if the noble Earl will consider withdrawing his amendment. In return, I shall undertake to reconsider the position and see whether we can usefully take any steps in the current Bill. I stress that at this stage I cannot give any firm commitment; I merely give an assurance that we shall look at the issue sympathetically.

There is one feature of his proposal that I do not regard sympathetically; that is to say, that a distinction should be drawn between those covered by insurance and those who are not. If he reflects upon the matter for a moment he will envisage an awkward circumstance where a householder who is repeatedly broken into may find that the only compensation he can obtain is by turning to an insurance policy. As a result his insurance premium may be increased while the individual next door with no insurance whatever may find satisfaction in compensation orders.

I turn to Amendment No. 146. I appreciate that the noble Earl is assiduous in his efforts to secure maximum support for victim support, and I sympathise with his aim. However, I do not consider that the automatic diversion of any amount from the proceeds of compensation to Victim Support or any other bona fide organisation is appropriate. The noble Earl will appreciate that, although certain parts of the proceeds are distributed, what is left in the ordinary way goes to the Exchequer for redistribution, as appropriate, across the whole range of public support, including the funding of victim support organisations. That is appropriate. Bodies such as Victim Support need consistency so that they can operate and plan within known financial constraints. The rather uncertain quantity that would be implicit in the noble Earl's proposal would not be compatible with that objective. I certainly understand and share his view that Victim Support should be appropriately funded but I would respectfully suggest that this is not an appropriate way.

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