Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


Baroness Mallalieu: I am encouraged by what the Minister said. There are obvious and clear difficulties in using the green form scheme in its present form for such cases. I believe that the noble Baroness understands that there is an advantage, first, in having properly presented cases sent to the commission, and, secondly, in having some filter so that everyone in prison does not immediately seek to obtain their papers and send them. In those circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment. I look forward to further discussion with the noble Baroness perhaps before the next stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 22 [Offence of disclosure]:

[Amendment No. 46 not moved.]

Clause 22 agreed to.

Clause 23 [Exceptions from obligations of non-disclosure]:

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 47:


Page 17, line 39, at end insert:
("( ) in order to assist in dealing with an application made to the Secretary of State for compensation for a miscarriage of justice,").

The noble Baroness said: The amendment inserts a further gateway into Clause 23 through which the commission may disclose information gathered in the course of its investigations. It empowers the commission to disclose information to the Secretary of State and to the assessor to enable them to deal with an application for compensation when a miscarriage of justice has occurred.

The provision will allow the commission, for example, to give the Secretary of State and the assessor copies of the transcripts of proceedings in their possession and the results of their investigations where relevant so that they do not need to make their own inquiries to obtain the same information before making their respective decisions. I beg to move.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: This amendment comes in the second of two complex clauses on disclosure, Clauses 22 and 23. Some of the issues of disclosure were

12 Jun 1995 : Column 1620

already debated when we considered amendments to Clause 17, although that is a different kind of disclosure. We do not oppose Amendment No. 47, which is an increase in the gateways, as the Minister calls them. To that extent, it is to be welcomed. We shall consider the issue of compensation when we take the Government's Amendment No. 52.

However, I cannot let the amendment pass without saying that the architecture of Clauses 22 and 23 seems curious. Instead of having the presumption of disclosure, we start by defining in some detail in Clause 22 an offence of disclosure. In Clause 23 we go on to consider exemptions from the obligations of non-disclosure. The Minister has given assurances for which we have been grateful that disclosure to applicants shall not be worse than the standard applied by the divisional court in the case of ex parte Hickey and others in November last year. That will be a considerable relief to those concerned with miscarriages of justice. However, it is still the case that the way in which the Bill has been structured means that the presumption is against disclosure, with exceptions for disclosure rather than the other way round. I still find that curious and although I have not been able to work out to my own satisfaction the best way to tackle the matter in the form of amendments—I am not prepared with a whole series of Committee stage debates—it is a matter to which we may wish to return at a later stage. However, as the amendment stands we do not oppose it.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 23, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 24 agreed to.

8.45 p.m.

Clause 25 [Extension of power of courts in England and Wales]:

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 48:


Page 19, line 10, at end insert:
("( ) After that subsection insert—
"(1A) The power conferred on a magistrates' court by subsection (1) above shall not be exercisable in relation to any sentence or order imposed or made by it when dealing with an offender if—
(a) the Crown Court has determined an appeal against—
(i) that sentence or order;
(ii) the conviction in respect of which that sentence or order was imposed or made; or
(iii) any other sentence or order imposed or made by the magistrates' court when dealing with the offender in respect of that conviction (including a sentence or order replaced by that sentence or order); or
(b) the High Court has determined a case stated for the opinion of that court on any question arising in any proceeding leading to or resulting from the imposition or making of the sentence or order."").

The noble Baroness said: With Amendment No. 48 I shall also speak to Amendments Nos. 50 and 51. As many Members of the Committee may know, magistrates in England and Wales may vary, or rescind, a sentence or other order imposed or made by them within 28 days of the sentence or order being imposed or made. Similarly, they may only order a rehearing within 28 days of the date a person is found guilty and only where that person did not plead guilty. There are no such provisions at present in Northern Ireland.

12 Jun 1995 : Column 1621

It is generally agreed that the time limit is too restrictive. It means many minor matters go to the higher courts on appeal, or to the Secretary of State to consider a recommendation that the Royal prerogative of mercy be exercised. This is time-consuming and expensive.

The provisions in Clauses 25 and 26 will enable magistrates to reopen a case at any time, and regardless of the original plea, but only where it is in the interests of justice to do so. However, the removal of the time limit means that a case could be reopened by the magistrates after an appeal has been determined in the Crown Court or the High Court (by way of case stated) in England and Wales, or in a county court or the Court of Appeal in Northern Ireland. This cuts across the principle that a lower court should not interfere with the decisions of a higher court. We wish to maintain that principle.

Amendments Nos. 48 to 51 ensure that where the higher court has determined an appeal, whether against sentence, order or conviction, that case cannot be reopened by the magistrates and nor can any sentence be varied by them.

We anticipate that the amendments will affect very few cases. The vast majority of applications for rectification will remain in the magistrates' courts. Magistrates will be able to review a case at any time, in the interests of justice, unless the case has been appealed to a higher court and the appeal has been determined. If an appeal to the higher court is dismissed and the defendant then, for example, finds evidence that indicates that he was not guilty of his conviction, he should approach the criminal cases review commission for his case to be further considered.

I hope that the House will agree that these are sensible amendments which are necessary to preserve an established principle which will not disadvantage a defendant. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 49:


Page 19, line 16, at end insert:
("( ) After that subsection insert—
"(2A) The power conferred on a magistrates' court by subsection (2) above shall not be exercisable in relation to a conviction if—
(a) the Crown Court has determined an appeal against—
(i) the conviction; or
(ii) any sentence or order imposed or made by the magistrates' court when dealing with the offender in respect of the conviction; or
(b) the High Court has determined a case stated for the opinion of that court on any question arising in any proceeding leading to or resulting from the conviction."").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 25, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 26 [Introduction of power in Northern Ireland]:

Baroness Blatch moved Amendments Nos. 50 and 51:


Page 19, line 31, at end insert:
("( ) The power conferred on a magistrates' court by paragraph (1) shall not be exercisable in relation to any sentence or order imposed or made by it when dealing with an offender if—
(a) the county court has determined an appeal against—
(i) that sentence or order;

12 Jun 1995 : Column 1622


(ii) the conviction in respect of which that sentence or order was imposed or made; or
(iii) any other sentence or order imposed or made by the magistrates' court when dealing with the offender in respect of that conviction (including a sentence or order replaced by that sentence or order); or
(b) the Court of Appeal has determined a case stated for the opinion of that court on any question arising in any proceeding leading to or resulting from the imposition or making of the sentence or order.").
Page 19, line 36, at end insert:
("( ) The power conferred on a magistrates' court by paragraph (2) shall not be exercisable in relation to a conviction if—
(a) the county court has determined an appeal against—
(i) the conviction; or
(ii) any sentence or order imposed or made by the magistrates' court when dealing with the offender in respect of the conviction; or
(b) the Court of Appeal has determined a case stated for the opinion of that court on any question arising in any proceeding leading to or resulting from the conviction.").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 26, as amended, agreed to.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page