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Viscount Colville of Culross: A number of us have been waiting for some time for the transfer provisions in the 1994 Act to be brought in. It was going to be July; then it was going to be September; then it was going to be next January; now it will not happen at all.

To help those of us who are trying to run these affairs, perhaps the Minister could give some forecast as to when the provisions are likely to come in. A good deal of preparation will be needed by the magistrates and the Crown Courts to be ready for this procedure. A certain amount of training will be needed. The magistrates' courts will have to know how to transfer these cases and who has to be told. There is an automatic requirement to tell the defendant or his solicitor. The defendant will probably not be there when the pleas and directions hearing takes place. All those things have to be set up.

The other thing with which the Minister may be able to help me, although I would not altogether blame her if she cannot do so today, is that at some time--it would be useful to know when--the custody limits will start to run, because that is of the greatest possible importance in dealing with the transferred cases when they come to the Crown Court. Plainly one must give priority to people who are in custody and one needs to know when the time limits start. That was going to be put in

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regulations under the 1994 Act, but since that whole matter has been abandoned we are to have this in primary legislation. I have looked at the new schedule to see whether I could find the provision. I cannot, but I expect that it is there and that it is my own fault for being unable to spot it. I shall be grateful if the noble Baroness will at some time assuage my fears.

Baroness Blatch: The original transfer provisions will not happen at all. As regards the timing of the provisions now before the Committee, the hope is that they will come into force as soon as practicable after Royal Assent.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

7.30 p.m.

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 128:


Before Clause 33, insert the following new clause--

Provisions connected with transfer for trial

(".--(1) Section 25 of the Magistrates' Courts Act 1980 (power to change from or to summary trial) shall be amended as mentioned in subsections (2) and (3).
(2) In subsection (3) (power, on application for dismissal, to try summarily) in paragraph (b)(i) after the word "proceed" there shall be inserted "(subject to subsection (3A) below)".
(3) In subsection (3A) (Attorney General's consent required)--
(a) after "(3)" there shall be inserted "(a) or (b)(i)", and
(b) for the words "that power" there shall be substituted "the power concerned".
(4) Section 28 of the Magistrates' Courts Act 1980 (using evidence in summary trial) shall be omitted.
(5) This section does not apply in relation to proceedings in which a magistrates' court has begun to inquire into a case as examining justices before the day appointed under section 172 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 for the commencement of section 44 of that Act (transfer for trial).").

The noble Baroness said: This clause contains two minor amendments to the Magistrates' Courts Act 1980 connected with transfer for trial. First, the clause remedies a small inconsistency in subsection (3)(b) of Section 25 of the 1980 Act. As currently drafted, this provides that the consent of a law officer (where the prosecution is being carried on by him) is required where the court decides, on consideration of an application for dismissal, to proceed to summary trial in the presence of the accused but not in his absence. The purpose of this technical amendment is to provide that the law officer's consent should be required whether or not the accused is present.

Secondly, it repeals Section 28 of the 1980 Act, which would otherwise provide that any oral evidence given during the course of an application for dismissal may be used in a summary trial in cases where the court has changed from application for dismissal to summary trial. Under the transfer procedure no witnesses are called to give oral evidence. Oral representations have no place in summary trial. Section 28 cannot continue to have any meaningful application. The amendment to Schedule 2 makes the two repeals necessary as a consequence of the second of the two amendments in the clause. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

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Clause 33 [Non-appearance of accused: issue of warrant]:

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 129:


Page 21, line 18, leave out ("made by statutory instrument").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 33, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 34 [Either way offences: accused's intention as to plea]:

[Amendment No. 130 not moved.]

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 131:


Page 23, line 44, leave out ("made by statutory instrument").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 34, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 35 [Enforcement of payment of fines]:

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 132:


Page 24, line 8, leave out ("made by statutory instrument").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 35, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 36 [Remand]:

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 133:


Page 24, line 21, leave out ("made by statutory instrument").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 36, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 37 [Attachment of earnings]:

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 134:


Page 25, line 5, leave out ("made by statutory instrument").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 37, as amended, agreed to.

[Amendment No. 135 not moved.]

Clause 38 [Acquittals tainted by intimidation etc.]:

Lord Ackner moved Amendment No. 136:


Page 25, line 11, after first ("of") insert ("perjury or").

The noble and learned Lord said: I apologise to the Committee for breaking the flow but I wish to raise a short matter that I mentioned on Second Reading. Members of the Committee will recall that Clause 38 is appropriately headed "Tainted acquittals". It deals with:


    "a person [who] has been acquitted of an offence, and ... a person [who] has been convicted of an administration of justice offence involving interference with or intimidation of a juror or a witness (or potential witness) in any proceedings which led to the acquittal".
It goes on to provide that a new trial can be ordered where that is established to the satisfaction of the court.

On Second Reading I suggested that just in the same way as provisions dealing with acquittals tainted by the accused's interference with jury or witnesses, by parity of reasoning there should be a similar provision for acquittals obtained by the accused's own perjury. That struck a sympathetic note with the noble Baroness who said that the Government would consider whether any other offences relating to interference with the administration of justice should be included in Clause 38 and that the matter would return to the Committee.

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The Minister's Amendment No. 140, which is grouped with my amendment, provides that page 25, line 33, should have inserted at the end:


    "(c) an offence of aiding, abetting, counselling, procuring, suborning or inciting another person to commit an offence under section 1 of the Perjury Act 1911).
I welcome that inclusion, but I am a little at a loss to understand why the person who himself commits the perjury should not have the consequence of that tainted acquittal being set aside. I beg to move.

Baroness Blatch: The aim of Clause 38, reflecting the Royal Commission's recommendation, is to tackle the mischief of acquittals achieved as a result of interference with or intimidation of jurors or witnesses. As such, the clause's targets are criminals who use money, threats or violence to exert pressure on witnesses or jurors in order to evade justice. The Government recognise that the provisions are novel but we, like the Royal Commission, believe that the particular threat posed by interference and intimidation justifies retrials in these circumstances. As currently drafted, Clause 38 provides for acquittals to be quashed where there has been a conviction for an administration of justice offence in the proceedings leading to the acquittal. These offences are defined as perverting the course of justice and a new offence of witness intimidation contained in the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.

One other obvious means by which an acquittal might be obtained by means of interference or intimidation is by procuring or suborning another person to commit perjury.

The noble and learned Lord's amendment would extend the provisions to acquittals obtained as a result of perjury whether or not there had been interference or intimidation. As such, it would raise much wider questions about the application of the procedures. It would, for example, increase substantially the potential scope for acquittals to become the subject of further investigation. No doubt there are many cases in which it might be possible to secure a conviction for perjury because of some deliberate inaccuracy in the evidence given by a defendant or perhaps a witness. Such convictions might be sought more frequently if they could provide a trigger for a retrial.

When a person has been acquitted, there should be a retrial only when there are firm grounds for believing that justice has been perverted and where it is held to be in the interests of justice to pursue such a course of action. We need to be extremely cautious about extending more widely the effects of the provisions at this stage.

On the other hand, it is clearly right that the provisions should extend to a situation where a witness is intimidated or bullied into committing perjury. That is what the government amendment achieves. In the light of those objections, I hope that the noble and learned Lord will withdraw his amendment in favour of that tabled by the Government which focuses only on

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those cases where a witness is intimidated or bullied into committing perjury. I commend the government amendment to the Committee.


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