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Summons to witness and warrant for his arrest

'.--(1) In section 97 of the Magistrates' Courts Act 1980 (summons to witness and warrant for his arrest) the following subsections shall be inserted after subsection (2A)--
"(2B) A justice may refuse to issue a summons under subsection (1) above in relation to the summary trial of an information if he is not satisfied that an application for the summons was made by a party to the case as soon as reasonably practicable after the accused pleaded not guilty.
(2C) In relation to the summary trial of an information, subsection (2) above shall have effect as if the reference to the matters mentioned in subsection (1) above included a reference to the matter mentioned in subsection (2B) above."
(2) This section applies in relation to any proceedings for the purpose of which no summons has been issued under section 97(1), and no warrant has been issued under section 97(2), before the appointed day.
(3) The reference in subsection (2) to the appointed day is to such day as is appointed for the purposes of this section by the Secretary of State by order.'

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 66. I shall also speak to Amendments Nos. 69, 70 and 71 which introduce new clauses concerning procedures for issuing witness summonses. These are the means by which reluctant witnesses are brought to court to give oral evidence or to produce documentary evidence. They are also the means used to achieve third party disclosure in criminal cases.

I indicated at Third Reading that it was the Government's intention to bring forward amendments to the Bill to improve arrangements for third party disclosure in criminal proceedings. We were not able to do so until the Bill had passed to another place because of our wish to consult widely on what is a complex area. The changes that are reflected in these amendments are modest. We do not regard them as the final word on third party disclosure. It is our intention to look again at procedures for disclosure by third parties once we are able to assess the practical benefits of the new arrangements that are set out in Amendments Nos. 66, 70 and 71. Although modest, the changes that are proposed, and which have been drawn up in consultation with the judiciary and with many of those potential third parties directly affected by the changes, are nevertheless in our view sensible, practicable and helpful. I hope that the House will agree.

Amendment No. 66 deals with the procedures in the magistrates' courts. It will enable the justices to take account of the timeliness of an application for a witness summons and give them discretion not to issue a summons. Late applications are a problem for both third parties and the court. This provision should encourage earlier applications without penalising those who may have good reason for a last minute application.

Amendment No. 70 replaces the existing provisions for witness summons in the Crown Court. At present a witness summons in the Crown Court is issued automatically and can be challenged by a third party

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who has to prove that he or she should not disclose material. The amendment allows for new procedures such that in most cases witness summonses will be issued by the court only on an application. The application for a witness summons has to be justified, specific and timely. Provision is made for the third party to apply to be heard before the summons is issued. The court will also be able to order advance disclosure of documents in a witness summons after which the witness may be stood down if his or her evidence is not required.

There are circumstances in which the Crown Court will need to act of its own motion. I have in mind, in particular, letters of request which are made under the terms of the Criminal Justice (International Co-operation) Act 1990 in respect of foreign proceedings. In such cases the Secretary of State nominates a court to take evidence under Section 4 of the 1990 Act. The court issues a witness summons, as necessary, of its own motion. New Section 2D inserted by Amendment No. 70 ensures that this can continue to happen and that we can continue to comply with the terms of the 1990 Act.

Amendment No. 71 simply ensures that the Crown Court is able to enforce a witness summons. It allows the Crown Court to issue a warrant to arrest the witness if he or she fails to comply with the summons.

Finally, Amendment No. 69 concerns witness orders. Unimplemented provisions in the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 abolished witness orders. Amendment No. 69 makes similar provision. The notification of witnesses to attend court will instead be achieved by a new administrative procedure. Crown Courts retain their powers to issue a witness summons to ensure the attendance at court of reluctant witnesses.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 66.--(Baroness Blatch.)

Viscount Colville of Culross: My Lords, leaving aside the international dimension--which does not come my way very often--the rest of these amendments appear to me to be wholly admirable and will be very helpful for the administration of justice in the courts with which I deal.

Lord Harris of Greenwich: My Lords, I have no difficulty with these amendments. I should like to put a question to the noble Baroness. If she does not want to answer it today perhaps she can deal with it by way of correspondence. Given the number of criminal justice Acts which are being significantly amended, is this area likely to be a priority candidate for consolidation?

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, unequivocally yes. The answer to the noble Lord's question lies ultimately with my masters. However, on the basis of the number of Acts to which I have referred in speaking to these amendments, the case for consolidation is well made.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

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5.30 p.m.

COMMONS AMENDMENT

67

After Clause 53, insert the following new clause--

Road traffic and transport: provision of specimens

'.--(1) In section 7(3) of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (provision of blood or urine in course of investigating whether certain road traffic offences have been committed) after paragraph (b) there shall be inserted--
"(bb) a device of the type mentioned in subsection (1)(a) above has been used at the police station but the constable who required the specimens of breath has reasonable cause to believe that the device has not produced a reliable indication of the proportion of alcohol in the breath of the person concerned, or".
(2) In section 31(4) of the Transport and Works Act 1992 (provision of blood or urine in course of investigating whether certain offences have been committed by persons working on transport systems) the word "or" at the end of paragraph (b) shall be omitted and after that paragraph there shall be inserted--
"(bb) a device of the type mentioned in subsection (1)(a) above has been used at the police station but the constable who required the specimens of breath has reasonable cause to believe that the device has not produced a reliable indication of the proportion of alcohol in the breath of the person concerned, or".
(3) This section applies where it is proposed to make a requirement mentioned in section 7(3) of the 1988 Act or section 31(3) of the 1992 Act after the appointed day.
(4) The reference in subsection (3) to the appointed day is to such day as is appointed for the purposes of this section by the Secretary of State by order.'

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 67.

The new clause ensures that the police can make full use of new evidential breath testing equipment, which will shortly be available, by continuing to be able to exercise their existing discretion to require blood or urine samples from suspected drink drivers in certain situations. It makes similar provision in the Transport and Works Act which provides a scheme for dealing with railway employees suspected of exceeding the alcohol limit.

The existing breath testing equipment at police stations was introduced in 1983 and we need to plan ahead for its replacement. Technology has moved on since 1983, as have the international standards on breath testing. The new equipment therefore incorporates some new software which enables it to identify and flag up automatically certain situations which are currently catered for by operational arrangements. Put simply, these cover situations where it is suspected an interfering substance may be present, or the alleged offender produces mouth alcohol or the difference between the reading for two breath samples is greater than 15 per cent. In such situations, the machine will advise the operator and the constable should then be able to require a blood or urine sample as an alternative.

The existing provisions in Section 7 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 do not currently allow specimens to be required in a situation where a properly working

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machine indicates such readings. The new clause therefore extends the police's existing discretion to allow specimens to be taken in such situations.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 67.--(Baroness Blatch.)

Lord Renton: My Lords, the new clause is of some importance to motorists. As I understand the present law, if a motorist is given a breath test and it shows that he may be outside the limit that is allowed, he is entitled to call for another test (blood or urine). I am not sure how this new clause will work. It gives the constable the opportunity to decide whether the breath test could have been inaccurate.

If the breath test shows that the motorist is in the clear--in other words, it does not show that he has taken enough alcohol to convict him--but the constable thinks that the breath test should have shown that he has taken more alcohol, the constable can then require a urine or blood test. I am not sure whether in those circumstances the rights of motorists to claim that as the breath test was all right, it shall hold. I hope that I am not being unfair to my noble friend. I have not given her notice of this question, but it is a point that we should consider in passing.


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