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Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendments Nos. 29 and 30:

Page 35, line 1, leave out subsection (3) and insert--
("(3) At such a hearing the single justice--
(a) may exercise, subject to subsection (2) above, such of his powers as a single justice as he thinks fit; and
(b) on adjourning the hearing, may remand the accused in custody or on bail.
( ) This section applies in relation to a justices' clerk as it applies in relation to a single justice; but nothing in subsection (3)(b) above authorises such a clerk to remand the accused in custody or, without the consent of the prosecutor and the accused, to remand the accused on bail on conditions other than those (if any) previously imposed.").
Page 35, leave out lines 4 to 7.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 46 [Provisions supplementing section 45]:

Lord Falconer of Thoroton moved Amendment No. 31:

Page 36, line 44, leave out ("Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 ("the 1994 Act"),") and insert ("1994 Act,").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 47 [Crown Prosecution Service: powers of non-legal staff]:

Lord Falconer of Thoroton moved Amendment No. 32:

Page 37, leave out lines 35 to 37.

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, in moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 33 to 37. The main objective of this new Clause 47 is to enable designated lay staff to deal with the sort of case which Narey described as a, "straightforward guilty plea". It is also intended that they should be able to present motoring cases which fall to be proved in the defendant's absence. Unfortunately, it is not open to us to adopt here in the Bill the expression used by Narey. Although we know what we

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mean by a "straightforward guilty plea"--that is, cases where there is no dispute as to the facts--it is rather difficult to define it on the face of the Bill. As a result, we must proceed by way of exclusion.

On Report, I said that we would be willing to exclude from the scope of the clause cases involving indictable-only offences. That is one of the effects of the amendments. CPS staff who are not legally qualified will not be capable of undertaking the review of indictable-only cases or their presentation in the magistrates' courts (which will in future, owing to Clause 45, be a very brief stage in the proceedings).

Indeed, in excluding indictable-only cases, the amendment will actually remove an existing power of lay staff. The current Section 7A of the Prosecution of Offences Act 1985 is subject to no restriction as to the offences in respect of which a bail application may be made, and there is nothing to prevent lay staff from dealing with bail applications in indictable-only cases. Those critics who have referred to this possibility as though it were the result of this clause are, therefore, mistaken: it represents the present theoretical position, although in practice lay staff do not deal with such cases. The amendment brings the provision and the practice into line by making it clear that lay presenters will perform no functions in respect of indictable-only cases.

I also said on Report that we would examine whether further drafting improvements could be made to the clause. The amendments will exclude from Clause 47 the powers of a Crown prosecutor in relation to decisions whether to institute proceedings. The decision to institute proceedings is usually taken by the police, and the sort of case in which it falls to the CPS to take that decision would certainly not be suitable for lay staff to deal with but should be reserved to a Crown prosecutor.

There is a further category of business which we believe it will be possible to exclude; namely, the review of cases which are to be committed to the Crown Court, or dealing with committal proceedings. With your Lordships' approval, we shall return to those matters in another place.

The amendment tabled in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, would restrict lay staff to dealing with non-imprisonable offences. As I commented on Report, such a restriction would have the disadvantage of preventing lay staff from dealing with some offences which, though imprisonable, would be entirely within the range of the lay staff. I do not believe that that represents the right way forward.

I know that the degree of supervision which is to be exercised over lay staff by Crown prosecutors is a matter of concern. I am advised that the current formula,

    "subject to instructions given by the Director",
is sufficient to cover the supervision which it is certainly intended should be exercised by legally-qualified Crown prosecutors. However, if there is any doubt on the subject, we should of course be ready to dispel it.

I should also like to reiterate the assurances that I gave previously about guidance and training. There will be a requirement on the face of the Bill that the

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guidance which the director issues as to the deployment of lay staff should be published in the annual report of the CPS, and that any changes which may subsequently be made to that guidance should be publicised in the same way. We intend to ensure that lay staff who are designated under this clause are given thorough training in the law, practice and procedure in magistrates' courts and in how to present the facts of a case. This is a substantial programme which will take some time to complete, but, as the provision is to be piloted in a few areas before it is adopted nationwide, the training initially required will be on a manageable scale.

Finally, perhaps I may deal with one matter which I know has caused concern to certain people; namely, the prospect of a case being heard by a court consisting entirely of laymen where an unrepresented defendant pleads guilty before a lay Bench and a lay presenter appears for the Crown. That fails to take into account the court clerk. By virtue of the Justices' Clerks (Qualifications of Assistants) Rules 1979, clerks in courts must either be professionally qualified or be qualified by reason of experience.

I believe that we have taken very largely on board the many legitimate concerns raised about the drafting of Section 7A of the Prosecution of Offences Act 1985. I very much hope that we have met all the legitimate concerns of noble Lords. I also hope that I have said enough to persuade your Lordships that our broad aim here is one that we all share; namely, to implement the Narey proposal and not to introduce a more general provision. I beg to move.

8.15 p.m.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, with the leave of the House, I hope that I may speak now to my amendment as the Minister made mention of it. I am certainly grateful for the fact that, since the Committee stage, the Minister has had further meetings with regard to how the clause may be amended. I am grateful to him for the invitation to attend the meeting which was held yesterday afternoon. I know that the meeting was attended not only by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, but also by the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, the noble Lord, Lord Meston, and representatives of the Bar Council. I apologise for the fact that I was unable to attend that meeting, but I was one of the very few Members of this House who were in the Chamber yesterday for the proceedings on the Social Security Bill until late last night. I was certainly pleased to hear that some modest but, nonetheless, important progress was made at that meeting.

My amendment refers to the remaining area of concern whereby it was felt that it would not be appropriate for lay presenters to be able to prosecute cases which consisted of offences triable either way or offences which may only be summary in themselves but which, on conviction, could leave the convicted person open to a sentence of imprisonment. I noted what the Minister said about the potential competence of lay people to deal with such cases, the provision of training

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which is intended to be put in place and, indeed, the piloting which is to be carried forward before the system is established nationwide.

However, I have some residual concerns about whether sufficient attention has been paid to some of the complexities which may arise quite unexpectedly in what may appear to be the most simple and straightforward of cases. Indeed, I recall debates in this Chamber yesterday evening during proceedings on the Social Security Bill--and the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate will remember because he was one of the select band concerned--when we discussed the fact that one could have at an appeal tribunal a case which simply seemed to be an open and shut matter until, for example, something like an administrative announcement had to be made, or the production of a document which had not hitherto been produced was required, or an explanation needed to be given, which had not been given to the person at the tribunal.

I believe that that reads across to the kind of situation that one can have in what appears to be a straightforward summary matter. I have concerns which I hope the Minister will be able to quell tonight as regards how the cases will be allocated to lay people. Of course I am aware that there will be qualified justices' clerks in magistrates' courts. Indeed, from the discussion on the last amendment, I recognise the experience that they have. However, the person who is acting on behalf of the CPS--the lay person--could find that he is at a distinct disadvantage if something unexpected occurred. It could well be that the experienced justices' clerk notices something that is wrong with a particular document which has been served. From my own past experience as a magistrate, I know that that is not an uncommon feature of life in such courts. For example, it may well be that the justices' clerk notices that someone has decided on a particular plea which is not appropriate. Indeed, justices' clerks have some knowledge of documents that magistrates do not and yet they are in a position where they cannot, as justices' clerks, advise defendants.

I do not believe that there is in every sense a way of predicting what is a simple, straightforward case. I should be grateful if today the Government could say how they hope to ensure that only simple, uncontested cases will be involved. I have expressed that badly. However, I hope that the Minister can reassure me that the Government and the public can be satisfied that lay persons will deal only with simple, uncontested cases. I hope he can give me some idea of what is meant by "simple". I should be happy if that could be explained. If I were satisfied on that point, I would not feel it necessary to move my amendment. Having sat as a magistrate, I know that lay justices do a valuable job. However, they should not be expected to deal with problems caused by the CPS having delegated the presentation of a case to a lay person. They have the right to expect a professional presentation of even the most simple, straightforward cases.

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