Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


Lord Williams of Mostyn: This has been a micro debate of great profundity. It is a pity that more noble Lords were not here to listen to it. It seems to me that it divides itself into two categories. The first is the general jurisprudential, almost philosophic, approach that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice

4 Oct 2000 : Column 1614

utilised in dealing with the general problem of sentencing. He said--I think I cite him fairly--that complexity is a menace in the criminal justice system. It may be, but the alternatives may be no better. One alternative to complexity is simply the blunt sentence. The other is the system with which he and are well familiar--I am not being disrespectful to our judicial colleagues in the northern part of the Americas--where the judge simply ticks the box. There is nothing complex about it but neither is there anything particularly sophisticated or subtle about it.

I take the point made by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice and immaculately, if I may say so, by my noble friend Lord Brennan. I cannot improve upon his argument. I used to hear those words often in debates on reform of the House of Lords followed by the most cruel word in the English word--"however". But I do not propose to say "however" or seek to improve on his argument. The single point I need to address--the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice and the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia referred to it--is the question of fines.

The answer to that--it was touched upon by my noble friend Lord Brennan--is that a fine was a possible alternative on the original sentencing occasion. It was rejected as insufficient. It was rejected because it would be neither a punishment nor an appropriate deterrent. It was a lower level than the one being breached. Experience indicates that significant fines are rarely collected from this class of offender. I do not dissent from the figures given by the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham. I should have said earlier how typically generous his response was. But if one has an offender who has already been sentenced in this way, a significant fine is unlikely to be imposed and collected.

We say, following the noble Lord, Lord Brennan, that a curfew order, a community punishment order or an attendance centre order would have a significant effect on offenders whose lives, I agree, are typically unstructured and chaotic.

We have benefited enormously from the debate. There is no doubt in my mind that the amendment will provide a significantly better remedy than the original clause. I am grateful to those who have contributed to the debate this evening and those who have taken the trouble to put their points to me privately and by letter. I hope that I have dealt with the concerns that have been expressed.

Lord Windlesham: To get us back into order, it might be appropriate for me to say that I shall not move Amendment No. 128. We have had a distinguished debate, illuminated by the presence and the contribution of the Lord Chief Justice.

The Attorney-General said that he could not improve on the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Brennan. I hope that he will read it carefully. Echoing the Home Secretary, the noble Lord said that community penalties are punishments that must be observed. If they are not, the individual will be brought back to court and must know that he may be sentenced

4 Oct 2000 : Column 1615

to imprisonment. The word "may" is crucial. There is nothing wrong with that. It leaves discretion with the court.

The noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws, and I are on different sides of the Chamber, but we have often agreed on many matters. Her nodding is as eloquent as any of the words that she could and often does use. Our essential objection to the original proposal was that it was a mandatory--and very harsh--scheme that would have resulted in injustice. That cannot be the right way to approach criminal justice policy. With those words ringing in the Attorney-General's ears, I repeat that I shall not move my amendment.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 128 not moved.]

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 129:


    Page 33, line 1, leave out subsections (4) and (5) and insert--


("(4) In paragraph 4, for sub-paragraph (1) there is substituted--
"(1) This paragraph applies if it is proved to the satisfaction of a magistrates' court before which an offender appears or is brought under paragraph 3 above that he has failed without reasonable excuse to comply with any of the requirements of the relevant order.
(1A) In a case where the offender is aged 18 or over and the order is one to which the warning provisions apply, the magistrates' court shall impose a sentence of imprisonment for the offence in respect of which the order was made unless it is of the opinion--
(a) that the offender is likely to comply with the requirements of the order during the period for which it remains in force; or
(b) that the exceptional circumstances of the case justify not imposing a sentence of imprisonment.
(1B) The sentence of imprisonment--
(a) where the offence was an offence punishable by imprisonment, shall be for the term which, if--
(i) he had just been convicted of the offence by the court, and
(ii) section 79(2) of this Act did not apply,
the court would impose on him for that offence; and
(b) in any other case, shall be for a term not exceeding three months;
taking account of the extent to which he has complied with the requirements of the order.
(1C) If in a case within sub-paragraph (1A) above the court does not impose a sentence of imprisonment or if the case is not within that subsection, the magistrates' court may deal with him in respect of the failure in one of the following ways (and must deal with him in one of those ways if the relevant order is in force)--
(a) by making a curfew order in respect of him (subject to paragraph 6A) below);
(b) where the offender is aged 16 or over, by making a community punishment order in respect of him (subject to paragraph 7 below);
(c) where the offender is aged under 21, by making an attendance centre order in respect of him (subject to paragraph 8 below); or

4 Oct 2000 : Column 1616


(d) where the relevant order was made by a magistrates' court, by dealing with him, for the offence in respect of which the order was made, in any way in which the court could deal with him if he had just been convicted by it of the offence."
(5) In paragraph 5, for sub-paragraph (1) there is substituted--
"(1) This paragraph applies where under paragraph 3 or by virtue of paragraph 4(4) above an offender is brought or appears before the Crown Court and it is proved to the satisfaction of that court that he has failed without reasonable excuse to comply with any of the requirements of the relevant order.
(1A) In a case where the offender is aged 18 or over and the order is one to which the warning provisions apply, the Crown Court shall impose a sentence of imprisonment for the offence in respect of which the order was made unless it is of the opinion--
(a) that the offender is likely to comply with the requirements of the order during the period for which it remains in force; or
(b) that the exceptional circumstances of the case justify not imposing a sentence of imprisonment.
(1B) The sentence of imprisonment--
(a) where the offence was an offence punishable by imprisonment, shall be for the term which, if--
(i) he had just been convicted of the offence by the court, and
(ii) section 79(2) of this Act did not apply,
the court would impose on him for that offence; and
(b) in any other case, shall be for a term not exceeding three months;
taking account of the extent to which he has complied with the requirements of the order.
(1C) If in a case within sub-paragraph (1A) above the court does not impose a sentence of imprisonment or if the case is not within that subsection, the Crown Court may deal with him in respect of the failure in one of the following ways (and must deal with him in one of those ways if the relevant order is in force)--
(a) by making a curfew order in respect of him (subject to paragraph 6A) below);
(b) where the offender is aged 16 or over, by making a community punishment order in respect of him (subject to paragraph 7 below);
(c) where the offender is aged under 21, by making an attendance centre order in respect of him (subject to paragraph 8 below); or
(d) by dealing with him, for the offence in respect of which the order was made, in any way in which the Crown Court could deal with him if he had just been convicted before it of the offence".").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 48, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 49 to 51 agreed to.

Clause 52 [Testing persons in police detention]:

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendment No. 130:


    Page 35, line 43, at end insert--


("( ) Information obtained from a sample taken under this section may be disclosed--
(a) for the purpose of informing any decision about granting bail in criminal proceedings (within the meaning of the Bail Act 1976) to the person concerned;
(b) where the person concerned is in police detention or is remanded in or committed to custody by an order of a court or has been granted such bail, for the purpose of informing any decision about his supervision;

4 Oct 2000 : Column 1617


(c) where the person concerned is convicted of an offence, for the purpose of informing any decision about the appropriate sentence to be passed by a court and any decision about his supervision or release;
(d) for the purpose of ensuring that appropriate advice and treatment is made available to the person concerned.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 131 not moved.]

Clause 52, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 53 agreed to.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page