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Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord on three counts. It was helpful for him to put on the record in some detail the way in which the scheme will operate. I am also grateful that we now have the position of the National Probation Service clarified. I understand fully the point the noble and learned Lord made that previously it was not possible for it to be involved. I am also grateful that there may be a chance for further discussion on the code of practice when it is produced, which will no doubt be very soon.

It is important to consider the position of people with a mental illness regarding conditional cautions due to their particular vulnerability. However, the noble and learned Lord has given a number of clear commitments and I am happy to beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 30 not moved.]

Lord Goldsmith moved Amendment No. 31:

(1) Section 1 of the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000 (c. 43) (purposes of Chapter 1) is amended as follows.
(2) After subsection (1) there is inserted—
"(1A) This Chapter also has effect for the purposes of providing for—
(a) authorised persons to be given assistance in determining whether conditional cautions should be given and which conditions to attach to conditional cautions, and
(b) the supervision and rehabilitation of persons to whom conditional cautions are given."
(3) After subsection (3) there is inserted—

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"(4) In this section "authorised person" and "conditional caution" have the same meaning as in Part 3 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003."

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 25 [Interpretation of Part 3]:

Lord Goldsmith moved Amendment No. 32:

    Page 18, line 28, at end insert—

"( ) the Attorney General,"

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 2 [Charging or release of persons in police detention]:

Lord Thomas of Gresford moved Amendment No. 32A:

    Page 181, line 23, after "bail" insert "for a period of not longer than 35 days"

The noble Lord said: My Lords, we return to a topic which we raised in Committee. We are dealing with the depths of Schedule 2 to the Bill. We are concerned to put a limitation on the period of time that pre-charge police bail is granted while a case is referred to the Crown Prosecution Service for a decision whether to charge. There is no such limitation at the moment but there is a tendency for the CPS these days to drag its feet over this—as over almost everything else—and it is wrong that a person should have charges hanging over him for an excessive period.

The noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General in his response on 14th July told us that the Home Affairs Select Committee had recommended such a limit and that the Government had paid attention to the charging pilots which,

    "were suggesting that in most cases a five-week period should be sufficient to enable charges to be brought".—[Official Report, 14/7/03; col. 684.]

In the amendment that we moved at that time we suggested that 28 days was an appropriate period but at this stage we have adopted the five-week period referred to in the charging pilots; hence this amendment stipulates a 35-day period for police bail before charge.

The noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General also pointed out that it was the Government's view, following the final evaluation report, to have no statutory limit. He suggested that although the period of bail should not be unreasonably long, it would be better for the guidance and instructions to be issued by the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Association of Chief Police Officers to stipulate an appropriate period. He also pointed out the power that exists for a person to go to court and ask for conditions of bail to be varied or discharged.

At this stage, we should like to press the Government on what they have in mind. What sort of guidance will there be? How long is it suggested that the period will be before an excessive period is deemed to have occurred? We have come back to the matter to find out whether the Government have made any progress in formulating guidance and instructions on the topic. I beg to move.

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9.30 p.m.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, I support the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, in the amendments. They reflect accurately the concerns that my honourable friends in another place expressed in Committee, which were not taken further on Report; as we are aware, Report is a very curtailed matter in another place. I, too, should be grateful if the noble and learned Lord could tell the House what further progress had been made on guidance, as it is important to know what period will be considered excessive in such matters.

Lord Goldsmith: My Lords, I am very sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, chose to make the attack on the Crown Prosecution Service that he did in moving the amendment. I noted him as describing it as having a tendency to drag its feet, in this as in most matters. As the superintending Minister responsible for the Crown Prosecution Service, I regard that as an unfair attack on it that ought not to have been made. It does a very important job. Its many professionals up and down the country deal with 1.4 million cases throughout the year, bringing them to the courts, and they deserve rather better than a generalised attack on them in those terms. I have absolutely no hesitation in rejecting that charge.

I shall deal with the length of time for bail. Let the circumstances in which we are referring to bail be understood. We are referring to a system in which the decision to charge will be taken by crown prosecutors in consultation with the police. The circumstances then will be that the custody sergeant will have taken the view that there probably is sufficient evidence to charge the particular individual, and that will then be considered with the prosecutors.

In the large majority of cases, it is very likely that the decision to charge will have been taken within a period of 35 days, the figure referred to in the amendment. However, the Crown Prosecution Service is not the only relevant body; there must be further investigations by the police in certain circumstances. Therefore, there will be cases where the nature of the investigations and the decisions means that a longer time is necessary. I draw attention to the fact that the president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, in an important letter that he recently sent to noble Lords, said that,

    "any artificial time limit on the proposals is undesirable. Evidence can, of necessity, take time to prepare. If artificial time limits are imposed, when the prosecution have no control over the availability of evidence, they will lead to escalating costs, unnecessary hearings and discharged cases. Instead, each case should be closely monitored".

What would happen under the amendment if the 35-day limit was reached and the police and prosecution were not in a position to charge? There is no provision in the amendment for renewal of bail by the police. What would happen if the person presented himself at the police station? There would be only two choices: either the conditions which the police thought to be

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necessary and appropriate in the case of that defendant would have to be abandoned, or the defendant would have to be charged there and then. That would reduce the benefits of a scheme in which a considered decision is taken so that cases which should not be in the system are dropped and that others go forward in a well prepared and focused way.

I reiterate that we are discussing bail and not custody. Conditions are attached to it, but the person is still at liberty. However, if he feels that the bail is oppressive and that too much time is being taken, either he can go to the custody officer—who can vary the custody conditions—or, failing that, he can go to the court and ask it to discharge or vary the bail. That would be a more than adequate way of controlling the provision.

I am sorry for having begun on an disagreeable note, but I hope that noble Lords will understand that it is right to make a clear statement about the position of the CPS. For the reasons that I have given, I resist the amendment.

Lord Thomas of Gresford: My Lords, I acknowledge the remarks of the Attorney-General about the CPS and I appreciate why he feels that it is necessary to leap to its defence. There is no room for complacency in that service. It is not the moment to debate its faults and failings, but he would find it difficult to answer all the charges that are levelled against it. I heard a lengthy complaint myself only two nights ago and I have personal experience of cases being put back and of comments made by judges about it. However, it is not an appropriate moment to debate that topic. Perhaps it is a matter that I can put down for full debate at another time.

Lord Goldsmith: My Lords, I would welcome that. It would be an opportunity to address the generalised points that the noble Lord has made.

Lord Thomas of Gresford: My Lords, the noble and learned Lord is right in saying that they are generalised points. I would make them specific if and when we came to them. On the matter before us, I have heard what he has said and reserve my position, but I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 31 [Defence disclosure]:

[Amendment No. 33 not moved.]

Clause 32 [Notification of intention to call defence witnesses]:

[Amendment No. 34 not moved.]

Clause 33 [Notification of names of experts instructed by defendant]:

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