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Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his response. I accept that any demotivating element or feeling that a child has been set up to fail would be an unintended consequence. However, it is a real consideration that should be taken into account. If a testing order is not made an essential element of the action plan, it does not mean that testing could not take place. What it boils down to is the fact that I would rather leave it to the professionals to decide whether it would help a young person to progress. That is the way that it would work best in the interests of a young person coming off drugs. Clearly, we share that objective with the Government. I do not intend to press the amendment. I thank the Minister for his further explanation. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 233 to 235 not moved.]

Schedule 24 [Increase in maximum term for certain summary offences]:

Baroness Scotland of Asthal moved Amendment No. 235ZA:

"(4A) In section 62B (failure to comply with direction under section 62A: offences), in subsection (3), for "3 months" there is substituted "51 weeks"."

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 235ZA I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 235ZB and 235ZC. I hope that I can take these matters very shortly. These amendments increase the maximum penalties for the offences linked to measures in the Anti-social Behaviour Bill to deal with trespasses on land, raves and noisy premises, so as to ensure that they are compatible with the new sentencing framework in the Criminal Justice Bill. I beg to move.

Lord Hylton: My Lords, I am surprised to see an amendment to the Anti-social Behaviour Bill, which is not yet law, incorporated in this Bill. Perhaps the Minister can explain that apparent anomaly.

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As regards Amendment No. 235ZC, I understood from our earlier discussions on anti-social behaviour that closure of noisy premises was intended to be a very short-term measure so that an immediate problem could be sorted out and a serious nuisance stopped for a short period. Now it appears that three months is to be extended to 51 weeks. Can the noble Baroness account for that?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, that is in order to make the provisions compatible. I had sought to shorten the debate, but I am happy to explain how each of the amendments operates.

Amendments Nos. 235ZA, 235ZB and 235ZC, to which the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, made reference, make the necessary changes to the maximum penalties available for certain offences in the Anti-social Behaviour Bill so as to ensure that they may be compatible with the new sentencing framework. By adding these offences to Schedule 24 they will have their maximum penalties increased from three months to 51 weeks' imprisonment on the introduction of the new short custodial sentences contained in the Criminal Justice Bill. It simply allows the court to deal with them in an appropriate way and make them subject to those provisions.

Amendments Nos. 235ZA and 235ZB bring the penalties to deal with raves and trespasses on land in the Anti-social Behaviour Bill into line with the penalties for similar offences, which are already listed in Schedule 24. We have tabled them at this stage as it is likely—I put it no higher—that the Anti-social Behaviour Bill will precede this Bill on to the statute book.

Amendment No. 235ZC amends the maximum penalty for the offence of opening premises in contravention of a closure order under Clause 46 of the Anti-social Behaviour Bill. This clause deals with the closure of noisy premises so the two need to dovetail with one another. The synergy is there and will now be reflected in the Bill. I hope, therefore, that we shall not have to return to it for further amendment. I have learnt the lesson from this that short-cuts are never really worth taking.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal moved Amendment No. 235ZB:

    Page 319, line 36, leave out "subsection (6)" and insert "subsections (6) and (7B)"

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal moved Amendment No. 235ZC:

    Page 321, line 35, at end insert—

"Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 (c. 00)

In section 47 of the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 (closure of noisy premises), in subsection (5)(a), for "three months" there is substituted "51 weeks."

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 235A had been re-tabled as Amendment No. 236FA.]

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Clause 265 [Minimum sentence for certain firearms offences]:

Baroness Scotland of Asthal moved Amendment No. 235B:

    Page 149, line 28, after "(ae)" insert ", (af)"

The noble Baroness said: These amendments are technical. I shall put them into order because they were previously in another group. We may be transposing the groups. In moving Amendment No. 235B, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 236A and 236B, 236D to 236F, 236J, 248A and 248B. I shall attempt to take the issues shortly. Perhaps noble Lords could indicate whether they are comfortable with that position.

Amendments Nos. 235B, 236A and 236B apply the minimum sentence for unlawful possession of prohibited firearms to Brocock-type air weapons, which are being prohibited in the Anti-social Behaviour Bill. The prohibition is necessary because the weapons are vulnerable to conversion to fire live ammunition and have become popular with criminals. They should therefore attract the minimum sentence.

Amendments Nos. 236D to 236F and 248A and 248B extend to Northern Ireland the increased maximum sentence for smuggling prohibited firearms. Amendment Nos. 236D to 236F also apply to the maximum sentence for smuggling Brocock-type air weapons.

Amendment No. 236J will enable the minimum sentence provisions and the maximum sentence for smuggling firearms to be applied to any dangerous firearms that may be prohibited in the future. Section 1(4) of the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988 contains a power for the Secretary of State to make an order to add specifically dangerous firearms to the list of prohibited weapons in Section 5 of the Firearms Act 1968. Changes to this power are being made in the Anti-social Behaviour Bill and will allow a future order to include some, but not all, of the amendments necessary to apply sentencing provisions in the Criminal Justice Bill to any firearms prohibited in the future. They will enable an order to amend the principal Act—the Firearms Act—but not other enactments.

Amendment No. 236J addresses that issue by enabling an order to make the necessary amendments to the Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000 and the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Monson moved Amendment No. 236:

    Page 149, line 34, leave out from "that" to end of line 36 and insert "in relation to all the circumstances relating to the offence or to the offender it would be unjust to do so"

The noble Lord said: My Lords, my noble and learned friend Lord Ackner was hoping that the amendment would come up before seven o'clock. I wish to move the amendment, however inadequately, because I think that the matter is too important not to be discussed.

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When we last debated the matter about five weeks ago, I asked the Minister which other first world countries imposed minimum sentences for crimes other than murder: I was well aware that a number of third world countries did so. The noble Baroness was kind enough to write me an extremely helpful and comprehensive letter—as incidentally, to their eternal credit, is the habit of most Ministers in this particular administration—for which I thank her. Her letter listed five first world countries in which minimum sentences apply for crimes other than murder. In alphabetical order those are: Germany, the Republic of Ireland, Russia, Switzerland and the United States of America.

Even if one counts Russia as a first world rather than a second world country—which is open to question, certainly as far as concerns per capita GDP and the treatment of political opponents—I do not think that it is a very good mentor regarding penal policy. Nor, for different reasons, do I think that the USA is a very good mentor, much as I admire it in most other respects. That leaves Germany, the Republic of Ireland and Switzerland. In Switzerland the minimum sentences are six months for burglary and 12 months for drug offences. They are extremely low; it is impossible to imagine lower sentences being imposed ever in the absence of minimum sentence legislation. In Germany the minimum sentences are a little higher but still low: they are one to two years for certain drug dealing offences. Only in the Republic of Ireland is there a particularly severe minimum sentence—10 years for the dealing in drugs of a value of 12,700 euros or more, which is equivalent to about 8,500 to 9,000 sterling.

I realise that the amendment of my noble and learned friend Lord Ackner does not remove the minimum sentence requirement, it merely makes it a little less draconian. Nevertheless, it is better than nothing. I beg to move.

7.45 p.m.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I say straight away to the noble Lord that I am grateful that he categorised Germany and Switzerland at least as first world countries which do not suffer from the normal difficulties that he identified in relation to others. Of course, we say that those countries are used just as an indicator that this is not outwith that which can be done. There will be regional differences. I would hope that the noble Lord recognises that Ireland has a particular resonance for us, in terms of the common law tradition, the way in which the judiciary is structured and indeed the response to its difficulties. It is similar in that sense to our position. The noble Lord was quite right to identify the sentence in relation to drug matters.

The amendment is identical to one tabled but not moved by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, in Committee. Its purpose was to ensure that courts have sufficient discretion not to impose the new minimum sentence for certain firearms offences in cases where it would be unjust.

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Clause 265 requires the court to impose the minimum sentence unless there are exceptional circumstances relating to the offence or to the offender which justify its not doing so. This is designed to ensure that the minimum sentence is applied as widely as possible, but that it is not used in cases where it would clearly be disproportionate.

The amendment would replace this exceptional circumstance with one that would allow the courts to have regard to all the circumstances relating to the offence or to the offender and to decide not to impose the minimum sentence if it would be unjust to do so.

We understand why the noble Lord put the issue in that way, but we think that the test we have in the Bill will enable the court to exercise its discretion. It is also true—and this has been mentioned throughout the passage of this Bill—that the whole issue of drug crime, which is more and more supported by gun crime, has become a real problem. It is a scourge. We must make an appropriate response. We think that this provision has sufficient safeguards to enable matters to be dealt with appropriately. We ask the noble Lord not to press the amendment.

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