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The three main areas of concern as regards delegation to non-legal staff are the following. First, I address the categories of offence which non-legal staff may handle. I recognise that the Government have moved at least half-way on this, but I support the request of the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, for more clarification of how straightforward cases will in practice be predicted.
Secondly, there is concern about the functions which may be delegated. The decision to institute proceedings has now been removed from non-legal staff by the government amendments this evening. However, I understand that the subsequent conduct of proceedings will remain a matter capable of delegation. However, I should be grateful for confirmation on my next point, if possible, from the noble and learned Lord who is to reply. Will it still be mandatory, at least by some internal regulation, for certain decisions to be referred to legally qualified staff, for example whether to accept a plea of guilty to a lesser offence? There is also the problem of the Newton hearings, some of which can be remarkably straightforward but some of which can be remarkably complicated and long drawn out. How will these be allocated in practice as between lay presenters and legally qualified staff? My understanding is, again, that straightforward matters can be left to lay presenters, but how will this be determined in practice and anticipated in advance?
I have only two experiences of Newton hearings. One was when I represented a burglar charged with stealing a quantity of cutlery who insisted that, although he was guilty of taking the knives and the forks, he was not guilty of taking the spoons. This did not trouble the court for long or, I suspect, make any difference to the sentence which he received. On the other hand, I have also represented a woman of good character who was charged with taking a large sum of money from her employers. She would not explain what had happened to the money, nor her reason for doing so. It emerged at the last moment that her real motivation had been extreme pressure and threats from unlawful money lenders. No doubt the Newton hearing in that case made a substantial difference to the sentence which was passed, which otherwise, almost inevitably, would have been a sentence of imprisonment for someone who had never been near a prison before. How will that work in practice?
The third area of concern is, of course, supervision and training. I hope that it is now accepted by the Government that the general phrase in the Bill providing for instructions to be given does not of itself require there to be direct supervision of individual staff to whom these functions are to be delegated. I suggest it remains a failing of the Bill that there is no reference on the face of the Bill to direct supervision. However, I understand that there will in practice be supervision in place. I understood the noble and learned Lord in introducing these amendments
We are left with the promise that more is to come in another place. It is perhaps unfortunate that we are having to debate these matters and consider these amendments in advance of the report by Sir Iain Glidewell. At Committee stage I understood that there was at least a possibility that that report would be with the Government before this Bill completed its passage through the House. However, that may not now be the case. Can the noble and learned Lord give an indication when the Glidewell report is to be expected?
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I am grateful for the contributions that have been made to the debate on these government amendments. I shall deal with the three main points. First, as regards categories of offence that will be dealt with by lay presenters, as I indicated, the Narey Report deals with the question of uncontested cases which it has in mind for lay presenters. Narey states,
Secondly, I turn to function. As the noble Lord, Lord Meston, said, non-legal staff will no longer be entitled to initiate proceedings. He asked whether they would have to refer any kinds of decision to a legally qualified person. Plainly they will have to do so in certain situations, for example when deciding whether to accept a plea to a lesser charge. The noble Lord mentioned that example. The noble Lord referred to Newton hearings. These are not strictly contested matters. However, if there is any substantial issue which affects the basis of the plea, we would normally expect that that would not be dealt with by a lay presenter. As the noble Lord said, some Newton hearings simply involve the production of a letter to show, for example, that an insurance was only five days out of date as opposed to 15 days out of date. We see no reason why the lay presenter should not be present in the room when the letter is produced to show what the position is.
The noble Lord, Lord Meston, referred to the Glidewell Report. It is anticipated that this Bill will complete its passage through this House during the course of this evening. The bad news is that Sir Iain Glidewell has not yet produced his report. Unless it arrived when I was out--and I have reason to believe that it did not--it will not be produced before the Bill has gone through this House. I have not checked Hansard, but I do not think that I said it would come before the Bill went through this House but before the Bill came into force. I hope that will remain the position.
Lord Meston: My Lords, I may have misunderstood the position. I believe the noble and learned Lord said at an earlier stage that it might be produced before the Bill completes its passage through Parliament, not through this House.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I am not sure when the Bill will complete its passage through Parliament as a whole. I am not sure when Glidewell will appear, either. I cannot tell you which will come first. I did say that we would see it before the Bill was brought into force, and I am sure that that will remain the position. I think I have dealt with the noble Lord's concerns.
Page 37, line 38, leave out ("such a") and insert ("a Crown").
Page 37, line 43, at end insert--
("( ) the powers of such a Prosecutor in relation to the conduct of criminal proceedings not falling within paragraph (b)(ii) above.").
Page 38, line 5, leave out ("has") and insert ("would have").
Page 38, line 6, after ("Act") insert ("if in that section "offence" did not include an offence triable only on indictment;
3 "criminal proceedings" does not include proceedings for an offence triable only on indictment;").