Schedule 14

Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 12:45 pm ar 27 Tachwedd 2007.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Schedule to the Street Offences Act 1959

Question proposed, That this schedule be the Fourteenth schedule to the Bill.

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton Ceidwadwyr, Macclesfield

Before I call the hon. Member for Enfield, Southgate, I advise the Committee that we have just three further sittings in Committee unless the programme motion is amended. It is not the duty or responsibility of the Chairman to enforce the programme motion, but I am well aware from the amendment paper and the Bill that some important matters will still  require lengthy debate. It may be necessary for members of the Committee to show a little self-discipline. They should not not deal with matters, but should perhaps be a little more succinct in their comments than they might otherwise be.

Photo of David Burrowes David Burrowes Shadow Minister (Justice)

This is an opportunity to address the issue of enforcement when the rehabilitation order is breached. I understand that the breach will not be a criminal offence in itself, but that a person may be subject to the same sanctions as those that apply to the crime. Will the Minister provide some reassurance for people who are concerned that a failure to attend a meeting will—indeed, must—lead automatically to the supervisor beginning proceedings against the offender? Will their discretion be properly used when dealing with people who often have chaotic lifestyles and may miss a date or be late for a meeting?

The concern is that the detention could last for up to 72 hours and that the cycle of orders may involve a failure-to-attend order, a further order and then prison. Will the Minister explain the procedure that the court will adopt when a breach occurs? Will the offender be entitled to legal representation and a representation order, and will the procedures be based on the Magistrates’ Courts Act 1980 and the court’s rules?

Finally, will the Minister address the issue of adjournments of those hearings, which could lead to the offender being released immediately or remanded in custody? Is there not a risk that the schedule will perpetuate the situation for those who remain in prison, despite the Minister’s remarks that that is what he wishes to avoid?

Photo of Vernon Coaker Vernon Coaker Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) (Crime Reduction)

To reassure the hon. Member for Enfield, Southgate, our intention is that the measure should be very much a last resort, not something that is used as a matter of course. We felt, however, that it was important to include in the schedule a sanction that could be used should someone completely fail to comply with the rehabilitation order. That is the point of including the provision.

Failure to attend without a reasonable excuse will constitute a breach, so the Bill states that if the person who is subject to the rehabilitation order can demonstrate that it was reasonable for them to have missed the meeting, the supervisor will have to take that into account. When the individual fails to comply with the order, the supervisor will be required to inform the  court—either the court where the order was made, or the court in the area to which the person who is subject to the order has moved.

The magistrates court will not then have to issue a summons, but it will be able to do so if it chooses. The supervisor will be required to report to the court any failure to meet the requirements of the order, alongside an assessment of the individual’s likely future compliance, and the court will then instigate breach proceedings. We do not wish the 72 hours provision to be used often, but at the end of the day it is important to make available a sanction should somebody knowingly, deliberately and wilfully choose to ignore the fact that they are subject to an order. I do not believe that it will be used in many circumstances; I think it will be used in very few.

Photo of David Burrowes David Burrowes Shadow Minister (Justice)

I should like the Minister to pick up on the point I made about the procedure process for the offender who is brought back before the court. How will they make representations as a result of the breach? Will they be entitled to legal representation?

Photo of Vernon Coaker Vernon Coaker Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) (Crime Reduction)

The hon. Gentleman made a good point, and I shall reflect on it, because we will need to ensure that whoever is subject to the order can make some sort of representation. I shall certainly consider that issue.

Question put and agreed to.

Schedule 14 agreed to.