Schedule 1 - Enforcement powers in relation to ships

Part of Modern Slavery Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 2:30 pm ar 9 Medi 2014.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of David Hanson David Hanson Shadow Minister (Home Affairs) 2:30, 9 Medi 2014

I beg to move amendment 69, in schedule 1, page 33, line 18, at end insert—

‘(3A) Any person refusing to disclose such information shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale, or imprisonment for up to six months.”

Schedule 1 is an important part of the Bill. It gives enforcement officers the power to stop and board a ship, to require a ship to be taken to a port, and to search a ship or anyone or anything on it, including cargo. Paragraph 10(3) currently states:

“A person guilty of an offence under this paragraph”— which effectively means obstructing an enforcement officer, refusing to comply with instructions or providing false material—

“is liable on summary conviction to a fine.”

Between you and me, Mr Crausby, I confess that the amendment is a bit clunky, is probably in the wrong place and is not elegantly drafted. Nevertheless, its purpose is to tease something out of the Minister. If an individual is found guilty of hindering an enforcement officer by interfering with the stopping of a ship, the boarding of a ship, the requirement for a ship to be elsewhere, or the searching of a ship, anyone on it or its cargo, is it appropriate that they will be liable only to a fine for which the schedule does not even stipulate a minimum amount?

I have tabled amendment 69, which, as I said, is probably in the wrong place, badly drafted and inelegant, in order to ask whether or not we should consider a higher level of penalty than a fine, whether the Minister should consider a minimum fine, and whether the courts should have the option of considering a custodial sentence. We are talking about potential people traffickers being stopped. If a people trafficker perverts an enforcement officer’s role by not helping him to search the ship or not allowing him to search the cargo, that is a serious offence. If a ship is not stopped and further force is required, or people try to repel the enforcement officers who board a ship, what happens? Those are serious crimes that require a serious response, rather than simply making the guilty person “liable…to a fine”.

I have tabled my amendment not in the hope that the Minister will accept it, but to ask her to look at the principle. If she comes back with a further, stiffer penalty for those who wish to pervert the course of justice, she will have our support.