Criminal Law

Part of Theft from Shops (Use of Penalty Notices for Disorder) – in the House of Commons at 5:01 pm on 11th March 2009.

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Photo of Maria Eagle Maria Eagle Parliamentary Secretary (Government Equalities office) (also in the Ministry of Justice), The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice 5:01 pm, 11th March 2009

The point is that in Northern Ireland and Scotland, the administrative arrangements for cannabis warnings set out by the Association of Chief Police Officers have not been in place. If someone is caught in possession, they are therefore considered for prosecution. As all the lawyers in the House will know, being considered for prosecution does not necessarily mean that one ends up being prosecuted. Charges might not be brought, or there might be other reasons why a case does not end up before the courts.

On the financial penalty itself, as I have said, the average fine for simple possession offences in 2006 and 2007 was about the £80 mark that we have set for PNDs in the order. I cannot say that I have research to hand on whether public officials trust their courts and police more in Northern Ireland and Scotland. I will have to ask back at the Department a little later whether there is any such research, and if there is, I shall certainly point it out to the hon. Gentleman.

I hope that I have managed to deal with some of the points that have been made about the order, which the Opposition seek to annul. I hope that the House does not annul it, as along with the reclassification upwards, it forms an important part of the new arrangements for dealing properly and efficiently, but sensibly, with possession offences. Bearing in mind the fact that police retain the discretion to arrest for a first offence if they feel it appropriate, I hope that the House will agree that we should go ahead and ensure that the order is in force.

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