Criminal Law

Part of Theft from Shops (Use of Penalty Notices for Disorder) – in the House of Commons at 6:06 pm on 11th March 2009.

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Photo of David Burrowes David Burrowes Shadow Minister (Justice) 6:06 pm, 11th March 2009

We have had an interesting and important debate, and it was a debate that the Government did not wish us to have. Their view was that the order should have been dealt with under the negative resolution procedure. If that had happened, this informed debate in the House would not have seen the light of day.

Keith Vaz urged the Opposition not to let process get in the way. This debate has highlighted the lack of process, the abridged time in which the hastily drafted order was put before the House, and the fact that 21 offences were taken off the order and that the order was revoked and then revised in its present form. We have been able to highlight those points today.

The debate about the process goes further, however. The process that the Government want to implement is an escalator, comprising the three-strikes warning, the fixed penalty notice and finally the possibility of arrest and prosecution. The reality that has been exposed today is that that escalator is not functioning, and it is unlikely to do so in many parts of the country, given the lack of a computer system and a means of recording the offences involved.

Opposition Members have also highlighted the number of serious offences in the order, and on the schedule, that will now be dealt with using a fixed penalty notice, rather than properly seeing the light of day in the courts. Summary justice has traditionally been done, and seen to be done, in magistrates courts. As we have already seen, the risk is that the expansion of the use of PNDs, which have their place in limited circumstances, will lead to their falling into disrepute. It could also have that effect on summary justice. The order that the Government sought to push through under cover has come to light, and we now need to annul it. I urge hon. Members to do that today.

Question put.

The House proceeded to a Division.

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