Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:00 pm on 3rd March 2008.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lord Bach Lord Bach Government Whip, Government Whip 4:00 pm, 3rd March 2008

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, for moving the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas. The reply I have is somewhat lengthy and I shall try to cut it down, but it is important that the Committee understands why this proposed new clause is not acceptable to the Government.

The proposed new clause in Amendment No. 122A seeks to address issues which were raised in an amendment in another place. Of course, the Government understand the concerns on this matter. We have to make allowances for the fact that some people, because they are vulnerable, do not respond when they ought to notifications from the court. That does not mean that the courts ought to permit those convicted in their absence to simply ignore the sentence imposed on them. But, if someone is identified as vulnerable, the courts should have the power to look again at the fine or financial penalty. We do not accept this proposed new clause because that power already exists and is used by the courts.

As the noble Lord said, the proposed new clause looks to provide an opportunity to suspend or halt the enforcement of fines against vulnerable people who are convicted in their absence by suspending or withdrawing any warrant issued against the offender. It would allow certain persons to be given the power under regulations to suspend or withdraw a warrant to enforce a fine or other financial penalty.