Moved by Lord Grantchester
88: Clause 19, page 13, line 35, at end insert “not exceeding £50,000”Member’s explanatory statementThis amendment replicates the level of fine in Scotland and Northern Ireland for England and Wales, in order to probe the maximum amount under Clause 19(1)(a).
My Lords, I shall move Amendment 88 and speak to Amendment 89. These are the subject of this group. Clause 19 provides for penalties to be imposed for offences under various other clauses. I am using these amendments to probe the sentencing regime in relation to offences and the relevant merits and parity between the UK Administrations.
Clause 19(1) deals with having a licence and licence conditions, as well as the part of Schedule 3 concerning complying with information. It specifies that, on conviction, the penalty will be a fine in England and Wales. The amount is not specified. In Scotland and Northern Ireland, information penalties can be up to the statutory maximum but do not exceed £50,000 for any other cases.
It may be that this is a little confusing—merely a fine being given in England and Wales and that fine being a maximum of £50,000 or, in Scotland or Northern Ireland, the statutory maximum for information breaches. Can the Minister explain these discrepancies across the Administrations? It may be that each have their own powers that they wish to defend certain aspects of, or it may signify that there are certain fundamental differences in approaches between the Administrations in their penalty schedules. Can the Minister also explain why fundamental licence breaches receive only a fine rather than any other sanction? I beg to move.
My Lords, this amendment had me a little puzzled. I wondered whether the noble Lord had, like me, been a magistrate prior to 2012, when the law changed in England. That is at the root of the differences.
Amendment 88 would bring fines in England and Wales for offences committed under Clauses 12(3), 14(6) or 16(6) or paragraphs 1(4), 3(2) or 3(3) of Schedule 3 in line with those in Scotland and Northern Ireland. It would similarly limit fines on conviction on indictment to the same amount through Amendment 89.
In England and Wales, the fines for offences align with the provisions of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012. Section 85 of that Act removed the statutory maximum fine on summary conviction and replaced it with a fine of any amount. This gave magistrates, who impose the vast majority of fines, greater flexibility to identify the most effective and proportionate punishment appropriate to the offences and offenders before them. These are not custodial offences in other areas of fisheries legislation, so this is the only penalty that can be imposed. The approach that we have taken on penalties in the Fisheries Bill is consistent with Section 85 of the 2012 Act and other existing fisheries legislation, and ensures a consistent and coherent sentencing framework in England and Wales. The reason for the difference in Northern Ireland and Scotland is that they are separate jurisdictions and the changes made by the 2012 Act applied only to England and Wales.
The reason no limit is placed on fines for conviction on indictment in the Bill, as Amendment 89 probes, is that the enforcement provisions mirror those in the Sea Fish (Conservation) Act 1967. The offences under that Act and other fisheries legislation provide that, where someone has committed an offence and been convicted on indictment, the court has the discretion to impose a fine without a limit. Not only is this consistent with the approach taken in other fisheries legislation, it is consistent with the underlying policy that the Crown Court should not be constrained in its ability to set a fine, in order that it may take into account both the seriousness of the offence and the financial circumstances of the offender. Finally, this amendment would change the position in Scotland and Northern Ireland, which would cut across devolved competencies.
With this explanation, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, will feel able to withdraw his amendment.