Amendment 178

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill - Committee (7th Day) – in the House of Lords at 1:00 pm on 10th November 2021.

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Lord Paddick:

Moved by Lord Paddick

178: Clause 86, page 78, line 17, leave out subsection (4)Member’s explanatory statementThis amendment is to probe the effect of subsection (4).

Photo of Lord Paddick Lord Paddick Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

My Lords, by way of a little light relief for the Committee, I rise to move Amendment 178 in my name.

In this part of the Bill, “Part 6—Cautions”, Clause 86 deals with:

“Application of Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984.”

On page 78, at line 17, Clause 86(4) states:

“Section 40 of the 1984 Act (review of police detention) applies to a person in police detention by virtue of section 85 above as it applies to a person in police detention in connection with the investigation of an offence, but with the following modifications—

(a) omit subsections (8) and (8A);

(b) in subsection (9), for the reference to section 37(9) or 37D(5) substitute a reference to the second sentence of section 85(6) above.”

Can the Minister please explain to the Committee what that means? We do not have the foggiest idea. Legislation is supposed to be capable of being understood by those to whom it applies, but this is incomprehensible to us, let alone to the poor police officer who has to apply it or the poor accused who may be subject to it. That is provided that I have the gist of what this whole thing is about, and it actually applies to police officers and the accused. However, I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Hamwee Baroness Hamwee Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Immigration), Chair, Justice and Home Affairs Committee, Chair, Justice and Home Affairs Committee 1:15 pm, 10th November 2021

My Lords, does the Minister think that the Bill is so short that it would have spoiled it if the new provisions had been set out in full?

Photo of Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Lord Wolfson of Tredegar The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

My Lords, taking that last point first, one of the glories of our system is that the drafting is done by parliamentary counsel, and I will not criticise the way it has been done. However, I agree with the underlying point made by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, that legislation ought to be—

Photo of Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Lord Wolfson of Tredegar The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

I was going to say “comprehensible” but that is a pretty high test— perhaps “as clear as good legislation can be”. I have to leave at least some space for my former colleagues at the Bar to have a career; if we make it too precise, we will do people out of a job. However, there is a serious point here, and I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, that legislation should be as clear as possible. I will set out what the words are seeking to do, and if it is thought that there is a better way of putting them to get to the same result, obviously, I will be happy to hear it. However, let me explain what they seek to do.

Clause 86 sets out the provisions of PACE and the modifications required to them that will apply upon arrest for failure to comply with any condition attached to a diversionary caution. The purpose of the clause is to ensure that the diversionary caution operates effectively within the existing framework of police powers; it mirrors the approach taken in the Criminal Justice Act 2003, which gives the police powers of arrest for failure to comply with the existing conditional caution.

The subsection of this clause ensures that someone arrested and detained by the police is subject to the same treatment as any detained person, and periodic reviews of their detention are carried out. Obviously, that is important. The same subsection also contains modifications to put specific matters in the Bill: the power to detain those who are unfit to be dealt with at the time of arrest; the power of arrest for detainees bailed for any breach—that is, non-compliance; and the power to search a detainee in police custody following arrest.

The modifications make specific reference to the diversionary caution. For example, the PACE power to search and examine a detainee to ascertain their identity is modified to ensure that the power will still exist where a detainee has failed to comply with any of the conditions attached to the person’s diversionary caution. Therefore, it provides—I was going to say “clarity” but perhaps that might be pushing the point a little—that these powers apply only to the diversionary caution and not also to the community caution, where there is no power of arrest or prosecution for non-compliance. That is why Clause 86(4) is needed. Without the necessary PACE provisions as modified, the powers for police to deal with breaches of a diversionary caution would be limited and that would undermine the effect of non-compliance with the conditions.

I do not know whether what I have said has reassured the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, that the clause is properly focused. I hope that I have explained what it is trying to do. I am not being flippant and I do appreciate that legislation needs to be as clear as possible and that it is important that people understand what it encompasses. However, when one is legislating against the background of other legislation, it can be quite difficult to do it other than by cross-references back. If there is a better way to achieve the same result without adding pages and pages, I should be very happy to hear it, but I hope that I have explained what the clause is focused on and why it is drafted in the way it is. I therefore invite the noble Lord to withdraw the amendment. However, I am happy to discuss this matter between us if there is another way of doing it.

Photo of Lord Paddick Lord Paddick Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

I am very grateful to the Minister. Perhaps I may gently suggest that if something akin to what the noble Lord said was contained even in the Explanatory Notes explaining that part of the Bill, we would not have to spend time in Committee trying to understand what it was about. I know that my noble friend Lady Hamwee and I have looked everywhere possible to try and decipher what that meant—to no avail. It may be that to parliamentary draftspeople it is as clear as day—but for us lesser mortals it is not. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Photo of Baroness Hamwee Baroness Hamwee Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Immigration), Chair, Justice and Home Affairs Committee, Chair, Justice and Home Affairs Committee

My Lords, before my noble friend withdraws his amendment, I should say that he is quite right. There are a number of different points at which it is important for people to understand what legislation means. For us looking back at legislation, we can do so online and it is important that the changes go up online as soon as possible, including in the previous legislation. This is quite a serious point that is, of course, much broader than the Bill—but I am going to infuriate the Committee by getting it off my chest. One can spend an awful lot of time trying to understand what a piece of legislation, passed 20 years ago and amended five times, actually amounts to unless what is put online is completely up to date. It wastes an awful lot of noble Lords’ time and must waste Ministers’ time trying to get their heads around it if the Explanatory Notes do not set out those things intelligibly.

Photo of Lord Paddick Lord Paddick Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 178 withdrawn.

Clause 86 agreed.

Clause 87 agreed.

Clause 88: Deciding on the conditions

Amendments 179 and 180 not moved.