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Clause 37 - Designated officers and magistrates' courts

Part of Courts Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:15 pm on 1st July 2003.

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Photo of Chris Leslie Chris Leslie Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Constitutional Affairs) 3:15 pm, 1st July 2003

The clause allows the Lord Chancellor to designate members of the courts agency staff to perform certain statutory functions in relation to the business of a magistrates court. Many of those functions are currently performed by a justice's chief executive within the magistrates courts committee. The statutory post of JCE will cease to exist in the new courts agency, and as a direct result the former functions of the JCE will rest with the Lord Chancellor. Where appropriate, he will nominate a designated officer of a magistrates court to perform them. It is envisaged that that will mean little change in practice, as the functions will continue to be carried out by the members of staff to whom the work is presently delegated.

Amendments Nos. 130 and 131 would both remove the term ''justice of the peace'' from subsection (1). The clause reflects the fact that the references to justices' chief executives in current legislation are many and varied. Some such references are being amended by the Bill to read, ''designated officer''. However, as the references are varied, the clause is drafted to cover all eventualities in which the term ''designated officer'' will apply.

As drafted, the clause highlights that it is not practicable, nor in all instances desirable, to change all legislative references from JCE to ''designated officer'', for example in legislation pertaining to pension or

compensation arrangement for JCEs. Removing the reference to justice of the peace in the clause would mean that any reference to a designated officer and a justice of the peace in an Act would not be covered by clause 37. That would in turn lead to confusion about what is meant by the term ''designated officer'' in those circumstances.

Furthermore, the clause follows the same pattern as existing legislation where JCEs are mentioned in the same provision as justices of the peace. One example of such a reference is in section 16 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. Removing the words ''justice of the peace'' from this clause is therefore undesirable, given the need for consistency and watertight drafting arrangements. On those grounds, the amendment should be withdrawn.