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New Schedule 2 - Discharge of fines by unpaid work

Courts Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:00 am on 10th July 2003.

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Part 1

Work orders


1 (1) This Part of this Schedule applies if a person aged 18 or over (''P'') is liable to pay a sum which—

(a) consists of or includes a fine, and

(b) is or is treated for the purposes of Part 3 of the 1980 Act as a sum adjudged to be paid by conviction of a magistrates' court.

(2) In this Part of this Schedule—

''fine'' does not include any pecuniary penalty, pecuniary compensation or pecuniary forfeiture payable on conviction;

''the prescribed hourly sum'' means such sum as may be prescribed by regulations;

''regulations'' means regulations made under this Schedule by the Lord Chancellor;

''the relevant court'' means—

(a) the court imposing the liability to pay the relevant sum, or

(b) if that liability has previously been imposed, the magistrates' court responsible for enforcing payment of the relevant sum;

''the relevant sum'' means the sum for which P is liable as mentioned in subparagraph (1), but excluding any pecuniary compensation or any sum due in respect of prosecution costs.

Cases where work order may be made

2 The relevant court may, on the application of a fines officer or of its own motion, make an order under this Schedule (a ''work order'') where—

(a) it appears to the court that in view of P's financial circumstances all the following methods of enforcing payment of the relevant sum are likely to be impracticable or inappropriate—

(i) a warrant of distress under section 76 of the 1980 Act,

(ii) an application to the High Court of county court for enforcement under section 87 of the 1980 Act,

(iii) an order under section 88 of the 1980 Act,

(iv) an attachment of earnings order,

(v) an application for deductions to be made by virtue of section 24 of the Criminal Justice Act 1991 (recovery of fines etc.by deductions from income support etc.),and

(vi) a collection order under Schedule (Collection of fines),

(b) it appears to the court that P is a suitable person to perform unpaid work under this Schedule, and

(c) P consents to the making of the order.

Provisions of order

3 (1) A work order is an order requiring P to perform unpaid work for a specified number of hours, in accordance with instructions to be given by the fines officer, in order to discharge by virtue of this Schedule his liability for the relevant sum.

(2) The order must also—

(a) state the amount of the relevant sum, the amount of the fine and the amount of any other part of the relevant sum,

(b) either specify the fines officer who is to have in relation to P the powers conferred by this Schedule or specify that any fines officer working at a specified fines office is to have those powers in relation to P, and

(c) specify a person (''the supervisor'') who is to act as supervisor in relation to P.

(3) The specified number of hours is to be determined by dividing the relevant sum by the prescribed hourly sum and, where the result is not a whole number, adjusting the result upwards to the next whole number.

(4) A work order must specify a date (''the specified date'') by which the required hours of unpaid work must be performed.

(5) In the following provisions of this Part of this Schedule ''the fines officer'', in relation to P, means the fines officer specified in the work order or, if the work order specifies a fines office, any fines officer working at the specified office.

Effect of order on enforcement of payment

4 (1) Where a work order has been made in respect of the relevant sum, payment of that sum may not be enforced against P unless the order is revoked.

(2) On making a work order, the court must revoke any order relating to the enforcement of the payment of the relevant sum.

Appointment of, and duties of, supervisor

5 (1) A person may not be appointed as the supervisor without his consent.

(2) It is the duty of the supervisor—

(a) to monitor P's compliance with the requirements of the work order, and

(b) to provide the court with such information as the court may require relating to P's compliance with those requirements.

Obligations of person subject to work order, and effect of compliance

6 (1) Where a work order is in force, P must perform for the number of hours specified in the order such work, at such places and at such times as he may be instructed by the fines officer.

(2) The fines officer must ensure, as far as practicable, that any instructions given to P in pursuance of the work order are such as to avoid—

(a) any conflict with P's religious beliefs, and

(b) any interference with the times, if any, at which he normally works or attends school or any other educational establishment.

(3) If before the specified date P performs work in accordance with the instructions of the fines officer for the specified number of hours, his liability to pay the relevant sum is discharged.

Effect of payment

7 (1) Where a work order has been made in respect of any sum—

(a) on payment of the whole of the sum to any person authorised to receive it, the work order ceases to have effect, and

(b) on payment of part of the sum to any such person, the number of hours specified in the order is to be taken to be reduced by a proportion corresponding to that which the part paid bears to the whole of the relevant sum.

(2) In calculating any reduction required by subparagraph (1)(b), any fraction of an hour is to be disregarded.

Revocation or variation of order

8 (1) If, on the application of the fines officer, it appears to the magistrates' court that P is failing or has failed to comply with a work order without reasonable excuse, the court must revoke the order.

(2) If, on the application of the fines officer, it appears to the magistrates' court—

(a) that P has failed to comply with a work order but has a reasonable excuse for the failure, or

(b) that, because of a change in circumstances since the order was made, P is unlikely to be able to comply with a work order,

the court may revoke the order or postpone the specified date.

(3) In this paragraph ''the magistrates' court'', in relation to a work order, means any magistrates' court acting in the local justice area in which the court which made the order was sitting.

(4) A work order may be revoked under subparagraph (1) or (2), or varied under subparagraph (2), before the specified date (as well as on or after that date).

(5) Regulations may provide for the fines officer to have the power to issue a summons for the purpose of ensuring that P attends the magistrates' court to which an application has been made under subparagraph (1) or (2).

Allowing for work done

9 (1) If it appears to the magistrates' court revoking a work order under paragraph 8(1) or (2) that P has performed at least one hour of unpaid work in accordance with the instructions of the fines officer, the court must by order specify the number of hours of work that have been performed; and for this purpose any fraction of an hour is to be disregarded.

(2) Where the court has specified a number of hours under this paragraph, P's liability to pay the relevant sum is discharged to the extent of the prescribed hourly sum in respect of each hour.

Effect of revocation

10 (1) Where a work order is revoked under paragraph 8(1) or (2), immediate payment of the relevant sum (subject to any reduction under paragraph 9(2)) may be enforced against P.

(2) Subparagraph (1) does not limit the court's power, on or after the revocation of the work order, to allow time for payment or to direct payment by instalments.

Order not directly enforceable

11 The obligations of P under a work order are not enforceable against him except by virtue of paragraph 10(1).

Evidence of supervisor

12 (1) This paragraph applies where—

(a) it falls to a magistrates' court to determine whether P has performed unpaid work in accordance with a work order, and

(b) a justice of the peace is satisfied—

(i) that the supervisor is likely to be able to give evidence that may assist the court in determining that matter, and

(ii) that the supervisor will not voluntarily attend as a witness.

(2) The justice may issue a summons directed to that person requiring him to attend before the court at the time and place appointed in the summons to give evidence.

Provision of information

13 Regulations may—

(a) require a work order to contain prescribed information,

(b) require the court making a work order to give a copy of the order to such persons as may be prescribed, and

(c) require the court revoking or varying a work order to give notice of the revocation or variation to such persons as may be prescribed.

Part 2

Consequential amendments

Magistrates' Courts Act 1980 (c.43)

14 In section 82 of the 1980 Act (restriction on power to impose imprisonment for default) after subsection (4A) insert—

''(4B) The cases in which the offender's default may be regarded for the purposes of subsection (4)(b)(i) as being attributable to his wilful refusal or culpable neglect include any case in which—

(a) he has refused, otherwise than on reasonable grounds, to consent to a work order proposed to be made under Schedule (Discharge of fines by unpaid work) to the Courts Act 2003 (discharge of fines by unpaid work), or

(b) he has without reasonable excuse failed to comply with such an order.''

National Minimum Wage Act 1998 (c.39)

15 After section 45 of the National Minimum Wage Act 1998 insert—

''45A Persons discharging fines by unpaid work

A person does not qualify for the national minimum wage in respect of any work that he does in pursuance of a work order under Schedule (Discharge of fines by unpaid work) to the Courts Act 2003 (discharge of fines by unpaid work).''.—[Mr. Leslie.]

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

Photo of Chris Leslie Chris Leslie Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Constitutional Affairs) 11:15 am, 10th July 2003

On a point of order, Mr. O'Brien. I take this opportunity to thank you for your steady stewardship and for helping me through proceedings on my first Bill since taking up my new portfolio at the Department for Constitutional Affairs. It has been an interesting experience all round. I hope that you can pass the Committee's thanks on to Mr. Illsley, who helped to see our proceedings through to a timely conclusion.

Our progress has been largely due to the wise and steady hand of the Yorkshire Members in the Chair and on the Front Benches. Their influence had a beneficial effect all round. I particularly thank you, Mr. O'Brien, for aiding me in some of my darker moments. At times, I was not quite sure which were Government amendments and which were Opposition amendments, but I think that we got things right in the end.

I also take this opportunity to thank the long-serving members of the Committee, particularly on the Labour Benches, for their contributions and their support for the Bill. Perhaps we can have a drink later, so that I can say thank them properly. I also thank the Clerks, those who helped to run our proceedings and the officials from my Department. Finally, I should say a special thank you to the Government Whip for steadying my nerves.

This has been a great experience, and I thank everyone who helped to see the Bill through Committee.

Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Conservative, Surrey Heath

Further to that point of order, Mr. O'Brien. I echo the Minister's thanks to you, to your fellow Chairman, Mr. Illsley, and to all those who have assisted us. In particular, I thank the Clerk. When one is on the Opposition Benches, one is very dependent on the Clerk for help and guidance. Unlike Ministers, we do not have armies of officials to advise us. When seeking advice, we have to throw ourselves on the mercy of the Clerks, so I am particularly grateful to the Committee's Clerk, Mr. Sandall. I am also grateful to the Hansard writers, the police officers and everyone else who has been involved with the Committee.

I thank Blake Ahitow and Elizabeth Hogseth-Gill, who worked on the Bill with me as members of my team. I am grateful to the Opposition Whip, my hon. Friend the Member for Upminster (Angela Watkinson), for her help and guidance. I also thank my hon. Friends on the Back Benches. Only my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr.

Goodman) is with us at the moment, because my hon. Friends the Members for Henley (Mr. Johnson) and for Witney (Mr. Cameron) have other commitments. None the less, all my Back-Bench colleagues have made helpful and thoughtful contributions. Finally, I pay tribute to Labour Back Benchers, who contributed some constructive ideas, and to the hon. Members for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath) and for North Norfolk (Norman Lamb).

This has been a genuinely constructive Committee. There have been disputed issues, and we shall need to return to some of them on Report, but we have all tried to do our job properly. In some respects, I do not think that the media give Committee proceedings enough coverage. The clause-by-clause, line-by-line, word-by-word scrutiny of Bills is an important part of parliamentary procedure. We try to ensure that legislation is improved, and I think that we have done so on this occasion. Indeed, although the Minister may have been slightly confused on one or two occasions, he can now at least say that his Department—with its new acronym of Decaf—has its first genuinely decaffeinated Bill.

Photo of David Heath David Heath Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

Further to that point of order, Mr. O'Brien. We seem to have done too many of these mini Oscar ceremonies in this Session, although, of course, I concur with everything that the Minister and the hon. Member for Surrey Heath said. I extend our thanks to you, your co-Chairman and everyone else who has been involved with the Committee. It has been an extremely good Committee and has starred what has become, during this Session, almost a repertory company of hon. Members with an interest in home affairs and legal matters.

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for North Norfolk for taking time out from his Treasury duties to fill in so ably for me while I was creating peace and security across Europe on Tuesday. Indeed, I thank all the members of what has been a good Committee. The Bill is a better measure than when it started its passage through the House and, indeed, through this Committee. We hope for further progress yet, but at least the Bill is different from the one that caused so much concern when first published. That has happened as a result of scrutiny by Parliament, which shows that sometimes this place can do its job properly.

Photo of Mr Bill O'Brien Mr Bill O'Brien Labour, Normanton

I shall certainly pass on the comments that have been made to the hon. Member for Barnsley, Central (Mr. Illsley). I have found it a pleasure to be in the Chair listening to the debate. The Bill will be of tremendous value to our communities, and of interest to a lot of people who will have to rely on it. My job has been relatively easy because of the conduct of all of the parties. I commend all people concerned for discussing the business before the Committee, and not straying on to other issues.

I thank Mr. Sandall for his guidance and help in ensuring that the business has been dealt with in the correct order and manner. I also thank the Hansard writers both for keeping a record and producing it at such speed. That helps hon. Members to reflect on previous business. I thank every

Committee member for their full co-operation and the assistance that they have given to the Chair during proceedings.

Bill, as amended, to be reported.

Committee rose at Twenty-two minutes past Eleven o'clock.