Scope of Schedule
1 This Schedule applies where a relevant offender is subject to the notification requirements of this Part as a result of a conviction, finding or caution in respect of an offence under section 12 or 13 of the Sexual Offences Act 1956 (c.69) (buggery or indecency between men).
Application for decision
2 (1) The relevant offender may apply to the Secretary of State for a decision as to whether it appears that the person with whom the act of buggery or gross indecency was committed—
(a) was aged 16 or over at the time of the offence, and
(b) consented to the act.
(2) An application must be in writing and state—
(a) the name, address and date of birth of the relevant offender,
(b) his name and address at the time of the conviction, finding or caution,
(c) so far as known to him, the time when and the place where the conviction or finding was made or the caution given and, for a conviction or finding, the case number,
(d) such other information as the Secretary of State may require.
(3) An application may include representations by the relevant offender about the matters mentioned in subparagraph (1).
Decision by Secretary of State
3 (1) In making the decision applied for, the Secretary of State must consider—
(a) any representations included in the application, and
(b) any available record of the investigation of the offence and of any proceedings relating to it that appears to him to be relevant,
but is not to seek evidence from any witness.
(2) On making the decision the Secretary of State must—
(a) record it in writing, and
(b) give notice in writing to the relevant offender.
Effect of decision
4 (1) If the Secretary of State decides that it appears as mentioned in paragraph 2(1), the relevant offender ceases, from the beginning of the day on which the decision is recorded under paragraph 3(2)(a), to be subject to the notification requirements of this Part as a result of the conviction, finding or caution in respect of the offence.
(2) Subparagraph (1) does not affect the operation of this Part as a result of any other conviction, finding or caution or any court order.
Right of appeal
5 (1) If the Secretary of State decides that it does not appear as mentioned in paragraph 2(1), and if the High Court gives permission, the relevant offender may appeal to that court.
(2) On an appeal the court may not receive oral evidence.
(3) The court—
(a) if it decides that it appears as mentioned in paragraph 2(1), must make an order to that effect,
(b) otherwise, must dismiss the appeal.
(4) An order under subparagraph (3)(a) has the same effect as a decision of the Secretary of State recorded under paragraph 3(2)(a) has under paragraph 4.
(5) There is no appeal from the decision of the High Court.
6 Until the coming into force of the repeal by this Act of Part 1 of the Sex Offenders Act 1997 (c.51), this Schedule has effect as if references to this Part of this Act were references to Part 1 of that Act.'.—[Paul Goggins.]
Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.
On a point of order, Mr. Gale. I am advised that this is the appropriate form in which to do this. As we come to the end of our Committee's deliberations, I want to make one or two brief comments. This has been my first Committee as a Minister, and I have learned a great deal from it. For all of us, this Committee has been a once-in-a-lifetime experience, because it is almost 50 years since a Bill of this sort was last considered.
The Committee has enabled us to reconsider and reinforce the seriousness of some offences that have been with us for a very long time—offences such as rape and sexual assault of children. It has also enabled us to deal with some new offences in our rapidly changing world, particularly the offence of grooming of children on the internet, which was introduced in the Bill.
We live in a fast-moving world, and we have been attempting to provide a robust framework in law. However, as the Solicitor-General said on several occasions, we must, through the interministerial group, the taskforce on child protection on the internet, and other mechanisms, ensure that the Bill, when it becomes law, is a law that works in practice. I am committed to that.
From the beginning, the Bill has been on a constant path of improvement, and reference has been made to that. We pay tribute to colleagues in the other place for their contribution. I believe that the Bill will be shown to have improved throughout the Committee scrutiny.
I am not hopeful about the champagne, but I believe that as we approach Report, it will be clear to any member of the Committee that the Government have been listening, have been trying to ensure that there is consistency, and have taken account of the points that were raised.
Finally, I give my thanks and those of the Committee to you, Mr. Gale, and to Mr. Griffiths. I also thank my ministerial colleagues and my hon. and right hon. Friends, including my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, East (Mr. Heppell) who keeps us all in order when required, to my hon. Friends and also to colleagues on the opposite side of
the House. There has not really been an opposite side in this Committee because we have all collaborated, listened and worked together. That has been an excellent experience and I thank the other parties.
I also thank the non-governmental organisations and others who provide background briefings and help to concentrate our minds on the issues.
Last, but by no means least, I thank the officials who work tirelessly to provide me and, ultimately, all of us with information that ensures that we get the best possible legislation.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Gale. I want to echo the Minister's thanks to you and Mr. Griffiths for the way in which you have chaired the Committee. I also thank Mr. Cooke, the Clerk, for helping us with the tabling of amendments.
This Committee has been a unique experience. It is the first Standing Committee on which I have served in which we have scrutinised every clause that we wanted to scrutinise of a Bill. I take that as a sign of improvement in the way in which the House goes about its business and it gave me real pleasure that we were able to achieve that.
As the Minister said, there have not really been two sides in the Committee. It has been a common enterprise and the Bill is a model of its kind in terms of being able to stand the test of time. It is a fascinating example of a Bill that started in the other place and was subjected to detailed scrutiny there with improvement to some difficult areas, and was then subjected to renewed scrutiny in this place. That has been beneficial and the Bill will end up commanding widespread respect.
I look forward to hearing from the Government on one or two of the matters that we raised, on which I hope to receive some positive responses that will tidy up the Bill. From my point of view and, I dare say, from that of my hon. Friends, our discussion of the Bill has been a totally positive experience. I cannot always claim that and some legislation that has passed through this House has left me gnashing my teeth with indignation. That is not so with this Bill. Notwithstanding the sometimes sombre matters that we have had to consider, I am delighted to have been able to participate and I thank all Committee members for what we have been able to achieve.
I should like to endorse the thanks from both sides of the Committee. It has indeed been a great pleasure to serve on it, although I am wary about saying that and how much I have enjoyed myself in case people take it the wrong way. The cross-party working and genuine debate across the Committee has been a tremendous experience. It is quite off-putting to a member of the minority party when there are many hon. Members on the other side reading books and not fully engaging in the proceedings. It has been a really good experience to have an engaged and proper discussion and I hope that there will be a good outcome from that positive discussion.
As well as thanking everyone in the Room, I thank our colleagues in the House of Lords because, without doubt, they provided a tremendous basis on which to
start. I look forward to the next stage because we must revisit a number of issues, but I believe that there will be co-operation because there is determination to tackle the champagne question. I hope that the civil servants will be inspired by the cross-party working and come up with the answer for us. I am sure that we would be for ever in their debt. We have praised ourselves on this being the first legislation on this matter in 50 years, but we must have a Bill for the 21st century and the issue of kissing is just not right for a Bill in the 21st century. I look forward with anticipation to all the learned people putting their heads together and coming up with the solution that we all desire.
Finally, I really am beginning to learn the Committee's procedures, Mr. Gale, thanks to your imposing them so rigidly. I appreciate that.
Happily, none of that is a point of order for the Chair, but I am grateful for the kind comments from hon. Members and I know that Mr. Griffiths will also appreciate them.
I should like to add my thanks to the Clerk to the Committee, the Hansard writers and the Officers of the House without whose assistance most of our work would be difficult if not impossible.
I hope that the Committee will not think it patronising if I say that I have chaired a considerable amount of legislation in my time and the Committee's behaviour, good humour and courtesy and the responsible way in which it handled some extremely sensitive issues has been exemplary. I am deeply grateful to hon. Members on both sides for that.
Bill, as amended, to be reported.
Committee rose at twenty-five minutes to Seven o'clock.