New clause 42 - Powers of authorised officers executing warrants

Part of Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:45 pm on 6th July 2004.

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Photo of Chris Leslie Chris Leslie Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Constitutional Affairs) 2:45 pm, 6th July 2004

I understand the point that both hon. Gentlemen are making, but there is sufficient structure and accountability in the courts themselves through the management of the enforcement sections and the justices' chief executives, which are responsible for managing them. There is a good structure in place for complaints, discipline, training and supervision.

I was intrigued by the point that the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome made about the possibility of a police SWAT—special weapons and tactics—team camping outside someone's door, only for a hapless enforcement officer to come along and ruin it all by appearing on the scene. Of course, at present, enforcement officers knock on doors, make arrests, take people away and so forth, so any problems envisaged with the provisions in future should be occurring now, and we do not think that there are any. There are good relationships between police and court enforcement staff and there is liaison between them, and we hope that that will continue. However, that does not necessarily mean that enforcement officers should require a police officer to come with them whenever they are enforcing in a significant way, such as when they are searching or entering a property.

The hon. Member for Beaconsfield raised the issue of transferring community penalty breach warrants and asked how courts would be apprised of the full facts of a case if a different court had been considering it. I appreciate his experience in some of these matters. He suggested that courts sometimes do not have all the paperwork to hand. We will put in place systems that will improve the transmission of information from one court to another—indeed, transferring the whole order to another court should ensure that the information and files go there as part of that process. As we move towards improved information technology and better use of it by the courts, I am confident that those problems will begin to disappear.

The new clauses and new schedules are vital to the next phase of improving fine enforcement. Although I understand the points raised by Opposition Members, I regret that we have not focused sufficiently on the need to uphold the decision of the courts to collect compensation on behalf of victims. That would make

sure that the balance is shifted in favour of the victims of crime and the law-abiding public, and that we close loopholes for those who have been convicted of criminal offences. I believe that the new clauses and schedules will make an appreciable difference to the powers in the enforcement process, and I commend them to the Committee.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.