Clause 10 - Offences

Traffic Management Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 5:30 pm on 27th January 2004.

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Photo of David Wilshire David Wilshire Conservative, Spelthorne 5:30 pm, 27th January 2004

I beg to move amendment No. 14, in

page 5, line 12, leave out '51' and insert '104'.

Photo of Mr Nigel Beard Mr Nigel Beard Labour, Bexleyheath and Crayford

With this we may discuss the following amendments:

No. 15, in

page 5, line 12, leave out '(or both)'.

No. 16, in

page 5, line 16, leave out '51' and insert '26'.

No. 17, in

page 5, line 17, leave out '(or both)'.

No. 18, in

page 5, line 25, leave out '51' and insert '52'.

No. 19, in

page 5, line 26, leave out '(or both)'.

No. 82, in

page 5, line 33, at end insert—

'(5A) If at the time a person obstructs, resists or disobeys a traffic officer that officer does not have authority for his actions, then the subsequent granting to him of such authority will not thereby create or make the said persons obstruction, resisting or disobeying amount to an offence.'.

Photo of David Wilshire David Wilshire Conservative, Spelthorne

I had a hand in amendments Nos. 14 to 19. I shall be brief, because collectively they cover a small number of points. In no particular order, three of the amendments would delete the words ''or both'' after the provisions relating to a fine or imprisonment. I am interested to hear the Minister's explanation of why the words ''or both'' are justified. It seems to me that one penalty or the other would be adequate.

Two of the amendments would change the number of weeks from 51 to 26 or 52. I just think that the period should be six months or a year. Fifty-one weeks bothers me. Why not make it 52 weeks or a year? Then we would all know where we stood. I do not need to labour the point, but I should be interested to hear the Minister's explanation.

One issue is perhaps more substantial. Amendment No. 14 would change 51 weeks to 104. That is more than a tidying-up exercise. It is not a case of changing 51 weeks to 52 and calling it a year, but again I had a choice. Under clause 10(2), a person who ''resists or wilfully obstructs'' a traffic officer is liable to be sent to prison for 51 weeks, but if 51 weeks is suitable for someone who wilfully obstructs, a person who assaults a traffic officer under clause 10(1) should go to prison for longer. I am curious why the same sentence applies for both obstructing and assaulting. I think that the Minister will agree that a person who beats someone up deserves a great deal more than if one who just sits down in the road or is somewhat cussed.

Photo of Mr David Jamieson Mr David Jamieson Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Transport

Amendments Nos. 14, 16 and 18 would adjust the maximum terms of imprisonment that may be imposed for offences under clause 10. In specifying those terms, we had regard to the new Home Office policy on magistrates court sentencing powers, as provided for in the Criminal Justice Act 2003. We do not want any departure from that. The new sentencing regime is designed to provide that, eventually, all imprisonable summary offences should carry a maximum term of imprisonment of 51 weeks.

An offender sentenced to a 51-week term would be released on licence after not less than two and not more than 13 weeks followed by a licence period during which the offender would be obliged to comply with the requirement specified by the court, such as a supervision requirement.

Amendments Nos. 15, 17 and 19 would prevent the relevant offences to which they relate from carrying the possibility of both a term of imprisonment and a fine being imposed. In determining the appropriate penalties, we followed the example of section 46 of the Police Reform Act 2002, which permits both such penalties being imposed in similar offences against community support officers. We therefore hope that the Committee will agree that the lesser penalty for offences against traffic officers is not desirable and so see no reason to depart from it.

Amendment No. 82 is unnecessary as the subsequent designation or other empowerment of a traffic officer would not have the retrospective effect that it fears.

Photo of David Wilshire David Wilshire Conservative, Spelthorne

I am grateful to the Minister. I find most of that explanation helpful; it is on the record, and we know why what is being done is being done. The one issue that the Minister did not pick up, on which I shall not press him now, though I would be grateful if he would indicate that he will give further thought to it between now and Report, is that assault is more serious than obstruction. That matter requires more reflection than we can give it at half-past 5 in the afternoon.

Photo of Mr David Jamieson Mr David Jamieson Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Transport

The maximum sentence set out in the Bill is in accordance with other Acts. That matter needs to be rehearsed elsewhere. The type and length of sentence is entirely up to the courts, which will, of course, reflect the seriousness of the offence.

Photo of David Wilshire David Wilshire Conservative, Spelthorne

I hear what the Minister says. I simply repeat that I hope he will reflect to see whether there is any way we can do something. I do not wish to press the matter to a vote. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of David Wilshire David Wilshire Conservative, Spelthorne

I beg to move amendment No. 21, in

page 5, line 31, leave out

'whom the traffic officer reasonably believes to have been'

and insert 'who was'.

Photo of Mr Nigel Beard Mr Nigel Beard Labour, Bexleyheath and Crayford

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Government amendment No. 62.

Amendment No. 82, in

page 5, line 33, at end insert—

'(5A) If at the time a person obstructs, resists or disobeys a traffic officer that officer does not have authority for his actions, then the subsequent granting to him of such authority will not thereby create or make the said persons obstruction, resisting or disobeying amount to an offence.'.

Amendment No. 22, in

page 5, line 34, leave out subsection (6).

Photo of David Wilshire David Wilshire Conservative, Spelthorne

Amendment No. 21 has some substance. Clause 10(5) specifies what happens when traffic officers have reason to believe that someone was

driving a vehicle, and it gives them too much power; the traffic officer needs to be clear that the person was driving before he can demand information. The Minister may wish to answer the point now, but my feeling is that we shall need to return to the issue on Report when we can do it some justice, because it is more than a minor matter, but that is what is going through my mind.

Photo of Mr David Jamieson Mr David Jamieson Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Transport

The term ''reasonably believes'' is consistent with precedents—in the Road Traffic Act 1988, for example. The purpose of amendment No. 62 is to add to the circumstances in which a traffic officer is empowered to require a driver to give their name and address. Currently, clause 10(4) makes it an offence for a person not to give their name and address to a traffic officer where a driver fails to comply with a traffic officer's direction. Amendment No. 62 makes it also an offence where a driver fails to comply with traffic signs placed by a traffic officer.

Photo of David Wilshire David Wilshire Conservative, Spelthorne

I hear what the Minister says. I have no comment on the Government amendment. I feel strongly about amendment No. 21; I see where the safeguards are. On the other hand, it would not be a good use of the Committee's time to divide on the amendment, so I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment made: No. 62, in

page 5, line 32, leave out from 'with' to end of line 33 and insert '—

(a) a direction given in relation to that vehicle under a power conferred by section (Powers to stop or direct traffic), or

(b) the indication given by a traffic sign placed under a power conferred by section 7.'.—[Mr. Jamieson.]

Clause 10, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.