Clause 13 - Period of endorsement for failure to allow specimen to be tested

Road Safety Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:15 pm on 25th January 2005.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Christopher Chope Christopher Chope Conservative, Christchurch 3:30 pm, 25th January 2005

I shall be grateful if the Minister will explain the impact of the clause and why it is necessary to change the law.

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

Yes, it is important that I explain that. It was self-evident for the previous clause. I will go through the legal niceties, because they are important.

Clause 13 corrects a consequential amendment missed in the Police Reform Act 2002, which inserted section 7A, which was headed

''Specimens of blood taken from persons incapable of consenting''.

I will explain that. Once I have put it in legalistic terms, I will try to put it in everyday-speak—just so that I understand it myself.

Once an endorsement on a driving licence ceases to be effective, the licence holder may apply to the DVLA for a new licence that is free from the endorsement. Under subsections (5) and (6) of section 45, ''Effect of endorsement'', of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988, endorsement for most driving offences remains effective for a period of four years from the conviction, or four years from the date of the offence if no order for disqualification was made.

Section 45(7) of the 1988 Act provides that the period of effectiveness of an endorsement in respect of specified driving offences connected with drink or drugs, or failing to provide a specimen, is 11 years from the conviction. That is because, when an offender is to be sentenced, account must be taken of any other such offence of which he has been convicted within the previous 10 years. When a person has previously been convicted of any such offence within a period of 10 years, section 34(3) of the 1988 Act, which concerns disqualification for certain offences, provides that the court is obliged to disqualify that person for a minimum period of three years.

Although the offence of failing to allow a specimen of blood to be laboratory tested was added to section 34(3) by section 56 of the 2002 Act, that Act omitted to add it to section 45(7). The clause therefore amends section 45(7) by adding the offence of failing to allow a specimen to be subjected to a laboratory test so that   when a person is guilty of an offence under section 7A(6), the endorsement will remain effective for a period of 11 years from the conviction.

I am sure that the hon. Member for Christchurch has followed every word of that and understands it in its entirety. To put it in everyday-speak, when a person whom the police suspect is over the alcohol limit has been involved in a road collision and is not in a position to give approval for their blood to be analysed—they may be unconscious or the circumstances may be such that they cannot give that permission—once they are in a position to make a decision about the sample, if they say, ''No, you can't test my sample,'' they are charged with failing to give a specimen. However, as the law stands at the moment, that endorsement will stand on their licence for only four years. We want that offence to be treated in the same way as refusing to give permission at the side of the road. It is a matter of bringing the treatment of a hospital patient who subsequently refuses to allow the specimen to be tested in line with that of somebody at the side of the road who says, ''You're not taking a sample from me.'' Such a person is treated as if they were a drunk driver. It is as simple as that—although I have to say that it did not sound that simple in my initial description.

Photo of Greg Knight Greg Knight Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

The Minister is unduly harsh on his comments. He did make things clear. It would be an overstatement to refer to the clause as closing a loophole, but it clearly removes an inconsistency so we do not wish to divide the Committee.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 13 ordered to stand part of the Bill.