Clause 6

Part of Compensation Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 6:30 pm on 27th June 2006.

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Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Attorney General, Shadow Lord Chancellor and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice, Party Chair, Liberal Democrats 6:30 pm, 27th June 2006

This is a probing amendment to discover the Government’s latest thinking on sentencing policy, which is a mystery to most people given how many interpretations we have had of their views on the subject in recent days. At the moment, the offences that will be created could land someone who is tried in the High Court with a period of imprisonment of up to two years, a fine, or both, and someone who is tried in the lower courts with a period of imprisonment of 51 weeks or less, a fine, or both. Subsection (3) reminds us that as yet we have not seen the implementation of the much heralded and now much discussed Criminal Justice Act 2003, which is meant to change the sentencing system and will reduce the sentence to half of what it would otherwise be.

If my amendment is passed, and subsection (3) and the parallel provision in clause 10 are removed, there will be a straightforward statement in the Bill that people can be sentenced to prison for two years in the higher courts and for up to 51 weeks in the lower courts, or be fined. I want the Minister to say whether passing the provisions into law will create a potential for imprisonment that will mean what it says. Out there, the great British public appear to believe—I always have great sympathy with their view—that when a judge says, “Mr. Heald, you will go to prison for six months,” Mr. Heald goes to prison for six months, not that he goes to prison for three months and spends the other half somewhere else.

What will be the implication of a sentence of imprisonment passed under the Bill? How long will the person serve as a maximum sentence and how long will they serve as a minimum sentence?