Clause 6

Part of Compensation Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 6:45 pm on 27th June 2006.

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Photo of Bridget Prentice Bridget Prentice Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs 6:45 pm, 27th June 2006

I want to bring the focus back to the offences in the Bill and explain the transitional provisions that relate to the 2003 Act.

The current position is that magistrates courts have the power on summary conviction to impose a maximum sentence of six months. Once sections 281(4) and 281(5) of the 2003 Act are commenced, that maximum sentencing power on summary conviction will be increased to 51 weeks. Under the new arrangement, which is called custody plus, the court will decide the total length of the sentence, which must be no longer than 51 weeks.

The sentence can be split between a custodial period and a licence period. The custodial period must be between two and 13 weeks, and the licence period must be at least six months and is subject to conditions, which the sentencing court sets. If the offender  breaches the licence conditions, they will be recalled to custody for part or all of the remaining supervision period.

Removing the transitional provisions would give magistrates courts a power that would be inconsistent with their existing powers and for which the magistracy will not have the advantage of preparatory measures for custody plus when it is implemented. It would be much better initially to make the sentencing powers consistent with existing powers and then to have a smooth transition to the new arrangements. Otherwise, the courts might find themselves using one system for some offences and another system for others. That is why we prefer the arrangement set out in the Bill. I hope that that the reassures the hon. Gentleman enough to allow him to withdraw the amendment.