Schedule 2

Part of Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 1:00 pm on 25th October 2007.

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Photo of Edward Garnier Edward Garnier Shadow Minister (Justice) 1:00 pm, 25th October 2007

I shall be as brief as I sensibly can, but as the Bill consists predominantly of schedules rather than clauses, it is incumbent on us to spend a little time—not an excessive time—considering what clause 2 does. I shall not ask the Committee to divide on whether the schedule should stand part of the Bill, but this is an opportunity to consider what we are doing. I said on Second Reading that this is predominantly a schedule Bill. For example, clause 2 does nothing except to bring  schedule 2 into effect. I want to highlight a number of issues, which might even touch on other schedules.

With regard to procedural matters, first, when a court comes to consider a sentence involving the breach, revocation or amendment of a youth rehabilitation order, it will have to examine the schedule closely to work out where it stands, almost as if it were in a game of snakes and ladders. I would urge, if at all possible, that simplicity enter into the drafting process—I dare say that it is too late for this Bill. I appreciate that the Government do not want to miss anything out or to produce legislation that leaves a court in doubt as to its powers or to how the sentencing regime is to be governed.

For example, in respect of the powers of both the magistrates court and the Crown court, the schedule, on page 113, in part 3, at paragraph 11(2)(a) and (b), essentially provides the court with the power to revoke the existing sentence, to re-sentence for the original crime, and to deal with the breach. Rather than a court going all through the detailed paragraphs of part 3, it would be far simpler as a matter of drafting, and therefore as a matter of efficient use of court time, and our own, if a straightforward power to revoke, re-sentence for the original offence and deal with the breach could be built into the Bill and replicated across each of the jurisdictions—be it the summary jurisdiction or the Crown court jurisdiction.

The Government may be fearful that if they do not set the measures out in such complicated detail, no one will fully understand the powers that apply to each respective court or to particular sorts of breaches and what a court can do. However, I have a suspicion that, when those who are training magistrates or Crown court judges come to look at this on Judicial Studies Board courses—of which I have been on a few—they will ask why it is like this and why it could not be a little simpler.

My second point touches on some of our earlier debates in relation to schedule 1. It is essential to build into the system a flexibility to allow a judgment to be made about each breach so that the court, be it the magistrates or the Crown court, does not feel boxed in by too rigid a framework, and the discretion referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate is left in the hands of the court.

Other points that need tightening up include paragraph 3, in relation to the warning system. Clearly, it is sensible to give to a young person who is about to commit or has committed a breach, a warning that if he continues in that way, something worse could happen. I would ask the Committee to bear in mind what sort of person we are likely to be dealing with. They will not be very organised or responsible for their own lives, by virtue of the fact that they are before the criminal justice system at all. Some of them may have no contact with formal schooling; some of them may be riddled with substance abuse; they simply may not be very clever people, in the loosest sense of the word. Therefore, any warning must be clear and there is no better way of achieving that than in writing. Although other provisions deal with notices and certificates later in the schedule, it might be worth considering whether warnings should be given in writing, because it brings a little more authority.