Clause 27

Part of UK Borders Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:30 pm on 15th March 2007.

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Photo of Joan Ryan Joan Ryan Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department 3:30 pm, 15th March 2007

I am not sure whether the hon. Gentleman, speaking from a sedentary position, was inviting me to speculate on what goes over his head and what does not, but I do have a concept of time and must move on.

The amendments relate to a very serious topic on which there is some consensus, but we need to discuss the detail of the proposal. Amendment No. 98 would increase the sentence available to the magistrates court from six months to 12 months. The offences in sections 57 and 59 of the 2003 Act are triable either way and like all such offences will be amended when custody plus commences to allow magistrates to impose sentences of imprisonment up to 12 months.

It would be wholly inappropriate for the Bill to purport to allow magistrates courts a higher level of sentencing for these offences than is within their jurisdiction, but I take note of the substance and the content of the amendment. If magistrates courts hear cases that they think are too serious to be punished adequately, they should commit them to the Crown  court, where the full maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment will be available. That would be a way forward.

On amendments Nos. 99 and 100, which refer to the automatic deportation of prisoners convicted of trafficking offences, there will be three ways in which a person can be deported on conviction of one of those offences.If he is sentenced to a period of imprisonment of12 months or more, the automatic deportation provisions will apply. If the automatic provisions do not apply, he can still be considered under existing deportation arrangements, either on conducive grounds or as a result of a court recommendation for deportation. Moreover, sections 57 and 58 of the 2003 Act are included in the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 (Specification of Particularly Serious Crimes) Order 2004, known as section 72. If a foreign criminal is imprisoned for those offences, the automatic deportation provisions will apply.

I hope that that gives the hon. Member for Ashford sufficient reassurance on the important points that arise from his amendment, and that he will feel able to withdraw it.