Clause 29

Part of UK Borders Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:45 am on 20th March 2007.

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Photo of Liam Byrne Liam Byrne Minister of State (Home Office) (Immigration, Citizenship and Nationality) 11:45 am, 20th March 2007

That is absolutely right.

The second point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, East is important, too. This is one of those issues where the balance of justice has to be struck. On the one hand, my hon. Friend posed the risk of perverse incentives operating on the individual if they are not far off their 18th birthday. On the other hand, the more important issue is that we have to be able to pin down a date for an offence. I think that that is best done at the point of conviction, because it provides clarity and certainty. She alluded to certain kinds of offences, whether drug dealing or sexual, and certain kinds of criminals, who have perpetrated an offence over a considerable period of time. My fear is that we end up having wrangles about the appropriate date of the offence to pin down in front of a court, which would slow down and hinder our ability to automatically deport people in cases such as that prayed in aid by the hon. Member for Reigate. I will not go into the case details, but many similarities are relevant here.

Actually being able to pin down a single date of conviction I think is the key. There are issues as to whether perverse incentives are created, but that kind of risk can be combated with other measures, such as using the inspectorate, the Crown Prosecution Service or greater transparency in the system. The greater necessity is for certainty and for people not to be able to avoid justice by creating confusion or complexity over when an offence was committed.