Clause 56

Part of Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:30 pm on 22 November 2007.

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Photo of David Burrowes David Burrowes Shadow Minister (Justice) 2:30, 22 November 2007

The clause provides a good opportunity to highlight previously expressed concern about the amendment of unimplemented legislation. It is consistent of us to welcome the extension of discretion, given that we have argued in debating other clauses against its removal from magistrates courts, and the clause is welcome. The Government have decided to remove an unimplemented measure in the Criminal Justice Act 2003 that would have limited magistrates’ discretion to send to the Crown Court cases in which the defendant pleads guilty before a venue. The discretion will now be extended back to the original position before the 2003 Act—magistrates will have wider discretion to commit offenders tried summarily to the Crown Court for sentence.

The concern is best summed up by the Magistrates Association, which welcomes the reversal but considers

“the legislative situation to be confusing. The Bill amends an unimplemented part of an earlier Act, which in turn altered another Act which is still in force—the effect appears to be to retain the status quo. Less legislation and better thought out provisions would avoid such confusion.”

I would welcome the Minister’s comments.