Clause 77

Policing and Crime Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 7:00 pm on 24th February 2009.

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Prohibition on importation of offensive weapons

Photo of Vernon Coaker Vernon Coaker Minister of State (Home Office) (Policing, Crime & Security)

I beg to move amendment 311, in clause 77, page 96, line 27, after ‘prohibited’ insert ‘, subject to section 141ZC’.

This amendment makes the prohibition on importation of offensive weapons subject to the exceptions in new section 141ZC of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 (inserted by amendment 313).

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton Conservative, Macclesfield

With this it will be convenient to discuss Government amendments 312 to 316, 328 to 333 and 337 to 342.

Photo of Vernon Coaker Vernon Coaker Minister of State (Home Office) (Policing, Crime & Security)

The hon. Member for Hornchurch and I deserve to exchange wry smiles, I think. We have been trying to sort this problem out between ourselves for quite a while. The provision arises from samurai swords as much as from anything else, but we are getting there.

Clause 77, with the amendments made in part 10 of schedule 6, separates out the importation consequences of specifying a weapon in an order under section 141 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 from the consequences that flow under section 141(1) on sale, hire and so on. In doing so, the clause provides clarity on the powers of the Scottish and UK Governments to ban offensive weapons and facilitates the development of a common border control north and south of the border to support our drive to tackle knife crime.

Amendments 311 and 314 set out exceptions to the prohibition on importation of offensive weapons, rather than defences to specific offences, as is currently the case. That means that the exceptions can be relied on in proceedings for any criminal offence, as well as in forfeiture proceedings under the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979.

Amendments 315 and 316 amend the transitional provision in clause 77. The transitional provision applies where the date of importation cannot be established beyond reasonable doubt and where that would prevent a person from being convicted. The amendments widen the transitional provision to apply to any offence under the Customs and Excise Management Act rather than to specified importation offences.

Amendments 328 to 333 and 337 to 342 amend Scottish legislation on offensive weapon bans and ensure that defences for the purposes of film, TV and theatre can apply to the offences of sale, manufacture and so on of offensive weapons in Scotland. Such defences are already available in England and Wales. I hope—the hon. Member for Hornchurch will understand this—that  this is the last time that I will have to move an amendment on the matter before this Committee or indeed the House.

Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

I am grateful to the Minister for introducing the proposals. I think that this is either the third or the fourth time that we have had the opportunity to discuss the subject in detail. We are obviously building on the 10-minute Bill in which I initially kicked it off. It seems quite a long time ago.

I welcome the fact that the measure will be UK-wide—I know from my previous discussions with the Minister that it did not apply north of the border before—and that a number of the detailed points raised in statutory instrument Committees in relation to exemptions have been modified slightly. We will certainly keep the matter under review, as I am sure he will. Although he may believe that this is the last time that he will have cause to review the provisions, I cannot guarantee it.

Amendment 311 agreed to.

Amendments made: 312, in clause 77, page 96, line 35, leave out subsection (4).

This amendment omits the order making power to create exceptions and exemptions to the prohibition on the importation of offensive weapons, and the power to create defences to certain importation offences.

Amendment 313, in clause 77, page 97, leave out lines 7 to 35 and insert—

‘141ZC Prohibition on importation of offensive weapons: exceptions

(1) The importation of a weapon is not prohibited by section 141ZB if one of the following exceptions applies.

(2) Exception 1 is that the weapon is imported for the purposes only of functions carried out on behalf of—

(a) the Crown, or

(b) a visiting force.

(3) Exception 2 is that the weapon is imported for the purposes only of making it available to a museum or gallery which does not distribute profits.

(4) Exception 3 is that the weapon is imported for the purposes only of making it available for one or more of the following—

(a) theatrical performances;

(b) rehearsals of theatrical performances;

(c) the production of films;

(d) the production of television programmes.

(5) In subsection (4)—

“films” has the meaning given by section 5B of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988;

“television programmes” has the meaning given by section 405 of the Communications Act 2003.

(6) The Secretary of State may by order provide for further exceptions from the prohibition on importation of weapons under section 141ZB.

(7) Orders under this section are to be made by statutory instrument.

(8) A statutory instrument containing an order under this section may not be made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.’.

This amendment sets out exceptions to the importation prohibition, rather than defences to offences under section 50(2) and (3) of the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979. this means the exceptions can be relied on in any criminal proceedings and in forfeiture proceedings under the 1979 Act.

Amendment 314, in clause 77, page 97, line 37, at end insert—

‘141ZD Prohibition on importation of offensive weapons: burdens of proof

(1) This section applies for the purposes of proceedings for an offence under the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979 relating to a weapon the importation of which is prohibited by section 141ZB above.

(2) An exception conferred by or under section 141ZC is to be taken not to apply unless sufficient evidence is adduced to raise an issue with respect to the exception.

(3) Where sufficient evidence is adduced to raise an issue with respect to an exception, it is to be taken to apply unless the contrary is proved beyond a reasonable doubt.”’.

This amendment makes provision about the burden of proof which will apply where a person wishes to rely on an exception to the prohibition on importation of offensive weapons in criminal proceedings.

Amendment 315, in clause 77, page 97, line 41, leave out ‘section 50(2) or (3)’ and insert ‘any provision’.

This amendment amends the transitional provision which applies where the importation date cannot be established beyond reasonable doubt and this would otherwise prevent a person being convicted. It widens the provision to apply to any offence under the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979 rather than just specified importation offences.

Amendment 316, in clause 77, page 98, line 1, leave out ‘section 50(2) or (3)’ and insert ‘that provision’.—(Mr. Coaker.)

See Member’s explanatory statement for amendment 315.

Clause 77, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 78 to 85 ordered to stand part of the Bill.