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Criminal Justice (Amendment) Bill Hl

Volume 416: debated on Wednesday 21 January 1981

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7.15 p.m.

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, that the House do now resolve itself into Committee.— (Lord Wigoder.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The LORD SEGAL in the Chair.]

Clause 1 [ Circumstances in which reporting restrictions may be lifted]:

On Question, Whether Clause I shall stand part of the Bill?

I beg to move that this clause be left out of the Bill and do not stand part of it. I hope your Lordships will allow me at the same time to speak to Amendment No. 1 which proposes a substitute new Clause 1 to replace the Clause 1 that if the first amendment is carried, will not stand part of the Bill.

This is entirely a drafting matter. It arises in this way. The existing Clause 1 was drafted by me, somewhat amateurishly. The Home Office has been kind enough to express an interest in the Bill. The parliamentary draftsman has therefore redrafted the existing Clause 1 in terms that are both more elegant and more effective than the original. I am most grateful to the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, and to his staff and to the parliamentary draftsman for all the assistance that they have given.

Perhaps I should make it quite clear that the new Clause I retains precisely the same criterion and precisely the same procedures as were envisaged by the existing Clause 1. Nothing of any substance is altered. The only matters to which I should draw attention are these.

First, the new Clause 1 refers to the Magistrates' Courts Act 1980 whereas the existing Clause 1 refers to the Criminal Justice Act 1967. The reason is that since the Bill was first drafted the 1967 Act has been consolidated into the 1980 Act. The 1980 Act has been enacted but has not yet taken effect. For that reason it is necessary first to refer in the new clause to the Magistrates' Courts Act 1980 and secondly, by subsection (3), to provide for the somewhat unlikely possibility that the Bill now before the Committee will be passed through both Houses and come into force before the 1980 Act itself comes into force. If that is so, then that position is provided for in subsection (3).

The only other matter which I should mention is that subsection (4) is a transitional provision which was not contained in the original clause and quite clearly should have been. In those circumstances I invite your Lordships to agree that Clause 1 shall not stand part of the Bill.

Clause 1 disagreed to.

(" Restriction on reports of committal proceedings.

.—(1) At the beginning of subsection (2) of section 8 of the Magistrates' Courts Act 1980 (application for lifting restrictions on reports of committal proceedings) there shall be inserted the words "Subject to subsection (2A) below".

(2) After that subsection there shall be inserted the following subsections—

"(2A) Where in the case of two or more accused one of them objects to the making of an order under subsection (2) above, the court shall make the order if, and only if, it is satisfied, after hearing the representations of the accused, that it is in the interests of justice to do so.
(2B) An order under subsection (2) above shall not apply to reports of proceedings under subsection (2A) above, but any decision of the court to make or not to make such an order may be contained in reports published or broadcast before the time authorised by subsection (3) below."

(3) In relation to any time before the coming into force of the said Act of 1980, the same amendments as are made by subsections (1) and (2) above in section 8 of that Act shall be made in section 3 of the Criminal Justice Act 1967 except that the word "defendants" shall be substituted for the word "accused" wherever it occurs.

(4) The foregoing provisions of this section shall not apply in relation to committal proceedings begun before the commencement of this Act.").

I do not propose to detain the Committee for more than a moment or two. I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, for having explained the purpose of these amendments. The only observation I wish to add to his remarks is this. I am very glad indeed and warmly welcome the fact that in the proposed amendment he has retained the criterion to which he has referred, and in particular the use of the words "in the interests of justice". That is a phrase which appealed to a number of your Lordships when on an earlier occasion a similar Bill was being debated. It is a well-known phrase which has stood the test of a considerable amount of time. Everybody perfectly understands it it was in the original Bill that was proposed and I am very glad that it is retained in the amendment as well.

May I just add my support for these amendments? The noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, has explained to the Committee that the new clause does not change the sense of the provisions of Clause 1 as it was originally drafted in the Bill, and I should like to join with the noble Lord, Lord Boston, and the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, by saying that, despite the fact that from, I think, all sides of the House we attempted to, as we saw it, improve the Bill when it was going through in the last Session, as regards the expression "the interests of justice", the Government believe the test of the interests of justice is one that magistrates' courts will find it possible to apply and that we would not wish to raise objection to that formula if it receives general support.

There is only one other thing that I think I should say. The noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, has explained very clearly the reason why the reference to the Magistrates' Courts Act 1980 is now imported into Clause 1, and I think I should make it clear that it is still the intention of the Government that the Magistrates' Courts Act 1980 should come into force during the spring of this year. However, I am sure that the Committee will understand that unforeseen hitches can occur and I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, has judged it prudent to provide for the possibility of his Bill being enacted and coming into force before the Magistrates' Courts Act has itself taken effect. I am sure that the Committee would not wish the noble Lord's Bill to be prevented from coming into operation if it were to pass through both Houses—by a pure technicality in drafting. This amendment ensures that no delay of that kind would occur. With those few remarks I support the passage of Amendment No. 1.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 2 [ Interpretation, short title and extent]:

7.22 p.m.

The noble Lord said: This is a purely technical amendment. It omits subsection (1) of Clause 2 of the original Bill because it is entirely unnecessary, being catered for by other provisions of the 1980 Act. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Page 2, line 2, at end insert—

"( ) This Act shall come into force at the expiration of a period of three months beginning with the date on which it is passed.".

The noble Lord said: This is a commencement provision which was not in the original Bill, and clearly it should have been. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 2, as amended, agreed to.

In the Title:

moved Amendment No. 4:

Line 1, leave out ("Criminal Justice Act 1967 to restrict") and insert ("law relating to the restriction of").

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 4 perhaps I might speak also to Amendment No. 5.

The amendments to the Title are necessitated by the fact that the Magistrates' Courts Act of 1980 has now been passed and it is therefore desirable not to include in the Title any specific reference to the particular Act which is being amended, in view of the uncertainty as to whether it will be the 1967 Act or the 1980 Act that might be amended should this Bill go through all its stages. Amendment No. 5 refers to the "accused" rather than the "defendant", that in fact being the terminology of the 1980 Act but not of the 1967 Act. I beg to move Amendment No. 4.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

moved Amendment No. 5:

Line 3, leave out ("defendant") and insert ("accused").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 5 formally.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Title, as amended, agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported with the amendments.