My right honourable friend the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice (Jack Straw) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
Revised operational guidance to police forces on the issue of penalty notices for disorder (PNDs) for retail theft and criminal damage has been published today. Copies will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
Under the PND Scheme, established under the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001 (Sections 1 to 11), the police can issue fixed penalty notices of £80 for minor retail theft, criminal damage and cannabis possession. Recipients have 21 days in which either to pay the penalty or elect to have their case heard in court. If no action is taken a fine of one and a half times the penalty amount is registered against the offender by the magistrates’ court.
Under Section 6 of the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001, the Secretary of State has the power to issue guidance to the police on the issuing of penalty notices. The latest version of the guidance was issued in March 2005. In view of concerns raised over the inappropriate use of PNDs, we have now issued strengthened revised guidance on retail theft. This restricts use of the disposal to first-time offenders who are not substance misusers where the value of goods stolen is less than £100 or where damage caused is less than £300. The definition of retail theft has also been tightened to ensure that the disposal can be considered only for cases of shoplifting where normally the goods recovered are fit for resale.
I am very grateful to those honourable Members who have made representations to me about this issue, especially the honourable Member for the Vale of York (Mrs Anne McIntosh).