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Session 1997-98
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Arrangement of Clauses (Contents)

Magistrates' Courts (Procedure) Bill [H.L.]
  This Bill is designed to simplify the procedure of magistrates' courts in England and Wales considering minor summary offences, in particular motoring offences, and to reduce the number of adjournments required in such cases.
  Clause 1 substitutes a new paragraph for the existing section 12(3)(b) of the Magistrates' Courts Act 1980, and makes a consequential amendment of section 12(7) of that Act. At present, when it is desired to invite a defendant to plead guilty by post to a minor summary offence, it is necessary to send him a summary of the facts in a prescribed form: if the defendant pleads guilty by post this summary is read to the court. The new paragraph removes the requirement that the summary be in a prescribed form, and allows statements complying with section 9(2)(a) and (b) and (3) of the Criminal Justice Act 1967 to be used instead of any summary of factsThe same statements can then be used to prove the case if the defendant neither pleads guilty by post nor attends the hearing.
  Clause 2 inserts a new subsection (3A) after section 13(3) of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 and makes a consequential amendment to subsection (4). The effect of the clause is that, where a defendant is convicted of a summary offence against the Traffic Acts (as defined in section 98(1) of the 1988 Act) and is not present at the hearing, any previous conviction for an offence involving obligatory endorsement may be proved by means of a print-out from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing AgencyThis procedure is not subject to the requirement of seven days' notice contained in section 104 of the Magistrates' Courts Act 1980.
  Clause 3 substitutes new subsections (3) and (3A) for the existing subsection (3) of section 13 of the Magistrates' Courts Act 1980 and makes a consequential amendment to subsection (1) of that section. Section 13 at present provides that where a defendant fails to attend a hearing the court may, in certain circumstances, issue a warrant for his arrest, provided that the information has been substantiated on oath. The new provisions remove the requirement for substantiation on oath in cases where the defendant has already been convicted and the court proposes to impose a disqualification on him
  Clause 4 makes certain amendments which are consequential on the substitution by the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 of the present section 12 of the Magistrates' Courts Act 1980.
  Clause 5 provides for the Bill to be brought into force by one or more commencement orders, which may contain supplemental or transitional provisions or savings. The Bill only affects proceedings in England and Wales, but the provisions amending the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 also extend to Scotland because the provisions being amended extend there.
 Financial effects of the Bill
  The proposals in the Bill provide for a simplified procedure for dealing with minor motoring cases in the magistrates' courts in England and Wales. They will not require additional funding and may yield some small savings in public expenditure. The main benefits are expected to be a reduction in the number of court adjournments and delay in this part of the criminal justice system, a reduction in the administrative burdens on the police, and some efficiency gains for the Crown Prosecution service and magistrates' courts leading to a freeing of time which can be directed to other cases
 Effect of the Bill on public sector manpower
  The provisions of the Bill are not expected to have any effect on the level of public sector manpower.
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© Parliamentary copyright 1997
Prepared 29 October 1997