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1. Proceedings on Consideration and Third Reading of the Criminal Justice (Mode of Trial) (No. 2) Bill shall be completed at today's sitting and shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion five hours after the commencement of proceedings on this Motion.
2.--(1) This paragraph applies for the purpose of bringing proceedings on the Bill to a conclusion in accordance with paragraph 1.
(2) The Speaker shall put forthwith the following Questions (but no others)--
(a) any Question already proposed from the Chair;
(b) any Question necessary to bring to a decision a Question so proposed;
(c) the Question on any amendment moved or Motion made by a Minister of the Crown;
(d) any other Question necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded.
(3) On a Motion made for a new Clause or Schedule, the Speaker shall put only the Question that the Clause or Schedule be added to the Bill.
(4) If two or more Questions would otherwise fall to be put under sub-paragraph (2)(c) on amendments moved or Motions made by a Minister of the Crown, the Speaker shall instead put a single Question in relation to those amendments or Motions.
3. Standing Order No. 15(1) (Exempted business) shall apply at today's sitting to proceedings to which this Order applies.
4. Proceedings to which this Order applies shall not be interrupted under any Standing Order relating to the sittings of the House.
5. No Motion shall be made to alter the order in which proceedings on the Bill are taken or to recommit the Bill.
6. No dilatory Motion shall be made in relation to the Bill except by a Minister of the Crown; and the Question on any such Motion shall be put forthwith.
7.--(1) This paragraph applies if--
(a) a Motion for the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 24 (Adjournment on specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration) has been stood over to Seven o'clock; and
(b) proceedings on this Motion have begun before then.
(2) The bringing to a conclusion of any proceedings which, under this Order, are to be brought to a conclusion after that time, shall be postponed for a period equal to the duration of the proceedings on the Motion for the Adjournment of the House.
8. Standing Order No. 82 (Business Committee) shall not apply to the Bill.
9. The proceedings on any Motion made by a Minister of the Crown for varying or supplementing the provisions of this Order shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion one hour after they have been commenced; and Standing Order No. 15(1) (Exempted business) shall apply to those proceedings.
10. If at today's sitting the House is adjourned, or the sitting is suspended, before the expiry of the period at the end of which any proceedings are to be brought to a conclusion under this Order, no notice shall be required of a Motion made at the next sitting by a Minister of the Crown for varying or supplementing the provisions of this Order.
'. The following shall be inserted after subsection (1) of section 38 of the Magistrates' Courts Act 1980 (committal for sentence on summary trial of offence triable either way)--
"(1A) Provided that where the court has previously decided under section 20 above that an offence ought to be tried summarily it shall not then use its powers under this section in respect of the same offence.".'.--[Mr. Kidney.]
'( ) The court shall not, in the event of a conviction, be permitted to commit the accused to the Crown Court for sentence.'.
Mr. Kidney: I call new clause 3 the Scottish amendment. In current Scots law, a class of case exists whereby the accused can be denied a trial by jury through the decision of the prosecutor, not the court. The quid pro quo is that the accused knows that, if convicted and sentenced, the maximum sentence cannot exceed three months' imprisonment. There is therefore a cap, about which the accused, the court and the prosecutor--who determines the court that will deal with the trial--know in advance.
The Bill takes a step towards the Scottish system, but does not go the full distance. It proposes that magistrates should make the decision about whether the accused can be tried by jury or whether he will have to be tried in the magistrates court. However, it does not change the law that provides that the magistrates, after convicting, could send the accused to the Crown court to receive a longer sentence than that which the magistrates can impose--a maximum of six months for one case. The new clause attempts to create a closer relationship between decisions made in England and Wales and those made in Scotland about trial and sentencing occurring in the same place.
I declare an interest because I am a former solicitor with 20 years' experience in criminal cases. However, I do not currently practise and I have no interest in criminal law other than that of a legislator and citizen. I fall into the category of hon. Members whom my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary described earlier as those who are opposed in principle to the Bill. In fact, I object to the entire Bill, but, in tabling the new clause, I resort to a minor principle of honesty in sentencing. I am supported in that by an editorial in The Times on 25 February. In considering the second Bill, not the original measure, it referred to the danger of people being forced to be tried
I would argue that, as a matter of principle, the trial court should deal with the sentence in most cases. The rationale for giving defendants in either-way cases a right to elect is that, if they are at risk of receiving a sentence that is higher than the magistrates can impose, they should at least be given the opportunity to choose to be tried in the Crown court. It is one thing for a defendant, who has voluntarily waived his or her right to jury trial, having been warned of possible consequences, to be committed on conviction to the Crown court to receive a more severe sentence, but if that right is removed the logic should be to limit the power of the magistrates to commit those whom they convict of either-way offences to the Crown court for sentence.
My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and other Home Office Ministers might say that the difference is that they are not going the whole hog on the Scottish system, where the procurator fiscal decides whether there should be a trial by jury. The procurator fiscal has access to the accused person's previous convictions, whereas under the Bill, as we shall hear at great length later tonight when the relevant amendments are debated, magistrates courts will not have access to previous convictions when taking decisions about the place for the trial.
My worry is that, in England and Wales, those accused who are denied the right to trial in Crown court will have no guarantee that they will not up end in the Crown court and receive a longer sentence than the magistrates could have imposed. As well as undermining much of the Government's projected cost saving, that is bound to result in justifiable feelings of unfairness among the defendants concerned, given that the magistrates will have told them that their cases are not deserving enough to be tried in the Crown court, but that they are still serious enough to require being sentenced there.
The Home Office has conducted various research. One of its research projects suggests that most people who elect to be tried in the Crown court have many similar characteristics to those whom the magistrates send to the Crown court for a sentence beyond their powers. For example, 90 per cent. of those who elect to be tried in the Crown court have previous convictions. Therefore, it is easy to suggest that, if magistrates determine the place of trial in future, they might decide to commit many more people to the Crown court for sentence after conviction than the Home Office currently estimates will happen.