Examination of Witness (Questions 200
MONDAY 24 JUNE 2002
200. 67% pay, 33% do not pay.
(Sir Hayden Phillips) We are looking to improve that
figure progressively year on year and I am not pretending to you
that is a good situation.
201. It is a shocking situation. It is a shocking
situation and that is why we have a position now where in many
cases people are frightened to go out on the streets at night
because they know they may get mugged and they know very well
that if the person is caught they go to court, get smacked on
the bottom and sent away and your Department is not doing enough
to ensure that the punishments fit the crime. Let us have a look
at where you have taken action or supposedly taken action. Page
17, paragraph 2.14. Apparently there were some pilot schemes in
Norfolk and Greater Manchester where people who had not paid their
fines were given community punishment orders, curfew orders and
driving disqualification. How many were actually administered?
For example in Norfolk and Greater Manchester how many community
punishment orders were there and how many curfew orders were given
and how many people were disqualified for driving?
(Sir Hayden Phillips) I do not know immediately what
those numbers were.
202. If I were in your position and coming to
this Committee I would have thought that would have been one of
the most obvious questions to be asked to see whether it had been
successful. Do your colleagues not know? How many people had curfew
orders put on them?
Chairman: Can anybody help from behind
you with these answers?
(Sir Hayden Phillips) No, we will have to send you
203. You do not know. I cannot follow my line
of questioning if that is the case. I assumed that you would be
able to tell me whether it had been successful or not and why
other magistrates' courts had not adopted these solutions. I am
absolutely staggered. I would have thought you would have known
exactly whether these particular punishments, which were put in
because people were not paying fines, had been successful or not
and whether you should use them elsewhere or not.
(Sir Hayden Phillips) The NAO report, which we agreed,
accurately summarises what the conclusions were. These things
cannot be rolled out nationally without the implementation of
national legislation and that is why we are waiting for the opportunity
of the implementation of the Crime (Sentences) Act to be able
to roll out these options across the country.
204. I cannot follow my line of questioning
because you do not have the figures. It is pointless going on
if you do not know what the figures are. This report also substantiates
the view I have had for a long time now, that magistrates' courts
are ineffective anyway and that we should have some other system.
Is it the fact that the magistrates themselves are not prepared
to hand out the punishments and follow them through or is it lack
of guidance from your Department? Who is to blame?
(Sir Hayden Phillips) The magistrates' courts deal
with 96% of all criminal business.
205. Are you happy with the standard of magistrates?
It is your Department which appoints them, is it not?
(Sir Hayden Phillips) No, they are appointed by the
Lord Chancellor. If you are talking here of lay magistrates, there
are 30,000 of them. We try to make sure that they all meet the
criteria, go through the interviews and so on.
206. I thought you were the Lord Chancellor's
(Sir Hayden Phillips) Yes, we are. I said the Lord
Chancellor appoints all the magistrates.
207. When I asked whether your Department appoints
them you said the Lord Chancellor appoints them.
(Sir Hayden Phillips) There is a difference.
208. Are you satisfied with the standard of
(Sir Hayden Phillips) Yes; it is very good.
209. Are you satisfied with the standard of
(Sir Hayden Phillips) It is an amazing example of
210. Are you satisfied with the way the courts
(Sir Hayden Phillips) We are never satisfied. We have
indicated in the hearing this afternoon that we have a whole range
of improvements to make in the way the administration is run.
211. Do you have a league table of the performance
(Sir Hayden Phillips) We have a whole series of information
about the different performance of courts in different areas.
We have them as shown in this report and in further information
I sent to the Committee the other day about fine enforcement.
We have similar information in league tables about delays and
that is for the first time. This information has not generally
been available to the Department.
212. How accountable are the courts?
(Sir Hayden Phillips) They are accountable locally
to magistrates' courts committees. We are responsible for funding
them and for giving guidance on the appointment of magistrates.
Do not please think that we are complacent about this, neither
about the efficiency of the courts nor about the range of penalties
at our disposal nor about our determination to improve it.
213. Have you ever been in a magistrates' court?
(Sir Hayden Phillips) Yes.
(Sir Hayden Phillips) About a year ago.
215. What did you think?
(Sir Hayden Phillips) I thought they did an amazing
job with people coming forward.
216. Did you? I sat in a magistrates' court
and watched what was going on and I was never so appalled in my
life. There were people sitting at the back, shouting and swearing
at the magistrates, cursing and nothing was done about it. There
was absolutely no respect at all for the magistrates who were
in the court. It was just an absolute shambles and they are supposed
to be the custodians of law and order. For example paragraph 2.10
on page 17 says that the court officers did not tell the magistrates
who had not paid their fines and who had paid their fines. I find
that amazing. You do not need a computer to do that. How did they
do it without computers? We have only had computers over the last
20 years. The computer gets the blame. How can it be condoned
that the courts cannot tell the magistrates that Mr X who is coming
in front of them has been fined four times in the last six months
and has not paid his fine once.
(Sir Hayden Phillips) I do not condone it, nor do
you condone it. The reality is that it happens in some of these
217. The court is therefore complacent and inefficient.
(Sir Hayden Phillips) What we are trying to do is
to make sure people do not have the opportunity to say they did
not have time to collect that information, they did not have time
to put that information together. We are trying to give people
the resources so that sort of thing does not happen again.
218. The reports tell us that 2,000 people were
sent to prison two years ago whereas 22,000 were sent to prison
ten years ago for not paying their fines. So we have a situation
where, if you do not pay your fine you do not now get sent to
prison for defaulting. There is another amazing statistic as well.
Not only are we not sending people to prison for not paying their
fines, if you look at figure four on page 11, the number of fines
being given now has gone down from 80% in 1987 to 70% in 1999.
We are not sending people to prison, we are not fining them. What
are we doing if they commit an offence?
(Sir Hayden Phillips) They will be receiving a range
of other community penalties of one sort or another.
219. Have you ever visited a community service
(Sir Hayden Phillips) No, I have not.
Mr Steinberg: May I suggest you do? I
visited one and if that is punishment, then I will eat hay with
a cuddy, as they say in Durhameat hay with a donkey.
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