House of Commons - Explanatory Note
House of Commons
Session 2002 - 03
Publications on the internet
Other Bills before Parliament
Arrangement of Clauses (Contents)

Criminal Justice Bill







1.     These explanatory notes relate to the Criminal Justice Bill as introduced in the House of Commons on 21 November 2002. They have been prepared by the Home Office in order to assist the reader of the Bill and help to inform debate on it. They do not form part of the Bill and have not been endorsed by Parliament.

2.     The notes need to be read in conjunction with the Bill. They are not, and are not meant to be, a comprehensive description of the Bill. So where a clause or part of a clause does not seem to require any explanation or comment, none is given.


3.     In July 2002 the Government published a White Paper outlining its plans for the criminal justice system, from crime prevention through to the punishment and rehabilitation of offenders. Justice for All (Cm 5563) focused particularly on reforms to court procedure and sentencing, to make trials faster and to deliver clear, consistent and appropriate sentencing. On these issues the White Paper built on the proposals in two consultation documents: Review of the Criminal Courts of England and Wales by Sir Robin Auld (2001) and Making Punishment Work: report of a review of the sentencing framework of England and Wales (2001) by John Halliday.

     4.     This Bill is intended to introduce reforms in these two areas. With regard to court procedure, the Bill aims to improve the management of cases through the courts by involving the Crown Prosecution Service in charging decisions, by reforming the system for allocating cases to court, and by increasing magistrates' sentencing powers so that fewer cases have to go to the Crown Court. It will enable action to be taken to reduce offending on bail by introducing a new presumption against bail for those tested positive for class A drugs who refuse to go into treatment.

[Bill 8-EN]     53/2

5.     The Bill is designed to ensure that criminal trials are run more efficiently and to reduce the scope for abuse of the system. It will reform the rules on advance disclosure of evidence and will allow for judge-alone trial where the defendant requests this, and in complex fraud cases, long or complex cases other than fraud which involve financial transactions, where the trial has collapsed because of jury intimidation or bribery or there is a risk of this. It will ensure the wider involvement of the community as a whole by reforming rules on jury service. Rules on evidence will be changed to allow the use of previous convictions where relevant, and to allow the use of reported (hearsay) evidence where there is good reason why the original source cannot be present, or where the judge otherwise considers it would be appropriate. A right of appeal for the prosecution against judicial decisions to direct or order an acquittal before the jury has been asked to consider the evidence will be introduced to balance the defendant's right of appeal against both conviction and sentence. The Bill will also make it possible in certain very serious cases for a retrial to take place despite an earlier acquittal if there is new and compelling evidence of an accused's guilt.

6.     The Bill aims to provide a sentencing framework which is clearer and more flexible than the current one. The purposes of sentencing of adults will be identified in statute for the first time, as punishment, crime reduction, public protection and reparation. The principles of sentencing will be set out, including that any previous convictions, where they are recent and relevant, should be regarded as an aggravating factor which will increase the severity of the sentence. A new Sentencing Guidelines Council will be established. Sentences will be reformed, so that the various kinds of community order for adults will be replaced by a single community order with a range of possible requirements; custodial sentences of less than 12 months will be replaced by a new sentence, (described in the Halliday Report as "custody plus"), which will always involve a period of at least 26 weeks post-release supervision in the community; and sentences over 12 months will be served in full, half in custody, half in the community, with supervision extended to the end of the sentence rather than the 3/4 point as now. Serious violent and sexual offenders will be given new sentences which will ensure that they are kept in prison or under supervision for longer periods than currently. At the other end of the custodial scale, several "intermediate" sanctions will be introduced. These include intermittent custody and a reformed suspended sentence in which offenders have to complete a range of requirements imposed by the court. The intention is for the court to be able to provide each offender with a sentence that best meets the need of the particular case, at any level of seriousness, and for sentences to be more effectively managed by the correctional services who will need to work together closely in delivering the new sentences.

     7.     The Bill also addresses a number of other areas. It makes several amendments to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. It makes a number of provisions on drug-related offending, including extending drug testing provisions to those under 18 for specified Class A drugs charged with trigger offences, increasing penalties for trafficking Class C drugs to 14 years and enabling new powers of arrest for Class C drugs. Finally, on juveniles, the Bill extends the use of parenting orders by making them available at an earlier stage and introduces individual support orders, requiring young people with anti-social behaviour orders to undertake education-related activities.

     8.     In general the Bill extends only to England and Wales.


9.     The Bill is in fourteen parts. Part 1 and Schedule 1 contain provisions on the Police and Criminal Evidence Act. Part 2 contains provisions on bail. Part 3 contains provisions on conditional cautions. Part 4 and Schedule 2 contain provisions on charging. Part 5 contains provisions on disclosure. Part 6 and Schedule 3 contain provisions on allocation and transfer of offences. Part 7 contains provisions on trials on indictment without a jury. Part 8 contains provisions on live links. Part 9 contains provisions on prosecution appeals. Part 10 contains provisions enabling retrial for serious offences following acquittal (double jeopardy). Part 11 contains provisions on evidence of bad character (Chapter 1 and Schedules 4 and 5) and provisions on hearsay evidence (Chapter 2 and Schedule 6). Part 12 contains provisions on sentencing and is split into a number of Chapters. Chapter 1 contains general provisions about sentencing. Chapter 2 and Schedule 7 contain provisions on community orders for offenders aged 16 or over. Chapter 3 and Schedules 8 and 9 contain provisions on prison sentences of less than 12 months. Chapter 4 and Schedule 10 contain further provisions on orders under Chapters 2 and 3. Chapter 5 and Schedules 11, 12, 13 and 14 contain provisions on dangerous offenders. Chapter 6 and Schedule 15 contain provisions on release of prisoners on licence. Chapter 7 and Schedules 16, 17, 18, 19 and 20 contain other provisions about sentencing. Chapter 8 and Schedule 21 contain supplementary provisions. Part 13 and Schedules 22 and 23 contain miscellaneous provisions and Part 14 and Schedules 24 to 26 contain general provisions.

Part 1 - Police and Criminal Evidence

10.     Part 1 amends the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE). The Bill extends the definition of prohibited articles under section 1 of PACE so that it includes an article made, adapted or intended for use in causing criminal damage. The effect is to give police officers the power to stop and search where they have reasonable suspicion that a person is carrying any such item. It also makes new provision for warrants to enter and search. At present, persons who accompany constables executing search warrants are able to do so merely in an advisory or clerical capacity. The Bill allows those accompanying the police under a warrant to actively assist in searching premises.

11.     The Bill enables the immediate grant of bail from the scene of arrest ("street bail") where there is no immediate need to deal with the arrested person at a police station. It gives police the discretion to decide when and where an arrested person should attend a police station for interview. It also enables reviews of the continuing need for detention without charge to be conducted over the telephone rather than in person at the police station as is currently the case. Where video conferencing facilities are available they should be used in preference to the telephone.

12.     The Bill extends the time for which someone may be detained without charge, under the authority of a superintendent, from 24 to 36 hours for any arrestable offence, rather than for any serious arrestable offence as the law currently stands. At present a custody officer is required to record everything a detained person has with him on entering custody. Clause 6 of the Bill changes the law so that whilst the custody officer still has a responsibility to ascertain what the person has with him, any recording will be at his discretion.

13.     The Bill will make fundamental changes to the process for establishing and amending codes of practice under PACE. At present codes cover stop and search, searching of premises, detention, identification, and the recording of interviews. Issuing a new code or revising an existing one requires extensive public consultation and an active process of parliamentary consideration. The amendments provide a more limited consultation process and a simple requirement to lay a new code or a revised code before Parliament.

14.     Clause 8 gives effect to Schedule 1 which deals with amendments related to this Part of the Bill.

15.     Currently, possession of a Class C drug is not an arrestable offence. Clause 9 would make the possession of a Class C drug an arrestable offence under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, enabling the police to arrest persons for possession of cannabis and other Class C drugs where there were aggravating factors, such as threat to public order. This change in the law would mean that police would retain their power of arrest for possession of cannabis after the proposed reclassification of the drug from Class B to Class C.

16.     Section 57 of the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000 amended the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 to enable officers to detain a person after charge to test for specified class A drugs, subject to conditions in 63B of PACE. The Bill extends this provision to include persons who are aged 14 years and above. An appropriate adult is required to be present during the testing procedure for 14 to 16 year olds.

Part 2 - Bail

17.     The Bill gives effect to the Law Commission's recommendation that minor amendments should be made to the Bail Act 1976 to ensure that its compliance with the ECHR is beyond dispute. The provision which purports to make it an exception to the right to bail that an offence appears to have been committed while the defendant was on bail for another offence is repealed, and replaced by a requirement on the court to give particular weight to that fact when assessing the risk that (if granted bail) the defendant would commit further offences.

18.     The Bill also gives effect to recommendations of Lord Justice Auld in his Review of the Criminal Courts of England and Wales for simplifying the bail appeals system, including removing the High Court's bail jurisdiction where it is concurrent with that of the Crown Court. The right of the prosecution to appeal to the Crown Court against a decision by magistrates to grant bail is extended to cover all imprisonable offences, and not just those carrying a maximum penalty of 5 years as at present.

     19.     The Bill creates a presumption that bail will not be granted for a person who is charged with an imprisonable offence, and who tests positive for a specified Class A drug and refuses treatment (the "three criteria") - unless there are exceptional circumstances in a particular case.

Part 3 - Conditional Cautions

20.     The Bill allows for a caution with specific conditions attached to it to be given where there is sufficient evidence to charge a suspect with an offence which he or she admits, and the suspect agrees to the caution. It would be for the CPS to decide whether a conditional caution was appropriate, and in most cases for the police to administer it. If the suspect failed to comply with the conditions, he or she would be liable to be prosecuted for the offence. The Bill provides for the publication of a Code of Practice for conditional cautions.

Part 4 - Charging etc

21.     The Bill amends the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 to provide that, where a custody officer decides that there is sufficient evidence to charge a suspect who is in police detention, he is to have regard to guidance issued by the DPP in determining whether the suspect should be released without charge but on bail, released without charge and without bail, or charged. Where, pursuant to that guidance, a case is referred to the Crown Prosecution Service to determine whether proceedings should be instituted (and if so on which charge), the defendant will be released on police bail with or without conditions.

     22.     The Bill also makes provision for a new method of initiating public prosecutions, to replace laying an information and issue of a summons. The police, the CPS and other named public prosecutors will instead issue a written charge, which will be accompanied by a 'requisition' informing the defendant when he is to appear in court to answer to it.

Part 5 - Disclosure

     23.     This Part amends some of the provisions in the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996 that govern the disclosure of unused prosecution material to the defence and the provision of a defence case statement. It replaces the present two stage test with a new objective single test for the disclosure of unused prosecution material to the defence, requiring the prosecutor to disclose prosecution material that has not previously been disclosed and which might reasonably be considered capable of undermining the case for the prosecution against the accused, or of assisting the case for the accused. It replaces the present secondary disclosure stage with a revised continuing duty on the prosecutor to disclose material that meets the new test. The prosecutor is specifically required to review the prosecution material on receipt of the defence statement and to make further disclosure if required under the continuing duty.

24.     It also amends the defence disclosure requirements, requiring the accused to provide a more detailed defence statement than currently required. The main changes are that the defence will be required to set out the nature of his defence including any particular defences on which he intends to rely and indicate any points of law he wishes to take. Other new provisions are a requirement for the judge to warn the accused about any failure to comply with the defence statement requirements, cross service of defence statements on the order of the judge, a requirement for service of an updated defence statement to assist the management of the trial, requiring the accused to serve, before the trial, details of any witnesses he intends to call to give evidence and also details of all experts instructed. The judge will have the discretion to disclose the defence statement to the jury and the present leave requirement for making comment on defence disclosure failures is removed. However, the leave of the court will be required for comment to be made on any faults in complying with the witness list requirement. As at present, the court or jury will continue to be able to draw inferences from certain faults in the disclosure by the accused in deciding whether he is guilty but will not be able to convict solely on an inference.

Part 6 - Allocation and transfer of offences

     25.     This Part of the Bill (with Schedule 3) amends the procedure to be followed by magistrates' courts in determining whether cases triable either way should be tried summarily or on indictment, and provides for the sending to the Crown Court of those cases which need to go there. The new procedures are designed to enable cases to be dealt with in the level of court which is appropriate to their seriousness, and to ensure that they reach that court as quickly as possible.

     26.     These provisions give effect to a number of recommendations from Lord Justice Auld's Review of the Criminal Courts, including making magistrates aware, when they determine allocation, of any previous convictions of the defendant; removing the option of committal for sentence in cases which the magistrates decide to hear; allowing defendants in cases where summary trial is considered appropriate to seek a broad indication of the sentence they would face if they were to plead guilty at that point; and replacing committal proceedings and transfers in serious fraud and child witness cases by a common system for sending cases to the Crown Court, based on the present arrangements for indictable-only cases.

     27.     Provision is made for defendants aged under 18 to be given an indication of sentence, along the lines of the procedure which applies in adult cases. This should help to avoid cases involving young defendants being sent to the Crown Court unnecessarily.

Part 7 - Trials on indictment without a jury

28.     This Part of the Bill sets out the circumstances in which criminal trials that currently take place on indictment in the Crown Court before a judge and jury will in future be conducted by a judge sitting alone.

29.     The Bill permits a defendant being tried in the Crown Court to make an application to the Court to have his trial heard by a judge sitting alone instead of by a judge and jury. Unless any other defendants who are to be tried object to the application or certain exceptional circumstances apply as a result of which the judge believes it would be in the interests of justice or necessary in the public interest to conduct the trial with a jury, the judge will have to make an order granting trial by judge alone.

30.     The Bill makes provision for the prosecution to apply for a trial to proceed in the absence of a jury on grounds of the length or complexity of the trial. The case must be so long or complex (or both) that the trial would be so burdensome upon the jury to make it necessary in the interests of justice to conduct the trial without a jury, or the trial would be likely to place an excessive burden on the life of a typical juror. Length or complexity must be attributable to the need to address arrangements, transactions or records of a financial or commercial nature or which relate to property, and regard must be given to steps which might reasonably be taken to reduce that length and complexity.

31.     The Bill provides for a trial to be conducted without a jury where there is a real and present danger of jury tampering, or continued without a jury where the jury has been discharged because of jury tampering. In the former case, the court must be satisfied that the level and duration of the police protection which would be necessary for the members of a jury hearing the trial would be excessively burdensome to a typical juror. Alternatively (or additionally), the court must be satisfied that the risk of jury tampering would remain sufficiently high notwithstanding any steps (including police protection) that could reasonably be taken to prevent it, to make it necessary in the interests of justice for the trial to be conducted without a jury. In trials already under way where the jury has been discharged because of jury tampering, the trial will continue without a jury unless the judge considers it necessary in the interests of justice to terminate the trial. In that event, he may order a retrial, and if he does he will have the option of ordering that the retrial takes place without a jury.

     32.     The Bill provides a right of appeal to the Court of Appeal for both prosecution and defence against a determination made by a court on an application for a trial without a jury, and against a court order to continue a trial in the absence of a jury, or to order a retrial without a jury, because of jury tampering.

33.     Where a trial is conducted or continued without a jury, and a defendant is convicted, the court will be required to give its reasons for the conviction.

Part 8 - Live Links

34.     This Part provides powers for the courts to hear evidence by way of a live television link from outside the court building. The court will be able to exercise these powers where they believe it to be in the interests of the efficient or effective administration of justice. Under the law as it stands at present witnesses are generally required to attend the court in person. The law does however currently provide for the use of live links in limited cases, such as in the case of young, disabled, vulnerable or intimidated witnesses under the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999.

35.     Sir Robin Auld during his Review of the Criminal Courts, which reported in October 2001, considered evidence given by experts and recommended provision for the use of live links in this context. The provisions of this Part extend live link provision to any witness, other than the defendant, where it is in the interests of efficiency or effectiveness, to hear that witness's evidence by way of a live link.

Part 9 - Prosecution Appeals

36.     Under current legislation, the defendant has a right of appeal at the end of the trial against both conviction and sentence but the prosecution has no equivalent right of appeal against a judicial decision to stop the trial. The Bill will correct this imbalance by introducing an interlocutory prosecution right of appeal against a ruling by a Crown Court judge that there is no case to answer or any other ruling that has the effect of terminating the trial made either at a pretrial hearing or during the trial, at any time up until the conclusion of the prosecution evidence. This includes both rulings that are terminating in themselves and those that are so fatal to the prosecution case that it proposes to treat them as terminating and, in the absence of the right of appeal, would offer no or no further evidence.

37.     Leave to appeal must be obtained either from the judge or the Court of Appeal. Depending upon the circumstances of the case the judge will decide whether the appeal follows either an expedited route, where the trial is adjourned pending the conclusion of the appeal or a non-expedited route, where any jury that has been empanelled may be discharged. In both cases any judicial ruling effectively acquitting the defendant or otherwise terminating the trial will not take effect while the prosecution is considering whether to appeal and if an appeal is pursued, until the conclusion of the appeal or its abandonment. When appealing a ruling that it is treating as terminating, the prosecution must agree to the acquittal of the defendant(s) for the offence(s) to which the ruling applies, if the appeal does not proceed or the outcome is an order that criminal proceedings should not continue.

38.     The Court of Appeal will be able to confirm, reverse or vary the ruling appealed against and can order the acquittal of the defendant(s) for the offence(s) to which the ruling applies. Where it reverses or varies the ruling, the Court of Appeal may, if it considers it necessary in the interests of justice, order that proceedings in the Crown Court should continue or order that a fresh trial should take place. Both the prosecution and the defence will have a further right of appeal to the House of Lords on a point of law of general public importance.

39.     The Bill also provides for restrictions on reporting the proceedings associated with the appeal and the appeal itself, until after the conclusion of the trial. The aim is to ensure that, if the appeal is successful, matters prejudicial to the continuing or fresh trial are not reported. This restriction will cover reports in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Contravention will be an offence subject to a maximum penalty of a level 5 fine.

Part 10 - Retrial for serious offences

40.     This Part of the Bill seeks to reform the law relating to double jeopardy, by permitting retrials in respect of a number of very serious offences, where new and compelling evidence has come to light. At present the law does not permit a person who has been acquitted or convicted of an offence to be retried for that same offence - this risk of retrial is known as "double jeopardy". There are two principles arising from the common law which prevent this. The first is known by the legal terms autrefois acquit and autrefois convict. These principles provide a bar to the trial, in respect of the same offence, of a person who has previously been either acquitted or convicted of that offence. In addition, the courts may consider it an abuse of process for additional charges to be brought, following an acquittal or conviction, for different offences which arose from the same behaviour or facts. There are certain exceptions to this rule.

41.     The Government considers that the law should be reformed to permit a retrial in cases of serious offences where there has been an acquittal in court, but compelling new evidence subsequently comes to light which indicates that the acquitted person was in fact guilty. This is in line with, but drawn more widely than, recommendations of the Law Commission and those set out in Lord Justice Auld's review of the Criminal Courts, published in 2001. Examples of new evidence might include DNA or fingerprint tests, or new witnesses to the offence coming forward. The measures seek to amend the law in relation to re-investigation of persons acquitted of serious offences in these circumstances, to enable the prosecuting authorities to apply to the Court of Appeal for an acquittal to be quashed, and for a retrial to take place where the Court of Appeal is satisfied that the new evidence is a compelling indication of the acquitted person's guilt. The measures provide safeguards aimed at preventing the possible harassment of acquitted persons in cases where there is not genuinely new evidence, by requiring the personal consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) both to the re-opening of investigations and to the making of an application to the Court of Appeal. The DPP will take into account both the strength of the evidence and the public interest in determining whether a re-investigation or application to the Court is appropriate.

42.     The new arrangements will apply only in respect of serious offences. These are offences which carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, and for which the consequences for victims or for society as a whole are particularly serious. The offences are listed in a Schedule to the Bill and include, for example, murder, manslaughter, rape and involving firearms. They do not include all offences for which life imprisonment is the maximum punishment, because this would catch a number of common law offences which may not have such serious consequences, and for which a life sentence would rarely be imposed.

43.     Where the Court of Appeal quashes an acquittal, a new indictment for the same offence may then be preferred by the prosecuting authorities, and a retrial will follow. The retrial will take account of all the evidence available in the case. The Court of Appeal may refuse to quash an acquittal in cases where the evidence is not new and compelling, or where it is not considered in the interests of justice to proceed with a retrial.

contents continue
House of Commons home page Houses of Parliament home page House of Lords home page search Page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared: 29 November 2002