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Session 2005 - 06|
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|Violent Crime Reduction Bill|
These notes refer to the Violent Crime Reduction Bill as introduced in the House of Commons on 8th June 2005 [Bill 10]
VIOLENT CRIME REDUCTION BILL
1. These explanatory notes relate to the Violent Crime Reduction Bill as introduced in the House of Commons on 8th June 2005. They have been prepared by the Home Office in order to assist the reader of the Bill and to help 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. Where a clause or part of a clause does not seem to require any explanation or comment, none is given.
Part 1: Alcohol-related violence and disorder
3. Chapter 1 of Part 1 establishes powers to allow those aged 16 and over who are responsible for alcohol-related disorder to be excluded from pubs and clubs in a defined geographic area for a given length of time, with the possibility of other relevant prohibitions also being included in the order.
4. Chapter 2 of Part 1 gives local authorities the power to designate, with the consent of the police, a locality as an alcohol disorder zone where there is a problem with alcohol-related nuisance and disorder. Local authorities would have the power to impose charges on holders of premises licences allowing the sale by retail of alcohol and on holders of club premises certificates allowing the supply of alcohol to members and their guests. Charges would be imposed if licensed premises and clubs did not implement an action plan designed to address the problem. They would have a period of eight weeks in which to do this. As part of the action plan, licensed premises may be asked to fund extra service provision - extra late-night transport for example. If premises failed to implement the action plan, then charges would be levied at a nationally-set rate, reflecting the cost of a typical basket of initiatives which could be used by local authorities and other public authorities to tackle the problem. The designation would be subject to three monthly review of its appropriateness.
[Bill 10EN] 54/1
5. Chapter 3 of Part 1 inserts a new procedure into the Licensing Act 2003 which allows for an accelerated review of licensed premises, by a licensing authority, and the attaching of temporary conditions to a premises licence pending the full review of the licence. Clause 18 provides for a senior police officer (of or above the rank of superintendent) to certify, to a licensing authority, that he/she considers any licensed premises to be associated with serious crime and/or disorder. On receiving the application the licensing authority will be obliged to consider within 48 hours whether it is necessary to take interim steps pending a full review of the licence which must take place within 28 days.
6. The interim steps that a licensing authority may take include modification of the conditions of a licence (e.g. requiring at risk pubs/clubs to search for offensive weapons or use of toughened glass); the exclusion of sale of alcohol; the removal of the designated premises supervisor from the licence; or the suspension of the licence.
7. If the licensing authority decides to take interim steps, pending a full review, then it will be required to give notice of its decision to the holder of the premises licence and the police. The premises holder may make representations against the imposition of temporary measures and the licensing authority will be obliged to hold a hearing within 48 hours of receipt to consider these. In addition to considering the representations, the licensing authority must consider the original statement issued by the police and any representations made by the chief officer of police for the area. Following the hearing, the licensing authority may decide to withdraw or modify the temporary steps taken.
8. The licensing authority is obliged to hold a full hearing within 28 days of receiving the signed statement from the police taking into account representations from the licence holder and any responsible authority or interested party. Following the review, the licensing authority may modify the conditions of licence, exclude a licensable activity from the scope of the licence, remove the designated premises supervisor from the premises, suspend the licence for a period not exceeding 3 months or revoke the licence.
9. Chapter 3 of Part 1 also inserts a new offence into the Licensing Act 2003 which will be committed if, on three or more different occasions in a period of three consecutive months, alcohol is unlawfully sold on the same premises to a person aged under 18. Clause 20 provides that the offence is only committed if, at the time of each sale, the premises were licensed by a premises licence issued under the Licensing Act 2003 or the premises were being used for a permitted temporary activity under the authority of a temporary event notice given under that Act. The clause provides that the new offence is committed by the person, or one of the persons, holding the premises licence for the premises, or the person, or one of the persons, who is the premises user and gave the temporary event notice authorising licensable activities at the premises. The penalty for the new offence on summary conviction will be a fine not exceeding £10,000 and, where the offender is a premises licence holder, the premises licence could be suspended for up to three months insofar as it authorises sales by retail of alcohol.
10. Provision is made in Chapter 3 for a senior police officer, of the rank of superintendent or higher, or an inspector of weights and measures, to give a closure notice where there are reasonable grounds for believing that the new offence of persistently selling alcohol to children has been committed at the premises in question. A closure notice will propose a prohibition on sales of alcohol at the premises in question for a period not exceeding 48 hours; and will offer the opportunity to discharge all criminal liability in respect of the alleged offence by the acceptance of the prohibition proposed in the notice. The premises licence holder will have seven days to decide whether or not to accept the proposed prohibition or to elect to be tried for the offence. Where the licence holder decides to accept the prohibition, it must be given effect not less than fourteen days after the date on which the notice was served at a time specified in the closure notice. Closure notices may be served by police constables, trading standards officers and community support officers.
Part 2: Weapons etc.
11. Part 2 establishes a new aggravated offence of using someone to mind a weapon and amends firearms law to tackle the misuse of imitation firearms and air weapons, and the assembly of ammunition for criminal purposes. This part of the Bill also contains measures in relation to the sale etc. of knives and other weapons and the power to search school pupils for weapons.
12. Clauses 24 and 25 create a new offence of using another person to look after, hide or transport a dangerous weapon and provide for the court to treat the use of a minor in these circumstances as an aggravating factor when considering the seriousness of the offence.
13. Clause 26 increases from 17 to 18 the minimum age for acquiring or possessing an air weapon. Clause 27 makes it an offence for any person to fire an air weapon beyond the boundary of any premises.
14. Clause 28 makes it an offence to purchase or sell primers for ammunition unless the purchaser has a valid firearm certificate or otherwise has lawful authority. Clause 29 introduces a similar offence in respect of ammunition loading presses.
15. Clauses 30 to 33 deal with the misuse of imitation firearms. Clause 30 makes it an offence to manufacture, import or sell realistic imitation firearms and includes a power for the Secretary of State to make regulations to provide for exceptions and defences to this offence. Clause 31 makes it an offence to manufacture, modify or import an imitation firearm which does not conform to specifications set out in regulations to be made by the Secretary of State. Clause 32 makes it an offence to sell an imitation firearm to a person under 18. It also makes it an offence for a person under 18 to purchase an imitation firearm. Clause 33 increases from 6 months to 12 months the maximum custodial sentence for carrying an imitation firearm in a public place without lawful authority or reasonable excuse.
Part 3: Miscellaneous
16. Part 3 of the Bill contains three main measures in relation to football-related disorder:
17. Part 3 also makes provision for widening the categories of persons involved in changing the electronic identifiers of mobile wireless communications devices who commit an offence under the Mobile Telephones (Re-programming) Act 2002.
18. Schedule 2 of the Bill amends the Sexual Offences Act 2003 by inserting three new sections 60A, 60B and 60C. The three new sections introduce provisions allowing for the detention and/or forfeiture of vehicles, ships and aircraft used in offences of trafficking for sexual exploitation under sections 57 to 59 of the 2003 Act.
Part 4: General
19. Part 4 deals with repeals and provides for the commencement of the Bill.
TERRITORIAL APPLICATION: WALES
20. Clause 35 (power to search school pupils for weapons) will be commenced in relation to schools in Wales by the National Assembly for Wales rather than the Secretary of State.
Part 1: Alcohol-related violence and disorder
21. In January 2005 the Government published a consultation paper called "Drinking Responsibly - The Government's Proposals". This set out proposals for introducing Drinking Banning Orders.
22. The Government's proposals for powers for local authorities and the police to designate alcohol disorder zones and to charge licensed premises for the costs of dealing with alcohol-related crime and disorder were included in the "Drinking Responsibly" consultation paper.
Alcohol disorder zones
23. Alcohol disorder zones are designed to tackle the problem of alcohol-related crime and disorder in town and city centres through a focus on the public space and/or the management of individual premises.
24. Alcohol disorder zones will sit alongside other measures to change individuals' behaviour, enforce the provisions of the Licensing Act 2003 and secure the collective responsibility of licensed premises to help build a robust local infrastructure to manage the night time economy.
Power of police to require review of premises licence
25. Through this legislation the Government is seeking to introduce a power for police to require an expedited review of an alcohol licence where the premises are associated with serious crime and disorder, and a power for councils to take temporary steps in relation to the licence (including imposing additional conditions) pending the determination of the review.
26. These objectives fit into the overall government aim of reducing violent crime, and overall crime by 15% by 2008 by:
27. These are selective measures. It is not the aim to require all licensed premises to undertake these searches or use toughened glass. Rather, the policy aim is to provide a selective tool, to be used proportionately, to limit this condition to those pubs that are risk either because police intelligence shows there is a risk of knives or guns being carried or because crime and disorder has occurred on the premises.
28. The Licensing Act 2003 (effective November 2005) is the main statutory lever to regulate both on and off licence traders. Operators are issued with a licence to sell alcohol, and this licence is the main vehicle for regulating their behaviour.
29. There are conditions applied to this licence, relating to crime and disorder, which are on the face of the Act (e.g. not knowingly sell alcohol to a drunk) and apply universally to all licensed establishments.
30. There is also a provision which allows other conditions to be attached to licences, by licensing authorities, which are tailored to the particular circumstances of individual establishments. Searching for weapons and use of toughened glass are examples of this type of selective provision that can already be applied to licences where there is a demonstrable need.
31. The aim of this provision is to supplement the existing provisions in the Act which provide for conditions to be attached to licences. This is achieved by giving the police the power to issue a certificate where they believe that any premises is associated with serious crime and disorder. This would trigger an accelerated review of the licence with the attaching of temporary conditions to the licence.
32. The provision would cover crime and disorder generally (rather than be limited to weapons and glass related incidents - although the need to use the provision for these purposes could be brought out in guidance). And the appropriate modifications and conditions to the licence could be set.
Persistent selling of alcohol to children
33. The requirement to have reached 18 in order to make alcohol purchases has been the law in England and Wales since the coming into force of the Intoxicating Liquor (Sale to Persons under Eighteen) Act 1923. Despite the existence over the ensuing years of offences aimed at reducing underage purchase and consumption of alcohol, it remains the case that many children are able to obtain alcohol from some licensed sources now with ease. Since 1988, several attempts have been made to strengthen the offences and to make prosecution and conviction of offenders easier. These efforts have included:
34. An Alcohol Misuse Enforcement Campaign in the summer of 2004 found that in premises targeted by test purchasing operations almost 50 per cent were committing offences of selling alcohol to children. A similar campaign during the Christmas/New Year period of 2004/2005 found that out of 989 test purchasing operations on targeted establishments, 32 per cent of on licence and 32 per cent of off licence premises were found to be selling to under-18s.
35. Subject to certain exceptions, it is currently an offence under section 169A of the Licensing Act 1964 to sell alcohol to children under 18 in licensed premises; and a similar offence, which will have force in any place, will exist under section 146 of the Licensing Act 2003, when it comes into effect at the end of the Act's transitional period ("the second appointed day"), which is currently expected to be in November 2005.
36. Although the Licensing Act 2003 will increase the maximum fines for offences related to sales of alcohol to children from £1,000 to £5,000, the impact of convictions for such offences falls on the individual offender and therefore not necessarily on the business carrying on the licensable activity at the premises. Similarly, conviction may lead to the suspension of a personal licence if one is held by the offender, but not the premises licence which authorises sales of alcohol at the premises concerned. Whether any action is taken in respect of the premises licence will depend on the police or trading standards officers applying to the licensing authority for a review of the premises licence. Whether any action is taken to suspend or revoke the premises licence would then depend on the view taken by the licensing authority following a hearing.
37. In the "Drinking Responsibly" consultation paper, the Government argued that the existing and future offence provisions and the increased penalties associated with the implementation of the Licensing Act 2003 may be insufficient in themselves to curb the current level of unlawful sales. A key proposal was to legislate to create a power for the police and trading standards officers (inspectors of weights and measures) to close premises for a period of up to 48 hours where there was evidence of persistent unlawful selling to children. The provisions in Clauses 20 and 21 of the Bill are intended to give effect to the proposals on which the Government consulted.
Part 2: Weapons etc.
38. Gun crime remains relatively rare. In 2003/4, firearms (including air weapons) were used in 0.4% of all recorded crimes. However, certain aspects of gun crime are on the increase.
39. There is a range of legislation in place which makes it an offence to possess an unlawful firearm and to carry other offensive weapons in public without reasonable excuse. People may in some circumstances, however, escape prosecution by entrusting their weapon to another person, in particular to a child. Part 2 addresses this issue, and reflects the fact that when children are used in this way this presents particularly serious dangers, as in addition to the risk of injuring themselves with the weapon and being arrested for possession of the weapon, they may in the longer term be drawn into gun and knife crime as a result of their early association with weapons.
40. In recent years imitation firearms have featured in an increasing number of crimes, ranging from nuisance and intimidation to armed robbery. In 2003/4, imitation firearms were involved in 2,146 crimes. This was an increase of 18% following a 46% rise the previous year. Much of the problem involves young people misusing imitation firearms, including using realistic imitations to threaten and intimidate others. There is a range of existing offences and controls relating to imitation firearms but they have not proved sufficient to halt this trend. The Government believes the problem needs to be tackled at source by restricting the sale of imitation firearms.
41. Air weapons were used in 13,756 crimes in 2003/4. This was a fall of 0.5% from the previous year but a 59% increase since 1998/9. Around 75% of air weapon offences were for criminal damage and much of the misuse is by young people. The Government believes that this can be addressed by increasing the minimum age for acquiring or possessing an air weapon. A small number of offences involve firing air weapons beyond the boundary of premises. This is already an offence but applies only to young people. The Government believes that this gap in the law should be closed.
42. While whole rounds of ammunition are subject to licensing, component parts of ammunition are not. In recent years, the police have identified several cases where criminals had been found in possession of home-loaded ammunition. The Government believes that this problem can be addressed by restricting sales of primers and ammunition loading presses.
Part 3: Miscellaneous
43. In the light of the significant contribution that football banning orders are making to reducing levels of English and Welsh football disorder, particularly at regulated matches played outside England and Wales, the Bill proposes that the current time limitation on key measures be removed. The Bill also proposes some administrative refinements to the administration of football banning orders and abolishes legal provision for the setting up of a national membership scheme. The provisions have never been implemented and the principle of restricting access to football matches to individuals who are members of such a scheme is inconsistent with the strategic aim of encouraging football fans from all sections of society to attend matches.
44. The Mobile Telephones (Re-programming) Act 2002 created a number of offences relating to the electronic identifiers of mobile wireless communications devices. In particular it became an offence to change the unique International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number which identifies a mobile telephone handset. It is also possible to interfere with the operation of the IMEI by the addition of a small electronic chip to the handset and this too was an offence.
45. From September 2002 all the major mobile telephone network providers have been able to bar mobile telephone handsets, when these are reported stolen or lost, by reference to the IMEI number. However, if the IMEI number of the stolen or lost telephone is changed, it is not possible to implement the barring process and the telephone is able to continue in use.
46. It is clear from international Global System for Mobiles (GSM) standards that the IMEI number should not be changed and that it should be resistant to change. There is no legitimate reason why anyone other than the manufacturer of a mobile telephone (or its authorised agents) should need to alter an IMEI number.
47. Section 145 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 introduced a new offence of traffic in prostitution. Section 146 of that Act applied sections 25C and 25D of the Immigration Act 1971 to an offence under section 145. Broadly, the application of sections 25C and 25D allowed the court to order the forfeiture of a ship, vehicle or aircraft used or intended to be used in connection with the offence subject to certain conditions, and allowed a constable or chief immigration officer to detain such a ship, vehicle, or aircraft, again subject to certain conditions.
48. The Sexual Offences Act 2003 repealed sections 145 and 146 of the 2002 Act and replaced those provisions with three new offences in the 2003 Act itself: trafficking into the UK for sexual exploitation (section 57), trafficking within the UK for sexual exploitation (section 58), and trafficking out of the UK for sexual exploitation (section 59).
49. In relation to those three new offences, section 25C and section 25D of the 1971 Act were not applied. It was believed at the time that it was enough to rely on police detention powers in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 and the general forfeiture provision in section 143 of the Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000. The Government's current view is that section 143 of the Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000 does not meet the policy aim because section 143 does not help with detention prior to conviction, nor does it allow for the special conditions for forfeiture of a ship or aircraft.
50. The Government's policy is that the courts should have the power to order the forfeiture of ships, vehicles or aircraft used or intended to be used in connection with offences under sections 57 to 59 of the 2003 Act, and the police should have the power to detain such vehicles, ships or aircraft, in the same way as the courts and police have such powers under sections 25C and 25D of the 1971 Act.
COMMENTARY ON CLAUSES
Part 1: Alcohol-related violence and disorder
Chapter 1: Drinking banning orders
Clause 1: Drinking banning orders
51. This clause provides for a new civil order, a drinking banning order (DBO) which is available to protect persons and their property from criminal or disorderly conduct by an individual while he is under the influence of alcohol.
52. Subsection (1) explains that the order would prohibit the individual under the order from doing the things described in the order. Subsection (2) explains that the order may impose any prohibition on the individual that would protect others from his criminal or disorderly conduct while under the influence of alcohol. Subsection (3) provides that the prohibitions in the order must include whatever the court thinks necessary with regard to the subject's entering premises that sell alcohol, and club premises that can supply alcohol to members or guests.
53. Subsection (4) contains safeguards to ensure that the court may not impose a prohibition on the subject that prevents him from having access to a place where he lives, works or studies, or receives medical treatment, or any place he is required to attend as a result of a court order or an enactment.
54. Subsection (5) provides that the term of a DBO is between a minimum of 2 months and a maximum of 2 years. Subsection (6) enables different prohibitions within a DBO to take effect for different periods within the overall maximum and minimum period. Subsection (7) sets out that expressions used in subsection (3) have the same meaning as in the Licensing Act 2003.
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