Draft Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (Amendment of Schedule 1: Injunctions to Prevent Gang-related Violence) Order 2014
The Committee consisted of the following Members:
Matthew Hamlyn, Edward Beale, Committee Clerks
† attended the Committee
Draft Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (Amendment of Schedule 1: injunctions to prevent gang-related violence) Order 2014
The order amends schedule 1 to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 to allow for advocacy in the youth court, funded by civil legal aid, for under-18s in respect of injunctions to prevent gang-related violence. Its purpose is to maintain the existing availability of civil legal aid in such cases. An amendment to the 2012 Act is necessary to reflect the change of venue for such injunctions that is being made by the Crime and Courts Act 2013 from the county court to the youth court, which is a specialist type of magistrates court.
Civil legal aid is currently available for injunctions to prevent gang-related violence under part 4 of the Policing and Crime Act 2009 by virtue of paragraph 38 of part 1 of schedule 1 to LASPO. Such proceedings are currently heard in the High Court or a county court. Part 3 of schedule 1 to LASPO, which sets out when advocacy may and may not be funded by civil legal aid, allows for such funding, subject to a means and merits test.
Section 18 of the Crime and Courts Act amends part 4 of the Policing and Crime Act to provide that, if a respondent is under 18, the youth court will have jurisdiction to grant gang-related injunctions. That reflects the Government’s view that the youth court is a more suitable venue for such proceedings involving a child. The youth court is a type of magistrates court that is designed in a child and youth-sensitive way. However, legal aid for advocacy in proceedings before a magistrates court is generally excluded from the scope of the civil legal aid scheme by virtue of part 3 of schedule 1 to LASPO.
With that background in mind, I turn to the reason for the order. The Government recognise that restrictions may be placed on a person’s liberty as a result of an injunction to prevent gang-related violence. The breach of an injunction can lead to contempt of court proceedings which, for 14 to 17-year-olds, can result in a supervision order or a detention order being made under the Crime and Security Act 2010. The Government therefore consider that legal aid should remain available for advocacy in proceedings in respect of injunctions to prevent gang-related
The order makes a relatively minor but nevertheless important change to the civil legal aid scheme that complements the wider change made by the Crime and Courts Act, and I commend it to the Committee.
Mr Andy Slaughter (Hammersmith) (Lab): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mrs Osborne. I hope to keep my comments commendably brief, and perhaps shorter than the title of the order. I might not quite be able to do that, but I shall do my best.
I cannot fault the Government’s logic in saying that the youth court is a more appropriate venue for dealing with such matters than the county court or the High Court. Equally, I cannot fault their logic in saying that it is appropriate that legal aid remains available in that venue, given that the consequences of injunctions for gang-related violence may lead to a loss of liberty. We are therefore in accord with the Government—
Perhaps the Minister can help me on one point: is the order dealing with an omission, in the sense that it is consequential to provisions in the Crime and Courts Act 2013? Should the matter have been dealt with separately? Is this one of those cases that we find from time to time that should have been sorted out earlier, or does it, as I rather suspect, reflect a more fundamental defect in the drafting of LASPO?
Schedule 1 to LASPO is significant. We had a longer debate about it last week, and I suspect that we will have many more about its principles and matters that are not in scope or are being taken out of scope. In last week’s debate, we set out that the Government are abusing the terms of schedule 1 to squeeze things out of that Act, which they should not be doing.
We do not disagree with the order, but there is a fundamental flaw in LASPO. Its predecessor Act, the Access to Justice Act 1999, effectively set out that matters would be in scope unless the Government of the day said that they were not. Now we have an opposite provision whereby we need a long and protracted list of matters that are in scope. We are therefore increasingly finding that with even relatively minor and technical matters such as that which we are discussing, we need a specific piece of secondary legislation to deal with them.
Have the Minister or the Government thought about that and how will they continue to address such issues? To require a statutory instrument Committee every time that we have to deal with the most minor and uncontroversial consequential amendment is time consuming and expensive, and that shows the fundamental flaw in how schedule 1 to LASPO is drafted. Perhaps the Minister will think about that and look at things again.
Mr Vara: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his support for the order. To respond to his final point, the order is not the result of a defect in the drafting of LASPO; it simply reflects the change of venue under section 18 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013. Incidentally, that measure is not yet in force, so I hope that he appreciates the fact that the order is being proposed in good time for its implementation.
The change of venue to a youth court for under-18s reflects the Government’s view that such a court is a more suitable place to conduct proceedings that involve