Joint Committee on Human Rights First Report

C. Part 1, Chapter 1 of the Bill: On-the-Spot Penalties for Disorderly Behaviour

8. These provisions introduce a system of fixed penalty notices which may be given to someone who a constable has reason to believe is aged 18 or over and has committed a 'fixed penalty offence'.[6] The fixed penalty offences are listed in clause 1(1), and are subject to amendment by the Secretary of State by statutory instrument.[7] A person who receives a fixed penalty notice may pay the penalty within 21 days to the justices' chief executive specified in the notice, in which case no criminal proceedings may be brought in respect of that offence.[8] Alternatively, the person may within 21 days request trial.[9] If after 21 days the person has neither paid nor requested trial, the sum of 1.5 times the amount of the fixed penalty may be registered against him as a fine.[10]

9. We examined these provisions in the light of the right to a fair hearing in the determination of a criminal charge, under Article 6.1 of the European Convention on Human Rights (hereafter 'ECHR'). In so far as a fixed penalty offence is serious enough to amount to a 'criminal charge' within the meaning of ECHR Art. 6.1, we consider the right to request trial is adequately protected, bearing in mind that a suspect who has a reasonable excuse for failing either to pay the penalty or elect for trial within 21 days can apply to a magistrates' court to set aside any fine in the interests of justice.[11]

10. There is thus nothing in Part 1, Chapter 1 which we wish to draw to the attention of either House.

6   Clause 2(1). We received a copy of the submission to the Home Office by the Criminal Bar Association, reprinted at pp. 19-23 of our First Special Report. The matter is also considered in the Liberty briefing reprinted at pp. 15-19 of our First Special Report. Back

7   Clause 1(2). Back

8   Clauses 2(4), 5, 9. Back

9   Clause 4. Back

10   Clause 4(5), and see further clause 10. Back

11   Clause 10(5). Back

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