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Lord Henley moved Amendment No. 258A:

Page 54, line 7, at end insert--
("( ) Judges and magistrates shall not be required to adhere to, or even to consider, any guidelines proposed by the Panel for the benefit of the Court of Appeal.").

The noble Lord said: The amendment makes absolutely clear that the courts still have a discretion in sentencing. It does not conflict in any way with earlier amendments but addresses the situation in all courts, whether magistrates' courts or otherwise.

The amendment seeks to make the situation clear on the face of the Bill, which is the important point; that the courts must make decisions for themselves, even though they follow the guidance. In the end the courts have to make the decisions. I beg to move.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: The effect of the amendment is to make clear that sentences need not have regard to advice from the Sentencing Advisory Panel. I make it quite clear that there can be no question of sentences being required or expected to have regard to the panel's advice to the Court of Appeal. The panel's advice is just that, advice to the Court of Appeal alone.

The Court of Appeal will be required to have regard to the advice of the panel. However, it will be for the court to decide how much account should be taken of that advice, and it may even reject it. Sentencers will

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and should have regard only to the final sentencing guidelines produced by the Court of Appeal. We do not believe that it is necessary to make that clear on the face of the Bill.

I hope that, given those assurances, the noble Lord will accept that the amendment is unnecessary.

Lord Renton: I listened with great interest to the discussions on this and the two previous amendments. All those who have been in practice, like Members on the Front Bench, know perfectly well that everyone undertaking judicial work at first instance is at the mercy of the Court of Appeal when it comes to sentencing principles.

I find the situation slightly strange because the Court of Appeal--what should be called the Criminal Division of the Court of Appeal, but for some reason generally is not--is presided over by the Lord Chief Justice and not by the Master of the Rolls, who presides over the civil side. The Lord Chief Justice is very influential in laying down the sentencing policies decided upon by the Court of Appeal. They are binding on the courts of first instance.

We now find that the Lord Chief Justice is to have another capacity. Not only will he be consulted on who should constitute members of the sentencing panel, but, under subsection (4), he will be consulted on the advice to be given by the panel. Therefore, the Lord Chief Justice will have a dual capacity, dealing with the same matters in a different way.

I hope and believe that the work which he does as Lord Chief Justice presiding over criminal decisions in the Court of Appeal will be dominant and that he will not have to submit himself to the relatively minor part which he may play in the work of the sentencing panel.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: I agree with the noble Lord's observation that all sentences are at the mercy--if that is the right word--of the Court of Appeal. That will remain the position even after the Bill becomes law. I understand that as regards the sentencing advisory panel, the Lord Chief Justice will have two roles. First, he is to be consulted on its membership. Secondly, under subsection (4), where there is a reference to the panel or a reference originating from it, the Lord Chief Justice shall be consulted by the panel as to whom it shall then consult before giving its advice. I believe that that is a comparatively minor involvement in the deliberations of the panel and is not nearly as important as the role he will play in presiding in the Court of Appeal, determining what the sentencing guidelines should be.

Lord Renton: I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord for his explanation. He has made the position quite clear.

Lord Henley: I, too, am grateful to the noble and learned Lord for those two explanations. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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Clause 67 agreed to.

Clause 69 agreed to.

Viscount Tenby moved Amendment No. 258B:

Before Clause 80, insert the following new clause--

Removal of face coverings

(" .--(1) Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 is amended as follows.
(2) In subsection (1), after the word "vehicles" there are inserted the words "and to demand the removal of face coverings".
(3) In subsection (4), at the end there is inserted--
"(c) to demand the removal of face coverings that might intimidate other persons or which might inhibit subsequent identification of offenders.".").

The noble Viscount said: In the unavoidable absence of my noble friend Lord Carnarvon, for which he tenders his regrets to the Committee, I move Amendment No. 258B. When my noble friend first raised the matter by way of a Starred Question on 5th February, I detected support for it from all sides of the House. I hope that that sympathy will be reflected in the Minister's response today.

The issue is simple. Many of those engaged in unlawful disputes--for example, on demonstrations such as the National Front rally in Dover last November, in crowd hooliganism as recently occurred at a football match in Bristol in the autumn, or in an armed robbery--use face and head coverings of various kinds. There are two objectives in doing so. The first and most obvious is to escape detection, a result far more likely with the use of close circuit TV and videos were they not to adopt such tactics. But there is another reason which is in a way even more sinister. It is to instil fear in those unlucky enough to be in the way of such deplorable activities.

Although the police have been aware of the problem for some considerable time, the Association of Chief Police Officers is against the creation of an offence for wearing such head and face coverings. In law, it would present considerable difficulties because some people might wear protective clothing for a variety of lawful reasons. I refer, for example, to a scarf wrapped around the face to counter toothache; a covering to ameliorate some other ailment; or--who knows?--even a motor cycle dispatch rider attempting to enter the Home Office with letters of support to Ministers for their sympathetic consideration of amendments to the Bill! But this is a serious matter which invites a speedy resolution.

The amendment, which carries the support of the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Police Federation, seeks to amend Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. It would permit a police officer to demand the removal of face coverings before crime and disorder took place. I beg to move.

Lord Henley: I support the amendment. The noble Viscount rightly reminded the Committee that we discussed the matter when the noble Earl, Lord Carnarvon, raised it at Question Time on 5th February. I then made it clear that if the Government wished to make changes through the mechanism of the Bill we would offer sympathetic support to try to ensure an easy

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passage. Having offered my support, I shall be interested to hear what the Minister has to say. Are the Government able to proceed with the Bill, or do they believe that further work and consultation is required before proceeding down this route?

Lord Hylton: I joined in the Starred Question on 5th February and suggested that a little care might be needed with the wording of any effective piece of legislation on this issue. My noble friends who have tabled the amendment have taken care to distinguish between people who for one reason or another are legitimately covered up and those who are not. I support the amendment.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: I am grateful to the noble Viscount, Lord Tenby, and to the noble Earl, Lord Carnarvon, who have discussed the problem with me; the noble Earl before his Starred Question on 5th February and the noble Viscount subsequently. On 5th February, on behalf of the Government I made it plain that when we had representations from the Association of Chief Police Officers we would give its views careful attention. We have received its views and it supports the measure, as does the Police Federation.

The result would be that Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 would be amended to give the police the power to demand the removal of face coverings in certain circumstances. There arises the question of a safety device, about which the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, was concerned on 5th February and tonight, as to how one deals with individual liberties and strikes a proper balance between that and the reasonable requirements of the police. The trick here, so to speak, is that the power is only exercisable within a given locality for up to 24 hours at present and only on the authority of an officer of at least superintendent rank, where that officer "reasonably believes" that violent incidents may be prevented by using that power. I should point out to Members of the Committee that that superintendent rank may well be reduced to that of inspector or above later this year. I just thought that I ought to mention that detail.

Our stance is that we believe there is a mischief here. People wear balaclavas or crash helmets partly to avoid identification and partly to intimidate. It is not limited to one category of demonstration quite often found, perhaps, on inner-city estates--for example, National Front marches and those of such organisations. Therefore, we wish to consider this as a matter of urgency with a view, if the practical issues can be resolved, to returning with a government amendment at a later stage of the proceedings on the Bill. On the basis of that undertaking, I hope that the noble Viscount will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

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