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Lord Goodhart: My Lords, I, too, am grateful for the concessions made by the Minister, which have met just about all our requirements on this matter. They will have saved your Lordships from wading through a good deal of what I would describe as alphabet soup in the next few minutes, which we would otherwise have had to do.

I am especially grateful that the points that I raised on prohibition of disclosure--what happens in a magistrates' court--have now been reserved to a justice and cannot be made by a justices' clerk. At this stage I obviously cannot give any blanket undertaking that we shall not raise any objections to whatever amendments the Government may introduce on Third Reading, because we have not yet seen them, nor do we have detailed knowledge of the scope of what they would cover. However, broadly speaking, this issue can now be taken to have been settled.

Lord Dholakia: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister, the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, and my noble friend Lord Goodhart who has kept me informed about discussions with the Minister. A number of points made to the Minister has substantially been met. I shall study Hansard and wait to see what happens on Third Reading. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 98 to 105 not moved.]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton moved Amendment No. 106:

Page 32, line 18, leave out ("with").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 43 [Provisions supplementing section 42]:

[Amendment No.106A not moved.]

Clause 44 [Crown Prosecution Service: powers of non-legal staff]:

Lord Meston moved Amendment No. 107:

Page 35, line 20, at end insert ("for non-imprisonable offences").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I shall speak to Amendments Nos. 107 to 110. These amendments are a simplified version of amendments moved in Committee to introduce certain safeguards on the face of the Bill to what is now Clause 44. The matter was debated on the fourth day of Committee on 24th February.

Clause 44 will enable non-legal staff in the CPS to decide whether or not to institute and whether or not to continue criminal proceedings, and will enable them to conduct criminal proceedings, other than trials, in magistrates' courts. Those functions are not always straightforward. They can involve difficult decisions with implications for the defendant, and for his or her liberty; implications for the victims of crime; and implications for the running of the courts.

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The people who exercise those functions should have the requisite skill, training and experience. For those reasons an amendment to the proposed new Clause 44 was moved in Committee. It attracted support from several speakers. It also attracted reassurances from the noble and learned Lord the Solicitor-General that there will be appropriate safeguards, and that lay staff so employed will have appropriate training, will be supervised and will be independent.

Amendments Nos. 109 and 110 now seek to place those assurances on the face of the Bill. Amendments Nos. 107 and 108 seek to limit the delegation of functions to non-imprisonable offences. If that is not acceptable to the Government, it is all the more important that Amendments Nos. 109 and 110 are on the face of the Bill. The amendments have the support of the Association of First Division Civil Servants, the Law Society and the Bar Council. I beg to move.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I not only understand, but to some extent I share the concern about the wide scope of Clause 44 which underlies these amendments. It is clearly true that the business which could in theory be given to professionally unqualified staff to deal with is very considerably wider than that which, in practice, it would ever be intended that they should take on. I am anxious, therefore, to do all that I can to clarify the position, both by a readiness to bring forward suitable amendments and by giving assurances as to practice.

The problem is that it is not at all easy to define what kind of cases lay staff ought to deal with. It is clear that they should not handle contested trials, and they are already excluded. It is also clear that they would in no circumstances be asked to deal with indictable-only cases, and it would be straightforward to reflect this by excluding such offences from the ambit of the clause. But beyond that, the category of offence is an unreliable criterion for exclusion. Restricting lay staff to dealing with non-imprisonable offences, for example, would not be appropriate because it would prevent them from dealing with some imprisonable offences--for example, simple shoplifting where the facts are not in question--which would be entirely suitable for them, while still allowing lay presenters to deal with non-imprisonable offences--for example, where a public figure was involved--which would not be suitable.

For these reasons, it is inevitable that the clause will leave the director with a wide discretion as to which of the cases not in the excluded categories could properly be dealt with by lay staff. It would be necessary for detailed guidance on the cases in which lay reviewers and lay presenters would be deployed to be produced by the CPS, and our intention is that this guidance should be made public.

It will certainly be necessary for the director to take steps to ensure that lay staff are fully trained in the exercise of these new responsibilities, and a training programme would be established which lay staff would be required to attend before they would be permitted to carry them out.

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Amendment No. 109 deals with the question of supervision, which was raised by several noble Lords in Committee. There is no dispute that lay staff should indeed be subject to the supervision of professionally qualified Crown prosecutors. There is already a requirement that they should be so supervised. It is imposed by subsection (3) of the new Section 7A, where the reference to

    "instructions given to him by the director",

(which is taken from the existing Section 7A of the Prosecution of Offences Act 1985) covers, by virtue of Section 1(7) of that Act, instructions given by a Crown prosecutor.

As a result of the debate in Committee and the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Meston, I am conscious that there is a general desire to restrict the scope of this clause. I have already indicated that we are willing to remove indictable-only offences, and it may be possible--we are still considering this--to tighten the drafting in other ways. I hope that in the light of these assurances, and of what I have said about the publication of guidance, noble Lords will withdraw these amendments. We will produce amendments on Third Reading.

Lord Meston: My Lords, on that basis, I am happy not to press the matter. I am grateful for the further assurances which the noble and learned Lord has provided. I hope that he can indicate not later than Third Reading when the guidance, at least in draft form, can be expected. I am happy to wait until the Third Reading and until we have sight of the proposed government amendments. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 108 to 111 not moved.]

Clause 51 [Periodic reviews]:

[Amendment No. 112 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

9.45 p.m.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton moved Amendment No. 112A:

Page 41, line 2, at end insert--
("( ) Where the order was made by a magistrates' court in the case of an offender under the age of 18 years in respect of an offence triable only on indictment in the case of an adult, the court's power under subsection (4)(b) above shall be a power to do one of the following, namely--
(a) to impose a fine not exceeding £5,000 for the offence in respect of which the order was made; or
(b) to deal with the offender for that offence in any way in which it could deal with him if it had just convicted him of an offence punishable with imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months;
and the reference in paragraph (b) above to an offence punishable with imprisonment shall be construed without regard to any prohibition or restriction imposed by or under any enactment on the imprisonment of young offenders.").

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, in moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 165. These two amendments make provision for a scenario in which a magistrates' court

19 Mar 1998 : Column 905

imposes a drug treatment and testing order on a 16 or 17 year-old offender in respect of an offence which would be triable only on indictment were he aged over 18.

Following those circumstances, if, after the offender had attained the age of 18, the court then proposed to vary the requirements of the drug treatment and testing order, either at a periodic review in the case of the first amendment or on the application of the supervising officer in the case of the second, and the offender then refused to consent to the variation proposed by the court, the court would be entitled to resentence him for the original offence as though he had just been convicted of it.

However, in the absence of these amendments the magistrates' court has no power to deal with him for the offence triable only on indictment. Therefore, these two amendments confer the necessary powers on the magistrates' court to resentence the offender in the scenario described.

The amount of the maximum fine, which is £5,000, is specified on the basis that it should be no less than that specified in respect of an offence which is triable either way in the case of an adult. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 52 [Supplementary provisions as to orders]:

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