Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Viscount Astor: Following the Minister's intervention, I do not feel the need to speak to Amendment No. 15. However, I find somewhat bizarre the wording in subsection (6) of Amendment No. 16 and I look forward to the Minister's explanation.

Lord Bach: I should like to take away Amendments Nos. 15 and 16. I do not want to take away Amendment No. 17; we do not believe that the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, as regards that amendment, are as good as those he made on the other two. His Amendment No. 17 would make the endpoint of a controlled period in relation to an external tournament the last "regulated" match rather than the end of the tournament.

We do not believe that the control period should effectively end when the last English team is knocked out of an international tournament. We do not think that any of us would want to see hooligans subject to banning orders free to travel back to a tournament and settle old scores as soon as England or an English club had been safely eliminated. We believe that the law will have greater certainty and clarity if it covers the entire tournament. I hope that the noble Lord will consider withdrawing Amendment No. 17.

The noble Lord, Lord Lyell, asked some questions about prescribed matches. I am not in a position to answer him adequately at present. Perhaps I may look carefully in Hansard later today and come back to him.

Viscount Astor: Time is a problem here. The Minister said that he would take back Amendment No. 16. That is helpful. To aid the Committee so that it will have some understanding of the position when the Minister tables a new amendment--perhaps Members of the Committee will want to consider whether they, too, want to table an amendment--can

24 Jul 2000 : Column 211

the noble Lord explain what is meant in subsection (6) by the words,

    "any period described in an order made by the Secretary of State"?

The Committee will find it helpful to understand the purpose of that provision.

Lord Bach: I do not want to waste the time of the Committee. I am looking forward to Report stage tomorrow when we deal with this matter in one way or another. To do anything else would be to waste our time tonight.

Viscount Astor: I find the Minister's response most extraordinary. We are trying to help the Government. This Bill is to be dealt with in two days. In order to have any understanding of the Government's position, we and the Liberal Democrat Benches need to be able to consider whether it is necessary to table amendments to government amendments. This is not our Bill but the Government's and the Minister must answer the question. To hear these excuses is quite intolerable. We are trying to be as helpful as possible in dealing with this Bill, but we need to know what the Government mean. The response is not good enough; we want an answer from the Minister.

Lord Bach: What I have tried to say on two occasions already--this is the third--is that the noble Lord may have a point in seeking by Amendment No. 16 to leave out those words on the basis that they are otiose. We want to look at it. If those words are otiose we shall remove them; if not, they shall remain. I believe that their meaning speaks for itself.

Lord Goodhart: I am most grateful to the Minister for agreeing to take away Amendments Nos. 15 and 16 and for acknowledging that they give rise to a serious point. I believe that the Minister's concern about Amendment No. 17 is rather far-fetched. It is very unlikely that hordes of hooligans who have not previously been allowed to visit a tournament will dash over to it once the England team has been knocked out and have anything of interest to concern them. Frankly, it is not by any means the most important amendment on the Marshalled List. Obviously, I shall not press the amendment this evening, and it is unlikely that it will be brought back again. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 16 and 17 not moved.]

The Chairman of Committees: I must point out to the Committee that there is a mistake in Amendment No. 18 as printed. The reference to "page 5, line 3" should be to "page 5, line 4".

Lord Lucas moved Amendment No. 18:

    Page 5, line 4, after ("satisfied") insert ("on the balance of probabilities").

24 Jul 2000 : Column 212

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 18, I should like to speak also to Amendment No. 19. Following the tradition of this evening, these amendments deal with two completely separate subjects, but at least we have already covered the subject of Amendment No. 18. I should be satisfied to hear from the Minister merely a statement that that is the test to be applied to this particular clause of the Bill and that the Government intend that it should be subject to the balance of probabilities. I should also be delighted to hear that the Government agree to insert these words, or something to their effect, in this part of the Bill so that everybody knows that that is the case.

Amendment No. 19, which we have not covered before, is concerned with the level of discretion to be allowed a magistrates' court. At the moment, if a person is convicted of a relevant offence and the court is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the making of a banning order will help, and so on, it must make such an order. Given that under subsection (4)(b) conviction includes an absolute discharge, it seems extraordinary that, if that is the order, the court is none the less compelled to impose a banning order. That does not treat the courts as they should be treated. The courts should be given the discretion to apply the banning order as they think proper in all the circumstances. We should trust them to do that. We should, therefore, substitute "may" for "must". I beg to move.

1.15 a.m.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury: I support Amendment No. 18, and in particular Amendment No. 19 where the discretion which the amendment would allow the magistrate is important and necessary. I remind the Committee that at Second Reading I drew attention to the fact that on the Crime and Disorder Act the Government made a virtue of the fact that the courts were left with a discretion as to whether or not they were going to impose such an order. The same discretion should be available here.

Earl Russell: I, too, support the amendments. We must clear up the burden of proof. I am only interested that the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, is so merciful to the Government that he stops at the civil standard of proof. I wonder whether he was tempted to go a little further.

The vital point relates to "must" or "may". When the Home Secretary spoke to us in Committee Room 5, he admitted that it is a mandatory sentence. If a mandatory sentence happens to be just in the case in which it is imposed, that can only be so by coincidence. There are a good many circumstances in which it would be inexpedient and unjust to make this sentence mandatory.

Let us take, for example, the case of someone permanently employed in a European Union country who is exercising his freedom of movement under the

24 Jul 2000 : Column 213

Treaty of Rome. I do not see how one could restrain him without infringing European law. Let us suppose, for example, that the order were applied to someone who is an employee of the European Court of Justice. I think that we might hear of that rather quickly. Alternatively, let us suppose that as well as attending the football match, the person also hopes to visit a dying parent somewhere on the Continent. It could well be argued that it could be unjust to restrain him from doing that.

I do not see how one can pass any just sentence until one is empowered to consider all the circumstances of the case. The whole point of the mandatory sentence is that it directs the court's attention to one single circumstance of the case--the type of crime committed--and restrains the court from looking at any other circumstance. That is a restriction of the powers of the court to look at relevant evidence. I think that it is a bad mistake.

Lord Monson: I, too, support both amendments. In their different ways, each would make the Bill slightly more acceptable.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: In Amendment No. 18 the noble Lord seeks to make clearer provision as regards the burden of proof and so on. The test for the court in making an order under new Section 14A which covers orders following conviction for a relevant offence is as set out in the current provisions on football banning orders in the Public Order Act and the Football Spectators Act. We have not invented the power anew. It is brought in. The test is also the same as that proposed in banning orders made on a complaint under new Section 14B. The test is self-explanatory and I am not sure that it would be helpful to add to it. The court must be satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to believe that making a banning order would help to prevent violence or disorder in connection with regulated football matches. So the test there is of reasonable grounds. That is the test on which we should rely.

Amendment No. 19 would have the strange effect of reversing one of the changes introduced last year by the Football (Offences and Disorder) Act which was to require the courts to make a banning order if they were satisfied that the test in new Section 14A(2) was met. Of course, if the courts are not satisfied that making an order would help to prevent violence or disorder in connection with matches, they need not make the order. Courts have been reluctant to make orders. We want them to make defendants face up to the full implications of their actions. If the court is satisfied, a banning order should be made. We believe that such orders have a salutary effect beyond the individual case. If we want a tough measure, we must insist that this provision remains. I urge the Committee to reject the amendment.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page