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Road Gritting

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston): We shall introduce a duty for a highway authority to remove ice when a suitable legislative opportunity presents itself.

Honduras: Child Protection

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Amos): The Government fully share concerns about the plight of street children in Honduras. The rights of children worldwide are a central part of our human rights policy. We maintain a constant dialogue with the Honduran authorities on this issue, as does the EU.

The UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights produced a report on Honduras which paid particular attention to street children. Together with EU partners we have raised the UN report and our serious concerns about child protection with the Honduran Government and have pressed for further action. President Maduro has announced a programme of action: we are monitoring this closely.

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Criminal Justice System

Lord Windlesham asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Which of the main recommendations made in the review of the Criminal Courts in England and Wales by Lord Justice Auld, and of the sentencing framework by John Halliday, have been incorporated in the criminal justice legislation currently before Parliament or in administrative action.[HL1228]

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): As this Question covers the work of all three criminal justice departments, I am answering on behalf of my department, the Home Office, and the Law Officers' Department.

Following extensive consultation with those connected with the criminal justice system and members of the public, in July 2002 the Government published their response to the Auld and Halliday reports in the White Paper, Justice for All, accompanied by an annex, Justice for All—Responses to the Auld and Halliday Reports. The position set out there remains the Government's position for modernising the criminal justice system over the coming years.

The Government's immediate programme for reform is clearly reflected in the Criminal Justice Bill and the Courts Bill, both currently going through Parliament. In parallel, we are implementing a number of administrative programmes across the three criminal justice departments. The main parts of the programme are as follows:

Implementation of many of the 55 recommendations in the Halliday Report for review of the sentencing framework for England and Wales: most require legislation and are being taken forward in the Criminal Justice Bill. They include a new sentencing framework, a single generic community sentence, heavier sentences for persistent offending, reforming short custodial sentences, changes to the calculation of remand time, sentencers giving reasons for passing a sentence, licence conditions lasting until the endpoint of sentence, administrative recall to prison, creation of the sentencing guidelines council, and many more.

Activity relating to a handful of other Halliday recommendations which do not require legislation, including: ongoing research into the effectiveness and cost-benefit analysis of community and custodial sentences; looking into how best to increase public knowledge about sentencing; an accommodation strategy review being undertaken by the National Probation Service (work has begun on two pilots for intermittent custody); improving pre-sentence reports by introducing a research based offender assessment system (OASys); and the setting up of a Home Office implementation team for the new sentencing framework.

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Reform of criminal evidence and procedures, reflecting the main recommendations of the Auld report: most of these are included in the Criminal Justice Bill and the Courts Bill. The Criminal Justice Bill includes reforms in eligibility for jury service, trial by judge alone, changes in appeal procedures, giving the police some responsibility for charging, changes in the rules for bail, changes in rules of evidence, and many more.

The establishment of a National Criminal Justice Board, administratively, to replace all the existing national planning and operational bodies, reflecting other Auld recommendations. We have already simplified and strengthened the present machinery. The Prime Minister established a Criminal Justice System Cabinet Committee to oversee delivery of the Government's policies for the management and reform of the criminal justice system. This is supported by the National Criminal Justice Board, which includes representatives of all the criminal justice agencies, the police, judiciary and CJS Ministers. Local criminal justice boards are up and running in shadow form and are on target to go live in April 2003.

Legislation to give effect to the Auld recommendations for unified administration of the courts and for court security is being taken forward in the Courts Bill. A programme to create the new agency has been established. Implementation is not expected before April 2005.

While the Government have not pursued the Auld recommendations for a unified criminal court, we are effecting closer integration between magistrates' courts and the Crown Court through a package of measures in the Courts Bill. These will bring about the same benefits identified by the relevant Auld recommendations.

Creation of a Criminal Procedure Rule Committee, taking forward the Auld recommendations, is included in the Courts Bill and administrative arrangements to set up a full time secretariat are in hand.

The trilateral case preparation project to tackle the effectiveness of preparation and progression of cases in all criminal courts from charge to disposal. Many of the proposals reflect Sir Robin Auld's recommendations and are being taken forward administratively. Pilots are to be launched in the spring.

Judicial personnel issues reflected in the Auld recommendations are being mainly taken forward administratively. They include a national recruitment strategy for lay magistrates to make the Bench more representative of the community it serves (a project board is being set up to take this forward and the strategy will be published shortly); plans to give the Judicial Studies Board a stronger role in magistrates' training (the Courts Bill will result in responsibility for their training reverting to the Lord Chancellor); and setting up judicial appraisal schemes in addition to those in place.

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We have not taken up Sir Robin Auld's proposal that we build a new integrated IT system but are pursuing an alternative approach that reflects the same objectives and advantages of integration. We are implementing over the next three years a major IT and business change programme for which £834 million new money has been provided in our SR2002 settlement. Our approach will join together the existing and developing IT systems in a staged development, using an information walkway to link individual systems. This alternative is consistent with our approach to large IT programmes, as set out in the Cabinet Office report Successful IT—Modernising Government in Action. This report strongly recommends a modular and evolutionary rather than a big bang approach to IT systems development and integration. Our approach will make sure that money already invested in IT systems will not go to waste and offers the best balance of benefit, cost and risk avoidance.

Cross-references of this reform programme to specific Auld and Halliday recommendations are contained in the table below.

A. Main Halliday Recommendations Taken Forward

NumberDescription
(i) In the Criminal Justice Bill
1New sentencing framework
4Heavier sentences for persistant offending
9Sentences Guideline Council
13Sentences giving reasons for passing a sentence
18Reforming short custodial sentences
19Licence conditions lasting to the endpoint of sentence
27Single generic community sentence
34Changes to the calculation of remand time
37Administrative recall to prison
(ii) Under Administrative Action
14Increasing public knowledge about sentencing
23Review of the intermediate estate: Accommodation Strategy Review
33Improving pre-sentence reports
47Further research into the effectiveness and cost benefit analysis of community and custodial sentences
52Setting up of an implementation team for the new sentencing framework

B. Main Auld Recommendations Taken Forward

NumberDescription
(i) In the Criminal Justice Bill
Reform of criminal evidence
19–22Eligibility for jury service
31, 37, 39Trial by judge alone
40Changes in appeal procedures
154–156Giving the police responsibility for charging
178–185Changes in the rules for bail
Various, mainly out of 254–275Changes in rules of evidence
(ii) In the Courts Bill
Court Reform
3Working patterns of magistrates
83*Unified Criminal Court: *Rejected, but benefits being achieved through package of measures in the Courts Bill
100 (linked to 97, 99, 101–103)¡Unified administration of the Courts: ¡Structural changes that will flow from creation of the new agency
115–116Court security
105.5Appointment of a senior district judge
120Creation of inspectors of court administration
219Power to make rulings at pre-trial hearings
228.2, 233 (linked to 234, 293)¡¡Creation of Criminal Procedure Rule Committee ¡¡Administrative action, including to set up a full time secretariat
312Appeals to Court of Appeal (procedural directions)
328Prosecution apeals form Court of Appeal
(iii) Under Administrative Action
(a) Planning and 'Operational' Bodies
121–122, 125–130, 132–135Replacement of all existing national planning and operational bodies with a National Criminal Justice Board. Creation by the Prime Minister of a CJS Cabinet Committee. Local Criminal Justice Boards.
(b) Case Preparation Project
7Case management responsibilities of justices' clerks
71.1Case management by judges
153Fee structures to support case preparation
210–221Pre-trial hearings and pre-trial assessments
222–223Listing of cases
235.1–4,
236–8, Trial procedures
240–5,
247–8
271–272Pre-trial liaison between experts
282–285Interpreters
(c) Judicial Personnel Issues
8National recruitment strategy and a more representative bench for lay justices
11Judicial studies board to be responsible for training lay magistrates
80–82Appraisal scheme for all part-time/full time judicial appointments and those advising the Lord Chancellor on judicial appointments
(d) IT Integration
113**New Integrated IT System **Rejected, but the same objectives and advantages of integration are to be gained from the major IT and business change programme that the Government are implementing under an alternative approach, and for which £834 million new money has been provided in our SR2002 settlement. Our approach will join together the existing IT systems in a staged development, using an information walkway to link individual systems.

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