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Lord Thomas of Gresford: I am grateful to the Minister for his consideration of the amendments. I look forward to the further work on the topic that he has undertaken to carry out, but, for the moment, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The noble and learned Lord said: The purpose of the amendments in this group is to improve the accuracy, clarity and consistency of the wording in the Bill. They are minor changes, mainly technical or drafting; only Amendments Nos. 458 and 462 relate to a minor change in policy since the Bill was printed.
Amendments Nos. 440 to 442 would simplify and improve the accuracy of the wording used in Clause 96, which sets out the conditions that must apply before a notification order can be made. The amendments would remove the superfluous reference to offences listed in Schedule 2 and make clear that a finding or disposal made by an overseas court must be equivalent to one made by a court in the United Kingdom.
Amendments Nos. 456 and 461 relate to the sexual offences prevention orders and the risk of sexual harm orders and make clear what is already implicit in the text of the Bill: that any individual prohibitions added to an existing order when it is varied or renewed must be necessary for the protection of the public from serious sexual harm. Amendment No. 458 introduces a minor policy change, in that it alters the identity of the chief officer of police who can consent to the discharge of a sexual offences prevention order before the minimum five-year term of such an order has expired. Amendment No. 462 applies that revised formula to the early discharge of a risk of sexual harm order.
Under the amendments, where a chief officer of police applies for a discharge of an order within five years of it being made, it is that officer who must, along with the defendant, give his consent. Where the defendant himself makes the application, which is probably the more likely scenario, the chief officer for the area in which the defendant resides, who therefore has the primary responsibility for managing that defendant's risk, is the one who must consent to the discharge before it can be made.
Baroness Blatch: I want to raise exactly the same point. The noble and learned Lord started by saying that these were just technical amendments and we need not worry our pretty or not so pretty little heads about them. But,
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My understanding is that Amendment No. 409, which is the amendment causing concern, deals with offences of committing an offence or trespassing with the intention of committing a sexual offence in relation to Schedule 2, covering offences that trigger the notification requirements. The amendment aims to bring the wording in Schedule
The noble Lord said: I rise to move Amendment No. 410 and to speak to Amendments Nos. 411 to 417. Amendments Nos. 410 to 413, along with Amendments Nos. 415 and 416, extend the notification requirements under the Bill to all offenders convicted of abduction with intent to rape or ravish, indecent assault or shameless indecency, or contraventions of Section 1, covering incest, or Section 2, covering intercourse with a stepchild, of the Criminal Law (Consolidation)(Scotland) Act 1995.
As currently drafted, the notification requirements under the Bill apply only where a person other than the offender involved in the offence is under 18 years old or, in the case of offenders convicted of abduction with intent to rape or ravish, or indecent assault where an offender has been sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 30 months, or admitted to hospital subject to a restriction order. These are serious offences and the amendments probe the need to have regard to factors other than the conviction itself before the notification requirements will apply.
Amendments Nos. 414 and 417 ensure that paragraphs 40(a) and (b) and 51(a) and (b) are read cumulatively rather than alternatively. As currently drafted, a person will be subject to the notification requirements under the Bill if convicted of sodomy or an offence under Section 13(5) of the Criminal Law (Consolidation)(Scotland) Act 1995 unless specified conditions are met. If the paragraphs are read alternatively, a person convicted of sodomy on a person aged under 16 or a contravention under Section 13(5) of the 1995 Act will not be subject to the notification requirements if the person aged under 16 was a willing participant.
However, if the conditions are read cumulatively, the only circumstances under which a conviction for sodomy and contravention of Section 13(5) would not trigger notification would be where the offender is aged under 20, or those involved in the offence are aged over 18 and are willing participants.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: These amendments are both interesting and helpful, but they contain a number of minor errors. However, in many respects they go part of the way towards implementing policy changes being sought by the Scottish Executive in order to remove particular age and sentence exceptions that currently apply to the notification requirements of the sex offenders register. The rationale behind the current age and sentencing exceptions was that the provisions of the Sex Offenders Act 1997 were intended primarily to apply to the most serious offences and to those committed against children.
It was the express view of the Scottish Expert Panel on Sex Offending, chaired by Lady Cosgrove, that these exceptions should be reconsidered so that the notification provisions are effective in respect of offenders who commit a sexual offence against a victim of any age. That view was supported by Scottish Ministers and, accordingly, government amendments have been brought forward that will seek to implement the expert panel's wishes in this area; and indeed they will go some way to achieving the aim of many of the amendments in the group. I give notice that these will be introduced all together on Report, so that all of the Scottish amendments implementing Cosgrove can be considered together in one grouping. While some of these amendments appear to support the recommendations of Cosgrove, the Government would wish to take those that appear acceptable away and represent them in the context of all the other matters that will see the Cosgrove recommendations in this area implemented.
We are enormously grateful to noble Lords opposite for the work that they have done and for bringing forward the amendments. Our intention is to take them away and consider them, together with those amendments that have been drafted in response to Cosgrove, so that we can introduce a provision that works and satisfies the overall policy intent. I hope that, with that explanation, the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.
Baroness Blatch: I take it as read that this is a reserved matter. Secondly, the Bill is still progressing through this place; it has not yet been before another place. Given that there has been an election in Scotland and there is a very different political configuration in the Scottish Parliament, can we have it confirmed not only that the outgoing Scottish Parliament has approved the amendments, but that the incoming one has done so too?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My advice is that this is a devolved matter, and that Scottish Ministers have approved this approach. I hope that that answers the noble Baroness's point.
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