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Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, this is an interesting debate to wind-up in view of the intervention of my noble friend Lord Moynihan, who regrettably has had to leave although he was here for the explanation of his amendment. I am extremely grateful to the Minister for dealing with the amendments in that order because my noble friend had a business appointment that he
The Minister's response has indicated that the Government understand the problems and difficulties in relation to drugs in sports. My noble friend said that it was a probing amendment. We seem to have been able to address in this legislation quite a few issues of an anti-social nature. My noble friend thought that it was legitimate to raise that issue and I think that it has been worthwhile. If the noble Baroness is going to take this matter to the DCMS for examination, I think it will find that there is an issue that requires attention. The independence of the athletics drugs police is, I think, going to be an essential element in the future organisation of sporting probity.
I am grateful for the Minister's response to my amendments; she has been extremely helpful. It is always difficult to know what to do if one has not received the reply that one was expecting as the result of an earlier stage in the Bill, because replies keep coming through. I would have loved to have been able to stand up and say, "My Lords, I withdraw the amendments because I have had the explanation", even if it had arrived this morning. In the event, that was not so. I have now had the explanation, for which I am immensely grateful. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I rise to move Amendment No. 5 and to speak to the other amendments in this group. Amendments Nos. 5 and 8 address the penalties that might be given to a young person under the age of 18 who offends under this part of the Bill. It inserts on the face of the Bill that someone in this age group should be given a community sentence. Amendments Nos. 6 and 7 add community sentences to the range of options available for people above the age of 18.
I raised this matter in Committee, supported I am delighted to say by the expert knowledge of the noble Lord, Lord Wedderburn, who also supports these amendments but unfortunately cannot be with us this morning. On that occasion, the Minister replied that it was not necessary to put this provision on the face of the Bill because sentencers already know that they can issue community sentences in such cases. However, there is really no reason why community sentences should not be put on the face of the Bill as an indication that they should seriously be considered as an appropriate sentence for adults who commit these relatively minor offences, and that, for young people, for whom custody should always be the last resort, they are the only really appropriate option.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I am sorry that I have not been able to give the noble Baroness the comfort that she sought. I reiterate that I agree with her wholeheartedlyas I have on each occasionthat custody should be a last resort, not only for juveniles but for all those who come before the court. However, it is always important to allow the courts to exercise their discretion because we cannot legislate for the minutiae and the differences that may occur between individual cases. There is always scope for an exceptional case that does not comply with the normal rule.
The penalties set out in Clause 4 (3) are, as I said, the maximum penalties that the court can impose following summary conviction. We do not see the need for the Bill to spell out all the sentences options. The options available to the court are set out in the Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000, as amended. Options range in hierarchical order from imprisonment, community service order and fines to conditional and absolute discharge. As we said on the last occasion, that Act governs how the courts are entitled to exercise their discretion and puts the limit on what the court can do. Legislation creating a new offence spells out the maximum period of imprisonment that can be imposed or the maximum level of fine, but a sentencing court can always impose a lesser penalty. The court is under no obligation to hand out the maximum sentence. I am sure that the noble Baroness knows that it is very rare that the maximum sentence is ever handed out. In those circumstances, detention for those under 18 is unlikely, but there may be some circumstances in which detention for someone under the age of 18 may be the appropriate sentence on the particular facts of the case. It allows the court the discretion to make that decision.
Lord Wedderburn of Charlton: My Lords, before my noble friend continues to deal with the question of under-18s, does she not agree that this style of drafting is extremely unfortunate? It does not indicate to the ordinary reader that these maxima are accompanied by a vast range of other penalties, especially because of the way in which they are set outas two separate penalties that may be imposed or both. Would it not be more sensible to ask the draftsmen to progress to a style that makes it clear that offences under this section are liable to a maxima on summary conviction and indicate the other penalties that are available, as the noble Lord, Lord Sudbury, suggested in Committee?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I disagree with my noble friend because Members of the Committee will know that we have a plethora of Bills in which fines and imprisonment are specified. It would mean that on every occasion we would have to list all the options available under the Sentencing Act. If we decline to do that it could be said that an option that is included in the Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000 was implicitly excluded because it was not enumerated on the list. It would make the drafting incredibly complex. It has been a totally accepted way to specify the maximum penalty in each section and then the whole of the 2000 Act comes into play. That is why we passed that Bill.
Thankfully, the people who have to interpret these provisions do not lack expertisejudges will have their attention directed to the powers under the Act. We are in a happy position because our lay justices and professional judges are able to discharge that task with great facility.
I understand the reason for the noble Baroness's amendment and her anxiety about the matter, but this is the way that we have accepted that we will introduce Bills. When we went through the Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000, as amended, we made that clear. We have done a good piece of work on that Bill, and it will also apply in this provision. The noble Baroness knows that, in the ordinary way, there will be guidance and support for juvenile Benches that have to apply the provisions. We will examine all such issues in the ordinary way in terms of the rules and how they should apply.
I repeat that I understand entirely the noble Baroness's concern, but it is misplaced. We have the necessary security. It was the work of this House and the other place that achieved that in the 2000 Bill.
Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, I am most grateful to the Minister for her reiteration that custody should always be a last resort, especially but not exclusively for young people. She will be aware that what the noble Lord, Lord Wedderburn, and I are both looking for is clarity, as she is herself. One of my concerns is the plethora of Bills to which she referred. With that large amount of legislation, I fear that sentencers will look to this particular legislation and may overlook the fact that custodial sentences may not be the most appropriate. We would like to see more community sentences.
I differ from the Minister in her statement that it is necessary to have a maximum statement of custody for under-18s. I do not believe that for these offences a custodial sentence is ever appropriate. Some of her honourable friends in another place would agree with mehonourable Members who have a great deal of knowledge and expertise in issues involving young people. However, I see that we are not able to change the Minister's mind, so I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.