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Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, this is Report. I believe that I have been amazingly tolerant but even I come to a stage when I think that I, too, must have the courtesy shown to me which is the entitlement of a person who responds on behalf of the Government on Report. I say that with the greatest respect
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, the noble Lord is entitled to ask a question. He has asked a question and I have sought to respond. I say with the greatest degree of respect to the noble Lord that it is now my opportunity on Report to respond with propriety. I hope that I shall do so, and do so with courtesy.
Much has been said about differences in the way in which these matters are approached. Reference was made to a great disparity, a 50 per cent difference and a ratcheting up. However, that is not what the figures show. We believe that 70 per cent of the cases will fall within the 15-year band. That compares with the 12 years suggested by the Lord Chief Justice. In those cases it would not be right to suggest that there is a 50 per cent increase. The 15 and 16 years for aggravated cases we think should apply to 30 per cent or less. Generally our 30-year starting point, or whole life starting point, is for the most serious cases. It was said that substantial upward adjustment to 20 or 30 years is sometimes called for. I have said previously why we disagree with that view.
The noble Lord, Lord Carlisle of Bucklow, suggested that the discretion of the judge may be diminished by virtue of this schedule. We do not believe that to be the case. The framework is set. I have referred previously to the benefit that I believe is to be drawn from paragraphs 7 and 8. I hear what the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, said about the reason for her party's view. I hope that the true reason is that in reality what we have now is a fair
Times change but the whole point of the framework is that it sets the starting point and sets out the aggravating and mitigating features so that the flexibility we would expect is available. The noble Lord asked about public confidence in the criminal justice system generally. When I say that generally it is low that is because the indicators and the research that we have demonstrate that that is the case. It is curious that even in those areas where the rate of successful interdiction, arrest and bringing to justice of offenders has gone up, that has not been mirrored in a consequent increase in confidence. We are now seeking to establish why that is so.
One of the things that the framework will achieve is to enable people to understand with greater clarity why decisions are made. It will give usif I can put it colloquiallythe same hymn sheet from which we can all sing in whatever part of the country we happen to be, and the regional variations which are currently not explicable can be better understood and better explained.
We believe that the schedule is an appropriate response to Anderson and that it is well founded. I invite the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, to do what he originally said that he was minded to do; that is, to invite everyone to go through the Not-Content Lobby. I believe that he was right in that, albeit I understand the advice that was given to him, which was only proper.
Lord Ackner: My Lords, I have three brief points to make. First, in response to the criticism levelled against me for my comments on the Home Secretary, I am satisfied that I adhered to the tradition of this House to speak with moderation. I remind the noble Baroness of our recent debate that was devoted almost entirely to his comments, and how no noble Lord spoke in his favour, with the slight exception of the noble Lord, Lord Borrie.
Secondly, the noble Baroness has in no way answered the point that was made by the Liberal Democrats, the Official Opposition and by me: why was the matter not left to the Sentencing Guidelines Council? It was set up, and before it had a chance to act, it was pre-empted with that vast increase.
Finally, the noble Baroness referred to no consultation with anyone, neither the judiciary nor anyone else, before the schedule was produced. That was a conditioned reflex resulting from the Anderson case and the immigration case. I wish to test the views of the House.
Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.
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