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The noble Baroness said: This is a minor drafting amendment that ensures that Clause 46 catches up with the changes to the clause numbering in the Commissioners for Revenue and Customs Bill. I beg to move.
The noble Duke said: In moving Amendment No. 52, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 54. The amendment probes the rationale for setting the maximum penalty at 12 months' imprisonment for offences under Clause 49 committed in Scotland. The clause creates the offences of assaulting, obstructing or impersonating designated members of SOCA staff and appears to replicate offence provisions in, inter alia, the Police (Scotland) Act 1967 and the Police Reform Act 2002. It would appear from Clause 49(4), (5), (7) and (8) that the maximum sentence on conviction will vary throughout the UK. The Law Society of Scotland would like to determine the Government's rationale for that variation.
The maximum sentence which could be imposed in Scotland in terms of the clause is imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months. The maximum penalty on conviction for the analogous offence under Section 41(1) of the Police (Scotland) Act 1967 is nine months' imprisonment. Nine months is also the maximum penalty of imprisonment in terms of similar provisions for assaulting or impeding police officers and other emergency workers under the Emergency Workers (Scotland) Act 2005, recently passed by the Scottish Parliament. It would therefore appear inconsistent to
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extend the greater protection to those persons acting in a designated capacity under the Bill than will be available to police officers more generally.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I am afraid that I cannot commend the amendments to the Committee. Sentencing is of course a devolved matter, but I am assured that the provisions as they stand reflect the wishes of our Scottish colleagues.
In so far as the custodial penalties for England and Wales are concernednamely, 51 weeks on summary conviction for assaulting, obstructing or deceiving a designated member of SOCA, or assaulting or obstructing a member of a joint investigation team under SOCA's leadershipthe penalties reflect the new sentencing framework of custody plus contained in the Criminal Justice Act 2003. That Act prospectively amended the sentence for the offences on which the offences in the Bill are basedthose in Section 89 of the Police Act 1996 against constables, and Section 46 of the Police Reform Act 2002 against persons designated with police powers. The sentences in the 1996 and 2002 Acts will be 51 weeks for the equivalent offences in England and Wales.
Although the Criminal Justice Act 2003 provisions are not yet in force, they will be by the time that SOCA comes into being, so it is eminently sensible to bring the penalties prospectively into line now. That is clearly comparable to the 12-month penalty in Scotland for the same offences as provided by the Bill.
Presumably, through the amendment, the noble Duke is attempting to bring the penalty into line with the penalties for similar offences against constables and emergency workers in Scotland, as provided in the Police (Scotland) Act 1967 and the Emergency Workers (Scotland) Act 2005 respectively. However, given that SOCA is not a police force and that it will indeed have a UK-wide remit, we and our Scottish colleagues feel that in this case it is appropriate to be as consistent as possible in the penalties for the offences against SOCA staff on both sides of the border, while taking into account the fact that sentencing policy is a devolved matter.
The Duke of Montrose: I thank the noble Baroness for that fairly detailed explanation. It is rather difficult to follow all the ins and outsit is a consistent inconsistency. In these circumstances, I would normally say that I would like to take the matter away, consider it and bring it back at a later date. However, that may not apply on this occasion. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
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"APPLICATION OF DISCRIMINATION LEGISLATION TO SOCA SECONDED STAFF
(1) For the purposes of the provisions to which this subsection applies any constable or other person who has been seconded to SOCA to serve as a member of its staff shall be treated as being employed by SOCA as respects any act done by it in relation to that person.
(2) Subsection (1) applies to
(a) Part 2 of the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 (c. 65);
(b) Part 2 of the Race Relations Act 1976 (c. 74);
(c) Part II of the Sex Discrimination (Northern Ireland) Order 1976 (S.I. 1976/1042 (N.I. 15));
(d) Part 2 of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (c. 50);
(e) Part II of the Race Relations (Northern Ireland) Order 1997 (S.I. 1997/869 (N.I. 6)); and
(f) the Fair Employment and Treatment (Northern Ireland) Order 1998 (S.I. 1998/3162 (N.I. 21)), except Part VII.
(3) For the purposes of the provisions to which this subsection applies
(a) any constable or other person who has been seconded to SOCA to serve as a member of its staff shall be treated as being employed by SOCA (and as not being employed by any other person); and
(b) anything done by such a person in the performance, or purported performance, of his functions as such a person shall be treated as done in the course of that employment.
(4) Subsection (3) applies to
(a) section 41 of the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 (c. 65);
(b) section 32 of the Race Relations Act 1976 (c. 74);
(c) Article 42 of the Sex Discrimination (Northern Ireland) Order 1976 (S.I. 1976/1042 (N.I. 15));
(d) section 58 of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (c. 50);
(e) Article 32 of the Race Relations (Northern Ireland) Order 1997 (S.I. 1997/869 (N.I. 6)); and
(f) Article 36 of the Fair Employment and Treatment (Northern Ireland) Order 1998 (S.I. 1998/3162 (N.I. 21))."
The noble Baroness said: I hope that Members of the Committee will find that the amendments are straightforward in dealing with discrimination legislation as applied to persons seconded to SOCA. Before I explain them, it would be remiss of me not to acknowledge that the matter was brought to our attention by colleagues in the Police Federation, to whom we are grateful.
The purposes of the amendments are twofold. First, they bring into one place, under a single new clause, the discrimination legislation to provide that SOCA is liable for any act done by it in relation to persons seconded to the agency, as well as anything done by such persons in the performance or purported performance of their functions. Secondly, the amendments expressly provide that SOCA is liable for any discriminatory acts
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committed by any of its secondees, be they constables or other persons. I commend the amendment to the Committee and beg to move.
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