Lord McNally (Liberal Democrat), the government minster, opened the debate with a proposal for a new clause to be added after Clause 19. The new clause proposed removals of restrictions as set out in the Senior Courts Act 1981. He explained: 'It will enable applications for or permission to seek judicial review in immigration, asylum and nationality cases to be transferred from the High Court in England and Wales to the Upper Tribunal.' The additional clause was agreed.
The debate continued when Lords addressed Schedule 13 which looks at the deployment of the judiciary and in particular details court judges sitting as tribunal judges and vice versa. Lord McNally explained that Amendment 140 gives 'the flexibility that allows the phone call to get the judge to the right place so that a whole range of people (engaged barristers, witnesses, et cetera) are not all put to discomfort because a judge is not available.' The amendment was agreed.
Members then turned their attention to Clause 20 which details payments of fines and other sums. Lord Touhig (Labour) proposed in Amendment 147 that late or incomplete court fines given should take into account a person's weekly income. He argued: 'My Lords, this amendment will extend the means-testing system currently used in the calculation of court fines so that it also applies to the calculation of additional costs which, under Clause 20, will be imposed on people as a result of late or incomplete fine repayments.'
Baroness Northover (Liberal Democrat) defended Clause 20 and said: 'This clause is aimed at those who deliberately evade payment.' She explained that if someone is experiencing difficulties in paying their fine they need to talk to their fines officer. She said: 'Fines officers can also provide advice to offenders to help them understand what has been ordered by the court and can explain the implications of default.'
Lord Touhig agreed that a fine should 'provide a degree of hardship' and argued ' it should not leave people with an income on which they cannot survive.' He added 'At the end of the day, because of the lifestyles of some people, some fines will never be paid. That is wrong, but they will not.' He said he would like to try and persuade the government to reconsider at a later stage and withdrew the amendment.
Members of the House discussed the bill up to Clause 22, which addresses the filming and broadcasting of court proceedings.
About the Crime and Courts Bill
The bill was introduced in the House of Lords at its first reading stage (formal introduction) on 10 May. It aims to establish the National Crime Agency and suggests abolishing the Serious Organised Crime Agency and the National Policing Improvement Agency.
It also examines the structure, administration, proceedings and powers of courts and tribunals and addresses issues like border control and drugs and driving.
What is committee stage?
Detailed line by line examination of the separate parts (clauses and schedules) of the bill takes place during committee stage. Any member of the Lords can take part.
It usually starts no fewer than two weeks after the second reading and can last for one to eight days or more.
The day before committee stage starts, amendments (changes) are published in a marshalled list – in which all the amendments are placed in order. Amendments on related subjects are grouped together and a list (groupings of amendments) is published on the day.
During committee stage every clause of the bill has to be agreed to and votes on the amendments can take place. All proposed amendments can be discussed and there is no time limit, or guillotine, on discussion of amendments.
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