Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill: Committee stage ends

16 February 2012

The House of Lords completed committee stage of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill with more line by line scrutiny yesterday (Wednesday 15 February). The bill will now move on to report stage for further detailed examination

Lords continued the debate on the last day of committee stage, with Amendment 182A (later withdrawn) moved by Baroness Gould of Potternewton (Labour), suggesting the creation of a body called the Women’s Justice Strategy Commission for England and Wales. Baroness Gould opened the debate and spoke of the 'complex needs of women offenders'.

She said: 'Many women have children or elderly or disabled dependants. Each year, 18,000 children are separated from their mothers by imprisonment, and just five per cent of those children will get to stay in their homes when their mother goes to jail.'

Baroness Gould now plans to draw up an amendment with Lord Ramsbotham (Crossbench) for the next stage (report stage). 'The minister said that we would not be satisfied with his answer, and we were not. We will almost certainly come back on report,' she added.

Following amendments examined youth cautions. Lord Beecham (Labour) urged the Secretary of State to review youth cautions in his Amendment 185A to extend the age for questioning and interviewing youth offenders to 18 years old.

He withdrew the amendment concluding that it was late in the evening for a vote: 'I am not going to divide a thinly attended House at this hour of the night on this issue.'   

Lord McNally (Liberal Democrat) suggested insertions to this bill to calirfy the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act in his Amendment 185F with a new clause covering rehabilitation time for adult offenders. The amendment was agreed. 

The next step: Report stage

Report stage in the chamber gives all members of the Lords further opportunity to consider all amendments (proposals for change) to a bill. It usually starts at least 14 days after committee stage. It can be spread over several days (but usually fewer days than at committee stage).

Detailed line by line examination of the separate parts (clauses and schedules) of a bill takes place during report stage. Voting can take place and any member can take part.

Before report stage takes place

  • The day before report stage starts, amendments are published in a Marshalled List – in which all the amendments are placed in order.
  • On the day, amendments on related subjects are grouped together and a list (“groupings of amendments”) is published.

The bill's progress so far

The previous stage of this bill to be completed in the Lords was the second reading, which took place on 21 November 2011.

What is the committee stage?

During committee stage, detailed line-by-line examination of separate clauses and schedules of the bill takes place. Any member of the Lords can take part. It can last for one or two days to eight or more. This stage usually starts no fewer than two weeks after the second reading.

The day before committee stage starts, amendments (proposals for change) are published in order in a Marshalled List. Amendments on related subjects are grouped together and a 'groupings of amendments' is published on the day. Lords must agree to every clause of the bill and vote on the amendments. All proposed amendments can be discussed and there is no time limit for discussion.

After the committee stage, the bill is reprinted with all the agreed amendments and is moved to report stage for further examination.

Some key areas of the bill:

  • The bill takes certain types of case out of scope for legal aid funding and provides that cases would not be eligible for funding unless specified in the bill.
  • It abolishes the Legal Services Commission.
  • It makes various provisions in respect of civil litigation funding and costs, taking forward the recommendations of the Jackson Review.
  • It makes changes to sentencing provisions, giving courts an express duty (rather than the current power) to consider making compensation orders where victims have suffered harm or loss, reducing the detailed requirements on courts when they give reasons for a sentence, allowing courts to suspend sentences of up to two years rather than 12 months and amending the court’s power to suspend a prison sentence.
  • It introduces new powers to allow curfews to be imposed for more hours in the day and for up to 12 months rather than the current six.

Further information

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