Legal Aid Bill: Lords starts report stage

05 March 2012

The House of Lords begins report stage of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill with more detailed examination today (Monday 5 March)

The report stage debate will start with a line by line examination of the Lord Chancellor's role in the provision of legal aid with amendments to Clause One.

In particular, Amendment Two will focus on domestic violence. Members suggest: 'the Lord Chancellor must ensure that victims of domestic violence are able to access civil legal services in accordance with the financial eligibility criteria'.

The debate will then move on to amendments tabled (put forward) by Lords to clarify 'delegated' functions', the specific roles and responsibilities when the bill comes into play and financial reporting.

Civil legal services come under the spotlight as members look at where legal aid can be provided in cases of 'social welfare decisions relating to a benefit' in Amendment 12 (Clause Eight).

If there is time during the debate the issue of 'clinical negligence' will receive further scrutiny.

The 10-day committee stage (last stage) concluded on Wednesday 15 February.

What is 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.

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

 Image: iStock photo

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