Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill: Committee days eight and nine

09 February 2012

The House of Lords continues line by line scrutiny of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill during committee stage day nine today (Thursday 9 February)

Discussions will start with amendments to Clause 83 which looks at changes to the Bail Act 1976.

Members are then expected to move on to debate conditions for children on remand with changes to Clause 86.

A group of amendments, starting with 178ZBC, examines youth detention accommodation and 'arrangements when a child is remanded to youth detention accommodation'.

Read all member's suggestions for change in the ninth marshalled list of amendments.

Catch up on committee day eight

The day's discussions started with amendments to Clause 61 looking at 'duty to give reasons for and to explain effect of sentence'. Lord Wigley (Plaid Cymru) presented Amendments 175 and 176 on behalf of Baroness Gould (Labour), which would require courts to ask for a social history of an offender and to consider the effects that sentencing has on dependents.

Lord McNally (Liberal Democrat) responded on behalf of the government saying: 'The Criminal Justice Act 2003 sets out when a court must or should request a report. Amendment 175 does not address those provisions, which relate to the duty to explain a sentence after it has been decided.' Amendment 75 was withdrawn and 176 not moved.

Baroness Linklater of Butterstone (Liberal Democrat) moved Amendment 176ZAA calling for a new clause which: 'would address the crucial issue of ensuring greater awareness of, and confidence in, the local programmes and provision available to magistrates when they make sentencing decisions. It would require that the Lord Chancellor should ensure that a process was established by which each probation trust liaised with its local court to inform it of the programmes that it provided and gave it opportunities to observe them'. After lengthy debate the amendment was withdrawn until report stage (the next stage of the bill).

Further amendments discussing alcohol monitoring requirements and the length of time needed for alcohol treatment were also withdrawn until report stage.

Read all members' suggestions for changes to the bill in the eighth marshalled list of amendments.

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.

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.

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.

Further information

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