HC Deb 13 June 1956 vol 554 cc706-8

9.45 p.m.

Mr. P. Thorneycroft

I beg to move. in page 13, line 21, to leave out from "may" to the end of the line.

This is one of five Amendments, the effect of which is to dispense with the time-limit of three years for the commencement of proceedings on indictment. The time-limit will remain for the summary proceedings but, in the case of the more serious offences, some of them may well be of the category where the matter cannot have come to the knowledge of the Registrar because of the deception of the man who has concealed these arrangements.

It does not seem right, and I think the House feels that it was not right, that the man who has successfully concealed these arrangements for three years should be exempted by the Bill. I think the House will accept the view, which I am sure is right, that we should take out the three years' exemption for proceedings on indictment.

Mr. Mulley

Members in all parts of the House will be grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for dealing with this matter of cases which fall to be dealt with on indictment, but he did not deal with the point which was raised in Committee why it is necessary to have this restriction in cases that come before magistrates. If we are to give someone the opportunity of slipping out of punishment because he has managed to carry on his fraud or concealment for three years, I should have thought there should be an equal case for the small offences as for the large. There may be some important reason why this distinction should be made between the summary cases and those on indictment, and the right hon. Gentleman ought to give us an explanation.

Mr. Thorneycroft

Cases under summary jurisdiction cannot avoid coming to the notice of the Registrar, when they concern failure to comply with a notice which the Registrar has served and matters of that kind. It is not a particular imposition to say that once the Registrar knows of an offence he should bring proceedings within a certain length of time. Per contra, the facts may never come to the knowledge of the Registrar in the other cases, because of the deception practised by the party concerned. If in those circumstances we have a three-year limit we give a man a special benefit of his own deception.

Sir L. Ungoed-Thomas

Can the right hon. Gentleman give any precedent for this three-year time-limit for summary offences? Why should there be a time-limit at all? Could we have an answer?

Mr. Thorneycroft

I cannot give the answer offhand, but I will make inquiries as to whether there is a limit. The hon. and learned Gentleman is more familiar with the law than I am. I believe that normally there is a limit of six months for cases under summary jurisdiction, which is extended to twelve in certain cases under the Bill. There is normally a limit during which summary proceedings must be brought.

Without arguing whether it should be six months or twelve months, I think that a normal feature of our law respecting the limitation of criminal proceedings should be preserved where the knowledge of the facts must, in the nature of things, come to the notice of the man who will institute the prosecution. The difference occurs when he might never have known of the facts at all.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made:In page 13, line 23, after "time", insert "within three years after the commission of the offence and".

In line 30, leave out from "may" to "be" in line 31.

In line 32, after "time", insert: within three years after the commission of the offence and".

In line 37, leave out subsection (4).—[Mr. P. Thorneycroft]