HC Deb 20 June 1958 vol 589 cc1477-8

Lords Amendment: In page 1, line 6, leave out from "twenty-one" to "unless" in line 7.

11.5 a.m.

Sir George Benson (Chesterfield)

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment.

The Amendment is aimed at eliminating any reference to the subsequent proceedings relating to non-payment of a fine. It is an agreed Amendment. It was put on the Notice Paper in another place by arrangement to meet a valid point which had been raised privately with me. As the Bill stood, considerable trouble would have been involved if the magistrates had wished to impose imprisonment for non-payment of a fine. Since the purpose of the Bill is primarily to make courts think twice before they impose imprisonment, and as they have to think twice or three times before imposing imprisonment in case of nonpayment of any fine, there was no need for the Bill to be drafted in the original form.

Vice-Admiral John Hughes Hallett (Croydon, North-East)

I detain the House for one moment only to say how much I welcome the Amendment. Perhaps it would be in order to bracket with it the two following Amendments in lines 23 and 26, because they are on the same point.

There were similar Amendments before the House at one time when we considered the Measure. Those of us who put them on the Notice Paper had great misgivings about the Bill in its original form, inasmuch as it might have presented some difficulties in committing to prison people who failed to pay their fines. Hon. Members may not be aware how allergic some people are to paying fines imposed by the courts, and in the last resort the only effective sanction is committal to prison. Therefore, those of us who sponsored the original Amendments felt that Parliament should do nothing to blunt that sanction. Accordingly, I welcome the Amendment.

Question put and agreed to.

Further Lords Amendments made: In page 1, line 23, leave out "or committed to prison as aforesaid".

In line 26, leave out from "offence" to "shall" in line 27.—[Sir G. Benson.]

Lords Amendment: In page 2, line 10 leave out subsection (4).

Sir G. Benson

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment.

Mr. Ede (South Shields)

The Amendment appears to go a little further than the previous Amendments. Does it mean that it is open to a bench of magistrates to send an offender who has not paid any monetary penalty imposed upon him, or a monetary order, to prison if in the magistrates' discretion they think that to be the most suitable way of dealing with him at that stage?

Sir G. Benson

He cannot be sent to prison unless he has failed to meet the penalty imposed upon him. I am not quite sure whether that answers my right hon. Friend or not, but the court must have previously imposed a monetary penalty, whether damages, costs or compensation, and the offender must have failed to meet the court's requirements. Thereafter, under the Bill, he can be sent to prison without any further consideration.

Question put and agreed to.