HC Deb 31 January 1961 vol 633 cc791-2

3.50 p.m.

Mr. John Hobson (Warwick and Leamington)

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend section eight and section eleven of the Criminal Justice Act, 1948; and for purposes connected therewith. The principal object of my proposed Bill is to extend the powers which the criminal courts already have to order an offender to pay compensation to the victim of his crime. The criminal courts can at present order any persons convicted of an offence to pay compensation or damages to a person to whom they have caused either physical or property injury. But they can [Interruption.]—

Mr. Scholefield Allen (Crewe)

on a point of order, Mr. Speaker. This is a very important Measure, but we cannot hear a single word that the hon. and learned Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Hobson) is saying.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I hope that hon. Members will keep sufficient silence not to interfere with the hearing abilities of other hon. Members.

Mr. Hobson

I am much obliged to the hon. and learned Member for Crewe (Mr. Seholefield Allen).

As I was saying, the criminal courts at present have power to order the payment by a convicted person of either damages or compensation, provided that they put the accused person either on probation or conditionally discharge him. They are not able to order the payment of compensation or damages to the victim of the crime if they impose a more severe penalty upon the person who has been convicted.

The Bill would be of limited scope, because, as we all know, there is a very large number of convicted persons against whom it would be quite fruitless to make any order for compensation, because they are without assets. On the other hand, there is an increasing number of persons in our prosperous society today who appear before criminal courts and are found at the time to be in possession of substantial assets.

Many of these assets are the proceeds of crime, though they cannot be identified as the proceeds of a particular crime, and, therefore, the criminal courts can make no order in respect of them. In a case in which I was recently engaged, a person convicted of a wage snatch was in possession of a Bentley motor car, in respect of which it was impossible for the court to make any order.

My Bill would permit criminal courts, when they found, or thought, that it would be useful to make such an order against a criminal, to make such an order so that he could not, during his period of imprisonment, or during the serving of any other sentence, dispose of his assets, which should—and I imagine that the House will agree with me in this—be devoted to paying compensation to the person whom he has injured.

That is the limited object of my Bill. I recognise its limited scope, and, of course, it does not provide any comprehensive scheme of compensation for those who are injured, either personally or in their property, such as is proposed in a Bill which is already before the House. But I hope that the House will think that it would be useful to extend this power of the criminal courts pending a more comprehensive scheme of compensation being made available throughout the country.

The proposed Bill has a second purpose which would make it easier for certain persons who break their probation in a particular and specified case, to be more conveniently dealt with by the courts. These are the two moderate and limited objectives of the Bill, and I hope that the House will consider that they are useful and desirable and will give me leave to introduce it.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. John Hobson, Mr. Deedes, Mr. James MacColl, Mr. Roderic Bowen, Mr. Ire-monger, and Mr. David Weitzman.