HC Deb 08 May 1962 vol 659 cc233-4

3.58 p.m.

Dame Irene Ward (Tynemouth)

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to increase the penalties for certain offences involving drunkenness or punishable under enactments relating to such offences. The Bill which I seek the leave of the House to introduce is simple in content. Its object is to bring penalties which may be imposed by courts of summary jurisdiction for certain offences connected with drunkenness into line with modern values of money. In the context of courts of summary jurisdiction two categories of drunkenness would be covered by the provisions of the Bill. The first is simple drunkenness and the second is the offence of being drunk and disorderly.

At present, courts of summary jurisdiction have power to impose a fine of 10s. for a first offence of drunkenness with a maximum of £2. For the second offence the court may impose a penalty of £2, with an alternative of two months' imprisonment. The operative Clauses in the Bill seek to give powers to courts of summary jurisdiction to impose a maximum fine of £5 for drunkenness and to raise the fine for being drunk and disorderly to £10, retaining, at the same time, the power to impose an alternative punishment of one month.

The idea behind the Bill is that fines originally settled in 1872 hardly provide for the cleaning of a cell or the maintenance of blankets when a person has to be kept in a cell all night. It is felt that it would be wise to raise these fines so that they will be in line with present money values.

The House may be aware that a committee of the Home Office has been considering the question of fines in courts of summary jurisdiction for some considerable time—I think that the period has been over five years. That seems to me to be rather longer than necessary to deal with this very simple matter. I believe that the Bill would be for the convenience of the courts of summary jurisdiction and also of help to the police, who have a great deal of trouble, particularly with drunk and disorderly people. I thought that by asking leave to introduce this small Bill, I could provide a little personal stimulation while we are still awaiting the final advice of the Home Office committee.

There are one or two other very small points which deal with people who are drunk in Charge of children, but all the details in the Bill follow the lines introduced in the original Act of 1872, and there would be no effective change in the law as such—merely an increase in the right of courts of summary jurisdiction to impose greater fines.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Dame Irene Ward, Mr. Deedes, Mr. Glenvil Hall, Mr. Speir, Mr. Short, Mrs. McLaughlin, Mr. Montgomery, and Mr. Popplewell.