HC Deb 12 May 1982 vol 23 cc780-3

4. Where the release of a person recommended for deportation is directed by a court, he shall be subject to such restrictions as to residence and as to reporting to the police as the court may direct.

5.—(1) On an application made—

  1. (a) by or on behalf of a person recommended for deportation whose release was so directed; or
  2. (b) by a constable; or
  3. (c) by an immigration officer, the appropriate court shall have the powers specified in subparagraph (2) below.

(2) The powers mentioned in sub-paragraph (1) above are—

  1. (a) if the person to whom the application relates is not subject to any such restrictions imposed by a court as are mentioned in paragraph 4 above, to order that he shall be subject to any such restriction as the court may direct; and
  2. (b) if he is subject to such restrictions imposed by a court by virtue of that paragraph of this paragraph—
    1. (i) to direct that any of them shall be varied or shall cease to have effect; or
    2. (ii) to give further directions as to his residence and reporting.

6.—(1) In this Schedule "the appropriate court" means, except in a case to which sub-paragraph (2) below applies, the court which directed release.

(2) This sub-paragraph applies where the court which directed release was—

  1. (a) the Crown Court;
  2. (b) the Court of Appeal;
  3. (c) the High Court of Justiciary; or
  4. (d) the Court of Appeal in Northern Ireland.

(3) Where the Crown Court or the Crown Court in Northern Ireland directed release, the appropriate court is—

  1. (a) the court that directed release; or
  2. (b) a magistrates' court acting for the commission area or county court division where the person to whom the application relates resides.

(4) Where the Court of Appeal or the Court of Appeal in Northern Ireland gave the direction, the appropriate court is the Crown Court or the Crown Court in Northern Ireland, as the case may be.

(5) Where the High Court of Justiciary directed release, the appropriate court is—

  1. (a) that court; or
  2. (b) in a case where release was directed by that court on appeal, the court from which the appeal was made.

7.—(1) A constable or immigration officer may arrest without warrant any person who is subject to restrictions imposed by a court under this Schedule and who at the time of the arrest is in the relevant part of the United Kingdom—

  1. (a) if he has reasonable grounds to suspect that that person is contravening or has contravened any of those restrictions; or
  2. (b) if he has reasonable grounds for believing that that person is likely to contravene any of them.

(2) In sub-paragraph (1) above "the relevant part of the United Kingdom" means—

  1. (a) England and Wales, in a case where a court with jurisdiction in England or Wales imposed the restrictions;
  2. (b) Scotland, in a case where a court with jurisdiction in Scotland imposed them; and
  3. (c) Northern Ireland, in a case where a court in Northern Ireland imposed them.

8.—(1) A person arrested in England or Wales or Northern Ireland in pursuance of paragraph 7 above shall be brought as soon as practicable and in any event within 24 hours after his arrest before a justice of the peace for the petty sessions area or district in which he was arrested.

(2) In reckoning for the purposes of this paragraph any period of 24 hours, no account shall be taken of Christmas Day, Good Friday or any Sunday.

9.—(1) A person arrested in Scotland in pursuance of paragraph 7 above shall wherever practicable be brought before the appropriate court not later than in the course of the first day after his arrest, such day not being a Saturday, a Sunday or a court holiday prescribed for that court under section 10 of the Bail etc. (Scotland) Act 1980.

(2) Nothing in this paragraph shall prevent a person arrested in Scotland being brought before a court on a Saturday, a Sunday or such a court holiday as is mentioned in sub-paragraph (1) above where the court is, in pursuance of section 10 of the said Act of 1980, sitting on such day for the disposal of criminal business.

10. Any justice of the peace or court before whom a person is brought by virtue of paragraph 8 or 9 above—

  1. (a) if of the opinion that that person is contravening has contravened or is likely to contravene any restriction imposed on him by a court under this Schedule, may direct—
    1. (i) that he be detained; or
    2. (ii) that he be released subject to such restrictions as to his residence and reporting to the police as the court may direct; and
  2. (b) if not of that opinion, shall release him without altering the restrictions as to his residence and his reporting to the police.".'.

Mr. Mayhew

This new clause and its associated schedule deal with a matter which was the subject of an amendment moved by the hon. Member for Ormskirk (Mr. Kilroy-Silk) in the Standing Committee. The Government accepted his amendment in principle and undertook to bring forward their own amendment on Report.

The new clause and schedule would enable a court, when it convicts someone and recommends him for deportation, to direct that he be released on restrictions while that recommendation is being considered. At present courts have a choice between granting unconditional release or directing that the person be detained. These amendments would give them a further option of releasing the person, subject to restrictions. It would thus, we hope, enable them to direct the release of some people whom they would otherwise consider had to be detained. The restrictions that courts would be able to impose under the amendments are restrictions as to residence and as to reporting to the police.

During 1981, 134 people were detained pending the making of a deportation order who were given a noncustodial sentence for their offence. This is the group of people the amendment is mainly aimed at. It will make a small but nevertheless important contribution towards reducing the number of people in custody, and will do so in a way that will not impose any risk on the public, which must always be the overriding consideration.

I need not set out the machinery by way of which this change is made, but in the provisions, power is given to a constable or to an immigration officer to arrest without warrant a person who is in breach of the restrictions or is thought likely to be, and to bring him before a justice. This will mean that minor breaches can be dealt with quickly by the police without their having to bring proceedings under the Immigration Act for an offence of being in breach of restrictions. The procedure set out in these paragraphs is similar to procedures elsewhere in the Immigration Act.

I should perhaps explain a technical point. Because the Immigration Act extends throughout the United Kingdom, so does the new clause. Various adaptations are required for the different court procedures in Scotland and Northern Ireland. These are covered by paragraphs 6, 7 and 9 of the schedule.

I should mention two connected matters on which we have it in mind to introduce amendments in another place. One relates to the powers of the Court of Appeal to direct release when it upholds a recommendation for deportation. There is some doubt whether the court has this power and we think it desirable to clarify that. The other point concerns the Home Secretary's power, which is similar to that of the courts, to release a person convicted of an offence who is recommended for deportation. It would be consistent with the objective of reducing the numbers in custody to give the Home Secretary the same power as we are now seeking to give the courts to grant release subject to restrictions.

Mr. John Tilley (Lambeth, Central)

The Opposition welcome the new clause. We also welcome the two commitments that the Minister gave at the end of his remarks. As the hon. and learned Gentleman remarked in Committee, we also hope that the result of the new clause will not be that those who are already being released will now be released with conditions but that in future people who would otherwise be held in custody will be released under conditions. We welcome this minor but important contribution to reducing the prison population. I speak as the hon. Member representing the constituency that includes Brixton prison. I am aware of the problem and therefore of the contribution that the new clause will make towards alleviating it.

The Opposition also welcome the fact that the Government seem to be mitigating ways in which the immigration law appears to be harsher and more arbitrary in its operation than the rest of the law. We would especially welcome this move if we thought that it was the first of many ways in which the Government intended to reform the immigration law. I fear that it is the last.

Mr. Kilroy-Silk

The new clause empowers the courts to impose conditions upon those offenders recommenced for deportation in terms of their residence and reporting to the police. It follows assurances given to me in response to proposals put forward on behalf of the parliamentary all-party penal affairs group. The group would have liked the Minister to go further. Although we welcome the commitment that the hon. and learned Gentleman gave in Committee and his fulfilment of it today, we would have preferred the operation of the Bail Act to be applied fully to Immigration Act detainees. In fact, the presumption of bail and even the power to demand sureties apply in these cases.

However, the Minister has made a small but significant step in the right direction. It is important in bringing about a sense of justice for the limited number of people detained under the Immigration Act. It is important and not to be derided for its small but important effect on reducing the prison population. At least there should now be fewer people detained in prison under the Immigration Act. That is an important and welcome step.

Mr. William Pitt (Croydon, North-West)

I welcome the new clause with one reservation. It will give comfort to many people arrested for minor offences who are discovered to be over-stayers. It will improve their opportunity to assemble a case for appeal. In truth, however, the whole Immigration Act should be repealed. Like the hon. Member for Lambeth, Central (Mr. Tilley), I hope that this is a small chink in the armour and that we are on the way towards seeing its repeal. My reservation relates to paragraph 7 of the proposed schedule and the powers of a constable. The Immigration Act 1971 is already very unpopular, and justly so, among the minority communities.

I hope that police officers carrying out their functions under paragraph 7 will act with great caution. "Reasonable grounds" can always be contested. I am not saying that a police officer or immigration officer would use this power deliberately to attack a minority community but I would hate further immigration regulations to be brought into disrepute by a paragraph under a schedule that already imposes a greater penalty on minority communities.

That is my one reservation. Otherwise, the Government have taken a positive and constructive step towards providing a little relief from the Immigration Act 1971.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

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