§ SOCIAL INQUIRY REPORTS ON PERSONS WHO HAVE NOT PREVIOUSLY SERVED PRISON SENTENCES
Lords amendment: No. 159, after the words last inserted, insert:
S. The following section shall be inserted after section 20 of the Powers of Criminal Courts Act 1973—
Social inquiry reports for purposes of s. 20
20A.—(1) Subject to subsection (2) below, the court shall in every case obtain a social inquiry report for the purpose of determining under section 20(1) above whether there is any appropriate method of dealing with an offender other than imprisonment.
(2) Subsection (1) above does not apply if, in the circumstances of the case, the court is of the opinion that it is unnecessary to obtain a social inquiry report.
(3) Where a magistrates' court passes a sentence of imprisonment on a person of or over twenty one years of age on whom such a sentence has not previously been passed by a court in any part of the United Kingdom without obtaining a social inquiry report, it shall state in open court the reason for its opinion that it was unnecessary to obtain such a report.
(4) A magistrates' court shall cause a reason stated under subsection (3) above to be specified in the warrant of commitment and to be entered in the register.
(5) No sentence shall be invalidated by the failure of a court to comply with subsection (1) above, but any other court on appeal from that court shall obtain a social inquiry report if none was obtained by the court below, unless it is of the opinion that in the circumstances of the case it is unnecessary to do so.
(6) In determining whether it should deal with the appellant otherwise than by passing a sentence of imprisonment on him the court hearing the appeal shall consider any social inquiry report obtained by it or by the court below.
(7) In this section "social inquiry report" means a report about a person and his circumstances made by a probation officer.".
§ Mr. Mayhew
I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.
This amendment meets an undertaking given by the Government in the other place that we would bring forward a provision to require a court, unless there are reasons to the contrary, to obtain and consider a social inquiry report before imposing a first sentence of imprisonment on an adult offender. It is modelled on the similar provisions of clause 2 relating to young offenders and brings section 20 of the Powers of Criminal Courts Act 1973 into line with them. I ask the House to accept the amendment.
§ Mr. Kilroy-Silk
The implications of the imposition of a first custodial sentence are important because of the potential loss not just of a job, but of family connections, a home and so on. Serious consideration should be given by the court to all the circumstances before such an important step is taken. It is crucial that a social inquiry report be asked for so that the full circumstances surrounding the offender and the offence can be brought to the attention of the court before it passes such a sentence.
The Government are fulfilling a commitment given in another place following an amendment moved by Baroness David on behalf of the parliamentary all-party panal affairs group. I welcome the amendment.
§ Question put and agreed to.