HC Deb 15 January 1997 vol 288 cc412-3
Mr. Straw

I beg to move amendment No. 3, in page 22, line 25, leave out from 'things;' to end of line 26.

Madam Deputy Speaker

With this, it will be convenient to discuss also amendment No. 4, in page 23, line 7, leave out from `things;' to end of line 8.

Mr. Straw

This a short point and we would be grateful for a response from the Minister. It relates to welcome arrangements being made in the Bill to provide for community service or curfew orders imposed for fine default. Our question is about how the courts should deal with those matters when there is a breach of the order for community service or curfew.

My understanding is that, in other respects, where an offender breaches his community service order the court is able to take into account whether the offender has completed none of the original order or has completed all but a few hours in deciding what penalty to impose for the breach. The Bill as it stands takes an all-or-nothing approach, whereby an offender who does not complete his community service order or obey his curfew order has—quite rightly—to go back to court to be dealt with for that breach. It is not apparent on the face of the Bill whether the court will be able to take account how much community service has been undertaken by the offender when determining what further penalty should be imposed.

This matter was raised in Committee, but we think that Ministers should give it further consideration.

Mr. Sackville

The purpose of all matters of fine enforcement is to make the offender pay the fine.

Under our proposals, a person who is given a community sentence can reduce the term of that order by paying off the fine, just as at present fine defaulters can reduce the period of imprisonment imposed on them by paying off the fine. However, we do not think that offenders should be able to elect to work off part of their fine through partial compliance with a community service or curfew order, which would be the practical effect of the amendment.

Offenders who are fined must pay the fine or face the consequences. If an offender fails to comply with a community penalty that is imposed as a punishment for failing to pay a fine imposed by the court, the fine remains outstanding in full. Under the provisions of the Bill, the court has the power to revoke the community penalty imposed for the original fine default and re-sentence in respect of that default.

The House will understand that serving the community penalty in full will discharge the financial penalty in full, but short of total compliance with the community penalty we do not believe that offenders should have the freedom to take their pick between community service and outstanding financial penalties. It is therefore not our intention that the offender can select a package from among a range of available penalties. Hence I would not recommend accepting the amendment.

Mr. Straw

I am grateful for that explanation, and I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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