HC Deb 16 July 2002 vol 389 cc187-8

Lords amendment No. 3.

Mr. Browne

I beg to move, That the House agrees with the Lords in the said amendment.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this it will be convenient to consider Lords amendments Nos. 4, 25, 26 and 31.

Mr. Browne

The amendments are technical and relate to the role and functions of lay magistrates. As a result of a major trawl of Westminster and Northern Ireland legislation, we identified those functions which are to remain with justices of the peace, those which are to transfer to lay magistrates and those which will more appropriately lie with resident magistrates. The policy on assignment of the various functions was developed in line with the recommendations of the review report. I am thinking particularly of recommendations 116 and 117, which are to be found at paragraphs 7.53 and 7.54 of the report. The amendments make further technical changes to the Bill to give full effect to the recommendations of the report.

Lords amendment No. 3 explains the relevant subsections of the Treatment of Offenders Act (Northern Ireland) 1968 and the Treatment of Offenders (Northern Ireland) Order 1976, which relate to the powers that are to be transferred to lay magistrates. It also identifies a further power to allow lay magistrates, when sitting as a magistrates court, to remand to the Crown court, on bail or in custody, a person who has been arrested on a warrant issued by the Crown court.

Lords amendment No. 4 defines the term "function" used in clause 10, which deals with functions transferred from justices of the peace, as a function conferred by legislation passed or made before clause 10 comes into force. The amendment ensures that in future we can confer functions on justices of the peace without those functions automatically transferring to lay magistrates under clause 10.

Lords amendment No. 25 adds article 45 of the Police and Criminal Evidence (Northern Ireland) Order 1989 and refers to a list of functions that can be exercised by resident magistrates only. Under it, only a resident magistrate sitting as a magistrates court, not a lay magistrate, shall have the power to issue a warrant for further detention in police custody. That is consistent with the recommendations of the review report with regard to the powers exercisable by lay persons in the criminal justice system. In that regard, I point to recommendation 115 at paragraph 7.52 of the report.

Lords amendment No. 26 is concerned with the Lord Chancellor's power under paragraph 4 of schedule 4. That power allows the Lord Chancellor to make further amendments to legislation dealing with the transfer of functions currently performed by justices of the peace. The amendment provides that this power can be exercised only in relation to existing statutory provisions. The effect is that it will not be possible for the Lord Chancellor, using the power in the Bill, to transfer to other office-holders functions of justices of the peace conferred on them by the new legislation.

Lords amendment No. 31 is entirely technical, and simply removes reference to the advisory committee on juvenile court lay panel members from part 7 of schedule 1 to the Freedom of Information Act 2000. The committee is a non-statutory body whose function is to advise the Lord Chancellor on appointments to the office of lay panellist. The functions of lay panellists are to transfer to lay magistrates under clause 11 of the Bill.

Post-devolution, lay magistrates will be appointed by the First Minister and Deputy First Minister on the recommendation of the Judicial Appointments Commission. The advisory committee on juvenile lay panel members will, therefore, cease to exist once the new arrangements for the appointment of lay magistrates come into force. Consequently, it is no longer necessary to refer to the committee in the Freedom of Information Act 2000. The requirements of that Act will apply to the Judicial Appointments Commission by virtue of schedule 2(20) of this Bill.

Lords amendment agreed to.

Lords amendment No. 4 agreed to.

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