HC Deb 30 July 1997 vol 299 cc261-2W
Mr. Stephen Twigg

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department which provisions of the Crime (Sentences) Act 1997 will be implemented; and when. [12152]

Mr. Straw

I will implement most of the provisions of the Act, and to the same timetable as envisaged by the previous administration. The provisions of the Act which I will implement are set out, according to the target date of implementation.

Provisions to be implemented in 1997: Automatic life sentence for a second conviction for a serious sexual or violent offence (section 2). Mandatory minimum sentence of seven years for a third class A drug trafficking conviction (section 3). Technical provisions and consequential changes arising from sections 2 and 3, including the extension of the automatic life sentence provisions to armed forces legislation (sections 1.5, 6, 7, and schedule 4 as they relate to sections 2 and 3). New provisions for the release of those sentenced to detention during Her Majesty's pleasure (sections 28 to 33). Increase in age limits from 21 to 25 for use of attendance centres for fine defaulters (section 36). Abolition of consent requirements for certain community penalties (section 38 and related paragraphs of schedule 4). Transfer of prisoners between jurisdictions (Section 41, schedule 1, and relevant paragraphs of schedules 4 and 5). Repatriation of prisoners (section 42 and schedule 2). Increase in maximum penalty for juveniles convicted of indecent assault on a female (section 44). Naming juveniles in court proceedings (section 45). Hospital and limitation directions for sentencing mentally disordered offenders, (section 46 and schedule 4, paragraph 12). Power to specify hospital units for detention of mentally disordered offenders (sections 47, 49(2) and 49(4)). Movement of conditionally discharged patients between jurisdictions in the United Kingdom (section 48 and schedule 3). Extended maximum duration of interim hospital order (section 49(1)). Transfer of prisoners to private psychiatric hospitals for treatment (section 49(3)). Committals for sentence (section 51 and related paragraphs of schedule 4). This is linked to the plea before venue provision in the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996 (section 49) which I propose to bring into force at the same time. Increase in maximum penalty for indecency with a child (section 52).

Provisions to be piloted in 1998: Community service or curfew order enforced by electronic monitoring for fine defaulters (section 35, and paragraph 10(2) of schedule 4). Community service for persistent petty offenders (section 37). Disqualification from driving as a penalty (section 39). Disqualification from driving for fine defaulters (section 40). Curfew order enforced by electronic monitoring for juveniles (section 43).

Other provisions for which no implementation date has yet been decided. New arrangements for crediting time spent in custody on remand in calculation of sentence (sentence 9 and related paragraphs of schedules 4 and 5). Disclosure of pre-sentence reports to the prosecution (section 50). Application of mandatory minimum sentences for drug trafficking to service law (section 7 as it applies to section 3).

The previous Administration said that implementation of what became section 4 of the Act would depend on the Prison Service's capacity and available resources. They said, as an "example", that these provisions could be implemented in October 1999. Because the relevant convictions do not count until the section comes into operation, very few people would be subject to the provisions of section 4 until 2001. Against this background, and given current pressures on prison capacity and available resources, it would not be practical to implement section 4 for the present. I shall, however, keep the matter under review.

I have also decided not to implement the new early release arrangements set out in sections 8, 10 to 26 and related paragraphs of schedules 4 and 5. The same effect can be achieved in a far more clear and straightforward way by ensuring that judges and magistrates spell out in open court what the sentence they have imposed really means in practice. Sections 20 to 21, which deal with extended post-release supervision of violent and sexual offenders, are integrally linked with the other early release provisions and will not be implemented, but I will bring forward in the Crime and Disorder Bill alternative provisions which will provide the additional protection of the public which they were designed to achieve.