HL Deb 18 June 1999 vol 602 cc57-8WA
Lord Dholakia

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many criminal offences have been created or are currently proposed in (a) public legislation and (b) private Acts since 1 May 1997. [HL2831]

Lord Williams of Mostyn

Although the Home Office is responsible for scrutinising proposals for new offences in both public and private legislation, no comprehensive records are kept centrally of all new offences created in public legislation. The following information about public legislation therefore relates only to Home Office measures which have been passed or introduced into Parliament since 1 May 1997. It does not include provisions enacted before that date but implemented after it, proposed measures which have not yet been introduced in either House or amendments to existing offences. The information about private legislation covers all private measures during the period in question.

Public Legislation

The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 creates two new offences: breach of anti-social behaviour orders and breach of sex offender orders. It also creates nine racially-aggravated offences, but these are based on existing offences and do not render unlawful behaviour which would otherwise have been lawful. All these measures have been implemented.

The Data Protection Act 1998 creates four offences, which have yet to be implemented.

The following proposals for new offences are currently before Parliament:

Private Bills/Acts

The City of Westminster Act 1999 contained eight new offences.

Four private Bills proposing the creation of new offences are currently before Parliament:

The 23 offences proposed in the Kent Council Bill are identical to those in the Medway Council Bill.

Lord Dholakia

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What principles they observe, and what consideration they take into account, when proposing the creation of new criminal offences and the maximum penalties which they should attract. [HL2832]

Lord Williams of Mostyn

The Government are mindful that the criminal justice system is a scarce resource and take the view that new offences should be created only when absolutely necessary.

In considering whether new offences should be created, factors taken into account include whether:

  • the behaviour in question is sufficiently serious lo warrant intervention by the criminal law;
  • the mischief could be dealt with under existing legislation or using other remedies;
  • the proposed offence is enforceable in practice;
  • the proposed offence is tightly drawn and legally sound; and
  • the proposed penalty is commensurate with the seriousness of the offence.

The Government also take into account the need to ensure, as far as practicable, that there is consistency across the sentencing framework.